The horrific murder of three women and six children in Sonora, Mexico, this week brought to light spotlights a little-known chapter in Mormon and Mexico history, one deeply intertwined with past practice of last-minute polygamy. This story is little understood even by the Mormons themselves. Although a Latter-day Saint, I did not find out about this several years ago when two Utah men commissioned me to write a biography of their mother, who was born and raised in a polygamous Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. [1
Latter-day Saints publicly proclaimed their practice of polygamy as a religious principle in 1852, several years after the mafia violence forced them to flee Illinois to the American West. After the Civil War, the debate over the ban on polygamy began to spark in the US Congress, reaching a crescendo in the 1880s. In 1882 and 1887, federal laws passed this criminalized polygamy.
From 1884 to 1895, more than a thousand Latter-day Saints were convicted of multiple marriage offenses. Many polygamists, from local leaders to the top hierarchy of the church, sought to avoid arrest by living in hiding. As anti-polygamous crusades continue to focus on polygamists in Utah, a large number of multiple families have dispersed in other areas, including Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona in the United States; Alberta, Canada; and northern Mexico.
In 1889, the new church president, Wilford Woodruff, saw the inevitability of obeying federal law if the church survived. He ordered that no new multiple marriages be performed in the three temples of the church, with the threat of the federal government terminating them. However, he began to intimate that such marriages "may be solemnly settled in Mexico or Canada."
This points to something that the media and even some historians have been wrong about in the history of Mormonism in Mexico: Latter-day Saints who went there, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they did not emigrate in opposition to the efforts of church leaders to end the practice of polygamy. In early 1885, church leaders established Mexican colonies as a haven where polygamous families could live without criminal prosecution, and leaders encouraged these families to move to Mexico.
The church hierarchy hopes the removal of a large number of pluralists and future pluralists in Mexico would exempt these families from criminal prosecution while releasing federal objections to the Utah statehood application, which was finally granted in 1892  ] Meanwhile, polygamy was also illegal in Mexico, but church leaders persuade Mexican federal leaders that Mormon immigrants would strengthen Mexico's economy by developing farmland dry northern region of the country. The Mexican administration has told them that if they colonize peacefully and live their marital practices peacefully, they are welcome.
American Mormons began to move seriously to Chihuahua in early 1885. In the next quarter century, several thousand moved south.
After the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Congressional anti-polygamy law in May 1890. , Udruff prepared a statement on multiple marriage, which will become known as "Official Declaration – 1" or colloquially, "The Manifesto," which was read and maintained at the church's General Conference in October.
"We do not teach polygamy or plural marriage, nor do we allow any person to enter into his practice," Woodruff said in a statement. No multiple marriage has been "solemnly presented in our temples or elsewhere in the territory of [Utah] since" last June or last year. … I now declare publicly that my advice to Latter-day Saints is to refrain from any marriage prohibited by the law of the earth. ”
But in Mexico, colonies of Mormon polygons are growing – with the blessing of Latter-day Holy Leaders. Despite public "advice" that Mormons should refrain from entering into new multiple marriages, Woodruff and one of his two advisers authorize some Mormon leaders to continue to pursue a small number of such marriages.
In addition, they privately encourage some Latter-day Saints who wish to openly practice polygamy or to enter into new polygamous marriages in order to move to the Mexican colonies.
As of December 1890, approximately 1,500 LDS immigrants were living in Chihuahua's three major "colonies" – the Dias Colony near the border with New Mexico and the Colonies Juarez and Dublan, approximately 50 miles south of Diaz and 200 miles southwest of El. Paso, Texas. Over the years, Mormon migrants have built several colonies in Chihuahua and the state of the west, Sonora.
Although efforts were made to isolate and keep their matrimonial practices quiet, within their tightly knit communities, Mormon colonists were able to live their polygamous lifestyle openly without fear of prosecution.
In early 1900, Congress learned that some Latter-day Saints continued to practice polygamy. After Utah elected Mormon Apostle Reed Smith to the US Senate in 1902, a group of Utah Mormons sent a protest to Washington asking the Senate not to seat Smith with the motive that the church was still encouraging polygamy. The hearings received in the Senate began in 1904 and lasted for more than three years. Although Smith is monogamous, he faces accusations of the continued spread of the church's polygamy, especially in Mexico.
Following the January 1904 hearings of the Senate, Smoot called the then President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith (nephew of the Founding Prophet). Joseph Smith) to repair the damage to the church. Smith soon issued what became known as the Second Manifesto, stating that "no such marriages will be settled with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church." Smith's statement added that excommunication would be a punishment for everyone a member who has a contract or a new multiple marriage.
The second manifesto has led to a dramatic reduction, if not complete cessation, of Sen's multiple marriages since the last days, even outside the United States. Smith travels to the Mormon colonies in Mexico to endorse the 1904 manifesto. "There are no multiple marriages in the church, in Mexico or anywhere else right now," Smith told colony men at a meeting. "The church is being tried by the United States government and we must be very careful."
In Mexico, colonists who marry in polygamy before 1904 continue to live openly as a multi-family family. But the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20 eroded their ability to live together in close family units. Revolutionary violence forced the Mormon colonists to flee north to the United States. In 1912, about 4,500 Mormon colonists – including Utah's then 5-year-old Mitt Romney, George – fled their homes in a mass eviction.
Inadvertently, the revolution in Mexico has brought the final end to Sen in recent days – a sanctioned polygamy that the US government has long sought to achieve. Although 90% of them never returned, few polygamous families returned to their Chihuahua colonies. Many of their descendants – mostly monogamous – remain there to this day.
Thus, Mexico, which provides shelter for multiple marriage to flourish as the prosecution against polygamy increases in the United States, also witnessed the latest breath of polygamy for the followers of the 20th Church of Jesus Christ of Saints from the last days. The Mexican Revolution helped put an end to what federal prosecutors, the Senate hearings and two manifestos began.
Barbara Jones Brown is a historian and executive director of the Mormon History Association, an independent organization dedicated to the study of Mormon history. Her work on post-manifest polygamy has been published in Bringhurst and Foster, eds. 19659022] Sustainability of polygamy: fundamentalist Mormon polygamy from 1890 to the present "(John Whitmer Books, 2015), and in Dormady and Tamez, eds.," Just south of Zion: Mormons in Mexico and its borders ”(University of New Mexico Press, 2015). Her co-written book after the murder of the mountain meadows in 1857 is published by Oxford University Press. The views expressed in this comment do not necessarily reflect those of Religion New Service.