The Sects That Rejected 19th-Century Sex

Why Three Religious Groups Traded Monogamy for Celibacy, Polygamy, and Complex Marriage

Disconsolate after his beloved’s marriage to another man in 1837, a young seminarian named John Humphrey Noyes declared in a bitter, anti-love poem to his ex:

I will not give you back your heart,
I’ve wooed and fairly won it,
And sooner with my life I’ll part,
You may depend upon it.

Not content with mere verse, Noyes would go on to turn his emotional anguish into a theological critique of the institution of monogamous marriage itself (or as he once called it, “Egotism for Two”). Condemning monogamy as “simple” and replacing …