Sustaining Church Officers (Law of Common Consent)

Related Posts: Are Mormons Brainwashed?, Mormon Temple Worship, Why Covenants?

For those of you who are not Mormon I’ll provide some background. In the Church when a person is asked to perform a duty, i.e. a “calling”—whether bishop, primary school teacher, or Apostle—they are presented to the congregation in which they will work for sustaining. In the case of an Apostle or General Authority they are presented to the Church as a whole. The person conducting the meeting will say something along the lines of,

[Ask the person who is to be sustained to stand.] It is proposed that we sustain [So-and-so] as [church position]. Those in favor may manifest it by the uplifted hand. [Pause briefly for the sustaining vote.] Those opposed, if any, may manifest it. [Pause briefly to allow for a dissenting vote, if any.]

This is what sustaining looks like.

What sustaining looks like.

Objections to the sustaining of any person are rare. I don’t recall ever hearing an objection raised in General Conference—though apparently it did happen during the October 1980 General Conference while sustaining of President Spencer W. Kimball.[1] I only recall one time seeing an objection raised in a local congregation.

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Extermination Order


City of Jefferson

Oct. 27, 1838


Since the order of the morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Rees, Esq. and Wiley E. Williams Esq., one of my aids, information of the most appalling character, which changes the whole face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made open war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operations and endeavor to reach Richmond, in Ray County, with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may think necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Wallock, of Marion County, to raise 500 men and march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with 500 men to proceed to the same point, for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the North. They have been directed to communicate with you by express. You can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead, therefore, of proceeding, as at first directed, to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond, and there operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks, of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred men of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.

L. W. BOGGS, Gov.

To Gen. Clark.

(Taken from Extermination Order“, Wikipedia)

Polygamy in Utah, 1880

Related Posts: Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930; Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

In this post I estimate the number of men and women living in polygamy in Utah in 1880 using data from the 1880 census and other sources.

I have estimated that in 1880 there approximately 9,000 persons in polygamous marriages in Utah. About 6,500 wives and 2,500 husbands. This is approximately 25% of married Mormon women and about 13% of married Mormon men. However, the total number could easily be closer to 10,000.

I also conclude that the census data by itself is not sufficient for estimating the number of persons living in polygamy. Other data is required. This conclusion is based on the fact that the married female to married male ratio for Utah from the 1880 and 1900 census’ were outliers. However, in 1890 it was nearly 1.0 (Figure 4), which means that in 1890 nearly all women in polygamous relationships were concealing their marital status, probably to protect their husbands and children. I believe that in the 1880 census nearly two thirds of women in polygamous relationships concealed their marital status.

These results should be qualified with polygamy studies from Utah’s earlier history. It is appears that during the 1860’s quite possibly more than 50% of married LDS women in Utah were polygamous wives.

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Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930

Related Posts: Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Summary: I promised another post on divorce and I finally have enough data to write about. So here it is. (This just keeps getting more and more interesting.)

I have analyzed census data from 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930. I restricted the analysis to the white, 15 and older population for the states and territories of the lower 48 states.

In 1880 Utah’s female divorce rate was the third highest in the US, only New Mexico and Nevada are higher. From 1880 to about 1910 Utah’s female divorce rate steadily decreases while the rest of the US tends to increase. From 1910 to 1930 Utah’s female divorce rate rapidly increases, following the national trend. The male divorce rate from 1890 to 1930 follows the national trend.

When looking at the difference in percent male and percent female divorce rates we see that in 1880 Utah had the second highest difference in the US, only Nevada is higher. Utah’s over 15 male to female ratio in 1880 was about 1.1 while Nevada’s was almost 2.5. Utah had a population of 143,964 compared to Nevada’s 62,266. From 1890 and 1900 Utah had the highest difference in male and female divorce rates in the United States. By 1910 Utah’s male and female divorce rate difference was the second only to Colorado. By 1920 Utah had the second highest divorce rate difference, only California was higher. By 1930 the difference in Utah’s male-female divorce rate was equal to the US third quartile.

