Brigham Young was the second great Mormon prophet. He succeeded Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and likened himself to Moses, and in a sense he was a Moses to the Latter-day Saints who followed him to the Great Basin, or did he herd them to the Great Basin. After the Mormons had settled in the Great Salt Lake Valley and all seemed to be going well, Brigham suggested that he might even be greater than the biblical Moses because unlike the biblical Moses, he had been permitted to enter the “promised land.”
Brigham has been acclaimed a great colonizer and leader. While he was alive his fame spread as far as Denmark and the British Isles. But like many famous men he was controversial. As a result almost as many books that were written in approval of him, were critical. Nevertheless, whether one liked Brigham or not it must be acknowledged that he was a great leader and great colonizer. He knew how to control and manipulate people, not only for their own good, but his good as well.
It takes a special talent to unify a persecuted people and lift up their hope and esteem as Brigham did during those years of intense hardships between the time the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo and they finally settled in the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Brigham was strong willed, hard-headed and generally uncompromising. He was the consummate patriarch dictating nearly every aspect of his follower’s lives. In many respects he was correct in his stipulations and it probably took a tyrannical personality like his to keep control over a people and accomplish what he did. In his role as prophet and leader he had so much influence over the lives of the Mormons that whatever plaudits a member may earn Brigham should share in the accolades. By the same token, whatever denunciation a member may receive, Brigham must share in the criticism. For example, when he mandated that the young men stay on their farms and not follow the rush for gold at Sutter’s Mill, he was wise. But after the Mountain Meadows Massacre, although there is no evidence that he ordered the attack, he did what he could to cover it up.
Nevertheless, as strong willed and devoted as Brigham was to his religion he did not always practice what he preached. But Brigham’s hypocrisy may not necessarily be his fault, but genetic submission, unless we judge him by that old adage, “where much is given, much is expected.” As the prophet who controlled the exaltation of his people, the people were accountable to him. But to whom was Brigham accountable, if not to himself?
Brigham was a stickler when it came to morality. He and his leading apostles made a big show at each semiannual conference in attempting to convince both Mormon and gentile that polygamy was not about lust. Imposing modesty among the women was also a high priority. He preferred homespun clothes and garments that covered the entire body. He was also frugal to a point of embarrassment decrying against modern fashions and vanity. He loathed the henpecked husband and the wife who dominated the family. All of these issues he held in high priority. But as it happened with other wealthy and powerful men, like King David, when a Bathsheba catches their eye, the Y-chromosome kicks in and all the restraints are forgotten.
According to Brigham the Lord introduced the principle of polygamy for the express purpose of multiplying the species. Following are excerpts from Volume 3 of the Journal of Discourses, page 264, which is a discourse by Brigham Young entitled, “PLURALITY OF WIVES – THE FREE AGENCY OF MAN, Remarks made by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, Provo, July 14, 1855.” (JD 3:264)
God never introduced the Patriarchal order of marriage with a view to please man in his carnal desires, nor to punish females for anything which they had done; but He introduced it for the express purpose of raising up to His name a royal Priesthood, a peculiar people.
It has been strenuously urged by many, that this doctrine was introduced through lust, but that is a gross misrepresentation.
This revelation, which God gave to Joseph, was for the express purpose of providing a channel for the organization of tabernacles, for those spirits to occupy who have been reserved to come forth in the kingdom of God, and that they might not be obliged to take tabernacles out of the kingdom of God.
We are commanded to overcome all our lustful desires, also our pride, selfishness, and every evil propensity that pertains to the flesh, to keep the commandments of God, and all the commandments pertaining to the holy Priesthood.
As time went on and more and more women entered the principle of plural marriage, there were second thoughts on the part of some women. Four years after Brigham revealed to the world that polygamy was a Mormon religious tenet, the women had not ceased their whining, that is whining over plural marriage. Following are excerpts from a discourse given by Brigham Young at the Great Salt Lake City Bowery, September 21, 1856. This was also the first year of the handcart era. Consider the plight of a young Welch girl arriving in the valley after pulling and pushing a handcart a thousand miles over mountains and through rivers only to find out she was nothing more than property to be bartered off to some old man where she would spend eternity in celestial servitude.
