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The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men

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“Polygamy?” says the mainstream Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.” Not so, claims noted LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson, who examines the issue as it has never been examined before. Any member of the LDS Church today who enters the practice of polygamy is immediately excommunicated. However, Pearson claims, polygamy itself has never been excommunicated, but “Polygamy?” says the mainstream Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.” Not so, claims noted LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson, who examines the issue as it has never been examined before. Any member of the LDS Church today who enters the practice of polygamy is immediately excommunicated. However, Pearson claims, polygamy itself has never been excommunicated, but has an honored and protected place at the table. It has only been postponed, a fact confirmed by thousands of “eternal sealings” giving a man an assurance that he will claim as wives in heaven the two, three, or even more women he has sequentially married during his lifetime. No such opportunity is available to women. Through her own personal stories, those of her ancestors, and the thousands of stories that came to her through an Internet survey, Pearson shows the power of the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy as it not only waits on the other side to greet the most righteous in heaven, but also haunts the living—hiding in the recesses of the Mormon psyche, inflicting profound pain and fear, assuring women that they are still objects, harming or destroying marriages, bringing chaos to family relationships, leading many to lose faith in the church and in God. Mormon historian and author Dr. Gregory Prince says of The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: “Carol Lynn Pearson has hit a home run in her quest to illuminate both the damage that Mormonism’s de facto practice of polygamy continues to inflict, and the route to a better, more humane place. Those who truly hope for eternal polygamy or who resent any call to institutional reform will be upset, but countless others will rejoice that she has shown ‘a more excellent way.’"


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“Polygamy?” says the mainstream Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.” Not so, claims noted LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson, who examines the issue as it has never been examined before. Any member of the LDS Church today who enters the practice of polygamy is immediately excommunicated. However, Pearson claims, polygamy itself has never been excommunicated, but “Polygamy?” says the mainstream Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.” Not so, claims noted LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson, who examines the issue as it has never been examined before. Any member of the LDS Church today who enters the practice of polygamy is immediately excommunicated. However, Pearson claims, polygamy itself has never been excommunicated, but has an honored and protected place at the table. It has only been postponed, a fact confirmed by thousands of “eternal sealings” giving a man an assurance that he will claim as wives in heaven the two, three, or even more women he has sequentially married during his lifetime. No such opportunity is available to women. Through her own personal stories, those of her ancestors, and the thousands of stories that came to her through an Internet survey, Pearson shows the power of the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy as it not only waits on the other side to greet the most righteous in heaven, but also haunts the living—hiding in the recesses of the Mormon psyche, inflicting profound pain and fear, assuring women that they are still objects, harming or destroying marriages, bringing chaos to family relationships, leading many to lose faith in the church and in God. Mormon historian and author Dr. Gregory Prince says of The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: “Carol Lynn Pearson has hit a home run in her quest to illuminate both the damage that Mormonism’s de facto practice of polygamy continues to inflict, and the route to a better, more humane place. Those who truly hope for eternal polygamy or who resent any call to institutional reform will be upset, but countless others will rejoice that she has shown ‘a more excellent way.’"

30 review for The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    08/17/2016 UPDATED because it turns out I still have THOUGHTS: When my friend lent me this book I asked if it was going to make me angry and she said no. My fuse must be shorter than hers, because it made me SO angry. I was ignorant to some of the ramifications of our current doctrine and practices when it comes to temple sealings. But after reading all the submitted stories from women and men it's hard to ignore the pain it causes many individuals, couples, and families. In particular our polici 08/17/2016 UPDATED because it turns out I still have THOUGHTS: When my friend lent me this book I asked if it was going to make me angry and she said no. My fuse must be shorter than hers, because it made me SO angry. I was ignorant to some of the ramifications of our current doctrine and practices when it comes to temple sealings. But after reading all the submitted stories from women and men it's hard to ignore the pain it causes many individuals, couples, and families. In particular our policies can put young widows and their children (you know, the people the scriptures tell us to treat with extra care) in an awful position as women try to move forward and remarry within the faith. A widow must either attempt to cancel the sealing to her first spouse (and possible father of her children) or hope to marry a faithful LDS man who is ok with not being sealed to his wife and their children. Widowers, however, do not have to choose between their families. They are assured that they can have them all. It can be easy for us to say, "Well, I'm sure that stuff all gets sorted out up there," but these are issues that hurt families and limit choices now as well as make many people dread what might be waiting in heaven. I wasn't sure how Carol Lynn Pearson could assert that we can just "get rid of polygamy" in a plausible or doable way, but she shared her vision and I think she's won me over to seeing how it could happen. She says, "This departure is inevitable, I believe . . . because polygamy bears bad fruit and has failed the test of Joseph's own words, of being 'virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy.' It has proved itself to be a destroyer."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    I will start by saying that I have a lot of feelings surrounding polygamy. A lot. You can't come out of reading D&C 132 (the whole text, not just the one fluffy feel good verse that gets read in Sunday School) without a lot of complicated feels. And then you dig more into the messy history and the accounts of people who actually lived it. And then there's everything with how the practice continues in fundamentalist groups. And it goes on, just a big mess with no simple or straightforward answers I will start by saying that I have a lot of feelings surrounding polygamy. A lot. You can't come out of reading D&C 132 (the whole text, not just the one fluffy feel good verse that gets read in Sunday School) without a lot of complicated feels. And then you dig more into the messy history and the accounts of people who actually lived it. And then there's everything with how the practice continues in fundamentalist groups. And it goes on, just a big mess with no simple or straightforward answers. Carol Lynn (beautiful writer, faithful Mormon, not anti at all, but nor will she shy away from telling her truth) wades through all that mess to highlight an angle that hasn't been talked about a whole lot: how polygamy haunts modern Mormons and modern Mormonism. She takes the fears and pain that have been locked away and placed on "the shelf" and brings them out into the open. Most of the book deals with her own personal journey with the doctrine of polygamy, including stories from her family history. But she also includes excerpts of the thousands of stories people sent her about how this doctrine has affected them. Men unable to cancel a sealing to an unfaithful ex-wife. Widows who cannot be sealed to their new husbands without cancelling their sealing to their first husbands. Children who are sealed to a man they've never met rather than to their biological father. Women and men haunted by the fear that polygamy will be required in the eternities. Really the only perspective she leaves out is that of single members, which was a serious omission and is my only criticism of the book. I have a single friend with three standing serious not joking offers to join existing marriages if polygamy is brought back; and that's just a whole other messy angle. Pearson does not attempt to give an orthodox justification of polygamy. Rather, her conclusion is that the Mormon church cannot come to a model of equal partnership until it sheds the burden of polygamy. For real, not just "we don't do that anymore, except sort of kind of" but decanonizing 132 and clearly repudiating the teachings of the past. That conclusion isn't going to sit well with some members, but despite that this is not an antagonistic book. Pearson is a person who, more than anyone I've seen before, holds great love for the LDS church while holding it accountable for its faults. She sincerely wants this church to be the best it can be, and she sees that potential even when it is hidden under mountains of pain. She never fails to imbue her words with this sense of almost paradoxical hope. The tone of the book follows the way she describes her feelings about Joseph: "for I still love Brother Joseph. I love him after the pattern of Emma Hale. I love him with a heart he broke a long time ago." This book is love and heartbreak and pain and hope and potential all rolled into one. It is a book I think every Mormon needs to read, whether to understand why people are so torn up by something we supposedly abandoned so long ago, or to come to peace with the practice themselves. And because I can't pass up an opportunity to link my favorite of her poems, here is "Pioneers."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Steimle

