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The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  130 reviews
“Polygamy?” says the mainstream Mormon Church. “We gave that up long ago.” Not so, claims noted LDS poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson, who examines the issue as it has never been examined before. Any member of the LDS Church today who enters the practice of polygamy is immediately excommunicated. However, Pearson claims, polygamy itself has never been excommunicated, but ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Pivot Point Books
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Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
08/17/2016 UPDATED because it turns out I still have THOUGHTS:

When my friend lent me this book I asked if it was going to make me angry and she said no. My fuse must be shorter than hers, because it made me SO angry. I was ignorant to some of the ramifications of our current doctrine and practices when it comes to temple sealings. But after reading all the submitted stories from women and men it's hard to ignore the pain it causes many individuals, couples, and families.

In particular our polici
Valerie Steimle
I have always loved the writings of Carol Lynn Pearson until now. I was devastated from reading The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy that she has promoted and even encouraged the idea of main stream members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS Church) that God does not love them because He wants His daughters to live in a polygamous relationship in Heaven.. Bull cocky!!!

Under the guise of her self proclaimed "wise-woman elder" position, she discusses the doctrine of polygamy in Mormo
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I will start by saying that I have a lot of feelings surrounding polygamy. A lot. You can't come out of reading D&C 132 (the whole text, not just the one fluffy feel good verse that gets read in Sunday School) without a lot of complicated feels. And then you dig more into the messy history and the accounts of people who actually lived it. And then there's everything with how the practice continues in fundamentalist groups. And it goes on, just a big mess with no simple or straightforward answers ...more
Elisha Condie
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy cow this was SO GOOD. So good. I can't even get over it. I heard the author on RadioWest, and was just bowled over by how sincere she was and how much she cared about both the LDS church and this topic, one in which she's basically arguing how wrong the church is about it.

I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of Mormon theology in this review, just know that we Mormons believe that if you marry in the temple then your marriage is eternal and you are sealed to one another and your c
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: morms
Though the LDS church would like to banish polygamy as a relic of its past, polygamy is unfortunately still with us today through current sealing practices. Our admission of spiritual polygamy allows a culture in which women can still be viewed as accessories to a man's eternal progression and glory. This view, if left to flourish within a patriarchy (no matter how benevolent) confounds family relationships, the identity of our heavenly parents, and our own eternal progression. There will be no ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel very conflicted about this book. I want to give it more stars for the topic, but I disliked the author's voice so much that it was a bit off-putting. I had to slog along through much of the book. She presented herself as a "wise elder" of the tribe here to impart wisdom, which I find repelling, and there was a fair amount of self-promotion in the book (bringing in pieces of her other work), that I also personally found distasteful.
It's a discussion that needs to happen more openl
Sharman Wilson
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book elicits so many negative emotions, as it should. These feelings come from my ancestral past, from my maternal great great grandmother Lavina Young, who married John D. Lee as a 13th or 14th wife (she and her sister Polly married him on the same day). They come, unbidden and still painful, from a relatively recent personal family trauma. And yet, life is messy, and my feelings can also be ambivalent. My own beloved sister died at age 35, leaving 3 children and a wonderful husband who la ...more
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bless Carol Lynn Pearson. She has a gift for telling it like it is, naming things that are wrong as such, but in a way that expresses love and hope.

I learned more about my own history reading this book, and also gained a deep sense of validation for my own feelings about polygamy.
I have put off writing this review for months simply because the book means so much to me, and my own words are inadequate to convey why that is. Sometimes my very favorite books receive no more than a couple of lines from me for that very reason. Since I love this author, and I know the book is not getting all the attention it deserves, I will add my tiny voice.

First off, there is so much more to this book than a discussion of polygamy in the LDS church. That said, I am not sure if this book w
Scooping it Up
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for the writing and cohesive, well cited book. 4 stars because it's so hard to read. I can't say "I loved it" because it's painful to experience. Ms. Pearson paints an honest, and therefore, quite ugly picture of the real harm of polygamy to LDS members past and present. This book will haunt you. Outsiders will read it and think "Wait, they really do this? They REALLY believe this?" And insiders will be forced to confront that even in modern day 2016 every Mormon couple has to talk about ...more
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
So happy to see my unformed thoughts and beliefs in print! Grateful for CLP who is eloquent and brave and has presented this material in a kind, faithful and bold way. A couple of my favorites:

Her generous quote regarding Joseph Smith (based on a lovely thought by Dinah Craik)- "I count myself as a friend to Brother Joseph, and I wish to honor him like this. I hold the fullness of his life in the palm of my hand, chaff and grain together. I keep the many kernels worth keeping, and with the brea
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Mormon feminist friends be warned, this one will pierce your heart. It’s also dripping with white feminism, so watch out for that. The series of stories highlight the point of the book: “being treated with politeness, consideration, even respect is different from being treated as equal...we may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don’t want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity.”