Sisters, I am not joking, I do not throw out my proposition to banter your feelings to see whether you will leave your husbands, all or any of you. But I do know that there is no cessation to the everlasting whining of many of the women in this Territory; I am satisfied that this is the case. And if the women will turn from the commandments of God and continue to despise the order of heaven, I will pray that the curse of the Almighty may be close to their heels, and that it may be following them all the day long. And those that enter into it and are faithful, I will promise them that they shall be queens in heaven, and rulers to all eternity.
In the same discourse he wanted to make sure the women knew their place, and who was in charge. This subjection to Brigham and priesthood was necessary to help curb the unrest of the complaining wives and compel them to submit to their circumstance. In reading the entire discourse one’s gets the impression that some women were challenging their husbands for the dominate role in the family. To allow a woman to rule over a polygamist family would be disastrous.
… True there is a curse upon the woman that is not upon the man, namely, that “her whole affections shall be towards her husband,” and what is the next? “He shall rule over you.”
But how is it now? Your desire is to your husband, but you strive to rule over him, wheras the man should rule over you.
There is absolutely no empirical evidence that polygamy was a religious tenet when the biblical patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses walked the earth. We must therefore assume that the justification in those days was economic, security, a surplus of women, or as in the case of David and Solomon, cementing treaties between powerful families by marrying off their daughters. It is true that in Brigham’s day and even today some women enter polygamy for the security it provides, but it is unnatural for a women to be content in a polygamous relationship if she feels she has been tricked or coerced into the relationship. It is for that reason the prophets and their priesthood cronies throughout Mormon polygamist history have constantly preached, threatened and persuaded women to submit to their subservient situation.
Now Latter-day Saints, I want to say this to you, when a man lifts his heel against the counsel that we give him, I know that man will apostatize, just as sure as he is a living being, unless he repents and refrains from such conduct.
What Joseph meant by being damned was that people will go into the spirit world without the Priesthood, and consequently they are under the power of Satan, and will have to be redeemed, or else they will be forever under his power. That is all there is about that.
Brother George A. Smith has been reading a little out of the revelation concerning celestial marriage, and I want to say to my sisters that if you lift your heels against this revelation, and say that you would obliterate it, and put it out of existence if you had the power to nullify and destroy it, I say that if you imbibe that spirit and feeling, you will go to hell, just as sure as you are living women.
Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph, apparently thought that she had obliterated the revelation – at least she tried. There was no love between Emma and Brigham and he didn’t hesitate to let others know how he felt about her. And Emma did likewise, claiming Joseph never practiced polygamy or condoned it, blaming the revelation and its practice on Brigham. The following is what Brigham had to say upon the matter:
Emma took that revelation, supposing she had all there was; but Joseph had wisdom enough to take care of it, and he had handed the revelation to Bishop Whitney, and he wrote it all off. After Joseph had been to Bishop Whitney’s he went home, and Emma began teasing for the revelation. Said she – “Joseph, you promised me that revelation, and if you are a man of your word you will give it to me.” Joseph took it from his pocket and said – “Take it.” She went to the fire-place and put it in, and put the candle under it and burnt it, and she thought that was the end of it, and she will be damned as sure as she is a living woman.
In the same discourse Brigham went on as he had done time and time again in telling the women what was good for them, and what their fate would be as far as Jesus Christ was concerned.
You sisters may say that plural marriage is very hard for you to bear. It is no such thing. A man or woman who would not spend his or her life in building up the kingdom of God on the earth, without a companion, and travel and preach, valise in hand, is not worthy of God or his kingdom, and they never will be crowned, they cannot be crowned; the sacrifice must be complete. It is the duty of the husband to take a wife, take her. But it is not the privilege of a woman to dictate the husband, and tell who or how many he shall take, or what he shall do with them when he gets them, but it is the duty of the woman to submit cheerfully. (Journal of Discourse 17:154, delivered by Brigham Young at Lehi City, August 9, 1874)
Brigham’s idea of building the kingdom is to increase church membership. With membership come votes, property and tithing, in other words, power. What Brigham was saying is that the men must become missionaries converting the masses. The women must bear children and program the little ones to grow up to become obedient Mormons – obedient to Priesthood.