    I have always loved the writings of Carol Lynn Pearson until now. I was devastated from reading The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy that she has promoted and even encouraged the idea of main stream members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS Church) that God does not love them because He wants His daughters to live in a polygamous relationship in Heaven.. Bull cocky!!! Under the guise of her self proclaimed "wise-woman elder" position, she discusses the doctrine of polygamy in Mormo I have always loved the writings of Carol Lynn Pearson until now. I was devastated from reading The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy that she has promoted and even encouraged the idea of main stream members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS Church) that God does not love them because He wants His daughters to live in a polygamous relationship in Heaven.. Bull cocky!!! Under the guise of her self proclaimed "wise-woman elder" position, she discusses the doctrine of polygamy in Mormonism from its beginnings to modern day. The writing was excellent but it had a dark pall about it as she shows the findings of a survey taken by LDS Church members who have felt heart aches and terror from thinking that the only way to the top of Heaven is through plural wives marrying one man. This is just not so. There were 8,000 people who participated in her survey for the book. I took this survey as well. I distinctly remember thinking that the wording of this survey was manipulating a certain idea... and that idea was that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints were misleading their members into temple "sealing" marriages unknowingly to "trick" them into polygamy. To tell them that they were required to live in a polygamous relationship in order to get to the highest kingdom of Heaven. I was one of the few in number who was happy or not bothered by the doctrine of polygamy because I know that we would never be forced to do something by God we would NOT want to do. That is called "Agency" and that is what we were given when we came to earth. Somehow, Mrs. Pearson forgot to mention this aspect of our lives in her book. A quote conveniently omitted from this book would give the relief of many men and women who she said were haunted by the idea of required polygamy: "Do not speculate about whether plural marriage is a requirement for the celestial kingdom. We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation." This was a direct quote to Seminary teachers of the LDS Church for their classroom lessons on polygamy. We have the true gospel of Jesus Christ and yes there are the unfortunate cruel Priesthood leaders as was written about in the book, but God is not cruel. According to this book, there are many heartbroken, woman and men who either left the Church or lives in contempt as a member because of the doctrines of polygamy still hanging over their heads when they pass away. I am a member in good standing with my temple recommend in hand and a sealed spouse waiting for me in Heaven and I was greatly disturbed by Mrs. Pearson’s writings of this book. The nagging feeling of dread throughout this whole narrative is not at all the feeling of how most of the adult members feel about polygamy. God loves his children. He loves his daughters and his sons equally. I know this but those many people who made comments in this book don't believe that. Even worse Mrs. Pearson promotes their wallowing and cries of an unloving God who would force or pressure all of his righteous children to live in polygamous relationships. If you are disturbed by this idea, then you won't want to read this book. I almost regret reading it myself but I did so to be open minded and discuss its principals with a friend. Don't be duped by what is written. Know that we are God's children who are greatly loved and would not be forced or pressured to do anything we would not want to do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elisha Condie

    Holy cow this was SO GOOD. So good. I can't even get over it. I heard the author on RadioWest, and was just bowled over by how sincere she was and how much she cared about both the LDS church and this topic, one in which she's basically arguing how wrong the church is about it. I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of Mormon theology in this review, just know that we Mormons believe that if you marry in the temple then your marriage is eternal and you are sealed to one another and your c Holy cow this was SO GOOD. So good. I can't even get over it. I heard the author on RadioWest, and was just bowled over by how sincere she was and how much she cared about both the LDS church and this topic, one in which she's basically arguing how wrong the church is about it. I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of Mormon theology in this review, just know that we Mormons believe that if you marry in the temple then your marriage is eternal and you are sealed to one another and your children even in the afterlife. Which is a lovely idea. Not so lovely at all is the fact that men can be married in the temple as many times as they want, sealed to each and every wife. Women get one shot at being sealed to someone. So if you're a young Mormon widow (like me), you are left in this weird lonely space - never married Mormon guys would never be interested in you because you're sealed to someone else. Or what if you're a single Mormon woman who marries a Mormon man who was once married in the temple? Now you're technically sealed to him AND his former wife? Noooo, thank you. What Pearson does so masterfully is explain the doctrine and how it came about and the reasons it is flawed. And she has hundreds of people who have written to her and explained in all the different ways how this doctrine is harmful to them personally, as well as their entire faith. I found it completely comforting to know I wasn't alone in my worries about this troublesome belief in a church I think means well. And it's not a topic that invites much discussion at any kind of church gathering, so it was just a breath of fresh air to have a book about it. I'm a big fan of Pearson and this book and I think it should be required reading for all of us. Very thought provoking and convincing, while all the while remaining respectful of the organization itself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Though the LDS church would like to banish polygamy as a relic of its past, polygamy is unfortunately still with us today through current sealing practices. Our admission of spiritual polygamy allows a culture in which women can still be viewed as accessories to a man's eternal progression and glory. This view, if left to flourish within a patriarchy (no matter how benevolent) confounds family relationships, the identity of our heavenly parents, and our own eternal progression. There will be no Though the LDS church would like to banish polygamy as a relic of its past, polygamy is unfortunately still with us today through current sealing practices. Our admission of spiritual polygamy allows a culture in which women can still be viewed as accessories to a man's eternal progression and glory. This view, if left to flourish within a patriarchy (no matter how benevolent) confounds family relationships, the identity of our heavenly parents, and our own eternal progression. There will be no peace for us as a church until the current practice of spiritual polygamy is entirely elucidated or entirely eradicated. Carol Lynn Pearson, a wise seer and poetess, offers a voice of comfort to all affected and a voice of change to the church. Will we listen?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adrianna

    I feel very conflicted about this book. I want to give it more stars for the topic, but I disliked the author's voice so much that it was a bit off-putting. I had to slog along through much of the book. She presented herself as a "wise elder" of the tribe here to impart wisdom, which I find repelling, and there was a fair amount of self-promotion in the book (bringing in pieces of her other work), that I also personally found distasteful. However: It's a discussion that needs to happen more openl I feel very conflicted about this book. I want to give it more stars for the topic, but I disliked the author's voice so much that it was a bit off-putting. I had to slog along through much of the book. She presented herself as a "wise elder" of the tribe here to impart wisdom, which I find repelling, and there was a fair amount of self-promotion in the book (bringing in pieces of her other work), that I also personally found distasteful. However: It's a discussion that needs to happen more openly in the church. It's time for an end to polygamy once and for all--a complete divorce from it. The responses to a survey she conducted about people's feelings on polygamy are at the end of each chapter, and they are poignant. When you see how this idea of eternal polygamy is affecting real-life, current-day situations, it's a wonder more hasn't been done about it thus far. Men who refuse to date widows because they've already been sealed to one husband and cannot be sealed to another, men who've been taught that their own biological children belong to the deceased or divorced husband of the woman they're currently married to, women who feel they can't give all of their love to their husbands for fear they will shatter completely when they are called to live the principle of polygamy in heaven, young women who are scared to marry at all, men who relish the idea of multiple sexual partners and who keep a roving eye out for potential other wives, the inherent idea that women are property to be given in marriage but not to receive in marriage, or that women are lesser than their male counterparts. It is a wholly destructive teaching. It was a mistake from the beginning and it's time we put it to rest.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharman Wilson

