The Lifetime Movie ‘The 19th Wife’, based on the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, isn’t exactly based on a true story. ‘The 19th Wife’ novel does touch on a true story by incorporating anti-polygamy activist Ann Eliza Young as a character, but I have a feeling the Lifetime movie may have to cut out references to the historical figure due to time. Still, while ‘The 19th Wife’ movie isn’t based on a true story of murder, murder in the Mormon community isn’t uncommon.
The Lifetime Movie ‘The 19th Wife’ is described on the Lifetime website as the story of a woman named BeckyLyn accused of killing her husband, a member of the fundamentalist sect First Church of Latter Day Saints and a practicing polygamist. As she stands accused of the crime, another wife from the Church and her excommunicated son reach out to help her. While it’s not based on a true story, the plot here definitely doesn’t sound too far-fetched, but when it comes to murder in the Mormon community, there’s a true story worse than this fiction.
‘The 19th Wife’ ties into the tale of Ann Eliza Young by referring to one of her works, ‘Wife No. 19’. Born into a Mormon family that practiced polygamy, the attractive Ann Eliza Young eventually married Mormon leader Brigham Young in the late 1800’s, despite her dislike of the plural wife lifestyle (she would later contend she married the powerful man out of threats he made toward her family members). In 1873, she divorced Brigham Young and became a celebrity, touring the country and speaking out against polygamy, even appearing before the President and Congress. Her efforts paid off when polygamy was outlawed in 1882. However, I’m sure she would still be appalled by what goes on in the Mormon church today.
Take the tale of Mormon leader Ervil LeBaron, for example, a man who claimed God told him to commit murder. The member of a Mormon family seemingly prone to insanity, including claims that they could hear voices; beliefs that Jesus would return in a spaceship; bestiality; violent behavior; and suicide. However, only one member of this family would grow up to become known as the “Mormon Manson”.
Ervil LeBaron took adolescent girls as wives, of which he had many. Eventually two of these wives would commit murder for him, and two would die because of him. He believed in the same “blood atonement”, the Church’s right to murder those who commit particular sins, as Ann Eliza Young’s husband Brigham, giving himself what he declared his God-given right to take lives if he wished. This eventually led to him having one of his own brothers, who were also Mormon leaders that didn’t agree with his teachings, killed by some of his church “thugs”. In an attempt to kill another brother, two more men were killed.
Eventually he wouldn’t just rely on his thugs to do his dirty work, but also his wives. He had one of them kill a friend of hers, a woman that threatened to tell the police about Ervil’s activity, in cold blood. He later had this same 10th wife murder a man about to leave his clan while she was heavily pregnant. Evril had his own daughter killed when she threatened to go the cops.
In 1975, at the age of 50, he married his 13th wife, a 16-year-old that he would later have assassinate another Mormon leader. Eventually his crimes caught up with him and he was imprisoned, but a book he wrote while there and distributed among his faithful followers would lead to the deaths of many, including two of his wives and one of his sons. Some of his other children continued killing in his absence.
Of course this is just one true story of Mormon murder even more shocking than that portrayed in the Lifetime movie ‘The 19th Wife’. Browsing the net, there’s true story after true story of murders involving the Mormon religion, whether it’s men using “blood atonement” as an excuse to murder a woman; bombings; or the murder of a Mormon bishop.
Is it to say that that the Mormon religion is all bad? Like all religions, whether it be Muslim, Christian, or otherwise, there will be those that take extreme action in the name of their faith or because of their teachings, but in the case of the faith shown in the Lifetime movie ‘The 19th Wife’, a lot of the truth is far worse than the fiction you find yourself watching.