Bye, Bye (Big) Love
It was a divine revelation that got Bill Henrickson into trouble in the first place, revealing to this prosperous Mormon family man the importance of the principle of plural marriage. So it stands to reason that after losing almost everything in defending that principle, it would be a divine revelation that gets him out of trouble–showing him the ultimate compatibility of women’s equality and polygamy. Just before he dies unexpectedly of a gunshot wound, he asks his first wife Barb, who was chafing all season under the principle’s sexism, for a blessing–and thereby gives her his blessing to serve as the priesthood holder in the church he founded. He dies not only peacefully, but joyfully, certain that he will eventually be reunited on the other side of the veil with all his beloved family members.
One would be tempted to see this second revelation, just minutes before the series concludes, as, well, a deus ex machina ending. In the context of this narrative, however, it is not, at least in the pejorative sense In fact, it simply is a variation on Mormon history. Joseph Smith claimed to receive a revelation legitimating the practice of polygamy on July 17, 1831. Over the next several decades both the Mormon Church and the practice of polygamy became stronger in Utah and surrounding areas. In the early 1960′s, however, the U.S. Congress began to pass stringent anti-bigamy legislation, the enforcement of which became more and more unyielding and brutal. Faced with the dissolution of his society and his church, on September 24, 1890, Mormon President Woodruff published his manifesto, generally treated as a revelation by the community, revoking permission for Mormons to practice polygamy.
So I was basically right. And if you run into me at the Catholic Theological Society of America meeting this June. I’d be happy to read your palm–ten cents.