    This book elicits so many negative emotions, as it should. These feelings come from my ancestral past, from my maternal great great grandmother Lavina Young, who married John D. Lee as a 13th or 14th wife (she and her sister Polly married him on the same day). They come, unbidden and still painful, from a relatively recent personal family trauma. And yet, life is messy, and my feelings can also be ambivalent. My own beloved sister died at age 35, leaving 3 children and a wonderful husband who la This book elicits so many negative emotions, as it should. These feelings come from my ancestral past, from my maternal great great grandmother Lavina Young, who married John D. Lee as a 13th or 14th wife (she and her sister Polly married him on the same day). They come, unbidden and still painful, from a relatively recent personal family trauma. And yet, life is messy, and my feelings can also be ambivalent. My own beloved sister died at age 35, leaving 3 children and a wonderful husband who later married a divorced woman (a good friend of theirs) who took my sister's motherless children under her wing and gave them a step-brother and then two half brothers that we love. I have no idea how all of this will shake out, but I appreciate that Carol Lynn Pearson has looked at this uncomfortable subject so carefully and passionately. Thanks to her, the personal stories of so many women cannot be swept back under the rug, and for every story in the book, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands more. Thank you, Carol Lynn. You are one brave pioneer!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    So happy to see my unformed thoughts and beliefs in print! Grateful for CLP who is eloquent and brave and has presented this material in a kind, faithful and bold way. A couple of my favorites: Her generous quote regarding Joseph Smith (based on a lovely thought by Dinah Craik)- "I count myself as a friend to Brother Joseph, and I wish to honor him like this. I hold the fullness of his life in the palm of my hand, chaff and grain together. I keep the many kernels worth keeping, and with the brea So happy to see my unformed thoughts and beliefs in print! Grateful for CLP who is eloquent and brave and has presented this material in a kind, faithful and bold way. A couple of my favorites: Her generous quote regarding Joseph Smith (based on a lovely thought by Dinah Craik)- "I count myself as a friend to Brother Joseph, and I wish to honor him like this. I hold the fullness of his life in the palm of my hand, chaff and grain together. I keep the many kernels worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." "Here are my beliefs regarding what must and will happen to achieve a Mormon future that is truly post-polygamy: Belief #1-A couple who chooses to marry in the temple can go into that holy place and stand on equal ground. Belief #2- Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants will receive an "inspired revision" with plural marriage removed from the cannon so that women and girls will be spared the wounding to our femaleness that we receive today. Belief #3-The doctrine of plural marriage will be disavowed entirely and no long considered the Word of God as pertains to history, the present, or the eternal future." And reading the book is absolutely worthwhile just for CLP's imagined disavowel that parallels the "Race and the Priesthood" essay from 2013: "In Nauvoo and early Utah, church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the presence of polygamy in our doctrine and practice. Some taught that it was mandated as "a restitution of all things," that is was essential to multiply and replenish the earth, or that it was necessary for highest glory in the eternities. Today, the church disavows the theories and practices advanced in the past that a polygamous marriage is essential or advantageous for the highest level of exaltation--that in this life or in the next a man, but not a woman, may create more than one marriage relationship that is binding for eternity--that we have many Mothers in Heaven--and that a woman who refuses plural marriage is in danger of being destroyed. The anticipation of plural marriage in heaven is not correct doctrine and--along with the sexism inherent in that principle--is unequivocally condemned by the church." From her mouth (and mine) to God's ear.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Bless Carol Lynn Pearson. She has a gift for telling it like it is, naming things that are wrong as such, but in a way that expresses love and hope. I learned more about my own history reading this book, and also gained a deep sense of validation for my own feelings about polygamy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    I have put off writing this review for months simply because the book means so much to me, and my own words are inadequate to convey why that is. Sometimes my very favorite books receive no more than a couple of lines from me for that very reason. Since I love this author, and I know the book is not getting all the attention it deserves, I will add my tiny voice. First off, there is so much more to this book than a discussion of polygamy in the LDS church. That said, I am not sure if this book w I have put off writing this review for months simply because the book means so much to me, and my own words are inadequate to convey why that is. Sometimes my very favorite books receive no more than a couple of lines from me for that very reason. Since I love this author, and I know the book is not getting all the attention it deserves, I will add my tiny voice. First off, there is so much more to this book than a discussion of polygamy in the LDS church. That said, I am not sure if this book will appeal to those who are not from a Mormon background or at least familiar with Mormon history. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the movement to dare greatly and speak authentically, I can think of no better example to follow than Carol Lynn Pearson who bared her soul first in her poetry books, next in her account about her gay husband, more books and plays, and now in her public stand for change in the church where she remains a contributing member. She is my hero. Carol Lynn Pearson, I believe, is the only one who could write such a sensitive book and pull of the tightrope act of balance between sympathy for the Joseph Smith and scathing honesty. She writes: "My choice is not between either honoring our founding prophet or acknowledging that he made a significant error. I choose both. I can love King David for 'The Lord is my shepherd...' even though this is the same man who arranged the death of Uriah after taking his wife Bathsheba in adultery. Quantum physics has proven light to be at once both wave and particle. Like David, Joseph was at once both a man of God an a man of earth, and he never claimed to be perfect." p. 70 Throughout the book Carol Lynn shares personal reflections from men and women, alive today, who are still experiencing the pain that comes with the doctrine of polygamy as taught in LDS scriptures. These accounts add weight to Pearson's claim that doctrine continues to inflict pain on church members; nevertheless, those sections drag compared to the author's own prose. Carol Lynn Pearson is a poet, and her prose soars. "When heaven has an earthquake you fall to your knees and feel through the rubble to find the pieces of God. When my eternal temple-blessed marriage shattered and everything that had been meaningful lay in jumbled shards around me, I had to slowly and carefully pick up every single piece and examine it, turning it over and over, to see if it was worthy to keep and to use in building a new house of meaning. . .I asked only, 'Do I see God's fingerprints on this? Does this little piece feel godly? Does it speak of love? That made it easy. I was forever finished with the insane attempt to love a God who hurts me. When I picked up the little piece of God-ordained polygamy, I smiled because there was no question. I thanked the God of Love, and I threw that piece away." pg. 69 There is so much more in this book that I would love to tell everyone about. The final three chapters of the book are beautiful and strong--full of messages that I wish would be studied in traditional Mormon Relief Society meetings. Unfortunately I don't imagine that will happen, although I would be more than willing to come back to full Mormon activity if they would let me teach Carol Lynn's clarion call for a shift in the LDS world view to a more loving, respectful, inclusive narrative. "In my fantasy, it's a parade of religions, all come together to celebrate, to show their very best stuff, and to admire each other's best stuff. . . . We've come together not to compete, but to share joy and learn. 'Here's what we have found that has proven to be godly. what have you found?' " pg. 204-205 Like Carol Lynn, I can dream.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Staci

    5 stars for the writing and cohesive, well cited book. 4 stars because it's so hard to read. I can't say "I loved it" because it's painful to experience. Ms. Pearson paints an honest, and therefore, quite ugly picture of the real harm of polygamy to LDS members past and present. This book will haunt you. Outsiders will read it and think "Wait, they really do this? They REALLY believe this?" And insiders will be forced to confront that even in modern day 2016 every Mormon couple has to talk about 5 stars for the writing and cohesive, well cited book. 4 stars because it's so hard to read. I can't say "I loved it" because it's painful to experience. Ms. Pearson paints an honest, and therefore, quite ugly picture of the real harm of polygamy to LDS members past and present. This book will haunt you. Outsiders will read it and think "Wait, they really do this? They REALLY believe this?" And insiders will be forced to confront that even in modern day 2016 every Mormon couple has to talk about whether or not they are ok with polygamy. And that a woman's willingness to say "yes" to her husband taking a 2nd or 3rd wife or dozens in the eternities is considered by many a measuring stick of her righteousness and goodness. That many LDS women who tell their husbands that they are NOT ok with him taking more wives, are considered too selfish to live God's law. This is still a thing, that many women believe they are the Isaac that has to be sacrificed. But the author makes a poignant and unabashed, faithful argument that LDS women are not actually supposed to be sacrificed on an altar for a God who values them as props. Isaac afterall, was saved by the appearance of a ram in a thicket. That under past and even current temple practices, there is no ram in the thicket for LDS women. This work is smart, compassionate, horrible and beautiful. It makes the case for ending the practice that would heal families and move the work of the Church forward. It offers a window into a better way. Some members will have a hard time that a woman wrote this. The LDS church believes all revelation about how the Church should change comes strictly from the 15 (white 70+ year old) men in charge of directing the Good Ship Zion. Some will find it blasphemous and therefore, wrong to consider the thoughts and spiritual insights of a woman on these matters. But Joseph Smith himself said we celebrate truth wherever we find it and so many of the ideals and goals and dreams set forth by Ms Pearson ring true. Golly, I wish members would read this. All women. Bishops, Stake Presidents, area authorities and of course, the 15 men in charge. They really should. It might be a bitter pill, and most of them have 2nd wives already. All I know is that the books was well done, and I wish I could foist on anyone LDS willing enough to get uncomfortable and then hopeful with this book. Because it's not for the faint of heart.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jarinete

