Before Green's trial, David Leavitt fibbed to National Public Radio reporter Howard Berkes:
"None of my ancestors took multiple teen-agers to wife."
Actually, the Leavitts' great-grandfather was 23 when he married Mary Luella Abbott, a 15-year-old from Ogden .
His second teen-age wife, Adah Ann Waite, was the daughter of Rebecca Gibbons Waite, a widow who had married his father.
For Mormon genealogists, these are the predictable pairings of a hard history. In today's charged climate, though, they are grist for the defense of a religious lifestyle.
"It's sobering," says Marianne Watson, a plural wife from Utah and professional genealogist. "If I was in [the Leavitts'] shoes I would be more cautious."
The family tree planted by Thomas Dudley Leavitt, Watson says, is not so different from the seeds sown by Thomas Arthur Green, found guilty by a Provo jury of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport. Green "married" two 15-year-old stepdaughters and one 14-year-old stepdaughter.
According to the genealogist who prepared Mary Luella Abbott Leavitt's family history, the matriarch clung to her advocacy of plural marriage until her death in 1955. That is more than half a century longer than did her church -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church dropped the practice in 1890.
Mary Luella's favorite grandson was former Utah Sen. Dixie Leavitt, Mike and David's father. Her journal, given to Dixie , was used by genealogist David L. Zolman, a former Utah lawmaker, to prepare her story. Of particular note is her wish that her family retain belief in the "principle" of plural marriage. The misspellings are hers:
"I feel thare will be a great blessing for living [polygamy] through. I hope not One of the children will ever Speak litely of it or say they do not believe in the Principle because I feel it was One of Gods greatest commandments given to his People. It took Courage, Faith, Prayer, and determanation and the help of the Lord to do this with much more Trust in the Lord."
As a boy, Gov. Leavitt met his great-grandmother.
"She was literally in her dying hours."
He remembers her plea that "the children" never speak against polygamy.
"I've heard that line, yes," he says. But, "we live in a different time and under different circumstances. . . . I'd like to think my ancestors would feel good about the way we have carried forward their name."
Watson has another view: Leavitt's ancestors "might roll over in their graves."