Pro-polygamists perpetually attempt to convince law makers and the public at large that polygamy is consensual and an ideal lifestyle for women. They play down the complaints made by plural wives and ignore the fact that the priesthood brethren must perpetually counter the women’s complaints in their discourses either by fear or shame. If the priesthood moguls can’t keep the whiners silent by flattery, reminding them that they are the elect, future queens and Eves of their own worlds, they fall back on the fear factor, inculcating the notion that whining wives are disobeying God and will be damned. Consider what Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor to Brigham Young, had to say on February 1, 1857 at the Great Sale Lake Tabernacle:
In the spirit world there is an increase of males and females, there are millions of them, and if I am faithful all the time, and continue right along with brother Brigham, we will go to brother Joseph and say, “Here we are brother Joseph; we are here ourselves are we not, with none of the property we possessed in our probationary state, not even the rings on our finger?” He will say to us, “Come along , my boys we will give you a good suit of clothes. Where are your wives?” “They are back yonder; they would not follow us.” “Never mind,” says Joseph, “here are thousands, have all you want.” Perhaps some do not believe that, but I am just simple enough to believe it. (JD 4:209)
The above analogy is indeed simple and when Heber told Joseph he was there without his property, he not only meant real estate but wives because in those days they were considered property.
Another of Brigham’s favorite sermons was comparing polygyny with prostitution. A Christian gentleman might visit a different brothel or different strumpet night after night. Brigham thought it more honorable to marry the women making it righteous conduct when the husband visited a different plural wife night after night. It is reported that when Brigham was asked what he would do with the many prostitutes in New York City he replied, “I’d teach them the gospel and take them all as wives.”
It is ironic that in the early 1900s when the gentiles took political control of Salt Lake City, not two blocks from the Lion House and Bee Hive house where Brigham lodged his plural wives, were several brothels. Each lady (tart) had a room in the brothel called a “crib.” Each of Brigham’s wives in the Bee Hive and Lion Houses also had a room of her own.You may circumscribe the whole earth, and pass through every Christian nation, so called, and what do you find? If you tell them a ‘Mormon’ has two wives, they are shocked, and call it dreadful blasphemy; if you whisper such a thing into the ears of a Gentile who takes a fresh woman every night, he is thunderstruck with the enormity of the crime. The vile practice of violating female virtue with impunity is customary among the professed Christian nations of the world; this is therefore no marvel to them, but they are struck with amazement when they are told a man may have more lawful wives than one! What do you think of a woman having more husbands than one? This is not known to the law, yet it is done in the night, and considered by the majority of mankind to be all right. There are certain governments in the world, that give women license to open their doors and windows to carry on this abominable practice, under the cover of night. Five years ago the census of New York gave 15,000 prostitutes in that city. Is that law? Is that good order? Look at your Constitution, look at the Federal law, look at every wholesome principle, and they tell you that death is at your doors, corruption in your streets, and hell is all open, and gaping wide to inclose you in its fiery vortex. To talk about law and good order while such things exist, makes me righteously angry. Talk not to me about law.” (JD 1:361)
One of the most enlightening books about early Mormonism, next to T.B.H. Stenhouses’ The Rocky Mountain Saints, A Full and Complete HISTORY OF THE MORMONS, From The First Vision of Joseph smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young; including, The Story of the Hand-cart emigration – The Mormon War – The Mountain.Meadows Massacre – the Reign of Terror in Utah – The Doctrine of Human Sacrifice – The Political, Domestic, Social, and Theological Influences of the Saints -the Facts of Polygamy – The Colonization of the Rocky Mountains, and, THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREAT MINERAL WEALTH OF THE TERRITORY OF UTAH. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 549 & 551 Broadway, 1873, is:
Brigham Young, by M. R. Werner, Copyright by Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., printed by The Quinn & Boden Company, Rahway, N. J., 1925.
