With the influx of non-Mormons bound for California, and the appointed territorial officers, the Mormons could no longer keep their peculiar institution of plural marriage a secret. The federal officers who fled the territory wrote of the many Mormons who had “a large number of wives.” Rumors began to spread across the nation of fanatical Mormons stealing young girls and forcing them into sexual slavery. In August 1852, church leaders became public for the first time on the subject. Gathering at a conference, Orson Pratt of the Twelve Apostles delivered the first sermon on the doctrine of plural marriage and Young followed up by offering his remarks and reading the revelation that Joseph Smith reportedly dictated nine years earlier (D&C 132). News traveled swiftly across the nation, much to the horror of most Americans.
Gospel Topics Essay: “Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah.”