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Objective: To identify the percentage of members who were already aware that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and of select details, and the prevalence of resulting psychological conflict.
Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was administered to members and former members through social media.
Results: An evenly-distributed population of active to former members participated. Seventy-one percent reported having been previously made aware of Joseph’s polygamy, with 75% reporting resulting cognitive dissonance. Only 38%, 33%, 33%, and 28%, respectively, reported being made aware of polyandry, marriage to teenagers, persuasive proposals, and marriage to the wives of other faithful members, which induced high levels of dissonance (87-91%). Activity in the church was associated with the choice to not entertain doubt (p=0.0006), but not awareness of historical facts. Non-doubting members were more likely to not complete the survey (p=0.08).
Conclusion: Prior to the recent church essays, over two-thirds of LDS church members reported that they had previously been made aware of Joseph’s polygamy by church sources. The vast majority, however, had not been informed of details invoking near-ubiquitous psychological conflict.