Werner had done an excellent job in research especially where Brigham Young was concerned.
Werner noticed that the Mormons would never allow themselves to admit that plural marriage had a sensual origin. Many Mormons like Brigham Young came from puritanical New England, states like Vermont where the very idea of a harem “was enough to engender the fear of hell.” (Page 300) To off set the suspicion of lust they sometimes added to their family a “few elderly, homely wives” giving the impression that plural marriage was about obedience to God and working towards one’s salvation rather than sexual gratification. He quoted Brigham, declaring, “God commanded, and man had nothing to do but obey.” He also quoted Brigham saying:
“I never entered into the order of plurality of wives to gratify passion. And were I now asked whether I desired and wanted another wife, my reply would be, It should be one by whom the Spirit will bring forth noble children. I am almost sixty years old; and if I now live for passion, I pray the Lord Almighty to take my life from the earth.” (Page 301)
This discourse was given April 7, 1861 at the Great Salt Lake Tabernacle. In it, Werner states, Brigham made it clear that his life had been pure for sixty years. Brigham stated, “Ask these sisters (many of them have known me for years) what my life has been in private and in public. It has been like the angel Gabriel’s…” (Page 301)
Werner concluded from his research that, “Women, according to Brigham Young, was a receptacle, and the main purpose of polygamy was the increased breeding facilities which it offered.” Consider the following:
How will you be happy? Love the Giver more than the gift. Delight yourselves in your duties, mothers. Here are the middle-aged and the young. I am now almost daily sealing young girls to men of age and experience. Love your duties, sisters. Are you sealed to a good man? Yes, to a man of God. It is for you to bear fruit and bring forth, to the praise of God, the spirits that are born in yonder heavens and are to take tabernacles on the earth. You have the privilege of forming tabernacles for those spirits, instead of their being brought into this wicked world, that God may have a royal Priesthood, a royal people, on the earth. That is what plurality of wives is for, and not to gratify lustful desires. Sisters, do you wish to make yourselves happy? Then what is your duty? It is for you to bear children, in the name of the Lord, that are full of faith and the power of God, – to receive, conceive, bear, and bring forth in the name of Israel’s God, that you may have the honour of being the others of great and good men – of kings, princes, and potentates that shall yet live on the earth and govern and control the nations. (JD 9:37)
In the last chapter of this thesis Nineteenth Century authors tackled the phenomenon of young girls marrying old men in their sixties. The same phenomenon exists to today. (See Polygamy’s Rape of Rachael Strong) Under Brigham Young’s regime old men had the power and could dictate doctrine and custom. In accordance to that power they justified old men taking young girls as wives by pointing out the “rejuvenating effects” it had on old men. The following is quoted from Werner on page 304.
For example he gave Bishop John D. Lee a seventeenth wife in 1858. “I was sealed to her, wrote Lee, “while a member of the Territorial Legislature. Brigham Young said that Isaac C. Haight, who was also in the Legislature, and I, needed some young women to renew our vitality, so he gave us both a dashing young bride.”
I am sure Werner is correct in that taking a “dashing young bride” stimulates the Y-chromosome and bolsters the ego of a man in his sixties or seventies. That is if he has no guilt or shame in taking a 13, 14, or 15-year-old girl as a wife. And I wonder what goes on in the mind of a 14-year-old girl when she climbs in bed with a man old enough to be her grandpa. The old man may be toothless, bald-headed, pot-bellied, scrawny legged, and his skin marked with old- age liver marks, warts and sunspots, not to mention the oft audio flatulent, eruptions that are emitted from the large intestine – that often comes with old age. Are we to suppose that this disgusting scene sexually stimulates teenaged girls? As a father of beautiful teenaged girls I know what would go through my mind if such a man coveted my daughters …….
