Brigham Young gave his wives a 2-week ultimatum to quit complaining about polygamy [emphasis added]:
“Now for my proposition; it is more particularly for my sisters, as it is frequently happening that women say they are unhappy. Men will say, ‘My wife, though a most excellent woman, has not seen a happy day since I took my second wife, ‘ ‘No, not a happy day for a year,’ says one; and another has not seen a happy day for five years. It is said that women are tied down and abused: that they are misused and have not the liberty they ought to have; that many of them are wading through a perfect flood of tears…
I wish my own women to understand that what I am going to say is for them as well as others, and I want those who are here to tell their sisters, yes, all the women of this community, and then write it back to the States, and do as you please with it. I am going to give you from this time to the 6th day of October next, for reflection, that you may determine whether you wish to stay with your husbands or not, and then I am going to set every woman at liberty and say to them, Now go your way, my women with the rest, go your way. And my wives have got to do one of two things; either round up their shoulders to endure the afflictions of this world, and live their religion, or they may leave, for I will not have them about me. I will go into heaven alone, rather than have scratching and fighting around me. I will all at liberty. “What, first wife too?” Yes, I will liberate you all.
I wish my women, and brother Kimball’s and brother Grant’s to leave, and every woman in this Territory, or else say in their hearts that they will embrace the Gospel -the whole of it….say to your wives, ‘Take all that I have and be set at liberty; but if you stay with me you shall comply with the law of God, and that too without any murmuring and whining. You must fulfil the law of God in every respect, and round up your shoulders to walk up to the mark without any grunting. Now recollect that two weeks from to morrow I am going to set you at liberty. But the first wife will say, ‘It is hard, for I have lived with my husband twenty years, or thirty, and have raised a family of children for him, and it is a great trial to me for him to have more women;’ then I say it is time that you gave him up to other women who will bear children. If my wife had borne me all the children that she ever would bare, the celestial law would teach me to take young women that would have children….
Sisters, I am not joking, I do not throw out my proposition to banter your feelings, to see whether you will leave your husbands, all or any of you. But I know that there is no cessation to the everlasting whining of many of the women in this territory; I am satisfied that this is the case. And if the women will turn from the commandments of God and continue to despise the order of heaven, I will pray that the curse of the Almighty may be close to their heals, and that it may be following them all the day long….
Prepare yourselves for two weeks from to morrow; and I will tell you now, that if you will tarry with your husbands, after I have set you free, you must bow down to it, and submit yourselves to the celestial law. You may go where you please, after two weeks from to-morrow; but, remember, that I will not hear any more of this whining.
(Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4., pp. 55-57; also printed in Deseret News, Vol. 6, pp. 235-236)
Comments from Mormon Think: Obviously Brigham was motivated to give this speech because the women were not happy with polygamy. From searching records and reading various published stories from faithful polygamous wives, we have found many women that were very upset practicing LDS polygamy and not one account of a truly happily married polygamous woman from the 1800s but obviously there must be some.
A few quotes from polygamous wives:
“Here was my husband,” she said, “gray headed, taking to his bed young girls in mockery of marriage. Of course there could be no joy for him in such an intercourse except the indulgence of his fanaticism and of something else, perhaps, which I hesitate to mention.”
-Sarah Pratt speaking of her husband, the apostle Orson Pratt who dated a 16-year-old girl (and then married her) when he was 57. (Van Wagoner 1986, pp. 92)
“God will be very cruel if he does not give us poor women adequate compensation for the trials we have endured in polygamy.”
–Mary Ann Angell Young, Brigham Young’s second wife
“I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.”
-Helen Mar Kimball, Mormon Polygamy: A History, p. 53
Check out Mormon Think for more sources on polygamy and other LDS history.