    Mormon feminist friends be warned, this one will pierce your heart. It’s also dripping with white feminism, so watch out for that. The series of stories highlight the point of the book: “being treated with politeness, consideration, even respect is different from being treated as equal...we may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don’t want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity.” If you’re looking for about 200 pages of s Mormon feminist friends be warned, this one will pierce your heart. It’s also dripping with white feminism, so watch out for that. The series of stories highlight the point of the book: “being treated with politeness, consideration, even respect is different from being treated as equal...we may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don’t want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity.” If you’re looking for about 200 pages of stories that will make you ragey, confused, and racked with feelings of betrayal one minute then proud and grateful the next—I say go for it. Then come talk to me after.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I can't decide whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars, so I'm going to split the difference at 4.5. This book centers around a tough topic, and I think Carol Lynn covers it beautifully. I can't remember when I first learned that a man could still be sealed to more than one woman in the LDS church, but I do know that for years I thought that if I could just be righteous enough I would be able to stand the thought of my husband being sealed to another woman if I died before him. Even as I type tho I can't decide whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars, so I'm going to split the difference at 4.5. This book centers around a tough topic, and I think Carol Lynn covers it beautifully. I can't remember when I first learned that a man could still be sealed to more than one woman in the LDS church, but I do know that for years I thought that if I could just be righteous enough I would be able to stand the thought of my husband being sealed to another woman if I died before him. Even as I type those words out I can feel how ridiculous it is. There is a quote on page 184 of the book that, when I read it to my husband he wondered if I had written it. It really could have been me, but it wasn't. It says "The inequality of gender roles in the church clouds almost everything for me right now. Male privilege nearly always trumps female need. Am I to play second fiddle not only in this life but in the life to come? Polygamy and the church's sealing practice suggest that. My dissatisfaction seems to increase as my husband has more time-intensive callings (he is currently serving as the bishop in our ward). I have flat-out told him that if there is polygamy in the next life, and we are supposed to be a part of it, I'm gone. I would choose hell. And he believes me." I would, in fact, choose hell. I hope that there is some antiquated stuff in this book, that there are no longer CES teachers who teach about eternal polygamy in seminary or institute, but I know from the vague explanations that my own stake president has given me that a lot of men still think about the possibility of it being real, and that a lot of women that I know dread the thought. Carol Lynn Pearson is a lot more generous than I am in her assessments of some of the earlier prophets. I really see very little good in Brigham Young (maybe he was just a great organizer and the Lord needed him for that?), and I feel like Joseph Smith got seriously off track those last few years in Nauvoo, but Pearson tries to be optimistic about their roles, particularly in regards to Joseph Smith. This book brought me a lot of comfort as I read of the stories of women and men who have had serious struggles with eternal polygamy as I have. Carol Lynn Pearson is an artist, and so some of the passages are a bit over dramatic, and it's hard to guess at what may have happened so many years ago, but the real stories were great, and I appreciate her taking the time to compile so many worthwhile thoughts. My conclusion? Joseph Smith was seriously misguided, Brigham Young was completely wrong, and the men in charge of the church today continue to be wrong so long as they continue to allow men to be sealed to multiple women. Either we discontinue the practice completely, or we extend the same privilege to women and let God sort it out in the end. I don't believe we will practice this in heaven and I reject D&C 132. It's a practice that is extremely harmful and demoralizing to women. My spirit tells me it is not from God. And if it turns out that polygamy is practiced in heaven? Well, you certainly won't find me there, and I think I'll be just fine with that.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    I've read many books about LDS history in the past 8 years. But this book. This book. It touched me in a way I've never felt before. Every feeling, every struggle I've had with polygamy was not only addressed in this book, but completely validated. And yet, this book is so much more than a book about polygamy. It's about women in the church, men in the church, and the policies that have created where we are now. Pearson is a master storyteller and an active, faithful member (I feel that bears me I've read many books about LDS history in the past 8 years. But this book. This book. It touched me in a way I've never felt before. Every feeling, every struggle I've had with polygamy was not only addressed in this book, but completely validated. And yet, this book is so much more than a book about polygamy. It's about women in the church, men in the church, and the policies that have created where we are now. Pearson is a master storyteller and an active, faithful member (I feel that bears mentioning for those who may dismiss this book for that reason) She takes you on a journey through the pain, grief, and frustration polygamy has caused for so many. She clearly illustrates the problems this policy has created, helping those who haven't been directly touched by it, or may not have though about it, truly understand the problems a polygamy practiced in heaven presents. There were so many quotes I loved, so I'm putting them all in for you to peruse: "We may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don't want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity." "My choice is not between either honoring our founding prophet or acknowledging that he made a significant error. I choose both. I can love King David for 'The Lord is my shepherd...' even though this is the same man who arranged the death of Uriah after taking his wife Bathsheba in adultery. Quantum physics has proven light to be at once both wave and particle. Like David, Joseph was at once both a man of God an a man of earth, and he never claimed to be perfect." "We Mormons are organized. And we are committed by covenant to be a godly people. We've missed the mark a bunch of times and organized a few terrible things. Individually we stumble a lot. But the godly impulse still flows, like the river, moving around the rocks. When there is clarity, when we walk by the Rule, we are powerful." Polygamy haunted me until, as an adult, I rejected the teaching all together. Having experienced firsthand the effects of this policy as I went through my own sealing cancellation, I know the God I believe in doesn't, can't condone this philosophy. Whether you're passionate about the subject or want to know what the fuss is about, read this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    I grew up singing songs written by Carol Lynn Pearson in my LDS primary activities. Little did I know that I would eventually revisit her work as an adult after leaving the LDS church. At first, I didn't have a great deal of interest in reading this book because Pearson continues to be a practicing Latter-day Saint, and I assumed that with that came a lack of nuance. I'm glad to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. Pearson carefully weaves in dozens of stories of men and women (whose sto I grew up singing songs written by Carol Lynn Pearson in my LDS primary activities. Little did I know that I would eventually revisit her work as an adult after leaving the LDS church. At first, I didn't have a great deal of interest in reading this book because Pearson continues to be a practicing Latter-day Saint, and I assumed that with that came a lack of nuance. I'm glad to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. Pearson carefully weaves in dozens of stories of men and women (whose stories could easily have inhabited a book of their own) with her experiences in regards to the patriarchy of the church, its history of polygamy, and the future of polygamy in a 21st century church. It is a fresh, bold vision she has of the LDS church's future, one in which the ghost of eternal polygamy is excised for good, and men and women alike thrive together in creating the best spiritual families and communities possible. But, this vision does not come without the acknowledgement of the thousands upon thousands of women who have been harmed by the patriarchal society that is currently Mormonism. The stories may be anonymous, but the pain they all share is communal. The LDS church would do well to heed this book as they did Lester Bush's seminal work on blacks and the priesthood, "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview." The leaders of the church have the power to create and rescind doctrines as they see fit. But, in an age where the church is only beginning to acknowledge that Joseph Smith married 33 women, including a few teenage girls, I fear Pearson will not live to see her vision. Worse yet, I worry that she may find herself in a disciplinary court for publishing this work which does not paint the current state of church affairs in the brightest of lights. I hope that is not the case. Regardless, this book deserves the attention of every Latter-day Saint. Pearson's story, and the stories of so many others, must be read, painful as they may be. It will not be soon forgotten in the Mormon consciousness.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ynna