The following is what Heber C. Kimball, one of the more respected patriarchs of early Mormonism had to say:
I would not be afraid to promise a man who is sixty years of age, if he will take the counsel of Brother Brigham and his brethren, that he will renew his age. I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to the doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors His work and word. Some of you may not believe this; but I not only believe it – I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business; for it is as much as we can do now to keep up under the burdens we have to carry; and I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife a piece.
I take it that Heber C. Kimball sees young teenaged girls as an aphrodisiacs who stimulate the flow of testosterone increasing longevity and making old men more productive.
This rejuvenating phenomenon is verified by John Taylor while in hiding from Federal Marshals who wanted to arrest him for bigamy. It was November 1887 at Kaysville, Utah, when John Taylor fell in love with Josephine Elizabeth Roueche, a young lass fifty-one years younger than himself. Josephine, born March 3, 1860, was age 26 when she married Taylor on December 19, 1886. Taylor, born November 1, 1808 was age 78. These dates were obtained from Taylor’s genealogy on the Internet.
In The Last Pioneer, John Taylor, a Mormon Prophet, by Samuel W. Taylor, Signature Books, 1976, Samuel tells us that although the prophet “had one foot in the grave he had not lost his eye for a pretty girl.” (Page 373) Josephine helped “the Boss,”( Pres. Taylor) with office work and he became “frisky as a colt.” “There was nothing like a young girl to restore” [an old man’s] “youth.” The Boss really “duded himself up” and “became downright courtly.” (Page 374)
Although Josephine stayed by Taylor’s side until he died, the rejuvenation only lasted a few months. Taylor died July 25, 1887.
It was rare that an attractive girl during that time in Utah went 26 years without marrying. My research reveals Josephine only married one other time, to George W. Palmer, July 11, 1921. Josephine died November 27, 1943 at San Jose, California. She was age 83.
It was the habit of some missionaries while in the British Isles to not only convert women to the “gospel” but convert them as their personal plural wife. This was unacceptable for there were old men in Utah waiting for these pretty young things so they could marrying them, and by doing so, insuring these women’s exaltation. It was therefore promulgated that the women, analogous to sheep, belonged to the shepard, Brigham Young. Only he had the authority to divvy out the ewes.
I have said that you have no business to make a selection of any of these sheep, or to make a choice of them, or make any covenant with them, until they are brought home and placed in the fold, and then if you want a sheep or two, ask the shepherd for them, and if you choose a sheep without taking this course you will get your fingers burnt. Why? Because they are his sheep – mark it…. I would rather have my head laid upon a block and severed from my shoulders than ever make a proposal to any woman living upon the earth and marry her, unless I had permission from the chief shepherd. That tells it. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 1:207)
By 1975, the women of the Utah Territory were becoming aware of the then current fashions popular in the states. It was bound to happen, what with the missionaries, converts from places like New York, and the fashionable women passing through Salt Lake City on their way to California. Brigham equated fashionable clothes with immorality and blamed the fashion craze on prostitutes whose occupation naturally depended upon arousing the Y-chromosome of their customers.
Brigham, who was noted for his penchant to be outspoken, made his mind clear on the subject of women’s fashions on the first Sunday of September, 1861, which was printed in the Mormon Expositor. Why this sermons did not make it in the Journal of Discourse, might be explained by Brigham’s spicy language.
Give us a little Gentileism. For Heaven’s sake, you say. The women say, let us wear hoops, because the whores wear them.
I believe if they were to come with a cob stuck in their behind, you would want to do the same. I despise their damnable fashions, their lying and whoring; and God being my helper, I’ll live to see every one of those cussed fools off the earth, saint or sinner. I don’t know that I have a wife but what would see me damned rather than that she should not get what she wanted, and that is what I think of all of them, and the men too.
I would see a Gentile further in Hell than they ever got before I would follow their fashions, if it did not suit me. There is not a day I go out but I see the women’s legs, and if the wind blows you see them up to their bodies.
If you must wear their hoops, tie them down with weights, and don’t let your petticoats be over your heads. It is ridiculous and should not be. It belongs to a set of whory congregations that love iniquity and to corrupt themselves one with another. It belongs there. It don’t belong to this community.
