The history of polygamy is long and discursive so we try to break it down for you in this two-part episode. Listen to Lindsay and Bryan give an overview of Mormon polygamy and discuss the history of its origins to today. This is part two in the series and discusses the history of the modern Mormon fundamentalist movements. Listen to part one here.
I’m not sure if this is the right place to ask questions, but I am responding to the 19B podcast where I believe questions were requested for an AMA episode in the future (please forward and let me know where to e-mail/comment/question in the future for this excellent podcast.)
I am a descendant of William Clayton and Sarah Ann Walters. Said briefly, I am horrified by his behavior in the context of marrying teenagers as a middle-aged man. I hear much about Joseph marrying teenagers, but rarely hear about his entourage’s equally indefensible behavior. A few questions in this regard:
1. Has anyone counted the number of teenagers married to middle-aged men in the Brighamite church (not the FLDS splinter groups)? If so, how many and could someone send me the link or reference to the research.
2. I have heard on occasion research that looks at marriage in the U.S. in the 19th century and heard various median/typical ages of marriage for women that were decidedly not in the teens. What was the median marriage ages in the U.S. from, say, 1830 to 1890? What was the distribution of these ages (i.e., what percentile is age 18 for women and men)?
3. Finally, more of a qualitative comment/question: What do you think of Jame Allen’s characterization of Clayton’s later marriages (pasted below)? I find it shocking that someone in the 1980s can so matter-of-factly state a 40 to 50-ish man married teenagers in a writing style that seemed as mundane as what might be used to explain where he lived and what he had for meals. The apologetic lens can seriously warp one’s interpretive perspective.
From Allen’s book:
Sarah Ann Walters had just turned eighteen when she married Clayton, who was forty-two, in 1856.
By this time, Clayton was fifty-two. His new seventeen-year-old bride was Maria Louisa Lyman (illus. 7-6) whose father, Amasa M. Lyman, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and also a close friend of Clayton’s. This, of course, may have had something to do with Maria’s willingness to marry Clayton. She gave him only one child.
Four years later, in 1870, Clayton married Anna Elizabeth Higgs (illus. 7-7). She was seventeen and he was fifty-six, and in the next eight years she bore four children. Clayton lived the law of celestial marriage to the fullest.32
James B. Allen. No Toil Nor Labor Fear: The Story of William Clayton (Kindle Locations 4734-4735). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.
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