Marriage has divided Mormons and Christians, and marriage has contributed to divisions among not only Mormons but among many other Christian churches as well. Because marriage occupies such a central place in Mormon history and doctrine, though, changes in marital practices and debates about marriage have proved unusually fraught for Latter-day Saints. Indeed, from scholarly debate about Joseph Smith’s marriages to the angst-filled discussions of same-sex relationships today, conflicts about marriage have torn families and institutions asunder. Certain ideas about marriage thrill some, while repelling others. For this outsider, certain moments in the history of Mormon marriage have repelled, while others have proven attractive. Those moments include the practice of plural marriage at the height of the 1856-1857 Mormon reformation, and also Mormon ritual reenactment of Mary’s anointing of Jesus.
Conflicts over marriage have often caused individuals, churches, and families to forget the other things that bind them together. Doctrines, histories, and rituals connect “many Mormonisms,” just as they connect Mormonism and other branches of Christianity.
John G. Turner