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In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith Hardcover – Dec 15 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 824 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books; 1 edition (Dec 15 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156085085X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560850854
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 5.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #438,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

About the Author

 Todd M. Compton, Ph.D., classics, UCLA, is the author of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, editor of Mormonism and Early Christianity, a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism and Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, and has been published in the American Journal of Philology, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Classical Quarterly, and the Journal of Popular Culture, among others. He currently plays electric violin in the Mark Davis Group, which performs at coffee houses and music clubs in the Los Angeles area, and is the assistant systems manager for Paul, Hastings, Jaofski, and Walker. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Todd Compton, who has a Ph.D. from UCLA in classics, has outdone himself with this book. Written from a factual perspective while incorporating the individual story of each woman who married the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, this book is interesting reading for Mormon or nonMormon alike. Although Latter-day Saint Mormons have not officially practiced polygamy since 1890 (still, many who belong to splinter groups and follow Smith continue its practive even today), having relations with more than one woman is a foundational piece upon which the Mormon Church was built.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a long overdue look at one of what I refer to as "The Big Two Controversies" in mormonism, i.e. the ugly history and legacy of polygamy and racism under the guise of revelation. Much like the reprehensible excuses following the lifting of the black priesthood ban, mormon leaders have never repudiated polygamy as a doctrine and try their best to hide that it ever existed. If you doubt this, look at the recent "priesthood" instruction manual detailing the teachings of Brigham Young. In a timeline of Young's life, it mentions his first wife and remarriage after her death but no mention of his dozens of other wives. To an uninformed reader, you would think Young the model husband, committed to monogamy.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Compton's book won the Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association and with good reason. The books greatest strength is its fairness and even handedness. Compton clearly has done his homework, a most difficult task given the secrecy around polygamy in Nauvoo. Writing about polygamy in Utah, when the Church openly practiced it is one thing, but researching the Nauvoo period when most people, including Emma Smith, didn't know about polygamy is something else.
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.
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