Mormon Polygamy and the Moral Life of the Body

Fellowships

Joseph Smith receiving golden plates from the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah - Public Domain, By C. C. A. Christensen
Joseph Smith receiving golden plates from the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah - Public Domain, By C. C. A. Christensen

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

145 Ednam Drive Charlottesville, VA

On April 28, 2015, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case for gay marriage. As the keepers of key social conventions, the Justices had charge of the moral life of the body. It wasn’t the first time.

During the second half of the 19th century the war against Mormon polygamy had reached the high court. The justices ruled in 1878 that the First Amendment allowed people to believe what they wanted, but not to engage in practices that were against the law.

VFH Fellow Jane Barnes will present her research for an upcoming book on the federal hearings that began in 1903 when Reed Smoot, the first Mormon Senator, was elected. Rumors persisted that the Mormons were still practicing polygamy–and they were–and that Smoot was a polygamist—he was not. It took four long years, but Smoot was eventually seated in Congress.

Free and open to the public. A casual lunch provided.