SW09003: Teen Marriage Age in Mormon Polygamy and in American Culture: What Was the Norm?

The raid on the Folds compound in Texas has brought polygamy to national attention and in particular the Folds tendency for older men to marry young teens as polygamous wives. This has caused some non-Mormon observers to point out that in his mid-thirties, Joseph smith married teenage girls, including a 14-year-old. Conservative Mormons responded that in Joseph Smith’s time, young teen brides were common. This paper will review the American history of family life to answer the question: what was the normal marriage age in Joseph smith’s culture? Were marriages to 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old teens common in 19th Century New England, the culture that nurtured the early Mormon Church?

Todd Compton