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Friday, May 31, 2013

Mormon Mentions: Courtney Miller Santo

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 

In The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo, an 89-year-old woman is talking about her husband's family history.  She says:

"His family had been Mormon—his mother married to a man with seventeen other wives until it had become illegal" (276).  

Oh, polygamy!  Somehow, despite all the amazing things the LDS Church has accomplished in its history, the millions of acts of service and love its God-fearing members perform every single day, it's still most widely-known for its polygamist past.  Let me make this as clear as I possibly can:  Polygamy was practiced by early members of the LDS Church, but the practice was officially stopped in 1890.  Members of the modern, mainstream LDS Church do not practice polygamy and have not for over 100 years.  

The best explanation of the history of plural marriage in the church can be found here, on

Please understand that when you hear about modern "Mormons" practicing polygamy, they are generally members of "churches" that are offshoots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but not affiliated with the main body of the LDS Church.  

And, just in case you're wondering (because yes, I have been asked), my father has only one wife, as does my husband.  In fact, although I do have ancestors who were polygamists, I've never met anyone  who was married to more than one person at the same time.  Too bad, because they probably would have been super interesting to talk to!  

So, yeah.


  1. Susan,

    I wrote Roots of the Olive Tree and I actually am an active member of the church. I've written several short stories that deal explicitly with Mormon themes that have been published in Irreantum and Sunstone. If you're interested, I'd love to chat with you about your blog and project, which I find fascinating. You can find my contact information on my website (


    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Courtney! I had no idea you were a member (although the fact that your author bio mentioned you writing for Sunstone and Segullah PROBABLY should have tipped me off) -- duh! Oh well, I'll keep this Mormon Mention up and add an "LDS Authors" badge to my review of your book.

      Of course, I'd love to chat with you. I'll email you as soon as I finish changing my laundry. *Sigh* Some chores just NEVER end ...

  2. While I understand not wanting to be connected to a practice that is so embarrassing and incomprehensible (to me included), polygamy is something that we used to practice, and many of our forebearers sacrificed a lot for what they thought God wanted them to do. I think we can be too quick today to assert that it has nothing to do with us.
    Also, it is not surprising that a woman as old as the people in the book would have a connection to it.


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