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Reluctant Polygamist is a remarkable example of investigative journalism, almost a murder mystery or spy thriller in the making… There are some very scary bad guys in this story–and Joseph is not one of them.

–Jeff Lindsay, LDS FAQ: Mormon Answers, Mormanity Blog


Since Joseph Smith died, there have been three factions discussing the Mormon founder and his actions regarding marriage:

  1. Those who think Joseph Smith was an honorable man who married many women,
  2. Those who think Joseph Smith was an honorable man who was faithful to his legal wife, and
  3. Those who think Joseph Smith was a scoundrel.

Reluctant Polygamist traces through the history of Joseph Smith and his followers to illuminate how Joseph’s legacy became so contested.

Author Meg Stout began her examination of Mormon plural marriage through the lens of her ancestors in 2001, after decades of being aware of the practice. By 2010 she had come to the surprising conclusion that Joseph Smith was not as sexually active as he is so often portrayed to have been. As Meg would often repeat, “her studies had suggested to her the possibility that Joseph Smith rarely consummated his plural marriages–with even a chance that maybe he consummated none of them.”

Meg’s 2013 review of Brian Hales’s voluminous Joseph Smith’s Polygamy led to an invitation to put her unique views on display at the Mormon-themed website, Millennial Star. Her posts on that site are recreated here, starting with the Faithful Joseph series from December 2013 through August 2014.

Meg compiled the information into book form as Reluctant Polygamist. The first edition was published on April 6, 2016. The sixth and final edition was published on March 17, 2017.

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