Polygamy was prominent in Romney's family tree

His ancestry lists several men who had multiple wives

Published: Sunday, Feb. 25 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

The Romney campaign had no comment for this story.

Joseph Smith, who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, quietly introduced polygamy. He believed it had roots in the Old Testament and was necessary to reach the highest salvation in heaven. Smith is believed to have had 33 wives.

Brigham Young expanded the practice after the church's migration from the Midwest to Utah, which began in 1846. He is said to have had 55 wives. Historical texts show Young also asked Orson Pratt to publicly proclaim the church's belief in polygamy in 1852.

In 1862, while Utah was a territory, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, banning plural marriage. In 1882, Congress also passed the Edmunds Act, an anti-polygamy law. That was followed in 1887 by the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which disincorporated the church and threatened to seize its nonreligious real estate as part of the crackdown on polygamy.

In 1890, church President Wilford Woodruff issued "The Manifesto," in which he declared the church no longer taught or permitted plural marriages.

Nonetheless, the law of polygamy — Smith's revelation that God authorized polygamy — remains in Article 132 of the church's Doctrine and Covenants. In addition, Mormon widowers who remarry today believe they will live in eternity with their multiple wives.

Church genealogical records, among the most detailed and complete of any religion, show that two of Mitt Romney's great-great-grandfathers, Miles Romney and Parley P. Pratt, had 12 wives each.

Compton, the polygamy scholar, disputes that. He believes Miles Romney only had one wife because the records do not show the dates for his other 11 marriages or any offspring from them.

Miles Romney and his one clearly documented wife, Elizabeth Gaskell, had 10 children. Among them was Miles Park Romney, one of Mitt Romney's great-grandfathers.

Miles Park Romney had five wives. With his first wife, Hannah Hood Hill, he had 11 children. Among them was Gaskell Romney, Mitt Romney's paternal grandfather.

Hannah Hood Hill's autobiography offers an eyewitness account of the Romney family's polygamous past. Hardy, the Cal-State historian, found it amid research for his upcoming book, "Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy."

Hood Hill wrote of Miles Park Romney: "I felt that was more than I could endure, to have him divide his time and affections from me. I used to walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow. If anything will make a woman's heart ache, it is for her husband to take another wife. ... But I put my trust in my heavenly father, and prayed and pleaded with him to give me strength to bear this great trial."

Miles Park Romney's final marriage, to Emily Eyring Smith, came in 1897, more than six years after "The Manifesto."

Gaskell Romney, Mitt Romney's grandfather, was not a polygamist. He married Anna Amelia Pratt, the daughter of polygamists and the granddaughter of Parley P. Pratt, the apostle with 12 wives. Their marriage took place Feb. 20, 1895, in Dublan, Mexico.

Gaskell Romney had moved to Mexico with his parents in 1884 amid the proliferation of U.S. laws prohibiting "unlawful cohabitation." Anna Pratt was born in Utah but had emigrated to Mexico and lived in one of nine colonies established by the church over the border.

Gaskell Romney and Anna Pratt had seven children, including George Wilcken Romney, the former Michigan governor. He lived with his parents in Mexico until 1912, when the family returned to the United States.

George Romney married Lenore LaFount, who does not appear to have polygamy in her family tree. The couple, now deceased, had four children, including Mitt Romney.

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