    My best advice for reading this book is to make sure you are able to discuss it with other women upon completion. I think Carol Lynn Pearson did a good job presenting her thoughts and feelings on polygamy in the LDS church as well as representing the views of hundreds of practicing and ex-members of the Church. I do think Pearson worked hard to sterilize her true opinion (although I can't speak on what it actually is); a lot of this book is praising Joseph Smith and proclaiming her love for the My best advice for reading this book is to make sure you are able to discuss it with other women upon completion. I think Carol Lynn Pearson did a good job presenting her thoughts and feelings on polygamy in the LDS church as well as representing the views of hundreds of practicing and ex-members of the Church. I do think Pearson worked hard to sterilize her true opinion (although I can't speak on what it actually is); a lot of this book is praising Joseph Smith and proclaiming her love for the first president of the Church in addition to reassuring readers she is in fact an active and happy member of the LDS church. These things could all be true, but it read very forced to me. Polygamy in the LDS church is a disturbing principle which gets swept under the rug and discussed in hushed tones, and when brought up in regular social circles, quickly disregarded as an embarrassing part of Mormon history. Despite these attempts, polygamy continues to torture members of the church, destroying relationships between husbands and wives and leads to many men and women leaving the Church. I think this book contains important ideas and messages of hope for those struggling with the principle of polygamy in the Church, but again, I think it's so important to be able to read this and discuss it with women. The ideas and accounts in this book weighed on my heart for a while, and I was only relieved of this sorrow after discussing with fellow female members of the Church. We may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don't want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I'm having a hard time reviewing this book. I am giving it a 5 because of how important I think the message is, though I am not crazy about some of the prose and find bits of the historical analysis and future applications slightly less nuanced compared to some other accounts I have read (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's House Full of Females, for example). I do, however, agree with the basic thesis. Polygamy = destructive, we must urgently answer for it and stop hurting women. My favorite parts were th I'm having a hard time reviewing this book. I am giving it a 5 because of how important I think the message is, though I am not crazy about some of the prose and find bits of the historical analysis and future applications slightly less nuanced compared to some other accounts I have read (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's House Full of Females, for example). I do, however, agree with the basic thesis. Polygamy = destructive, we must urgently answer for it and stop hurting women. My favorite parts were the powerful and tragic anecdotes Pearson shares from other people, which adds rich context for her narrative. This book was an awakening for me. No one I know who has ready this book has been unaffected. I always thought people's problem with polygamy in the church was that it was practiced historically. I had no idea it was still haunting people today in truly terrible ways. I hope to do my part to raise more awareness about the pain this causes so many women in the church. We have to listen. Pearson is a prolific writer with a gift for words, and I am grateful she took on this important subject.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meg loves to read

    “I would rather be an angel with good honest work to do, rather than being in the celestial kingdom, silent, polygamous, and eternally pregnant” pg 144 Imagine growing up as a female and being told your entire life that you are less. As someone who grew up in the Mormon Faith, I don’t have to imagine. This is my reality. I remember going to church seminary (basically a high school class in which we read scriptures and discuss church doctrine) and learning about the principles of polygamy. I was d “I would rather be an angel with good honest work to do, rather than being in the celestial kingdom, silent, polygamous, and eternally pregnant” pg 144 Imagine growing up as a female and being told your entire life that you are less. As someone who grew up in the Mormon Faith, I don’t have to imagine. This is my reality. I remember going to church seminary (basically a high school class in which we read scriptures and discuss church doctrine) and learning about the principles of polygamy. I was disgusted (even then) to discover that it was part of our church history, but what was more horrific was learning that it would be practiced in Heaven. I turned to my girlfriend in the class and whispered, “I rather go to Hell”. I learned that Emma Smith was selfish and crazy and could not follow God, simple because she loathed the idea of her husband taking another wife. She had the courage to speak up and the men in power twisted history and made her look hysterical and weak. Her husband, Joseph Smith took about 40 wives, some as young as 14 years old. He even married several in secret, without consent from Emma and even before the so called “commandment” came from God. Vomit. Fast forward, I fell in love with a boy and as we decided to become more serious the haunting teachings of polygamy creeped back into my mind. I made my husband (then boyfriend) promise me that if I died and he chose to remarry in the temple that he would cancel our sealing because, no way in Hell would I stay married to a man who took more wives. As an active Mormon we still don’t address this dark and horrific history (and current reality) of polygamy. Women are still less than men. Men can be sealed to multiple wives, but we can only be sealed to one man. (Sealing means a marriage that lasts after death, so in death men can reconnect to every woman he was sealed to). I won’t even dive into how polygamy breaks up families and defeats the very essence of Mormonism - which is families are eternal. Brigham Young (2nd prophet of the Mormon church) says hurtful thing after hurtful thing. He tells women, struggling with the horrid concept of polygamy, to “bow down to it and submit yourselves to the celestial law”. I am sick of men weaponizing God for their own profit and gain. I have been in this church my entire life and no amount of brainwashing, excuse me, “teachings” will ever, and I mean EVER convince me that there is a God who loves men more than women, who loves straight people more than gays, and whites more than color. This book was a refreshing perspective from an Active Mormon, who feels what I feel. I’m sick of other members of the church telling me to pray harder and just ignore the glaring red flags with all things polygamy. There is no way this piece of Hell - polygamy came from God. Even though this isn’t the best piece of literature I have read, it was a comfort to read something that must have taken so much courage to write. To go against your childhood teachings and speak up takes a lot of courage. I applaud the author and I plan to pick up her other books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I have a love-hate relationship with this book. There were so many, *so many*, moments of "Woah! I never knew that before!" and even many "Wow. I've thought these very thoughts," which - obviously - bodes well for how I feel about the book in the end. But then... I'm not really sure that I appreciate the writing style of Carol Lynn Pearson... at least not in context of this book and its subject matter. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is part scholarly work (complete with sociological research), part I have a love-hate relationship with this book. There were so many, *so many*, moments of "Woah! I never knew that before!" and even many "Wow. I've thought these very thoughts," which - obviously - bodes well for how I feel about the book in the end. But then... I'm not really sure that I appreciate the writing style of Carol Lynn Pearson... at least not in context of this book and its subject matter. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is part scholarly work (complete with sociological research), part memoir, part fiction (no, really), part apologetics, part revolt. That being said, I personally would have found her treatment of the subject far more compelling if: 1) she left out the fictitious bits. I understand that she's trying to illustrate a point, but, just, no. 2) she wasn't so hell bent on making sure that we all know that she loves the prophets and the Church and blah blah blah. And, 3) she didn't write a quasi-scholarly book as though it were poetry. Now, full disclosure: I am a disaffected Mormon. More precisely, I was a convert who stayed for ten years, in anguish 90% of the time, and then promptly removed my names from the membership rolls after several of the LDS Church's more abhorrent policies and "doctrines" became so disgusting that staying was tantamount to lending my approval. So, yes, I have a clear prejudice against the church and its policies... and Carol Lynn Pearson wasn't writing to me - her audience was clearly not meant to be someone like me. I think this work was intended for someone more like those I associate(d) with in the church: a good Mormon women who are plagued with questions, but who ultimately want to stay. So, can I fault Pearson for not fulfulling my desires? No. It's a good book, an easy, quick read (despite the fact that it'll blow your mind). I just didn't happen to like it all that much.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tiare