How do you think I feel about it? Who cares about these infernal Gentiles? If they were to wear a s–-t pot [shit pot] on their head, must I do so? I know I ought to be ashamed, but when you show your tother end I have a right to talk about tother end. If you keep them hid, I’ll be modest, and not talk about them.
There are those fornication pantaloons, made on purpose for whores to button up in front. My pantaloons button up here (showing how) where they belong, that my secrets, that God has given me, should not be exposed.
You follow the Gentiles and you will be partakers of their plagues if you don’t look out. That is the work of the Lord.
Break off from your sins by righteousness. Will you do it? This is the word of the Almighty to you, through his servant Brigham. Keep your secrets secret, and hide your bodies and preserve your bodies.
Now if a whore comes along and turns up her clothes, don’t turn up yours and go through the streets.(Mormons Expositor, vol. I, Salt Lake city, 1875)
M. R. Werner did a fantastic job in researching Brigham and his family. He documented each wife with a little narrative background. On page 333-34 he summed up what he had discovered:
Brigham Young had twenty-seven wives, although that many were never alive at the same time. Nine wives died before he died, and, if we excluded Ann Eliza Young, who left him, he was survived by seventeen. Brigham Young married twice before he was thirty-five years old, and in the period of five years, 1842-1847, when polygamy was first practiced secretly, he married nineteen women. The other six wives he married from the time of his residence in Utah until his death. Two of Brigham Young’s wives were sixteen years old when he married them, one was eighteen years old, one was nineteen, five were twenty, one was twenty-one, one was twenty-two, four were twenty-four, three were twenty-five, three were thirty, one was thirty-one, and two were forty-one and forty-five respectively, but these last two were widows of Joseph Smith, who were married because Brigham Young felt it an obligation to support them in their old age.
[Brigham had] a total of fifty-six children, thirty-one daughters and twenty-five sons, not including those who were adopted by childless wives or brought into the family from former marriages. (Page 337)
On April 30, 1845, Brigham married his ninth wife, Emmeline Free, who bore him ten children. He was 45, we are not sure how old she was but she must have been young, and she must have been agreeable for Brigham to have sired ten children. It is reported that she become his favorite wife, at least until Amelia Folsom entered the picture. In any event both Emmeline and Amelia apparently had a profound effect on Brigham. Consider what John Hyde Jr. had to say about Emmeline:
Brigham has a favorite. She is a very good-looking person, of about thirty years of age. She is tall; her eyes are a very soft blue, large and full; her hair light brown; complexion very fair, and general expression very intelligent and prepossessing. I believe she is Brigham’s third wife, and, I understand, he married her at Council Bluffs, Iowa. She has had six children, most of them, however, are dead. In her case, Brigham violated his own law. For a little while, he indulged his vanity so far as to wear his hair curled; much laughter and remark was occasioned by persons often noticing his head fixed up in papers and hair-pins, of an evening. This lady was the industrious hair-dresser. She is very devout in her religion and passionately devoted to her husband, that is, to her “undivided moiety” of a husband! (Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs, John Hyde, Jun., W. P. Fetridge & Company, New York, 1857, page 160)
Hyde was very intuitive for his time. Before moving on to Amelia I think it is worth while to see what Hyde has to say about women who are attracted to powerful men.
Mrs. Emeline Free Young, however, is not alone, either in her worth or her affection. Brigham is very much beloved by all his wives, notwithstanding his bitter attacks on some, and cruel neglect of others, of them. They all certainly believe in his authority, and are content to share his future glory, although that is so widely diffused, that it can come only in homeopathic doses to any one of them.
There are still very many who would like to be married to Brigham, notwithstanding the size of his family. Many great men, orators, tragedians, poets, or warriors have excited similar feelings in many bosoms. At Salt Lake the women not only feel, but express such wishes. Nature has implanted the feeling of sympathy and the sentiment of admiration; false education has taught many to mistake that sympathy for love, and that admiration for devotion; the Mormons have broken down the barriers of modesty, and the women, thus in error are permitted to indulge it, and gratify the new passion by a new marriage, if single; or by a divorce and then a marriage if previously united.
