The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
By J. Max Anderson

Synopsis: Printed in 1979, this book is a critique of the claims of the Fundamentalist (polygamist) branches of the LDS Church. Specifically, it is an in-depth analysis of the claims and circumstances surrounding those groups’ common founding event: Lorin C. Woolley’s account of a purported secret meeting of priesthood brethren with President John Taylor in 1886, wherein it is alleged that President Taylor, by revelation, blasted the idea of a manifesto and gave secret, irrevocable plural marriage sealing authority to Woolley and four others.

Strong Points: This is an interesting book for readers who are curious about the claims of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or similar movements. The author does an excellent job of analyzing the claims and information relating to key events, and absolutely smashes the foundation for polygamist break-offs from the Church. Lorin C. Woolley, the founder of the FLDS movement, has given more than enough rope for which to hang himself in the credibility department, and J. Max Anderson makes a very able hangman. This book would be a good recommendation for any person who might be seduced toward joining a polygamist sect; it is a completely devastating analysis.

Weak Points: I feel like the title was a little misleading; when I first picked up the book, I thought it was going to be a documentary work separating the facts of LDS plural marriage practices from the myths. Perhaps a clearer title would have been better. Also, while the author devastates the Fundamentalist position, not all of the arguments used throughout are equally strong; appeals to the argument fallacy of Insufficient Evidence are sometimes made. However, when the entire work is taken together, the conclusion is unmistakable: the Fundamentalist claims through Lorin C. Woolley are completely destroyed.

Interesting: 4.6/5

Must Read: 3.7/5

Overall: 3.9/5

Pages: 166

Selected Quote: “The credibility of the Lorin Woolley story may be called into question on the basis that, of the five men purportedly involved in the above-claimed transferal of priesthood authority, he was the only one who recorded the event.  Further, his widely publicized recounting did not occur until 1929, long after the rest of those supposedly involved were dead, and five years after Woolley himself had been excommunicated from the Church. Where is John Woolley’s account of the alleged meeting and of his supposed reception of special priesthood authority? Likewise, where is there such an account from Samuel Bateman or from Charles Wilcken? What about George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith and John Taylor? Where are their records of these alleged proceedings? Why is there an account from only one participant, and why was that account not written until forty-three years after the ‘fact’? Where in all such pretensions is compliance with the divine law of witnesses?” (p. 133-134).


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