Abstract and Keywords
Eternal marriage is embedded in Mormon theology and the temple ordinances Mormons believe are essential for exaltation. Nineteenth-century Mormons believed plural marriage was the highest form of marriage, meriting the greatest glory among those exalted. This chapter provides a brief history of the practice of polygamy, including the following: the experience of living in polygamy changed over time; economically disadvantaged women were more likely than other women to become plural wives; intermarriage between ethnic groups promoted assimilation into Mormon culture; the prevalence of plural families was relatively large but such families were always a minority; and divorce provided a safety valve for unhappy plural wives. Federal legislation facilitating prosecution of polygamists and escheatment of church property prompted change in Mormon marriage practice, and today only so-called fundamentalists not affiliated with the mainstream church practice polygamy.
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