Mormons in Mexico: A brief history of polygamy, cartel violence and faith


Mormons in Mexico: A brief history of polygamy, cartel violence and faith

by Rebecca Janzen
Along with the Romneys – relatives of Sen. Mitt Romney, whose father was born in Mexico – the LeBarons are among the most storied families in Mormon history.
Members of Utah’s Latter-Day Saints community emigrated to Mexico in the 1880s to follow their religious beliefs by living in polygamous families, which was illegal in the United States.
+Members of this community report enduring beatings, underage marriage and other abuse, as the escapee Anna LeBaron recounts in her 2017 memoir “The Polygamist’s Daughter.” 

Legal definition of polygamy:

The offense of willfully and knowingly having more than one wife or husband at the same time. The offense of willfully and knowingly entering into a second marriage while validly married to another individual is bigamy.

Anti-polygamy laws in the United States also sprang from religious conflict. In the mid-1800s, widespread public hostility arose toward the practice of polygamy by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons. A small religious sect in the territory of Utah, the Mormons believed that their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, had a divine revelation in 1843 that called for men to marry more than one woman; in 1852 the church announced that the practice was religiously superior to monogamy. This position angered critics throughout the country, ranging from religious leaders to novelists, editorialists, and particularly politicians. In 1856 the Republican party's first national platform denounced polygamy and Slavery as "those twin relics of barbarism."
Legal controversies over the propriety of prohibiting polygamous marriages persisted in the United States for 150 years and were expected to continue as long as sects within the Mormon religion continued to openly support the practice of plural marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed polygamy in 1890 and excommunicates those members who practice plural marriage.
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