Kathryn Daynes tells a really interesting story about an infertile couple in her book More Wives than One. The Church Handbook of Instruction was leaked onto the internet a few years ago, and the church sued to stop it’s publication. The only reference I could find indicates that the Church strongly discourages members from participating in surrogate motherhood. I know someone who was considering becoming a surrogate mother prior to her marriage. While part of me respects such a decision, I always thought that participating in surrogate parenting was a strange idea. I remember a NJ woman refused to give up the baby she had carried for another couple about 10-20 years ago, so there can be some real challenges for people who choose to participate in parenting via this route. You hear about weird mixups like this one, and you understand the church’s decision on why it is a bad idea. As I read the following story, it seems Brigham Young probably didn’t have a problem with surrogate parenting.
Before I get into the story, I want to address the different types of marriages during the pre-Manifesto Utah period. The “convenience” marriage is the strangest type. Here is a list marriage types outlined by Daynes:
- Civil Marriages – This would include all non-Mormon marriages, as well as non-Temple Mormon marriages.
- Time and Eternity marriages – This would be a typical Mormon Temple Marriage, and would extend after death.
- Proxy Marriages – Daynes says on page 82, “Such marriages could be performed for two living persons, for one living and one deceased person, or for two people who were both dead.” She gives an interesting story on page 79,
“Because celestial marriages transcend this world, it was possible for a person to be married to one spouse for this world and sealed to a different spouse for eternity.67 The spouse to whom a person was sealed might not even be living. Isaac Morley’s daughter Cordelia, for example, was sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity in Nauvoo eighteen months after he was killed at Carthage. Frederick W. Cox stood as proxy for the sealing to Joseph Smith in the temple ceremony while marrying Cordelia for time, or for the duration of mortal life.68
Such marriages for time only–proxy marriages–entailed the same responsibilities and conferred the same rights that civil marriages did. In these marriages, the children bore their biological fathers’ names but in the hereafter would belong to the family of their mother and the husband to whom she was sealed for eternity.”
Daynes said these are sometimes referred to as a levirate marriage, named after the Biblical practice. For those not familiar with a levirate marriage, the Law of Moses specified that if a man died without seed, his brother was supposed to marry the widow and raise seed to the deceased. The Sadducees propose a scenario in Luke 20:27-40 in which 7 brothers marry a widow, and all die without children. They ask Jesus in verse 33, “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. “
- Eternity Only Marriages – From page 82, Daynes said these marriages, “conferred no earthly rights or responsibilities.” They were sealed only in the next life, the couple didn’t live together, didn’t have any sexual relations, the wife didn’t take the husband’s surname, and the husband did not provide for the wife. It seems the purpose of these marriages was merely to confer salvation to the participants who participated in the “new and everlasting covenant.” Often the women were past child-bearing age. Fifteen women in Daynes’ Manti data set had this kind of a marriage.
- Nominal Marriages -From page 82, these marriages “conferred only limited rights on the couple for this life and sealed them for eternity.” Wives used husband’s surnames, and may have received economic help. Four wives fit this criteria in the Manti data set, and Daynes cites a biographical note of James Davenport on page 77, “Second wife was Anna Davenport, to whom he was sealed but did not live with.60 Daynes indicates on page 78, “Such marriages did not include the right to sexual access.”
- Marriage with delayed Rights – Daynes indicates that 12-year old Mary Dunn and 11-yr old Mosiah were sealed to each other just prior to leaving Nauvoo because leaders knew it would be a long time before they had access to a temple. Daynes quotes Mosiah’s autobiography on page 78, ‘that it was done “with the understanding that we were not to live together as husband and wife until we were 16 years of age.”‘ Daynes further indicates on page 79 that “Mosiah and Mary were never united after they arrived in Salt Lake City; at age eighteen, Mary married Martin Luther Ensign.66“This logic reminds me as similar to the logic applied by Catholics when they baptize infants.
- Convenience Marriage – from page 82, these marriages “conferred rights of sexual access but gave the man no rights to the children and limited responsibility to the woman.” Daynes says on page 81, “This form of marriage was not an isolated instance, although it was undoubtedly a rare one.” She describes the story of Mary Ann and Edmund Richardson who joined the church in Salt Lake City in 1853-4. Page 80 describes the story:
With the importance the Saints place on having children, however, Mary Ann Richardson worried about her husband’s inability to father more children because of his “having become an eunuch”.75 She was also concerned about her exaltation, especially when several had told her she was wrong to stay with her husband and should be sealed to another.
