In this episode, author Carol Lynn Pearson joins Mormon Matters host, Dan Wotherspoon, for a one-on-one conversation about her new and extremely powerful book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men. In it, Carol Lynn embraces two roles: the first, the position that many have ascribed to her of “wise-woman elder”; the second, “storyteller,” which role no one has ever filled better. From the gifts associated with these titles and her own huge heart and great power drawn from her love of her Mormon people, including its founder who instigated the practice and doctrine of plural marriage, she presents the most compelling portrait to date of the dramatic, heartbreaking, confusing, and emotionally devastating effects of polygamy’s continued haunting presence in today’s Mormonism, a Mormonism that ostensibly ended the practice of plural marriage more than a century ago. Through wonderful confluences of her own stories, the stories of women and men in early Mormonism, as well as stories drawn from thousands of responses she received from people who participated in a survey asking about their understandings of polygamy in past-, present-, and future-day Mormonism, along with terrific research and gathering of wonderful insights from Mormon and non-Mormon teachers and scholars, a compelling picture emerges that strongly suggests it is time to admit the practice is, and has always been, a terrible mistake—one that produces pain and heartache and leads to distancing from God and our highest selves. It is certainly not God’s own form of marriage, nor the Divine’s desires for us. In beautiful and loving ways, Carol Lynn shares reasons for seeing this conclusion about polygamy as an error of Brother Joseph’s as the most forgiving and healing stance toward it we can take, and one that she believes Joseph himself would agree with and encourage us to work to bring it to an end.
Even amidst the many difficult topics and stories the book engages, Carol Lynn retains a positive outlook and reasons for imagining a hopeful, post-polygamous future. She does not leave us with a full de-construction without offering a new vision: moving from “Patriarchy to Partnership,” which, itself, is already a reality she and leaders she works alongside have already begun to know and embody. It is nearly impossible by book’s end for us to not want to join together with great energy in a wonderful (even worldwide, beyond Mormonism) healing adventure.
Please listen to this conversation, which includes Carol Lynn reading many incredible passages from the book, and then add your thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments section below!
Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men (Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2016)