Saturday, March 14, 2009

Review: Silencing Mormon Polygamy: Failed Persecutions, Divided Saints & the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume 1

Title: Silencing Mormon Polygamy: Failed Persecutions, Divided Saints &
the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume 1
Author: Drew Briney, J.D.
Publisher: Hindsight Publications
Genre: Nonfiction History
Year Published: 2008
Number of Pages: 377
Binding: Paperback
Price: $27.99

Reviewed by Vickie Cleverley Speek

I read this book twice.  As luck would have it, I received it about the same time that my father died.  I tried to read the book, but the complicated ideas didnt make sense at the time and the type was so small I could hardly read it.  I decided to put it aside for awhile.  Three weeks later, sporting an improved sense of concentration and a new pair of reading glasses, I picked up Silencing Mormon Polygamy and started rereading.  Im glad I did.

Briney has written a valuable book that should be on the shelf of anyone researching Mormon History.  The book deals with important principles that existed in the early Mormon Church and how those beliefs led to the birth of what is now known as Mormon Fundamentalism.  The concepts of civil disobedience, plural marriage, the Council of Fifty, the Church of the Firstborn, and the double meanings behind the terms Kingdom of God and the Patriarchal Priesthood are extremely controversial and complicated.  Briney attempts to clarify them in an objective way.

On September 26 and 27, 1886, John Taylor, prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was at the home of John W.  Woolley in Centerville, Utah, hiding from federal authorities determined to take him into custody for practicing polygamy.  On the afternoon of Sept.  26, he presided over Sunday meetings where the abolishment of polygamy was discussed.  That night, Taylor was visited by Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith in an all-night revelation in which Taylor was instructed never to renounce the Mormon practice of polygamy.

The following day, Taylor revealed his experience to a small group of people and spent the remainder of the day instructing them in spiritual matters.  Sometime on September 27, Taylor placed his hands upon the heads of five men and gave them the authority to perform plural marriage ceremonies.  He also ordained them to set others apart to perform plural marriages so there would be no cessation in the work.  Taylor exhorted the men to ensure that not a year would go by without children being born into the principle of plural marriage.  Taylors Sept.  26 revelation is well known among Fundamentalists but unknown to most members of the LDS Church who believe Mormon polygamy ended with President Wilford Woodruffs 1890 Manifesto.

The priesthood John Taylor gave the five men is significant.  The Patriarchal Priesthood or Priesthood of Elijah is a superior priesthood which dates back to Kirtland and Nauvoo days and connects to the secretive Church of the Firstborn.  Also known as the Kingdom of God, the Church of the Firstborn was supposedly the true governing organization of the Mormon Church.  If proven to be true, this creates a huge problem for current members of the LDS Church as it confers a higher priesthood to Fundamentalist Mormons than that practiced by the Twelve Apostles.

Silencing Mormon Polygamy is an unbiased attempt to better understand the events of September 26-27 and present reasons why those events are so significant to thousands of fundamentalist Mormons.  The book contains every known firsthand account, important hearsay accounts and some circumstantial evidence of the two days.  Briney extends that knowledge into an extensive collection of charts and footnotes, which are as important to read as the main volume itself.  The book also draws on the minutes of Lorin Woolleys School of the Apostles, important fundamentalist materials that have never before been published,

Silencing Mormon Polygamy has its faults, but most of them deal with formatting.  Even with my new reading glasses, the type font is too small and the subheads, printed in gray, are too light.  The artistic design on the first page of each chapter looks unprofessional, and however useful, there is too much underlining.  I wish the book had an index.

I think Silencing Mormon Polygamy would benefit from a more extensive introductory chapter that could give the reader more insight into the significance of the events.  Perhaps the book could also include the biographies of the five men John Taylor ordained and an overview of the excommunication trials of the LDS apostles accused of practicing polygamy.  Hopefully, these details will be expanded upon in Silencing Mormon Polygamy: Failed Persecutions, Divided Saints & the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism Volume Two.  Im looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Polygamy is legal in Canada. In Saskatchewan Canada Section 51 of the Family Act ( formerly marriage act) allows persons to have multiple spouses. Two judges have recently upheled section 51 and no charges are laid. Aas such, Polygamy is legal in Canada.