Living the Principle: My Progenitors and Polygamy

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Living the Principle: My Progenitors and Polygamy By Charlotte Cannon Johnston with Mary B. Johnston

In this candid, balanced account of the practice of plural marriage early in the history of the Mormon Church, Charlotte Johnston focuses on the lives of her four great-grandmothers and other women in her family who faced the challenges of plural marriage. She uses their lives as a springboard to discuss the reasons for and characteristics of polygamy for the fifty some years it was practiced in the early Church and the repercussions of the practice that continue today.


“Johnston’s very close and intimate vision of her family relationships during all stages of the practice of polygamy provides a gift to her readers. She gives us their actions, feelings and voices—a rich selection of attitudes… Living the Principle is the best kind of personal history.  The author tells us what happened, how she fits in, and then makes a real effort to tell us what it all means.”  

 ~Claudia L. Bushman
Author of
Contemporary Mormonism


“In this engaging history of her ancestors’ practice of polygamy, Charlotte Cannon Johnston tackles big questions about patriarchy, sexuality, and gender. Years of painstaking research allow Johnston to flesh out the family stories, from polygamy’s early secret practice to the painful dilemmas of untangling polygamous unions after the 1890 Manifesto. Through the lives of the Cannons, Maughans and Parkinsons, we come to understand the hard choices made out of devotion to “living the Principle.” As fascinating as the stories are about her famous forbears, of equal value to the reader is understanding how the author came to terms with the legacy of polygamy they bequeathed to her.”  

 ~Susan S. Rugh
Professor of History, Brigham Young University

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This book was designed by Laura Pierce of Laura Pierce Design.