Book Review: Wife No. 19 – by Ann Eliza Young

The full title of this book is:

Wife No. 19: The Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy

Wife No. 19

Ann Eliza Young was – well – the 19th wife of Brigham Young, the second “Prophet” of the Mormon Church, the supposed hero who led his chosen people, like Moses of old, through the frontierlands of America in the middle of the 19th century, to finally settle in Utah.

Ann Eliza did not want to marry Brigham Young. She was forced into the marriage after steadfastly refusing, for a long time. Only when Young used his religious, political and social influence to threaten financial ruin on her family, including her parents and her businessmen brothers, she eventually succumbed.

Mormon men during the polygamous years of their church were pressured into “marrying” as many women as possible. Never mind that they could not afford to feed them, shelter them, educate them and provide them with a dignified life. Even Brigham Young, who basically embezzled the money of the church for his own indiscriminate use, who was therefore by far the richest man in Utah, was a terrible miser. He sent Ann Eliza and her mother to work on a family farm managing it, for years, without pay, supplies, and even the basic necessities.

It is so much cheaper to marry domestics than to hire them. Under the latter arrangement he would be compelled to pay them for their services, while by the former he is only obliged to give them shelter, food, and clothing.

(Kindle Locations 7099-7101).

Ann Eliza eventually broke free of the church and became an outspoken critic of  the church, of its leadership, the system of polygamy and the overall glaring hypocrisy of the entire Mormon structure.

Polygamy wasn’t what the popular TV show Big Love portrays. Polygamy in the 19th century was a destructive system that took down healthy families, crippled all women and girls emotionally, abused and exploited them for their labor as lifelong indentured servants, damaged young boys by taking their opportunities for normal family lives away, and gave old men a license to sexually abuse young girls by the dozens, under the eyes of their wives, all under the banner of heaven.

In Wife No. 19, Ann Eliza Young, maiden name Webb, tells her story pretty much from the beginnings of Mormonism, starting with her parents’ happy lives before Joseph Smith, the cunning and boorish founder of Mormonism,  appeared on the scene and made misery out of it. We follow her parents’ early marriage, the trek of the Mormons out west, Ann Eliza’s childhood, youth and young adult life. She describes the Mormon system from the inside.

The corruption was staggering. New recruits were lied to and deceived. They usually lost all their worldly belongings and ended up in Utah, at the end of the world, without a way out or back. Leaving the church in the early days was a death sentence. Brigham Young had hordes of thugs who did his dirty work. Apostates would leave town, heading back east or to California, only to be found weeks later dead, face down in the desert, shot in the back, “by Indians.” Poor souls who left the church and Utah, always got robbed and murdered by the Indians.

Ann Eliza describes Brigham Young as a ruthless, illiterate, deceptive, greedy, egomaniac boor of a man whose only objective was power and wealth. He built the religion as his own giant Ponzi scheme, and he literally had those killed that stood in his way. He did this all by claiming he was God’s prophet and those who left the church and didn’t obey his word would smolder in eternal hell and damnation.

Wife No. 19 is a fairly long book, and at times it’s almost tedious to read. The anecdotes go on and on. But the terrible, abusive and life-ruining system of Mormonism is exposed in glaring light, almost blinding to the reader. How could all of this have been going on so long?

I cannot imagine how one could possibly take up the Mormon religion after reading this book. Or worse, I cannot imagine how a Mormon today could stay in the religion after reading this book. I imagine, like so many other true accounts of what is really going on, Wife No. 19 must be banned material by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

This book was first published in by Dustin, Gilman & Co., 1875, but it reads like a modern exposé. Anyone even remotely interested in learning about Mormonism and the truth about polygamy in America, then and today, must read Wife No. 19.

Rating: ****

Buy this book here.

Read some of my other articles about Mormonism by typing Mormon in the Search box at the top of my blog and enjoy.