"Discovery of a Wife’s Infidelity”

Much of Kane's rhetoric was altered, however, once Kane learned that many of his fellow Mormon peers actually did practice polygamy. Rumours continued to emerge throughout the country that polygamy ran rampant in Utah, but Kane continued to deny these rumors, oblivious to the fact that “by the mid-1840s, other leading Saints, including nearly all of Kane’s close Mormon associates, had become polygamists,” as they kept their marriage practices an “open secret” to which Kane was ignorant.[1] Kane finally learned that these rumors had some credence when Mormon Mayor of Salt Lake City, Jedediah M. Grant, had to stop Kane from sending a letter to President Fillmore, which denied Mormon polygamy.[2] Naturally, Kane was shaken up by this development, noting that it was like “discovering a wife’s infidelity.”[3] However, like a committed spouse, Kane continued to advocate for the Mormons, although he knew that it would be much more difficult because he rightly assumed that most Americans would see these developments as “anti-modern and a danger to ‘female education, the concord of households, the distribution of family property and the like.’”[4]

With this advancement, Kane’s former strategy to portray the Mormons as “victims” in order to ameliorate public relations surely backfired, as polygamy would prove to be explicitly incompatible with American society. Understanding this, Kane shifted his tactics “from open appeals to the public to backroom political negotiating.”[5] Kane understood that the American public was not about to embrace a peoples who practiced polygamy, and as a result he pursued new methods to advocate for the Mormons.

Ironically enough, Kane’s emphasis on suffering, as exemplified in his earlier discourses, like The Mormon, actually “reinforced the Mormon drive for separatism that in turn helped fuel the Mormon controversy for the rest of the century” as Mormons continued to identify themselves as a people isolated from American mainstream.[6]

Thomas L. Kane’s work as a 19th century reformer who hoped to ameliorate relations between the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, and American society, represents an earnest, yet unsuccessful attempt to improve the public image of the Mormons. Although Mormons were persecuted even before they confirmed that they practiced polygamy, their doctrines will prove to be incompatible with American society, and therefore will not allow for them to integrate into society. How then, can the Mormons balance their religious identity with that of an American identity?


[1] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 705.

[2] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 705.

[3] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 705.

[4] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 706.

[5] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 708.

[6] Grow, “The Suffering Saints: Thomas L. Kane, Democratic Reform, and the Mormon Question in Antebellum America,” 710.