“Polygamy?” says the Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.”
Not so, claims veteran LDS writer Carol Lynn Pearson in her new book The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men. “The soft statements by leaders today that the Lord’s standard for marriage is monogamy unless he directs otherwise are no match for what has been writ large and in granite in our history, our discourse, and our psyches for nearly two centuries,” Ms. Pearson writes. “The electrifying, secret whispers of the Prophet Joseph and the loud sermons of Brigham Young still echo through chapels, temples, homes, and hearts, assuring the Saints that we are not yet finished with polygamy.”
This, the author claims, leads large numbers of loyal members—especially women—to fear heaven, to withhold love in marriages, to doubt their own worth, to lose faith in God, and often to leave the church.
In researching this book Ms. Pearson reached out to Mormons and former Mormons via social media in March 2014, asking for their feelings on eternal polygamy and the unequal sealing policies that reflect it. On the first day, more than 2400 people took the survey, and within four weeks the number of respondents exceeded 8000. The results, along with Pearson’s own personal narrative and dramatic glimpses into history, weave a story that has never before been told.
“I live in constant fear that I will die before my husband and he will be sealed to a second wife, meaning I will live in a polygamous relationship for eternity. I’ve told him if this happens I will choose hell over heaven and he believes me. This is hard on our marriage.”
“A nice Mormon guy hung up the phone when he found I was a sealed widow. He said ‘Why would I want to love someone in this life and then turn her over to her first husband for eternity?—along with the children that came from my very own DNA and now belong to him?’”
“When I was a teenaged boy, I thought it was cool to look forward to lots of sex with my circle of wives in heaven. Now the idea of eternal polygamy disgusts me. No way do I want my wife to feel like I have all of her and she doesn’t have all of me. Crazy stuff, this doctrine.”
Dr. Gregory Prince, Mormon historian and author of the biographies of President David O. McKay and church historian Leonard Arrington, acknowledges that the book will be controversial, but says, “Carol Lynn Pearson has hit a home run in her quest to illuminate both the damage that Mormonism’s de facto practice of polygamy continues to inflict, and the route to a better, more humane place, a ‘more excellent way.’ ”