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In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith Hardcover – Dec 15 1997
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From Library Journal
Formerly at UCLA and now the editor of Mormonism and Early Christianity, Compton has compiled a meticulously researched and masterly study of Mormon Joseph Smith's 33 wives. The women are presented individually, with many of their own documents cited. Compton contends that "Mormon polygamy was characterized by a tragic ambiguity": infinite dominion in the next life vs. a social system that did not work, thus resulting in acute neglect of the wives. These "key women have been comparatively forgotten," surprisingly so considering the reverence Mormons hold for their founding prophet and how important polygamy was to Smith. The "sacred loneliness" refers to Smith's promise of salvation combined with the solitude of the forsaken multiple wives. A plenary reference and bibliography and a collection of the wives' photographs fill out this tome, making it a fascinating work. Valuable for both lay readers and scholars, this is recommended for public and academic libraries with good collections in history and women's studies.?Kay Meredith Dusheck, Anamosa, IA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although Compton is more conservative than others when it comes to how many wives Smith had--he says 33 while others count more than 50--the author shows that these women married Smith in secret ceremonies in order to keep his wife Emma from finding out. Smith also convinced them to have his children, oftentimes while they were married to their original husbands. (This is better classified as polyandry rather than polygamy.) In essence, Smith had relations with each of his wives at his personal convenience. Generally these women did not live with him, and when they did, they did not live openly as wives but rather as helpers around his home. It was Brigham Young who first flaunted his polygamous ways. So, in all actuality, they were merely Smith's play toys in the name of God, allowing him to have a variety of sexual partners with little responsibility for his actions. His first plural wife, Fanny Alger, was only 14 when he (in his late 20s) married her in 1833, well before the "revelation" on polygamy that he received in the early 1840s.Read more ›
It is clear from Compton's work that Smith was a philanderer who used a supposed revelation from God to keep his understandably upset wife under control. I liken this to the Book of Abraham. When a travelling show came to town with Egyptian hieroglyphs, of course Smith had to pretend to be able to translate them, otherwise he would be exposed for the fraud he was. I will give Smith credit for this, he was slick. Smith's polygamist ways were obviously destructive to his first wife Emma and to the hundreds of other women who ended up caught up in polygamous relationships, many at a very young age given away to lecherous older men as rewards for their loyalty to Smith.
Lest you buy into the mormon party line that this is old news and no longer an issue, it is still central in mormon theology, still contained in mormon scripture and still haunting the church today. Elizabeth Smart's captor "Emmanuel" was merely following original mormon teachings about polygamy. Even the kidnapping is not that farfetched when you look at some of the methods Smith used to get the women he lusted after.Read more ›
One reviewer, the only one to give this book a poor review so far, mentioned that the book has an agenda to prove polygamy was bad. This is simply not true. He also mentions that some "scholarly" reviews have covered the book. FARMS Review of Books is the only negative review I know of, and they are hardly a scholarly journal. FARMS is interested in nothing but polemics and their reviews of Compton's book are painfully off base. This is clear to anyone who reads the book and then reads the review.
This book is about Joseph Smith's polygamous wives. Their strength and bravery shine through and the book is quite inspiring at times. However, there is also a lot of sadness and difficulty in these women's lives that Compton displays with compassion. Each chapter is on a different woman who was once a wife of Joseph Smith's. These women were sealed to Joseph during his lifetime, not posthumously like some Mormons will have you believe.
I am a believing Mormon and found this book to be most informative and entirely inspiring.
Most recent customer reviews
I am not a Mormon, so I cannot speak of their theology.
However, I found this book fascinating. Merely ask yourself such questions as:
1. Read more
Plural marriage has been a subject of much contemplation for me, which is why I borrowed this book when I came across it. Read morePublished on April 30 2002
Compton focuses on the devotion and inner lives of women involved directly with the development of polygamous marriage within Mormon theology. Read morePublished on Jan. 31 2001 by Kolby
I literally could not put this book down. The concept is amazing and while the church admits to its history of polygamy they usually skirt the issue but never really delve into... Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2001 by Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD
I am sure many people will comment on this book for religious reasons, originally Mormon social history was the reason that I read In Sacred Loneliness, and religion seems to breed... Read morePublished on July 31 2000 by T. Mazerolle
On the first level, this book is about the women who married Joseph Smith. Beyond that, though, this is a book about the early psychology of the Mormon Church, and the power of... Read morePublished on July 3 2000 by Missing in Action
The author does a wonderful job of first determining which women were actually, strongly documented wives of Joseph Smith, then those that there is some evidence for, then some... Read morePublished on May 25 2000 by L. Troy Beals
The author of this book started out with a premise: Men having more than one wife (polygamy, plural marriage) is a bad thing. Read morePublished on April 26 2000 by John Walsh
To say the least, this was a very informative book! I had long suspected that there was more to Joseph Smith's plural wives, and I am grateful to have a book which has provided me... Read morePublished on March 27 2000