Modern Polygamy in the United States: Historical, Cultural, and Legal Issues

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Few people realize that polygamy continues to exist in the United States. Thus, world-wide attention focused on the State of Texas in 2008 as agents surrounded the compound of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) and took custody of more than 400 children. Several members of this schismatic religious group, whose women adorned themselves in "prairie dresses," admitted to practicing polygamy. The state justified the raid on charges that underage marriage was being forced on young women. A year later, however, all but one of the children had been returned to their parents and only ten men were charged with crimes, some barely related to the original charges. This book reveals the history, culture, and sometimes an insider's look at the polygamous groups located primarily in the western parts of the United States.

The contributors to this volume are historians, anthropologists, and sociologists familiar with the various groups. A legal scholar also addresses the legality of the Texas raid and a geneticist examines the paternity issues. Together, these authors provide a much needed understanding of the surprisingly large number of groups and individuals who live a quiet polygamous life style in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This well-balanced collection by historians, social scientists, and legal scholars, most of them established experts, provides a comprehensive treatment of the FLDS and other contemporary polygamous cultures in North America. The authors examine religious and other rationales for this way of life that are offered by both male and female participants, and present candid critiques both of the polygamous communities and of their antagonists in law enforcement and in the mass media."

—Armand L. Mauss, author of The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation

"At last some light, not just heat about America's new polygamy scandal, its roots and ramifications. Both well reasoned and well written, this book shows the people and the principles at stake. It will change how you think about both."

—Kathleen Flake, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University

"Modern Polygamy in the United States is an outstanding book. Together, these authors provide a much-needed understanding of the surprisingly large number of groups and individuals who live the polygamous life style in the United States."—Vickie Cleverley Speek, the Association for Mormon Letters

"Together, these authors provide a much-needed inderstanding of the surprisingly large number of groups and individuals who live the polygamous life style in the United States. I just wish it had a different title"—Vickie Cleverly Speek, Association for the Morman Letters

"Modern Polygamy in the United itself a product of the new scholarly attention that Mormon fundamentalism has attracted since the 2008 raid"—Richard Cimino, Religioscope

"Modern Polygamy provides a good desciption and analysis of the most recent battle concerning the practive of plural marriage and demonstrates why nineteenth century polygamy is still relevant in the current debate concerningmarriage relationships."—Michael W. Homer, Utah Historical Quarterly

"The book is full of such curious and interesteing details."—Stuart A. Wright, Lamar University

"Fundamentalists also believe that God had at least two wives, Eve and Lilth, and that Christ was marries to both Mary Magdalence and her sister, Martha. The book is full of such curious and interested details...I highly reccommend it."—Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"An excellent book."—CHOICE

"Provides much material for anyone seeking to better understand the practice of plural marriage in nineteenth-century Mormonism and its modern aftermaths."—BYU Studies Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199746378
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/9/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Karl G. Maeser Professor of General Education, Brigham Young University

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Table of Contents

Prologue and Introduction: The Incident At Eldorado, Texas Cardell K. Jacobson and Lara Burton
Section 1: Historical and Cultural Patterns of Polygamy in the United States: Estranged Groups
1. A Repeat of History: A Comparison of the Short Creek and El Dorado Raids on the FLDS Martha Sonntag Bradley
2. One Vision: The Making, Unmaking, and Remaking of a Fundamentalist Polygamous Community Heber B. Hammon and William Jankowiak
3. Life Among the FLDS: Not Perfect, But Not Deluded and Not Monsters Ken Driggs
4. History, Culture, and Variability of Mormon Schismatic Groups Janet Bennion
5. Differing Polygamous Patterns: Nineteenth Century LDS and Twenty-First Century FLDS Marriage Systems Kathryn Daynes
Section 2: Social Scientists Examine Polygamy and the Seizure of the FLDS Children
6. Demographic, Social and Economic Characteristics of a Polygamist Community Tim B. Heaton and Cardell K. Jacobson
7. The Many Faces of Polygamy: An Analysis of the Variability in Modern Mormon Fundamentalism in the Intermountain West Janet Bennion
8. "What's Love Got to Do with It?": Earthly Experience of Celestial Marriage, Past and Present Carrie A. Miles
9. Social Scientific Perspectives on the FLDS Raid and the Corresponding Media Coverage Ryan T. Cragun and Michael Nielsen
10. Learning the Wrong Lessons: A Comparison of FLDS, Family International, and Branch Davidian Child-Protection Interventions Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd
11. The International Fight Against Barbarism: Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Marriage Timing, Consent, and Polygamy. Arland Thornton
Section 3: Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding the Seizure of the FLDS Children
12. The Intricacies and Ethics of Parental Genetic Testing Deborah L. Cragun and Ryan T. Cragun
13. Child Protection Law and the FLDS Raid in Texas Linda F. Smith

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