If you’re looking for about 200 pages of s
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I grew up singing songs written by Carol Lynn Pearson in my LDS primary activities. Little did I know that I would eventually revisit her work as an adult after leaving the LDS church. At first, I didn't have a great deal of interest in reading this book because Pearson continues to be a practicing Latter-day Saint, and I assumed that with that came a lack of nuance. I'm glad to report that I couldn't have been more wrong.

Pearson carefully weaves in dozens of stories of men and women (whose sto
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-reads
I can't decide whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars, so I'm going to split the difference at 4.5. This book centers around a tough topic, and I think Carol Lynn covers it beautifully. I can't remember when I first learned that a man could still be sealed to more than one woman in the LDS church, but I do know that for years I thought that if I could just be righteous enough I would be able to stand the thought of my husband being sealed to another woman if I died before him. Even as I type tho ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read many books about LDS history in the past 8 years. But this book. This book. It touched me in a way I've never felt before. Every feeling, every struggle I've had with polygamy was not only addressed in this book, but completely validated. And yet, this book is so much more than a book about polygamy. It's about women in the church, men in the church, and the policies that have created where we are now.

Pearson is a master storyteller and an active, faithful member (I feel that bears me
Aug 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. There were so many, *so many*, moments of "Woah! I never knew that before!" and even many "Wow. I've thought these very thoughts," which - obviously - bodes well for how I feel about the book in the end.

But then...

I'm not really sure that I appreciate the writing style of Carol Lynn Pearson... at least not in context of this book and its subject matter. The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is part scholarly work (complete with sociological research), part
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My best advice for reading this book is to make sure you are able to discuss it with other women upon completion. I think Carol Lynn Pearson did a good job presenting her thoughts and feelings on polygamy in the LDS church as well as representing the views of hundreds of practicing and ex-members of the Church. I do think Pearson worked hard to sterilize her true opinion (although I can't speak on what it actually is); a lot of this book is praising Joseph Smith and proclaiming her love for the ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm having a hard time reviewing this book. I am giving it a 5 because of how important I think the message is, though I am not crazy about some of the prose and find bits of the historical analysis and future applications slightly less nuanced compared to some other accounts I have read (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's House Full of Females, for example). I do, however, agree with the basic thesis. Polygamy = destructive, we must urgently answer for it and stop hurting women. My favorite parts were th ...more
Valerie Sanchez
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Full of heartbreaking stories about the pain surrounding polygamy as practiced by the Mormon Church.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Polygamy feels like a dirty word in mainstream mormonism (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which the church has a strong preference to be called so I'll respectfully refer to it as the church moving forward). We don't talk about. So it came to be that I didn't learn of Brigham Young (2nd LDS prophet)'s polygamy until a high school history class. I didn't learn of Joseph Smith (first prophet)'s polygamy until I was 30. (Joseph hid polygamy due to its illegal st ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The "Ghost" in "the Ghost of Eternal Polygamy" refers to some of the uncertainties that surround the doctrine and historical practice of plural marriage in the LDS church. To be clear, the LDS church and its living adherents have not practiced civil plural marriage for over one hundred years. Yet, a modern LDS woman could still find herself anticipating a plural marriage. For example, she could precede her husband in death. Her surviving husband might eventually marry another woman. If both marr ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
It's kind of amazing that in the 21st century, a book has to be written to try and convince leadership of a church that they should completely disavow the practice of polygamy. That's religion for you--painfully slow to change, even things that are just wrong--in practice and in philosophy. Look at the Catholic church expecting celibacy of its priests and how much pain and dysfunction that has caused.

This book examines the history of polygamy in the LDS church, how it arose, the response to it,
Aug 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Carol Lynn Pearson is Mormonism's poet laureate. The author of over 40 books and screenplays, she has helped shape the contours of LDS culture more than most members of the church realize. Throughout the last several decades, Carol Lynn has highlighted the richness available in Mormon theology, art, music, and history. In many ways, she is the church's modern Eliza Snow.

