There are 11 thoughts on “Assessing the Criticisms of Early-Age Latter-Day Saint Marriages”.

  1. Does the average age of menarche bear at all upon this topic? Boaz N. T. (1999): Essentials of biological anthropology. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, appears to suggest, from a Wikipedia graph, that in 1850 the average age of menarche may have been as much as six years later than currently. Or to put it another way, perhaps inaccurately, an average 14 year old girl in 1850 had the sexual development of today’s average 8 year old.

    • Age of menarche was obviously a factor. As with marriage age, it would depend on time and place. Factors encouraging earlier (or later) menarche had to do with diet, health of the girl, etc. Those with a better, more nutritional diet and in good health would experience menarche before those living on a less healthy diet and living in poor conditions. More importantly, it would also depend upon whether or not the girl had experienced menarche.

      Obviously, in most instances, if the girl had not yet reached menarche, she would not be on the marriage market no matter where she lived.

  2. David Crook,
    It appears to me that what Craig Foster and a few commenters are saying is that not only were marriages between adult men and teenaged girls more common in 19th century America than most people realize, they were also perfectly legal and socially acceptable during most the world’s history right up to the 20th century.

    As such, they were not “wrong” in their era and therefore are not in contradiction with President Nelson’s quote that you shared.


  3. So if I’ve understood correctly, we’re now defending Joseph Smith’s illegal, secretive and coercive polygamous marriages to teenagers more than twenty years younger than him on the grounds that there were more people involved in such practices than exmormons like to admit?
    How does that square with the following quote:
    Even if “everyone is doing it,” wrong is never right.
    Russell M. Nelson, “Let Your Faith Show”, April 2014 General Conference

    • I don’t think you’ve understood correctly, David. Craig’s article doesn’t defend polygamy at all; it simply addresses how common early-age marriages were up until the early-to-mid 20th century. The point is that nobody (or, at best, very, very few) considered early-age marriages particularly odd or noteworthy then. They certainly didn’t rise to the level of institutional offensiveness that O’Connell suggests in his series of articles.

  4. Ramanujan got married at 21 to a 10-year-old bride, but I don’t see people scouring the Internet for mentions of him so that they can fill the comment boards with their bile.

  5. To add to other comments about marriage ages of personal ancestors, we found that my wife’s great-great grandmother married her 25 year old husband when she was just 13 years old. This was in Tishomingo, Mississippi in 1845 and neither one was associated with Mormonism.

    I was also surprised when attending a 2010 stage version of “Little House on the Prairie” that the female playwrights retained a reference to one of Laura Ingalls’ 15 year old classmates dropping out of school to marry. Laura herself was 18 when she married 28 year old Almanzo Wilder in 1885.

    At least 3 of Joseph’s wives were age 50 or older at the time of their marriage to him. I wonder what objections critics and others might have of this age disparity?

  6. I have been bemused by the outcry over older LDS men marrying younger wives when it seems to have been a culturally acceptable practice among other sections of American society in the nineteenth century and later. I have regularly come across examples when researching the lives of authors whose work I’ve encountered. Edgar Allan Poe, for example, married his cousin in 1835 when he was 26 and she was 13. And in 1911, Will Durant married his 15 year old pupil when he was 26.

  7. I enjoyed this long article concerning younger women marrying older men. But this was not so strange in the south, as is mentioned. For instance in 1970, when I was a country music DJ in Quincy, Illinois I had the opportunity to interview the famous country singer Loretta Lynn. During our interview, I found out that it was her 30th birthday and she was so proud that her daughter had just had a baby…Loretta’s first granddaughter. Do the math. They were both 14 when they got married. As a genealogist, I have found numerous examples in my families history of girls as young as 12 and 13 being married. Most of my mother’s ancestors were Scotch-Irish and it was common in Kentucky, Tennesee, and Missouri where they lived after immigrating from Europe. However, I have also found that my dad’s Dutch ancestors were considerably older, both men and women, before marriage.

  8. Adding a personal anecdote, in 1923 my grandfather, age 42, married my grandmother, age 18, in central California. They were not members of the LDS Church at the time, but joined later, living most of their lives in Oregon, where he was from.

  9. I see that my friend Craig Foster has been busy as a bee providing historical context to what some even at times crazy critics think pulls the Church of Jesus Christ from its historical foundations. I have previously been aware that George D. Smith, the wealthy owner of Signature Books has been close to obsessed with the issues that Craig has so well addressed in this essay.

    The problem is, of course, that this long and complex essay, coupled with documentation, is likely to require an attention span much longer than those who want an explanation that is about the length of the short garbled tweets we have recently become to know only too well. However, those willing to pay the price of following Craig’s argument, will very much benefit from his excellent essay.

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