    The best part of this book is where Carol shared excerpts of Mormon women's feelings about Polygamy. They echo my own problems I had with Polygamy, as I questioned how such a backward principle could have ever been inspired by God. Carol gives way more love to Joseph Smith than I do, and so a Mormon women can still feel comfortable reading this book. I've always been bothered by the church trying to distance themselves from a practice that was actually a fundamental part of our foundation. You c The best part of this book is where Carol shared excerpts of Mormon women's feelings about Polygamy. They echo my own problems I had with Polygamy, as I questioned how such a backward principle could have ever been inspired by God. Carol gives way more love to Joseph Smith than I do, and so a Mormon women can still feel comfortable reading this book. I've always been bothered by the church trying to distance themselves from a practice that was actually a fundamental part of our foundation. You can't just sweep it under the rug, eventually it's going to be found when it's time to clean house. And that time has come, when no longer can women stomach the gender inequality we see in our past, and that continues into our present day in other forms of our patriarchal society.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    I’m really torn by this book—on the one hand, it reveals the stranglehold polygamy has on the current LDS church; on the other hand, there’s A LOT of gnostic, weird spiritual mumbo-jumbo, dressed up as solid theology but underneath floppy and vapid as one of those air-filled “noodle people balloons” rented by sandwich shops and car dealerships to commemorate grand openings. The despair of the polygamy principle as practiced today in Mormonism comes through in the snippets of affidavits which con I’m really torn by this book—on the one hand, it reveals the stranglehold polygamy has on the current LDS church; on the other hand, there’s A LOT of gnostic, weird spiritual mumbo-jumbo, dressed up as solid theology but underneath floppy and vapid as one of those air-filled “noodle people balloons” rented by sandwich shops and car dealerships to commemorate grand openings. The despair of the polygamy principle as practiced today in Mormonism comes through in the snippets of affidavits which conclude each chapter. And the absolute blindness of the author to the fact that she’s a willing participant and member in good standing of a polytheistic organization which champions the eternal subjugation of women leads me to believe neither her bark NOR her bite account for much.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    I really wish I could differentiate between *quality of book* (2-3) and *value/importance of book* (5) in my star rating. This book is essential. As a former [very active] Mormon, who has a close and personal family experience with polygamy, and as the daughter of parents who firmly believe in the doctrine of "eternal" polygamy, I can unequivocally state that it is a tragically damaging and dangerous concept--one that does "haunt the hearts of Mormon women and men." It brings darkness. I believe I really wish I could differentiate between *quality of book* (2-3) and *value/importance of book* (5) in my star rating. This book is essential. As a former [very active] Mormon, who has a close and personal family experience with polygamy, and as the daughter of parents who firmly believe in the doctrine of "eternal" polygamy, I can unequivocally state that it is a tragically damaging and dangerous concept--one that does "haunt the hearts of Mormon women and men." It brings darkness. I believe that all Mormons could use an understanding of the concepts in this book; many of the younger generation refuse to even think about it, but a lot of the older generation are still firm in their beliefs of polygamy in heaven. Ironically, I think the younger generation is in the wrong here--it is hypocritical to believe that in such a fundamentalist religion you can pick and choose what you want from it. It is a fact that the LDS church preaches and practices doctrines of eternal "celestial" polygamy. It is the official stance of the church that polygamy is a higher law and necessary for exaltation, and that men will have multiple wives in heaven, who will be populating "worlds without number" with offspring. Period. Men on earth who experience death of a spouse or divorce are able to be sealed to as many women as they want. Women can only be sealed to one man. Unless they break the former sealing (a difficult process, and often an undesired outcome if they loved their first husband!), they cannot be sealed again. If they don't break the first sealing, their children are sealed to the first husband even if they are not his and never knew him. WTF? There is inconsistency all over -- some general authorities have allowed exceptions to this for no real reason. Yet many people's hearts are aching with the complexity of their own situation. It is serious enough to literally tear apart families, but there is no change in policy, and most leadership isn't solid in their understanding or explanation of why this is actually essential to "the plan." Church members always say the phrase "it will be figured out in heaven" when it's convenient-- i.e. when they don't have a real explanation for something in the church -- yet the church is generally unyielding in its policies, especially regarding this doctrine. Wouldn't this be a better time to allow sealings and say "it will be figured out in heaven"? If God really cares who's sealed to whom, pretty sure he can fix it. Especially with all the incorrect and superfluous sealing work that goes on in the temple (over half of it -- way over half of it). [note, according to a professional genealogist for whom I worked, 90% of temple work is incorrect because people are not doing accurate genealogy] Those are some of the technical problems with it. But there are so many subtle and painful underground issues with it, in regards to the message that it sends to women in the church and worldwide. It was immensely helpful to read all of the personal accounts. I always wonder what kind of psychological effect the concept of polygamy had on me, but ever since leaving, I feel an incredible weight off my shoulders specifically in regard to my womanhood. It is spectacular, and I wish I could give every woman this gift. I believe that the subconscious effects of polygamy (and by extension the way that most LDS men have treated me in dating relationships) are a huge factor in my feelings here. It is funny to me that the author can find so much fault in the early church leaders, but still honor and admire them, and not recognize the fundamental issues with the establishment of the church. Polygamy is one of the biggest errors of Joseph Smith, but it is far from the only one--it's not even his most condemning one (in regards to evidence of his 'sacred calling'). I agree that the church should preach that polygamy was a mistake. But they'd have to admit to working in error (and pissing off a LOT of good women, past and present) for nearly the entire existence of the church. How can a church survive after that? Well, I guess they have every time the church has discounted the words of past prophets (eyeroll) -- Adam-God theory, racism, etc. So much for an "unchanging" church. Back to the book. My biggest issue with this book is that the author took all kinds of inappropriate liberties in telling her stories. It was so close to being research-paper perfect, and then she had to get "creative" and spin these semi-ridiculous stories about "how" she saw certain scenes going down, from Joseph and Emma's life, to her own ancestors. That was the biggest mistake she could have made, and here are the reasons: -Mormons, including former me, are staunch in their belief of the church. They can have mounds of well-sourced evidence dumped on them and will still turn a blind eye and remain convinced of the truth of it. That is with TRUE evidence. So now you take liberties and make up stories that never even happened, to satisfy your own needs, many Mormons will instantly shut you down because "it's not real, it's made up, that's not real proof." That is enough to make them disregard the entire book and block you out. It's shooting yourself in the foot. -It perpetuates Mormon trends. Most of the films about the early church are completely historically inaccurate, but the LDS gobble them up. Especially as kids, we had no reason to think it was inaccurate, and then that imagery stuck with us. The picture that was painted for me growing up was so different from what actually happened as written in personal accounts, Joseph's history, the scriptures, etc. (notice how none of those are actually "anti-Mormon" but are church-sanctioned). I don't like that she's using her imagination in a book that is largely factual and firsthand. What we need is historical accuracy, not more fuzzy stories. The book has some flaws, but is absolutely valuable, for many audiences. I think it's especially important for LDS, but also worthwhile for anyone curious about polygamy and its effect on Mormons past and present. I would also recommend reading personal accounts from Joseph Smith's early wives (and other plural wives throughout the early church). They certainly leave an impression. I hope that church members can get the changes they want, as so many of them feel very real pain, but in full sincerity, I also wish they would study fearlessly for themselves and recognize its corrupt roots and unresolvable issues. If only they knew the burden lifted when you realize it's false and you don't have to solve all these fake problems. Things that may change someday or may never change--they have a very real effect on people inside the church, but they melt away like cotton candy with one simple step: resigning from the church. Peace and love to all the women out there, especially those with polygamy defining their family history or overshadowing their hearts.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I love Carolyn Pearson. The first book I picked up of hers was a small fable for our times called The Lesson. At the time I had no idea who she was, what else she'd written or her story. I was so naive to so much of Mormon culture and famous people when I went to BYU! Now of course, I've read so many things by her and about her. She feels like a wonderful example of what a woman in the church can be. She talks about herself being a "tribe elder" and I would totally agree. She talks about being p I love Carolyn Pearson. The first book I picked up of hers was a small fable for our times called The Lesson. At the time I had no idea who she was, what else she'd written or her story. I was so naive to so much of Mormon culture and famous people when I went to BYU! Now of course, I've read so many things by her and about her. She feels like a wonderful example of what a woman in the church can be. She talks about herself being a "tribe elder" and I would totally agree. She talks about being part of the churches trek from "patriarchy" to "partnership" and I say "AMEN"! Her writing style is so wonderful. Whether she's writing poetry, or short fables, or about heavy subject matter like this book- her words just flow on and off the page effortlessly. Instead of just presenting us with historical facts she's able to take us there so that we can see and feel the words, discussions, heartbreak, etc. In this book she discusses the history of polygamy, the doctrines and culture behind section 132, current temple practices, and more. A quick summary being that while we excommunicate members for practicing polygamy we haven't excommunicated the idea of polygamy from among our members. That while we don't practice it here on earth, temple practices and historical church teachings seem to threaten that polygamy still awaits all of us in the eternities. In between each chapter of her own research and thoughts she has chapters of quotes from men and women within the LDS culture telling their own stories. Stories of men who are sealed to multiple women (through divorce or outliving their spouse). Stories of women widowed young who then have children with a second husband and have to figure out if they should break their sealing to the first husband so their children can be sealed to their dad (her second husband). Stories of daughters whose fathers made terrible jokes about wanting other wives beyond their mothers. Stories of men who felt they didn't need to put as much effort into their marriages now because in the eternities they could have new and better wives. Women who fear putting their whole selves into a marriage because they don't want to love their husband too much if they have to share him in heaven. And on and on. I read this book shortly after finishing In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton which talked about the history of polygamy and the women who lived it. I felt like as I read that book I had this inner dialogue with myself- feelings of betrayal at not knowing the full history and also fear that what I believed about heaven and marriage was somehow wrong. Fear that polygamy would someday or somewhere be reinstated. And finally coming to the conclusion that eternal polygamy was wrong. Reading The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy afterward was so validating! It discussed and alleviated so many worries. And also, it helped me know that I wasn't alone in my study and deep thought about this subject. Carolyn describes beautifully about her testimony being shattered into a million pieces during her own divorce. And that when she was finally ready to pick up the pieces she took each one carefully in her hands and decided which to keep and which to let go. She decides ultimately to let the piece of eternal polygamy go. She knows that God loves her. She knows that heaven with plural marriage sounds more like hell and so she chooses to believe that heaven will not include plural marriage. And I'm happy to agree with her there! I love that even with this opinion on polygamy she is very gracious and respectful toward Joseph Smith and his life. She still views him as a prophet and considers him a friend. She so beautifully pays tribute to him and to Emma. I too can't wait to give Emma a hug in the life to come. The final thing I loved about this book is the chapter in which she just lists out each reason/theory we've heard about why polygamy was practiced and then using historical facts and quotes knocks each one of them down. I loved this because each time someone guesses as to why it was instituted it leads to false doctrines and false ideas being spread. Some of them are so trivial too that I can't help but think "Do you really think God would sacrifice all of these women's happiness for that?" After reading a few books on the subject I tend to believe that it was a misunderstanding of the sealing covenant. Joseph knows he needs to seal all the inhabitants of the earth together and he also believes that Christ's second coming is imminent. For some reason he lets men be sealed to one another as brothers or father and son but when it comes to women they are always married into the sealing covenant. Even here we have to take into account the culture and feelings toward women at the time and acknowledge that the idea of spiritual wives was gaining popularity among many starting out religious communities. I'm also sympathetic to the belief that it may have been issued by God in order to test the saints but only when paired with my definite belief that it could only have been temporal- not eternal. I also understand that many people will see it being completely driven by lust. Whatever the reason, I feel like Doctrine and Covenants 132 makes it pretty clear that if anything polygamy is the exception to God's rule of monogamy and only a temporal sacrifice...meaning not eternal in nature. When you think about all the revelation that the church has received since then about man and wife and their relationship as equals I don't see any way to mesh that with the idea of polygamy. The idea that God loves women and God wanting us to all practice polygamy just can't coexist in my brain. Which is Pearson's real point. That the idea of eternal polygamy needs to be addressed so that we can put away the fears and misconceptions that are still silently prevalent in the minds and hearts of many faithful members. We often think of polygamy being a long ago doctrine that doesn't effect us anymore but it directly effects temple practices, family teachings and I believe it's also why we don't talk about our Heavenly Mother more (because of the false belief that there is more than one!). I, along with the author, hope that these things will be addressed. I believe further revelation and direction is needed in this matter and I appreciate Sister Pearson bringing attention to this topic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Burton

