Solemn Covenant : The Mormon Polygamous Passage by B. Carmon Hardy – book review

Solemn Covenant : The Mormon Polygamous Passage by B. Carmon Hardy – book review

“the endless subterfuges and prevarications which our present condition impose . . .
threaten to make our rising generation a race of deceivers.”
— Charles W. Penrose to President John Taylor, 1887

Table of Contents
1. The Principle Commenced
2. Civilization Threatened: Mormon Polygamy under Siege
3. Blessings of the Abrahamic Household
4. Tactical Retreat: The Manifesto of 1890
5. The Principle Continued Abroad and at Home
6. Church Leaders and Post-Manifesto Polygamy
7. The Leaders Divide: Roberts and Smoot, Taylor and Cowley
8. The Mormon-Progressive Encounter: A New Crusade
9. Late Efforts and Polygamy’s Decline
10. Monogamous Triumph
Appendix I: Lying for the Lord: An Essay
Appendix II: Mormon Polygamous Marriages after the 1890 Manifesto through 1910: A Tentative List
Name Index
Subject Index

I went into this book thinking that it would be similar to Van Wagoner’s book on the same subject. I had heard great things about the Appendix though so I bought it for that reason alone. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is very different from Van Wagoner’s effort. Van Wagoner’s work gives essentially equal balance to the Mormon practice of polygamy from the early 1830s until the present day. Hardy’s book, on the other hand, deals almost exclusively with the post-manifesto era polygamy between 1890 and 1910. As such, he goes into far more depth and detail for this period than Van Wagoner. In fact, there were few areas that Hardy covered where I thought to myself that Van Wagoner had already said this.

As the title suggests, Solemn Covenant isn’t a history of polygamy but a look at what people had to (and still do) go through in order to keep what they think is a God-given directive alive. Along with this theme, Hardy carefully documents the practice of deception that went on in the LDS church amongst its members and leaders and continues until this day. The religious theory is that lesser laws (laws of the country, honesty, etc.) can be disobeyed in order to keep a higher law of God.

This book is not at all anti-Mormon in tone. Although LDS readers may be surprised by some of the evidence submitted (and the overwhelming amount of it), Hardy’s style is very fair and objective. Taking after Quinn, Hardy thoroughly references his statements. A large portion of the book is devoted to footnotes. 14 pages of photos are also included along with charts detailing the post-manifesto polygamous marriages performed by and for both the leaders and ordinary members. I highly recommend this book along with Van Wagoner’s.