Sunday, July 10, 2011

In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton

I've recently developed an interest in some of the more 'sticky' spots in LDS history. This book, In Sacred Loneliness discusses each of the plural wives of Joseph Smith in their own chapter. Because of the self-contained nature of the format, it could easily be used as a reference book, a sort of encyclopedia of Joseph's polygamy. It also includes a section of pictures in the center of the book for those who might be wondering what these women looked like. Let me also say that I am not here to debate the historicity of the book, or the validity, doctrinal status or any other religious element of polygamy. I'm not saying I'm for it or against it, just that found the book intriguing.

Compton does an excellent job of summarizing the life of each woman, but since so many of the details overlap, reading the book from cover to cover is a bit of a challenge. There are only so many ways an author can say "And then the prophet was assassinated". In some ways, that was the hardest part of each chapter to read. As a believing member of the church, I felt as though I went through his death (and the wives' loss) vicariously over thirty times! I can't imagine losing my husband; for it to be in so public and violent a manner would magnify it one hundred fold.

I did learn some interesting facts, like the fact that almost every plural wife of Joseph was then sealed for time to one of the other apostles (often Brigham Young or Heber Kimball). I also thought it was interesting that some marriages were termed 'dynastic', meaning that they were intended to link families considered to be powerful in the early LDS church to Joseph in the eternities. I also learned the term 'practical polygamy' which I found quite interesting (essentially that polygamy was practiced to give women a support system; not for any romantic reason)

If you'd like to know more about polygamy as it was practiced in the earliest era of the church, this book is worth a read. Just be prepared to put it down and pick it up several times before you finish it.

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