Pratt's Announcement

As stated earlier, Polygamy as a doctrine of the Mormon religion had not been confirmed for the first 20 years of the Church's being, although there had been much speculation as to the existence of it. It was Elder Orson Pratt’s 1852 discourse, which first publically confirmed the Church doctrine of plural marriage. Following this discourse, the Mormon’s association with polygamy was no longer deniable; a fact that Thomas Kane understood would prove to be a great difficulty to overcome.

            However, as Pratt emphasizes, polygamy was not merely a lifestyle choice that Mormons chose to embrace “to gratify the carnal lusts and feelings of man.”[1] Rather, it was considered a “necessity.” In the 19th century, civilized gentlemen were those who were “firm of character; self-controlled; protectors of women and children” while “savage” men were “emotional and lacked a man’s ability to restrain [his] passions.”[2] Certainly, the practice of having multiple wives would depict the Mormons to be more “savage” and less “civil.” However, Pratt refutes these associations, by making the case that the Mormon people’s godly obligation is to practice plural marriage. Plural marriage “is incorporated as a part of our religion, and necessary for our exaltation to the fullness of the Lord's glory in the eternal world.”[3]

            The fact that polygamy is a necessary feature of the Mormon doctrine will be the fundamental argument in upcoming legal battles, as the Mormons argue that any laws forbidding them to practice polygamy will violate their freedom of religion, as defined in the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution. 

[1] Pratt, 54 (See attached excerpt).

[2] Gail Bederman. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1890-1917. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), 25.

[3] Pratt 54 (See attached excerpt).