Mormon History

Justifying Polygamy - 1852

Warsaw Signal August 14, 1852


Hitherto our Mormon neighbors, when charged with the practice of polygamy, have either stood mute, or denied the allegation. But the following letter from one of the Elders in the New York Herald, avows and justifies not only the existence, but the propriety and utility of the practice, on high moral and religious grounds. Verily, these are strange times. Listen to Elder Phelps:

                                                    Great Salt Lake City,
                                                    Utah Territory, May 1, 1852.
J. Gordon Bennett, Esq.:

In the Herald of the 9th March, in your comments upon General Grant's reply to the "flying court," or "Babes in the Woods," late of Utah, I see you sagaciously say the Latter Day Saints must "make up their minds to submission to the federal authorities, and come down to the established arrangement of one wife at a time, or abide the consequences of the higher law." -- Now, sir, in all deference to your unique opinion, permit me to dissent, because the constitution has no power over religion, neither has Utah's Congress; "the federal authorities" have no control over morality -- that belongs to the good old book, the word of the Lord, and you know that God allowed any good man, such as Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, David, Solomon, and hundreds of others, a plurality of wives. 'Praise ye the Lord,' and unless all christendom shall, by their 'sacredotal clergy,' petition Jehovah, and repeal king James' repugnant, and as I believe. 'wonderful wiving law,' we shall, as a religious community, hold on to our rights, guarenteed by the constitution & revelation. It is just as virtuous, just as holy, and just as wise, for the Mormons to obey the Scriptures now, as in the days of Moses or Jesus; for Jesus said, 'suffer little childrem and forbid them not to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'

You know also, that among other great promises to the Latter Day Saints, an 'hundred fold of mothers and children' is promised. You could not have the children, unless you had the wives, [and] mothers, to bear them. Some of the old prophets sais 'seven women should take hold of one man,' &c. but I think it is no where said that seven men should take hold of one woman, as it is somewhat fashionable among the elite of many nations.

If you have not received a communication from Dr. J. M. Bernhisel, on the plurality of wives, being a dialogue between Bogus-bus, and the king's fool, call on him for it, and let the people have it, and I think your own wife system will sing as small as our racing Gilipons, or, 'dirty cotton court.' Of two evils, a Mormon chooses neither, but goes in for all good and more good, which, if as Solomon said, a good wife is a good thing, then the more you have the more good you have; so that when suffering female kind, over the great globe, are acquainted with the fact, that, "the daughters of kings are among the Lord's honorable wives in heaven," (Psalm 45,) and on the right hand the queen in gold of Ophir, you will hear of more honorable women clinging to the priesthood [than] you ever thought of, or a narrow contracted christian clergy, drove into corruption by night closetings, because their deeds are evil.

Brother Gordon, look into my almanac for this year, and on the 22d page you will observe an account of the 'Eternal Mother,' -- and on the 37th, 'The Philosophy of the Heavens.' Try a little of the Mormon classics. I go in for Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and any other language which conveys truth. Should you get the communication I mentioned above, I think that what I have written will do for you and I and others, to circulate that the constitution of the United States, actually allows men and women to love, get and do all the good they can from the Bible, from the Book of Mormon, from the world, and even from one another. 'Praise ye the Lord.'

      Respectfully,         W. W. PHELPS.

Note: Such was the Mormons' first public attempt at justifying their long-held secret doctrine of spiritual wifery. Phelps' letter to the major newspaper on the east coast was obviously timed to appear almost simultaneously with Parley P. Pratt's admission of Mormon polygamy, in a publication on the west coast. By the time that reprints from these two unofficial "press releases" had spread through most of the reading population of the United States, and an incipient discussion of the subject had begun in the popular press, the official admission, from Salt Lake City, was finally publicized. In New York City, even the patience and indulgent allowance Editor Bennett generally extended to the Utah Saints must have been sorely taxed in his reading of this communication from "the King's Fool." Bennett's experience in New York journalism stretched back to his days at the National Advocate, when the William Morgan affair was a big story in the press of the Empire State. He was a contemporary of William W. Phelps in the business when Phelps started his anti-masonic Ontario Phoenix at Canandaigua. While Phelps joined the Mormons and "went west," Bennett remained in the east, giving voice to the pro-masonic cause and conducting some of the very first investigative reporting on the origin and rise of Mormonism. No doubt Bennett kept an eye on Phelps over the years, and watched with distaste the man's long, slow downhill slide into obsession and obscurity. After so many years of promulgating lies regarding their secret marital affairs, Phelps' professed love of all "language which conveys truth" must have struck Bennett as both pathetic and comical.

