Date: January 11, 2017 12:19PM
“In 1873, Ann Eliza filed for a divorce from Brigham Young. The book, ‘Zion in the Courts- A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900,’ gives an account of this proceeding:
“’In “Young v. Young,” Ann Eliza Webb Young sued Brigham Young for divorce in 1873, claiming neglect, cruel treatment, and desertion (‘ Comprehensive History of the Church,’ vol. 5, pp. 442-43). . . . Claiming that Young was worth $8 million and had a monthly income of $40,000, she asked for $1,000 per month pending the trial, a total of $20,000 for counsel fees, and $200,000 for her maintenance. Brigham Young denied her charges and claimed to have a worth of only $600,000 and a monthly income of $6,000. More fundamentally, he pointed out the inconsistency of granting a divorce and alimony for a marriage that was not legally recognized.’ (‘Zion in the Courts-A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900,’ by Firmage and Mangrum, 1988, University of Illinois Press, p. 249)
"LDS historian Thomas Alexander commented on the peculiar problems of plural marriage and divorce:
“’Several civil cases involving Brigham Young came before McKean's court, but undoubtedly the most celebrated was the attempt of Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young, the Prophet's 27th wife, to sue for divorce. The facts of the case are well known and need not be reiterated here. Judge Emerson at first referred the case to the probate courts. After the passage of the Poland Act, it was again returned to the Third District Court where McKean heard it. Brigham Young filed a counter petition stating that, though it was unknown to him previously, Ann Eliza was not divorced at the time of the marriage, which was at any rate a 'plural or celestial marriage' and thus not legal. The defendant was, in addition, legally married to Mary Ann Angell.
"’McKean placed the burden of proof on Young and ordered him to pay $500 per month alimony pending the outcome. He rightly pointed out that no matter what sort of marriage his union with Ann Eliza had been, it was a legal marriage, provided both parties were competent to marry, because Utah had no laws governing marriage. In Utah, it was incumbent upon Young to prove, either that Ann Eliza was not divorced from James L. Dee at the time of the plural marriage, or that he was legally married to Mary Ann Angell. If he could do so, McKean said that he would sustain Young's position.
"’This ruling, of course, placed Brigham Young on the horns of a dilemma. It would be impossible to prove that Dee and Ann Eliza were not legally divorced because the Poland Act had legalized all action of probate courts where their divorce had taken place. On the other hand, if he were actually to prove he was legally married to Mary Ann Angell, he would be bringing evidence which might have led to his conviction under the Morrill Act because of his prior admission under oath that he had also married Ann Eliza. Young chose simply to appeal to the territorial supreme court. He failed, however, to follow the proper procedure and on March 11, 1875, McKean sentenced the Prophet to a fine of $25 and one day imprisonment for contempt of court. Later, the divorce suit was thrown out after the intervention of the United States Attorney General on the ground that Ann Eliza could not have been Brigham Young's legal wife.
"’In addition to demonstrating McKean's poor judgment in some matters, the Ann Eliza case served to show that the Mormons never bothered to define any legal status for plural wives. The only sanctions which the Church imposed were moral and religious, and anyone who chose to disregard them could do so with legal, and sometimes even religious, impunity. Brigham Young argued that the marriage could have no validity at law--that it was only an ecclesiastical affair. Yet on other occasions, Mormons argued that plural wives should have the same rights as did legal wives and they complained at the prosecution for adultery with plural wives. On occasion, as when George Q. Cannon was indicted for polygamy, they took the position that each polygamous wife was also a legal wife.’ (‘Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,’ vol.1, no.3, pp. 91-92, 'Federal Authority Versus Polygamic Theocracy: James B. McKean and the Mormons 1870-1875,' by Thomas G. Alexander)
(“Brigham Young's Wives and
His Divorce From Ann Eliza Webb;” also contains chart titled, “Wives of Brigham Young: Determining and Defining 'Wife': The Brigham Young Households," by Jeffery Ogden Johnson, from ‘Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,’ vol. 20, no. 3, p. 64), at: http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/brighamyoungswives.htm
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/2017 12:22PM by steve benson.