Ok, I have a real problem here. While I plan to talk in the future on divorce during this time, it seems to me that for a church which currently stresses the dangers of divorce, marriages back then were very disposable. It boggles my mind that people were recommending she be sealed to another person. Continuing on,
Writing to Brigham Young for advice, she expressed her desire to remain with her husband if that course would not hinder her eternal reward. In a letter dated March 5, 1857, Young proposed a novel solution, one of the few possible in that age before the advent of modern reproductive medicine: “If I was imperfect and had a good wife I would call on some good bror. to help me that we might have increase, that a man [her husband] of this character will have a place in the Temple, receive his endowments and in eternity will be as tho nothing had happened to him in time.”76 According to Young, her husband’s sterility would not bar him from the most important temple ordinances, and his eternal reward would not be adversely affected. As for having additional children, Mary Ann could be married in a civil ceremony to another man who would father her children. By being sealed for eternity to Edmund, Mary Ann as well as all her children, would belong to him.
The couple eventually accepted the plan, but only reluctantly. Edmund and Mary Ann were sealed for eternity on April 20, 1857, but only after the “each had seen a vision” did they accept President Young’s unusual suggestion. After they accepted the plan, he gave them a paper listing three polygamous men he considered worthy to participate. They chose Frederick Cox. He, too, at first refused to participate in the plan but also became convinced that “the plan was divinely inspired.” One of the sons of this union later wrote of his birth: “It took three visions and a religion to reconcile others to my coming.”77 On January 9, 1858, Brigham Young celebrated the marriage of Mary Ann Darrow Richardson and Frederick Cox in a religious ceremony that did not seal the couple. From this union, two sons were born: Charles on October 13, 1858, and Sullivan on January 26, 1861.
Family legend indicates that Brigham Young granted the Richardsons a temporary separation or a civil divorce and that Edmund lived some distance from Manti during his wife’s second marriage. He may have spent some time away, but one year after the first son was born, he returned and took his wife to be sealed again for eternity in the Endowment House. Moreover, as indicated on the 1860 Manti census, he was again reunited with his wife about eight months before the second son was born.79
Not long thereafter the Richardsons moved to another town. For about twenty years Cox did not see his sons. When he did, he shook their hands heartily, looked at them and listened to them unceasingly during their visit, but never mentioned the relationship between them.80
The second marriage did not bestow the rights and responsibilities that marriage usually confers. Mary Ann retained the Richardson name, lived in the Richardson home, and received her support from Edmund. Cox received no rights in the children: they were not called by his name, nor did they inherit from him. Because the Cox-Richardson children were cautioned to say nothing about the circumstances of their birth to protect the good name of their mother, it is highly unlikely any public acknowledgment was made of Mary Ann’s second marriage.81 In short, other than the right of sexual access, the marriage ceremony conferred no rights or responsibilities.
This form of marriage was not an isolated instance, although it was undoubtedly a rare one. When Richardson’s descendants sought answers about the marriage, the executive assistant of the Genealogical Society about the marriage assured them that there were other such marriages and that these were known as “convenience marriages.”82
Daynes next paragraph goes into the question of whether this was a polyandrous marriage. Pages 81-82 answer this question:
As Lawrence Foster argues, calling such a marriage polyandrous is misleading because polyandry is incompatible with the patriarchal nature of nineteenth-century Mormon marriages. While Mary Ann’s two marriages overlapped, the form of marriage to each man was different and did not entail the same rights and responsibilities. Marriages for time were perceived as temporary because life on this earth was viewed as ephemeral in the expanse of eternity. Sealings for eternity were thus more important and took precedence over marriages for time, although they did not necessarily invalidate them.83
So, it seems to me that Brigham Young would have been very liberal in modern reproductive techniques like artificial insemination, cloning, stem cell research, surrogate motherhood, and many of the current technologies we have available today. Even after I read this story of the Richardsons, I shake my head in amazement at some of the Saints early practices. Comments?