Joseph Smith said he was ordered by an angel to adopt polygamy and took up to 40 wives, putting his first wife Emma through an ‘excruciating ordeal’
They ranged in age at time of marriage, or “sealing” as the Mormons called it, from Fanny Young’s 56 to Helen Kimball who was just 14. Some of the women were already married before Smith “sealed” himself to them for eternity.
The Mormon church made a clean break with polygamy in 1896 when it accepted a deal with the US government in which it denounced the practice in return for the granting of statehood for Utah. A minority of believers refused to go along with the new protocol and, insisting that they were keeping true to the faith, continued to practice polygamy as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Small communities of polygamist Mormons remain to this day in small towns such as Hilldale on the border between Utah and Arizona.