James J. Strangs second wife, a school teacher
named Elvira Field, was a national advocate for the rights of women, and
founder of the earliest female sororities. She
a style of pants that preceded the liberating Amelia Bloomer pants, consistent with Mormon beliefs to have
plainness in dress and avoid the fashion of the world (Evening
and Morning Star, June 1832; and Elders Journal, August
1838). Latter Day Saint scriptures say not to have fine clothing or
costly apparel, but to let all thy garments be plain. (2
Nephi 28:13, Alma 5:53, and D&C 42:40).
Women were welcome
to wear those comfortable pants in his settlements by 1849, when hooped tight dresses were required
apparel for women in American cities. In 1851, Strang invited women into lesser priesthood roles; in 1853, a
substantial number of women were ordained to be teachers; and by 1856, women were
lecturing in the School of the Prophets.
Under James J. Strang, the church became the first
American religion to regularly allow women into lesser priesthood roles such as a
teacher, or priest. Under Joseph Smith, most ordained teachers
were adult men. However, earlier Emma Smith (the wife of Joseph)
was ordained to be a teacher (D&C 25:7 and
20:59). Other Mormons changed their church by ordaining young boys
instead of men to be teachers, and
then they often are taught by females who are un-ordained non-teachers.
We believe in marriage for life, the resurrection,
and life everlasting, and think it is natural to be with our children in heaven.
Eternal marriage was implied in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and in
the 1835 Sacred Hymns. There is information on Marriage as Chapter 15 in the Book of the Law of
the Lord, and marriage can be administered anywhere as in the days of Joseph Smith. Our endowment is simply like the one administered in the Kirtland temple
in the 1830s. Marriage was unrelated to this endowment, and Joseph
Smith was never married in a temple.
church historically permitted polygamy (polygyny)
in limited cases, but this is not considered a
distinctive or modern doctrine of the church.
12,000 members during
James J. Strangs lifetime, less than one percent of families (twenty-two families)
ever tried the arrangement, and none had more than four or five wives in their
family, generally just two.
Strang led the last of the major Mormon groups to begin
polygamy, and yet he became the first to acknowledge the ceremony publicly.
Though he had
theological, historical, scientific, and social arguments for the system, those that were
socially-based demonstrate his surprisingly balanced advocacy. He theorized that it liberated
women (in contrast to repressing them) by giving them greater choice, advantage, and opportunity in the selection of a
preferred companion and fit reproductive mate. This benefited society by encouraging competition among men to prove themselves successful
husbands and fathers. His lengthy treatise on the
justification for “Polygamy” is one of his annotations to the
translated Book of the Law of the Lord (not part of the
online version on this site).
Traditional love was prerequisite to any marriage,
so marriages were not prearranged by parents or elders, and polygamy was seen as
a freedom for women to marry whomever they loved most. Polygamous
wives were usually older unwed women, or widows with children that
needed care on the frontier. The youngest known polygamous wife
was 19-years old. Polygamous wives in the church were
intelligent, free-thinking women, including a doctor and a
meteorologist. Women were not allowed to leave their husbands to
be married to another man polygamously, and men were not allowed
to divorce their wife to take another.
never a church ban on polygamy,
like other Mormons eventually had. There are even precedents for polygamy after the
martyrdom of James J. Strang in 1856. For example, leading church elder
Wingfield Watson was actively seeking multiple wives from 1873 to 1880. The
church requires obedience to local and federal laws, but polygamous
marriages during the early church were apparently only common law
marriages (with religious ceremonies but not civil proceedings).
Regardless of all of this, there are no known cases of polygamy currently in
the church. Church members realize that the D&C section (numbered by
other Mormons as Section 132) requiring polygamy was not
produced until 1852, eight years after the death of Joseph Smith,
and is not an authentic Joseph Smith revelation in the form printed by
plain than the
|Typical fashion dress of