Although focusing on the introduction of plural marriage by Joseph Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy is also an analysis of the background of pre-Mormon polygamy, a consideration of the expansion of the institution, and the testimony of those who entered it. Significantly, it is the first attempt since Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness to provide a critical list and analysis of the women whom Joseph married. It is not, however, an attempt to provide a statistical analysis of plural marriage, and its consideration of the operation of plural family life is much shorter than we find in the works of Kathryn Daynes and Jessie Embry. Rather, it essays more on the organizational aspects of the practice, the antecedent practices, and the opposition to the practice. It also focuses more on internal opposition rather than on outside political pressure, as found in Sarah Barringer Gordon’s The Mormon Question.
…George Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamy is an excellent book. He undertakes the unenviable task of fleshing out the details of an institution that played a central role in Mormon society and culture during the nineteenth century. As with many Latter-day Saints in the Intermountain West, I had polygamists on both sides of my family. At least one great-great-grandfather served a term in the territorial penitentiary for unlawful cohabitation. I am certain that they practiced plural marriage because they believed, as those who tell their stories in Chapter 6 did, that it had come as a commandment from God. Personally, I thank God, however, that he inspired his prophet to end the practice before I was born. I wonder if I would have had the faith to enter under any circumstance.