    The LDS church’s ties to polygamy have long weighed heavy and dark upon my heart. Though polygamy is no longer actively practiced in the mainstream church, men are still able to be sealed for eternity to multiple wives, while women can only be sealed to one man, living or dead, and it is this ghost of eternal polygamy that Pearson addresses. While I am still begrudgingly working to accept the inherent and inescapable sexism of our patriarchal church, Pearson has given me greater confidence to co The LDS church’s ties to polygamy have long weighed heavy and dark upon my heart. Though polygamy is no longer actively practiced in the mainstream church, men are still able to be sealed for eternity to multiple wives, while women can only be sealed to one man, living or dead, and it is this ghost of eternal polygamy that Pearson addresses. While I am still begrudgingly working to accept the inherent and inescapable sexism of our patriarchal church, Pearson has given me greater confidence to completely eschew polygamy as having ever been divinely decreed or sanctioned by God. By shedding light on the historical and personal accounts of the “bad fruit” polygamy has sown, Pearson illustrates how mutually incompatible this practice is with the loving and merciful MotherGoddessFatherGod on whom our gospel fundamentally hinges. It was a privilege to learn at the feet of this wise-woman elder.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Sanchez

    Full of heartbreaking stories about the pain surrounding polygamy as practiced by the Mormon Church.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tori (Book Chick)

    This book hurt my heart and pissed me off at the same time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anneli

