We plan to have a few more posts on the Pink Dialogue. In the meantime, however, I thought I would share some of the research that I have been doing.
As I mentioned in a comment to Elizabeth’s post on the Pink Dialogue, I have been reading Karen Lystra’s “Searching the Heart” as part of my research on debates over polygamy during the late nineteenth century. One of the things that I want to do in my research is move beyond studies that focus on how many wives Joseph Smith or Brigham Young had to look at how Mormon men and women thought about marriage and love itself. I am still at the beginning of my research on this project, however, and my thoughts are more like rough gesturings than they are fully formed theses about Mormon understandings of marriage or courtship patterns. Please forgive the rather rambling nature of my thoughts.
Lystra’s book argues that historians have fundamentally misunderstood Victorian culture and have characterized it as sexually repressed, prudish, and conservative. Using Victorian love letters, she documents a flourishing of private sexual expression that existed beside public reticence concerning sex. She argues that the intense condemnations of desire we associate with Victorian sexuality were in the minority and were written in response to the specter of intense female desire. Love letters included paeans to the genitals and breasts of lovers, celebrated female desire, and recounted instances of sexual bliss. She argues that Victorian reticence about public sexual speech gave these private expressions their meaning and power.
Recently, I have been reading the issues of The Young Woman’s Journal that appeared before 1890 Manifesto concerning polygamy.  Although anti-Mormon authors like Fanny Stenhouse, Ann Eliza Young, and William Dixon accused Mormons of being overly sensual, what marks their pages is not an overabundance of sexuality but a lack of sexual expression. In article on courtship, L.S. Dalton admonishes young girls not to let their suitors put their arms around their waists, stroke their hair, or touch their faces. To do so without an engagement would be degrading and sinful.
The patterns of courtship advocated in the Journal do not match the culture of love Lystra describes. Although the men and women who wrote for the Journal recognized the importance of love within marriage and courtship, they emphasized the necessity of subjugating such attachments to the will of God and praying to receive guidance. Men and women who wished to marry were encouraged to pray to God to sanction of their union. Any love or courtship that was all consuming — that became more important to them than anything or anyone else – was seen as nothing more than idolatry and lust.
The de-emphasis on physical desire and love can be found in private correspondence as well. According to Lystra, courting couples used salutations of increasing familiarity as their courtship intensified – “Dear Friend” giving way to “My Dear Little ‘Dot’” and “Dear Lonely Heart.” The Mormon missionary and theologian Parley P. Pratt, however, addressed his letters to his wives with “My Dear Friend,” rarely greeting them with any other appellation in spite of their increasing familiarity. The purpose behind his platonic addresses was born not out of his desire to please God or to avoid lust but out of the practical necessities of polygamous marriage. Admitting to sexual desire or emotional attachment within polygamous marriages could lead jealousy and bitterness.
Reading The Young Woman’s Journal against Lystra’s book throws into stark relief the changes that had to occur in order for polygamy to be a successful system. Polygamy was not compatible with nineteenth century understandings of marriage and courtship which emphasized the importance of total disclosure so that two lives could effectively be merged into one. Multiplying the number of wives involved more than building multiple chimneys and bedrooms; it involved changing the ways in which individual men and women related to each other as husbands and wives and changing the ways in which young men and women approached courtship. Looking at The Young Woman’s Journal helps us to begin to think about how Mormons approached marriage, love, and courtship, but it leaves many questions answered. How did Mormons think about divorce? In what ways was lived experience different from the norms of courtship and love that Mormons established? How did sister wives relate to each other and conceive of their relationship?
I hope to be able to answer some of these questions in the weeks to come as I continue my research but would appreciate any thoughts that anyone has or anything they have come across in their own research.
 Karen Lystra, Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-Century America (Oxford University Press, 1989)
 In the months before the Manifesto was publicly released, Wilford Woodruff began quietly refusing permission for new polygamous marriages. The Young Woman’s Journal continued to support plural marriage throughout this time period. It published poems lamenting the incarceration of polygamous men and short stories in which the protagonists achieved happiness by becoming second wives. Its authors – Lu Dalton, Susa Young Gates, etc. – were also women who had been reared during the time period when polygamy was seen as the height of religious devotion.
 L.S. Dalton, “Love. Courtship and Marriage,” The Young Woman’s Journal Vol. I, No. 9 (June 1890): 315.
 Lystra 19.
 Thanks to Terryl Givens for pointing this out during the Joseph Smith Summer Seminar this year.