(Webmaster note: Mormon Harry Reid would have made a great 19th century anti-Mormon)

Bill Number: S. 3313 (IS)
Bill Title: Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry   View all legislation sponsored by this member.
Introduced: 2008/07/23
Latest Major Action: 2008/07/23 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Notes: There are no notes for this Bill

S 3313 IS


2d Session

S. 3313

To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.


July 23, 2008

Mr. REID introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008'.


Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Despite the fact that polygamy has been illegal in the United States for over 100 years, the practice of polygamy involving underage marriages is growing. Sizable polygamist communities exist in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and are expanding into other States.

(2) Polygamist communities are typically controlled by organizations that engage in widespread and systematic violations of State laws and the laws of the United States in order to enrich their leaders and maintain control over their members.

(3) The crimes perpetrated by these organizations include child abuse, domestic violence, welfare fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, witness tampering, and transporting victims across State lines.

(4) Due to the systematic and sophisticated nature of these crimes, State and local law enforcement agencies would benefit from the assistance of the Federal Government as they investigate and prosecute these organizations and their leaders for violations of State law. In addition, violations of Federal law associated with polygamy should be investigated and prosecuted directly by Federal authorities.

(5) The work of State and Federal law enforcement agencies to combat crimes by polygamist organizations would benefit from enhanced collaboration and information-sharing among such agencies.

(6) The establishment of a task force within the Department of Justice to coordinate Federal efforts and collaborate with State agencies would aid in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities of polygamist organizations in both Federal and State courts.

(7) Polygamist organizations isolate, control, manipulate, and threaten victims with retribution should they ever abandon the organization. Individuals who choose to testify against polygamist organizations in Federal or State court have unique needs, including social services and witness protection support, that warrant Federal assistance.


(a) Establishment- There is established within the Department of Justice a Federal Polygamy Task Force, which shall consist of the Deputy Attorney General, the United States attorneys from affected Federal judicial districts, representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and any officer of the Federal Government whom the Deputy Attorney General considers necessary to strengthen Federal law enforcement activities and provide State and local law enforcement officials the assistance they need to address the illegal activity of one or more polygamist organizations.

(b) Purposes- The Federal Polygamy Task Force established under subsection (a) shall--

(1) formulate effective responses to the unique set of crimes committed by polygamist organizations;

(2) establish partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies to share relevant information and strengthen State and Federal efforts to combat crimes perpetrated by polygamist organizations;

(3) assist States by providing strategies and support for the protection of witnesses;

(4) track the criminal behavior of polygamist organizations that cross State and international borders; and

(5) ensure that local officials charged with protecting the public are not corrupted because of financial, family, or membership ties to a polygamist organization.


The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10601 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 1404E the following:


`(a) In General- The Director may make grants as provided in section 1404(c)(1)(A) to State, tribal, and local prosecutors' offices, law enforcement agencies, courts, jails, and correctional institutions, and to qualified public and private entities, to develop, establish, and maintain programs for the enforcement of rights and provision of social services (including witness protection, housing, education, vocational training, mental health services, child care, and medical treatment) for an individual who is exploited or otherwise victimized by practitioners of polygamy.

`(b) Authorization of Appropriations- In addition to funds made available under section 1402(d), there are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section--

`(1) $2,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

`(2) $2,500,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

`(c) False Claims Act- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts collected pursuant to sections 3729 through 3731 of title 31, United States Code (commonly known as the `False Claims Act'), may be used for grants under this section, subject to appropriation.'.


Section 506(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3756(a)) is amended--

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' at the end;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and'; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

`(3) $2,000,000, to be granted by the Attorney General to States and units of local government to investigate and prosecute polygamist organizations that violate Federal, State, or local laws.'.