This outpouring of information in the media came just as I was finishing up the book "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Wall. The book tells of Elissa's harrowing experiences in the FLDS church and her forced marriage to her adult husband at the young age of 14. She had been raised to believe that her eternal salvation was dependent on getting married. She was expected to obey the prophet and marry the man that was chosen for her even though she had deep concerns regarding her pending marriage. Warren Jeffs (who spoke for his father, the prophet, at the time) told her that her marriage was a "revelation from God" and that by rejecting it, she was disobeying the prophet and God. Even her own Mother told her "This must be the will of God and the prophet." and to "just be strong. The Lord knows what he's doing".
I couldn't help but connect her story with another story * I have read about recently. Helen Mar Kimball was married to Joseph Smith in 1843 when she also, was only 14 years old. She wrote that her father
"asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph...[and] left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours...I was sceptical-one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions."
The next morning Joseph visited the Kimball home. "[He explained] the principle of Celestial marrage...After which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred. This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward."
After the marriage she wrote that "like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself an abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.”
Similar to Elissa, Helen was told that the marriage would ensure her salvation and exhaltation in the next life even though she felt too young and unsure whether it was the right thing for her to do. She looked to the one person that was closest to her, her father, and trusting his judgement, married Joseph.
These stories seem so similiar to me that I can't help but wonder if the Mormon church of the 1840's was really so different from the FLDS church today? Perhaps there is more in common between the two than either church would like to admit?
*To see Helen's complete story, click here.