Idaho, Origin of Polygamy

Speaker is from Preston, ID; she is a seventy-eight-year-old white woman with a grade school education. The interview took place in 1967.

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INFORMANT: I’ll tell you something. When the first revelation Joseph Smith [received] about marriage of any kind was that you couldn’t get anywhere, y-, into the celestial kingdom. No man could get into the celestial kingdom without a wife, because he’s only half there if he hasn’t got a wife. And no woman, of course, could get there without a husband either, because she’s only half there. Well now, at that time the Mormons were very strict, uh, uh, religious people, you see—

FIELDWORKER: Sure, sure.

INFORMANT: —and, uh, thought that a man had to live clean all his life as well as a woman did in order to be worthy to be a man.

FIELDWORKER: Well, this is still true, isn’t it?

INFORMANT: Well, it’s still true, certainly. But I said in that circ- those circumstances at that time there were, uh, about three times as many women that joined the church and were faithful Latter Day Saints than there were men. Then Joseph Smith comes out with the revelation that, uh, marriage was for eternity, and if, if you’re going to be separated from death do you part then you can’t get in to the celestial kingdom at all to become as [goddess]. Now they got that doctrine, and that was the prophet said that. They believed that. What about these here two-thirds of the women?

FIELDWORKER: Yeah, that’s a good question.

INFORMANT: What is going to become of us then? It won’t do us any good to go out here and marry one of these scalawags that spends his time drinking and boozing around, and, and mining, and maybe works in the mine awhile and does all kinds of skullduggery. That won’t do us any good to marry that kind of a man. Beside we don’t have a chance to raise a respectable family with that kind of a man. So what are we going to do about it now? What’s going to become of us? And Joseph Smith always prayed about every problem that came to him. And there is where he got the revelation that if they lived thoroughly clean and faithful, if they can understand the purity and sacredness of sex, so they don’t desecrate it, then one man can have a number of wives and per- and permit them to raise a respectable, honorable family. As well as have those wives throughout eternity, have their husband to take them into the celestial kingdom. Now there was the origin of polygamy.