Now, Ms. Pearson has turned her gifted writing capacity to bear on one of the most intractable and confounding components of Mo
Carrie Lynn
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This 200 page book took me over a month to read because it was so horrific. I only did about 12 pages at a time. Written by a true believing, currently active LDS woman, the author takes a blunt look at the history of polygamy in the Mormon church. She shares stories in history and stories from voices currently effected by the doctrine of temple sealings/marriages (namely that today, a man can be sealed to more than woman but a woman may not be sealed to more than one man). She never denies any ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is hard to rate this book for me because Carol Lynn Pearson is such an inspiring writer, and like a poet expresses herself in beautiful words and language. For that part of the book it is at least a 4 star if not more. I like myself better after reading this book. She made me think about the worth of questioning and looking for answers, for forgiving myself for not being perfect, and genuinely liking people just because God loves us, each and every one of us, sinner or saint.
I liked how sh
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five stars because Pearson tackles a thorny issue in a very loving way. This book has sent my mind racing. When I was around 15 years old I attended a Youth Conference at BYU where one of the presentations, given by a couple who I do not remember, stated that you did not need to live the law of polygamy to reach the highest realm in the Celestial Kingdom (Heaven). That set me free the rest of my life. Thank you unnamed couple.

There are other issues I am wrestling with in my life now, but eterna
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In the way that only Carol Lynn Pearson can, this book delves into polygamy both past and present and how it affects women and men today. She deftly explains the ins and outs of polygamy from the past in the LDS Church as well as the present. Many times in Mormonism we talk about not practicing polygamy anymore. Pearson puts forth all of the evidence for how polygamy is still not only practiced (both in the eternal sense as well as due to current sealing policies), but how harmful it is being en ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book is a hard one to rate. It's a daunting subject to dive into, with so much hurt and negative feelings. She felt inspired to write it and to share her thoughts and feelings on the topic. It is not a feel good book, and some parts are upsetting, but it definitely makes you think. I appreciated her honesty, compassion, and intelligence. As I try to figure out and reconcile my feelings and beliefs, I was grateful to have her perspective in the arena. I am continuing to read more on the subj ...more
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
The best part of this book is where Carol shared excerpts of Mormon women's feelings about Polygamy. They echo my own problems I had with Polygamy, as I questioned how such a backward principle could have ever been inspired by God. Carol gives way more love to Joseph Smith than I do, and so a Mormon women can still feel comfortable reading this book. I've always been bothered by the church trying to distance themselves from a practice that was actually a fundamental part of our foundation. You c ...more
Jill Crosby
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
I’m really torn by this book—on the one hand, it reveals the stranglehold polygamy has on the current LDS church; on the other hand, there’s A LOT of gnostic, weird spiritual mumbo-jumbo, dressed up as solid theology but underneath floppy and vapid as one of those air-filled “noodle people balloons” rented by sandwich shops and car dealerships to commemorate grand openings.
The despair of the polygamy principle as practiced today in Mormonism comes through in the snippets of affidavits which con
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In fourth grade, in Gusher, Utah, I won four dollars in a school district essay contest on “Why We Should Eat a Better Breakfast.” And yes, this morning I had a bowl of my own excellent granola, followed by a hike in the hills near my home in Walnut Creek, California.

In high school I began writing in earnest. I have now in my files a folder marked “Poetry,

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“When Heaven has an earthquake you fall to your knees and feel through the rubble to find the pieces of God. When my eternal, temple-blessed marriage shattered and everything that had been meaningful lay in jumbled shards around me, I had to slowly and carefully pick up every single piece and examine it, turning it over and over, to see if it was worthy to keep and to use in building a new house of meaning. As I gathered the broken pieces of God, I used only my own authority, only my own relationship with the divine, and the good, small voice that speaks inside me, to appraise them. I threw away many, and I kept many, assembling the bright pieces into One Great Thought. I asked only, "Do I see God's fingerprints on this? Does this little piece feel godly? Does it speak of love?" That made it easy. I was forever finished with the insane attempt to love a God who hurts me. When I picked up the little pieces of God-ordained polygamy, I smiled because there was no question. I thanked the God of Love, and threw that piece away.” 1 likes
“I would not have been able to articulate it at that time, but I had begun a painful journey toward an impossible goal, a journey that lasted a long time: how to love a God who hurts you.” 0 likes
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