Because the male and female divorce rates for US states and territories are correlated better than 89% two factor plots provide some additional insight. When the female divorce rate is plotted against the male divorce rate Utah stands out from the national trend for 1880, 1890, and 1900. For 1910 and 1920 it stands out a little. By 1930 Utah is well within national trends.

The only explanation I can see for this is polygamy. It appears that polygamy increased Utah’s female divorce rate noticeably above national trends. And this effect lasted for 20 years after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially stopped polygamy in 1890, maybe longer.

The value of this goes beyond academic interest. It can also relate to the gay marriage debate currently going on in the US Supreme Court. If the state can ban polyamorous unions then why not same sex marriage. From this data we can see quite objectively that polygamy increases the female divorce rate. I’m not going to get into that debate now but you can hear the supreme court arguments here and here. Continue reading

Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy

Related Posts: Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930; Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Summary: I said this post would be interesting. And it is. The LDS Church officially abandoned polygamy in 1890 due to intense government pressure. The 1890 Census Report contains detailed information on divorce that I believe captures evidence of polygamy in Utah. My previous post analyzed the marriage data (Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal).

Firstly, when talking about divorce in 1890 we are dealing with a very small percentage of the population. The median divorce rate for the US was 0.23%. And it turns out that the overall divorce rate in 1890 in Utah is ordinary, right at the third quartile for US states and territories. However, when you look at divorce by age and sex it becomes much more interesting. Above age 34 Utah has the highest or second highest female divorce rate in the US–from 45 on up only Nevada is higher. But this is interesting because Nevada’s total population was 45,761 compared to Utah’s 207,905. Nevada’s male to female ratio was 1.76 and Utah’s was 1.13. Nevada was a much more difficult place for a woman to live and you would expect a higher divorce rate. But Utah?

More can be said. The male divorce rate for Utah qualifies as ordinary (falls between the first and third quartiles) for all age categories. But if you look at the difference between male and female divorce rates by age then Utah really stands out. The national trend is, overall, downward with male divorces eventually exceeding female divorces. The Utah trend is starkly upward, increasing in nearly a straight line from age 15 to 64. Overall, the female divorce rate far exceeds the male divorce rate. Not only does the divergence between the Utah male and female divorce rates increase with age, it also diverges from the national trend. Continue reading

Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Related Posts: Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930

Summary: I have looked at data for marriage in 1890 Utah found in the US census report, in detail. I spend the last two months (and a good amount of my Christmas break) compiling and analyzing the data. This post will look at marriage. A later post will look at divorce. (See Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy.)

Update: I have looked at the married female to married male ratios of Utah from 1880 to 1930. I have found that for 1880 and 1900 Utah is an outlier. For 1890 it is not. This is likely due to the fact that women in polygamous relationships  were concealing their relationships during 1890, but not so much in 1880 and 1900. See Figure 4 in Polygamy in Utah, 1880 for plots. This is likely due to the antipolygamy crusade that ramped up during the 1880’s. Therefore, the female marriage data in this post is not accurate. However, there is still lots of useful information in this post. (Aug 8, 2015)

The 1890 Census coincides with the LDS Church officially abandoning the practice of polygamy (1890). (See The Manifesto declaring this.) So the Census Record might capture evidence of polygamy, if there is any.

My questions were these. Were more women married in Utah than other states and territories? Where young female marriages occurring in Utah at a much higher rate than the rest of the country? How do male marriages compare? Are there any statistics in which Utah stands out?

Even though Utah allowed girls to marry with parental consent at 12 there is no evidence that under 15 girls were getting married in significant numbers–there were only 2 in Utah. The average for the US (Utah excluded) was 24 and the median was 9. I can’t find any evidence that girls in Utah in any age bracket were marrying at significantly different rates from the other states and territories. Continue reading