With an endless stream of books on polygamy and its discontents, do we really need another one? If the answer includes mention of Nauvoo Polygamy: "… but we called it celestial marriage" by George Smith, it would be a definitive yes. Ten years in the making, Nauvoo Polygamy traces the origins and establishment of Joseph Smith's vision of "spiritual wives" before it ever stepped foot in the State of Deseret. The book should dispel forever the common misperception that Joseph pined after only one wife and that polygamy was Brigham's idea while crossing the plains.
The book argues that good brother Joseph engaged in extramarital affiars—e.g., Fanny Alger—before officially marrying his first plural wife, Louisa Beaman, in 1841. Afterward, he married women at an average rate of one per month until late 1843. By early 1846, nearly 200 men and 717 women entered the practice, making up the polygamous pioneers who would later lay the foundation in the Great Basin. The book fills a gap in exploring how polygamy was established and worked at this early state.
Revealing the drama, secrets, and sexual politics along with historical issues, Nauvoo Polygamy places a human face on the men and women who struggled with their strange lives in a new religion. So whether you are a history buff, interested in starting your own unique marriage practice, or just waiting for the new season of Big Love to start, Nauvoo Polygamy should be on your reading list.
Originally published in the Salt Lake City Weekly, 12.28.2008