Rhetorical Holy War: Polygamy, Homosexuality, and the Paradox of Community and Autonomy


The article explores the rhetorical strategies deployed in both legal and cultural narratives of Mormon polygamy in nineteenth-century America. It demonstrates how an understanding of that unique communal experience, and the narratives by which it was represented, informs the classic paradox of community and autonomy – the tension between the collective and the individual. The article concludes by using the Mormon polygamy analysis to illuminate a contemporary social situation that underscores the paradox of community and autonomy – homosexuality and the so-called culture wars over family values and the meaning of marriage.


Civil Law | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Courts | Family Law | Jurisprudence | Law | Law and Gender | Law and Politics | Law and Society | Legal History | Public Law and Legal Theory | Religion Law | Sexuality and the Law

Date of this Version

August 2005