Great numbers have pestered Brigham so much to marry them, that he has been forced to declare, “My family is large enough, and I do no want to take anymore.” (Page 161)
After Brigham married Harriet Barney he took a sabbatical which lasted seven years. At age sixty-one he fell in love with Harriet Amelia Folsom, a tall, fair, sophisticated woman of twenty-five. After her marriage to Brigham she dropped “Harriet” from her name.
Much has been written about Amelia. Ann Eliza Webb Young, Brigham’s twenty-seventh wife wrote about her in her book, Wife No. 19, and Irving Wallace wrote about her in his book, The Twenty-Seventh Wife. The following is an excerpt from M. R. Werner’s Brigham Young, page 329.
Amelia could play the piano, and she could sing “Fair Bingen on the Rhine.” Brigham Young was captivated both by her appearance and by her accomplishments; none of his other wives was so tall, so handsome, and so refined, and none of his other wives could sing “Fair Bingen on the Rhine.” For hours every day Brigham Young’s carriage was seen outside Mrs. Folsom’s door, the horses stamping with boredom and swishing the flies with their tails, while their master never seemed to tire of the company inside the house. It is said too that at this time Brigham Young began to pay some attention to his full beard and his thin brown hair, which suddenly began to curl carefully. He also changed his homespun for broadcloth on week-days. Those who watched the progress of this romance with the careful attention of eager gossips also said that there were rivals, and that the President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator discouraged at least one of these rivals by patting him significantly on the shoulder, thereby indicating with an additional meaning gesture that it would be well for him to retire from the chase. Another of the rivals, it is said, was sent suddenly on a mission to convert the heathen in far-away lands.
But Amelia was not easily wooed, or she had not sufficiently extracted the promises she charmed out of her elderly suitor. Twice, thinking he had Amelia in his grasp, Brigham warmed the Endowment House, and twice he was disappointed. Finally, “it was made clear to Amelia that her marriage to Brigham Young was the will of the Lord.”
Brigham, ever patient, more patient than he was with the brethren, had Amelia sealed to him January 24, 1863, but not before he agreed to her stipulations.
Before she finally consented to marry Brigham Young, Amelia Folsom exacted many promises, which she proceeded to enforce as soon as they were married. She refused, for one thing, to live with the other wives in the two large buildings [the Lion and Bee Hive houses] with their many quaint dormer windows, which Brigham Young had built to house his families. He built Amelia a house of her own, which was known throughout Utah for many years as “Amelia’s Palace.” She immediately took the position of head of the harem, which had at various times been occupied by other favorites, for, however divine the institution and impartial the intention, even Brigham Young could not avoid preferences in personalities. By virtue of her temper and determination Amelia held both Brigham Young and the other wives in a position subordinate to her will. She had fine clothes, which were not at all influenced by the idea of fashion and economy which her husband expressed so vehemently in the pulpit; she had jewelry, and she had plenty of money to spend, as well as a carriage of her own. Whenever they went to the theater which Brigham Young had built in Salt Lake City, Amelia occupied the seat of honor next to her distinguished husband in his box, while the other wives occupied the special row of chairs reserve for them in the parquet. Whenever Brigham Young went south for the winter on tours of inspection and for his health, Amelia now accompanied him, and she was soon generally recognized by the Mormons as the favorite. As such she was both feared and envied. In the dining-room where the whole family always ate together, Brigham Young and Amelia sat at a small table at the head of the room, while all the rest of the large family occupied a large table extending from the throne seats. Ann Eliza Young, who was somewhat biased and somewhat spiteful, as we shall see, wrote in her book of revelation concerning the household of her husband that the small table received many delicacies which were not served to the general multitude. Ann Eliza wrote bitterly, “Polygamist, as he professes to be, he is under the influence of Amelia, rapidly becoming a monogamist, in all except the name.” Amelia Folsom had no children.
