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My perception of the Mormon practice of polygamy has been evolutionary. My desire to comprehend it comes from a need to understand not only the faith I espouse, but also my very being. Polygamy is in my DNA. My maternal, third-great grandfather, Willard Richards, was one of Mormonism’s earliest polygamists, and my fraternal, third-great grandfather one of its most prolific—Christopher Layton had ten wives and sixty-five children. When I was a child my dad sometimes told me about our polygamous ancestors. Somehow polygamy did not seem that surprising or strange to me then. “Just a different, old-fashioned way of marriage,” I thought in the simplicity of my young mind. When I matured, either because I understood more or because I was then entrenched in twentieth-century American society, polygamy became bizarre and even repulsive to me. How could anyone— particularly women—want to live such a lifestyle? Though “plural marriage” is an indelible part of my church and family history, as a modern, monogamous woman I look at it as an outsider.


Arrington Student Writing Award Winner for First Place.



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