    Polygamy feels like a dirty word in mainstream mormonism (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which the church has a strong preference to be called so I'll respectfully refer to it as the church moving forward). We don't talk about. So it came to be that I didn't learn of Brigham Young (2nd LDS prophet)'s polygamy until a high school history class. I didn't learn of Joseph Smith (first prophet)'s polygamy until I was 30. (Joseph hid polygamy due to its illegal st Polygamy feels like a dirty word in mainstream mormonism (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which the church has a strong preference to be called so I'll respectfully refer to it as the church moving forward). We don't talk about. So it came to be that I didn't learn of Brigham Young (2nd LDS prophet)'s polygamy until a high school history class. I didn't learn of Joseph Smith (first prophet)'s polygamy until I was 30. (Joseph hid polygamy due to its illegal standing and social disdain that amounted to his murder. Brigham was able to live polygamy openly after the Saints removed themselves from their haters and established their Zion in Utah.) In both realizations, I found myself completely disoriented and unsettled. You see, everyone in good standing in the mainstream church living today is monogamous (albeit with a loophole I'll explain later). People are excommunicated for practicing polygamy. It didn't make sense that today's church was rooted in polygamy. It didn't make sense that we don't talk about it. It didn't make sense that church lessons, movies and plays about Joseph featured monogamous romance with his first and only legal wife Emma, a far cry from reality. At various points, I mentioned my despair to people and no one wanted to touch it. So I was left processing alone and my wound festered. Thus I find myself a disaffected member and 35 year old reading the book of a woman, an active church member, who is bravely willing to talk about polygamy. She includes a collection of stories of many people also suffering. Finally, after 20 years of processing, I feel less alone. Pearson disproves many of the arguments intended to justify church polygamy. (e.g., that persecution resulted in the killing of men leaving a surplus of women to be cared for). She includes the testimonies of women who practiced it (which unfortunately many people don't realize exist, or perhaps they don't want to know about since we're uncomfortable talking about polygamy). She confronts some of the most problematic aspects of Joseph's polygamy (that he was sexual with many of his wives, that he married a 14 year old, that he hid from Emma his marriage to a pair of sisters then later staged a false second ceremony to check off the requirement that a first wife must consent to new marriages, that he married women already married to husbands away serving missions, that his wives were passed as property to Brigham and others after he died). She concludes that polygamy is and always was wrong, that we must remove polygamy from church practice and doctrine in order to move on. (For those who don't know, polygamy is canonized in Doctrine & Covenants 132 as part of the "new and everlasting covenant," so it's lasting, not to mention still practiced by men who are separated from earlier wives through death or legal divorce then sealed, or temple married, to additional wives. Meanwhile, a woman cannot be sealed to more than one husband and must obtain her ex-husband's permission for their sealing to be canceled.) Despite her heart ache, Pearson writes from the compassionate view of an active member who sees a lot of value in the church and won't abandon it. She maintains optimism that doctrine reversal is attainable, citing the reversal of black men being banned from the priesthood and the revision of associated scripture in 1978. (The church's former institution of racism was then characterized as an error that resulted from our country's systemic racism.) I appreciated Pearson's optimism and love for the church. She shows the path for people who are bitter but still wanting to hang on to good parts of our culture. I recommend this book for anyone feeling they're going crazy and/or feeling alone about church polygamy. And, just so you know, you can always talk with me. PS To be explicitly clear, while I agree with Pearson's conclusion that church polygamy is wrong, because it was not founded in "hell yes" consent rather in coercion, I do not agree with her conclusion that polygamy is inferior to monogamy for everybody. I am happy for my adult friends practicing true consenting polyamory. To each their own!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Like many of the women and men in this book, I also had soul-deep wounds related to Temples and Polygamy. My first experience in the Temple was painful and caused me deep anxiety for years. When I told my family why I was upset, I was told to ignore it or to stop being so dramatic. My new husband was the only one who understood and shared my pain. If I had married anyone else who was less than him, then I would not have stayed in the church. I want to give Carol a big hug for finally bringing to Like many of the women and men in this book, I also had soul-deep wounds related to Temples and Polygamy. My first experience in the Temple was painful and caused me deep anxiety for years. When I told my family why I was upset, I was told to ignore it or to stop being so dramatic. My new husband was the only one who understood and shared my pain. If I had married anyone else who was less than him, then I would not have stayed in the church. I want to give Carol a big hug for finally bringing to light other stories that echoed my own experience. I was hesitant to read this book, because I did not want to reopen old wounds. However, I found the book to be very validating and healing for me. She touches on many hard topics such as inequality, patriarchy, temples, church history, polygamy, and all with thoughtful and generous poise. I might need more time to feel forgiving of some of the quotes and things done by past church leaders, but I appreciated that she refrained from angry criticism. I did not feel like it was anti-LDS at all. If you have a goal to get peace from "the ghost of polygamy" then give it a read. It doesn't "fix it" but it does help to know others have had the same experience/feelings, to have actual quotes and facts to reference, and to come together to find a better way. I have been working to claim more personal authority in my life and to stop allowing others to dictate what my relationship or testimony of God "should" look like. This book has empowered me to solidify my feelings on this topic. I do not agree with polygamy for me at all. For others, I do not agree with polygamy unless it is something ALL interested parties WANT. Unless it brings GOODNESS and is HEALTHY for everyone. Unless it is a free choice rather than pressured upon people "or else." The evidence suggests this was not the case. I read two magazine entries from SLC women's magazines online (old ones from current polygamy times in the church). One was written by women that were pro-polygamy and one was written by women who fought against it. I wanted to have a balanced perspective so I read an article from each. The Pro-P women said that it empowered them because they were each free to choose their own profession and share the work of child-rearing equally between them. BUT! It went on to say how their husband was completely expendable and knew they did not need him so he ought to watch himself. (Kind of sexist in a different way.) The Anti-P magazine talked about the harm polygamy had on individual women and gave examples of abusive polygamy situations. Maybe there are better Pro-P experiences out there but I have yet to hear one. This book helped cement my belief that polygamy is not wholesome, good or healthy by an overwhelming majority. I hope that someday the church leaders are bold enough and selfless enough to reject it for good. As an LDS woman, I will continue to follow Christ and live the gospel, while claiming personal authority to sift through what is harmful and what is good. Like Carol Lynn Pearson, I will stop "loving a God who hurts me" and start rebuilding my faith in a God who loves me equally and unconditionally. If you are one of the lucky ones that feels completely secure in your relationship with God and the church, then read it to understand the pain others go through. Then even if you disagree, allow others to feel different than you. Allow differentiation of testimonies. All are welcome in Christ's church. Everyone should read this book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book wasn't quite what I expected (or, at times, wanted) it to be. Pearson has a very clear agenda - providing a path forward for the church and those who want to remain members in spite of the hurt that the idea of eternal polygamy has brought them. I take no issue with that goal, but I found the way in which she showers Joseph Smith (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brigham Young) with such love and admiration to be a bit melodramatic and disturbing. She considers Joseph a friend and ref This book wasn't quite what I expected (or, at times, wanted) it to be. Pearson has a very clear agenda - providing a path forward for the church and those who want to remain members in spite of the hurt that the idea of eternal polygamy has brought them. I take no issue with that goal, but I found the way in which she showers Joseph Smith (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brigham Young) with such love and admiration to be a bit melodramatic and disturbing. She considers Joseph a friend and refers to his polygamy revelation (and Brigham's perpetuation of the practice) as an "error" whereas I see it as a willful deception invented in an effort to legitimize his own indiscretions. I didn't love the writing style or the inclusion of fictional conversations, but Pearson says that it is her job to "tell the stories" and she does a remarkable job of bringing the stories of those who have suffered from polygamy, both in the early church and today, to the forefront. The "Other Voices" sections were incredibly powerful (and are the main reason why I gave this book four stars instead of three). They are filled with heartbreaking stories of women and men who continue to suffer from self hatred, shame, fear and anguish because of the doctrine of eternal polygamy. I'm hesitant to do so, but in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I am no longer active in the church (for reasons that have nothing to do with polygamy). As a convert, I have no ancestors who were involved in polygamy. I also never had any intentions of marrying in the temple because I refused to shut my family out of such a special day and because I didn't quite believe in the idea of celestial marriage anyway. Eternal polygamy never entered my mind as anything more than an afterthought. It was enough to know that earthly polygamy had ended years ago. I assumed that eternal polygamy was one of those pieces of doctrine that people knew about, but didn't really believe. While the book shows that this is clearly the case for some members who have chosen to reject it, I was still quite surprised when, about a year after I joined the church, an (ex-Mormon) friend told me directly and unequivocally that many people still believe in eternal polygamy very strongly. Regardless, it is my sincere hope that women and men who choose to remain active in the church are able to feel free from the burden that the doctrine of eternal polygamy has placed on their hearts and relationships. The path forward that Pearson presents is not revolutionary. It involves creating an equal partnership between men and women and, not surprisingly, includes making changes to the wording of the sealing ordinance and revising D&C 132. I applaud Carol Lynn for taking a stand here and encourage all members to read this and work to create a better, healthier church that values all members equally. I agree with Pearson that in spite of their many mistakes, Joseph, Brigham and particularly church leaders today do love their people and, for the sake of all those who choose to stay, I hope that the path forward materializes soon.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    The "Ghost" in "the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy" refers to some of the uncertainties that surround the doctrine and historical practice of plural marriage in the LDS church. To be clear, the LDS church and its living adherents have not practiced civil plural marriage for over one hundred years. Yet, a modern LDS woman could still find herself anticipating a plural marriage. For example, she could precede her husband in death. Her surviving husband might eventually marry another woman. If both marr The "Ghost" in "the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy" refers to some of the uncertainties that surround the doctrine and historical practice of plural marriage in the LDS church. To be clear, the LDS church and its living adherents have not practiced civil plural marriage for over one hundred years. Yet, a modern LDS woman could still find herself anticipating a plural marriage. For example, she could precede her husband in death. Her surviving husband might eventually marry another woman. If both marriages are for eternity, the deceased may find herself having to share her husband with at least one other woman in the afterlife. Additional uncertainty comes from the implication in canonized scripture (Doctrine and Covenants, section 132) that plural marriage is a higher and more godly form of marriage, that once a man learns about it he must practice it, and, also, that any woman who does not continue to love and live with her husband in a plural marriage will be destroyed. The book presents some of the historical and doctrinal origins of these uncertainties and their effects on modern day LDS women. It also presents the author's own musings and meditations on the topic. The most interesting parts, however, are the published responses to a survey conducted by the author of people's experiences with this "ghost." Many of these responses resonated with my wife and several resonated with me. For example, my father is a widower who remarried a really wonderful woman. She and her children have brought joy into my life, my family's life, and my father's life. I'm glad she's in my life. But, in my current understanding, it is hard to imagine my father, mother, and step mother all living together. I don't know how that will work. Nobody does. It is clear to me, and to the respondents, that what is known about the topic is insufficient to put the issue rest. You would think that, with the title "The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy" and with an introduction such as the above two paragraphs, this would be a very angry book. But that is not the case. Carol Lynn Pearson appreciates the paradox that lies in section 132 and also in Joseph Smith himself. Joseph Smith may have practiced plural marriage in some sketchy ways, but he was also the type of person who would reliably give his last pair of boots to someone in need. Likewise, though section 132 contains the above implications, it also teaches that family relationships are important in heaven, and that death cannot rob a person of their family. This is very important to me. I look forward to talking to my mother again. I find that you cannot ignore one side or the other and I feel that the book gives a fair and honest treatment of the topic.

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