Brigham had repeatedly said that old men were just boys, at least they behaved like boys as Brigham did around Amelia. But the boy inside Brigham and the old men who took young, fresh brides was their Y-chromosome, which never grows old. It was the Y-chromosome that prompted John Taylor to step sprightly around Josephine Elizabeth Roueche. It is what makes senior citizens frisky. There is one other thing about the Y-chromosome, it has no conscience. It makes a man forget about duties and responsibilities like first wives. Take Orson Pratt for example.
Orson Pratt nearly apostatized when Joseph attempted to seduce his pretty wife, Sarah. After Joseph’s death and Orson had regained his stature in the Church, he told Sarah that he felt it was his duty to take plural wives but in doing so it would not affect his affection or relationship with her. As is often the case, his affection and relationship with his first wife did deteriorate as he took one young wife after another. Sarah left him after he took his 10th wife, sixteen-year-old Margaret Graham. He was fifty-seven.
When Joseph romantically approached Sarah, in Orson’s absence, he reportedly told her that the only sin would be for her to tell her husband or someone else. Sarah emphatically rebuked his proposal. Joseph then warned her if she uttered an unkind word about him he had it in his power to ruin her character. And ruin her character among the Mormons he did, just as he did with Nancy Rigdon and Jane Law when they also rebelled against his lewd suggestions.
Ironically, when Sarah threatened divorce, although Orson had not lived with her for five years, often leaving her at the mercy of others for support, he told her he was no longer obligated for her support and she had his permission to go to hell. Orson’s perfidy is a classic example of how a polygamous situation can produce despicable behavior.
Orson came to her defense in Nauvoo when Joseph and others ravaged her reputation, [they were monogamists then] but he didn’t lift a finger when after their legal separation Brigham Young evicted her and her children from their home. Sarah was treated badly by Joseph, Orson and Brigham. Before and after the divorce, she never received an ounce of priesthood indemnification. When she turned against the principle of plural marriage her reputation was defamed once again, but this time, as an anti polygamist, she was believed.
Just as Amelia dictated to Brigham, in AUB there are women who dictate to their husbands. The husband tolerates it for fear he will lose her, or he loves her, or she possesses power of some sort. She may be the daughter of the prophet or a powerful councilman he does not want to offend. Power and prestige is often gained and solidified by exchanging daughters as plural wives.
In Amelia’s case she was a thoroughbred, a trophy woman he couldn’t afford to lose. The most powerful man in Zion could not suffer the humiliation that would be heaped upon him if he was to catch her and then lose her.
A class of women in AUB schooled in the manners of female craftiness and ardor, have learned to either charm or outwit their husbands, knowing that although she needs his priesthood, he is more in need of plural wives in order to be exalted – before his priesthood cronies and in the afterlife. In other words, she turns his Y-chromosome against him. These gutsy gals use their superior intellect to manipulate and mold their husbands in Amelia-like fashion. Their boldness and determination which oft borders on intimidation is the consequence of liberalization, a feminine comportment that would appall the likes of Warren Jeffs or Paul Kingston.
I would be amiss if I didn’t credit the women in AUB with more integrity, intelligence, education and common sense than the men who rely upon the illusion of priesthood to best the impudence of their wives – giving them a semblance of dominance. The men deploy passion of priesthood as opposed to sound thinking – passion wasted on hallucinations. I think many of the women discern this and with compressed amusement view their noble saviors as they would little boys playing cloak and daggers.
The AUB priesthood, in spite of being guided by their god have squandered millions of dollars on faulty judgment corrupted by ego and avarice. Dozens of business ventures have failed because of the delusion that priesthood magically endows the men with superior business acumen. And when it comes to scripture and history of Mormonism, the women have to back off to keep from making their priesthood masters look foolish. Had the women been in charge the money stolen from Virginia Hill would have been returned.
There are many good, honest women in Mormon fundamentalism but they don’t realize the power they have. The men are nothing without them. Even if they believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and Section 132 is a genuine revelation, if they united they could clean up the corruption and abuse that is endemic in the polygamist lifestyle, which will remain as long as they submit to priesthood coercion.