I’m willing to bet that when you read that, a majority of you had one of two responses: 1) “Of course we do!” or 2) “Heck no we don’t!”
Unfortunately, on my mission, the general response of the other missionaries was the latter. They avoided talking about polygamy like the plague. It was treated like a skeleton in the closet. You don’t talk about it, you don’t think about it, and hopefully nobody finds it. There was even one district meeting where we role-played what our response would be to investigators who brought it up. This post is directed mainly at those who responded to the title the same way. Before you give that response again, there are a few things you should think about.
Polygamy in Church Leadership
With the recent passing of President Monson and the reorganization of the First Presidency, this is the first time since Joseph Fielding Smith’s presidency in the early 1970s that at least two of the men in the First Presidency have been polygamists.
Yes, you read that right. Two of the men in the current First Presidency are polygamists: Russell M. Nelson (1) and Dallin H. Oaks (2). Heck, for that matter, Henry B. Eyring’s grandfather was a polygamist too (3). On a side not, President Oaks is 15 years older than his second wife, and when President Nelson’s second wife was born, he (Nelson) had already been married to his first wife for 5 years. So, before you start talking about how a big age gap in marriage is weird, remember that the man whom you revere as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator is 25 years older than his current spouse.
This means that 12 of the 17 men who have been President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are married to multiple women. They are Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson (4), Howard W. Hunter, and now Russell M. Nelson. In fact, when the doctrine was first taught to and practiced by one of its members around 1840, there has been at least one polygamist in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ever since. I bet you hadn’t thought of that.
Besides the fact that the leadership of the church apparently practices plural marriage, D&C 132 is still canonized scripture. So, when we say that we believe the Doctrine and Covenants to be the word of the Lord, we are saying that we believe in polygamy. There is no way around it.
Joseph Smith’s Teachings
Joseph Smith gave us a key in understanding the things of God.
“Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil.” – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 181
He further taught, on several occasions, that plural marriage was from God.
“It [polygamy] is the work of God and he has revealed this principle.” – The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young 4:2382
“He [Joseph] said that years ago in Kirtland, the Lord had revealed to him the ancient order of plural marriage.” – Benjamin F. Johnson letter to George F. Gibbs, 1903
“He [Joseph] informed me that the doctrine and principle [of plural marriage] was right in the sight of our Heavenly Father, and that it was a doctrine which pertained to celestial order and glory.” – William Clayton affidavit, 1874 (Found in An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, pg 557)
If A = B and B = C then A = C. Likewise, if every principle from God is eternal and plural marriage is from God then plural marriage is an eternal principle. From this, we can understand that plural marriage can never really go away. The practice of it may “discontinue” (even though it hasn’t, i.e. Nelson, Oaks, etc) but the belief in it cannot truly be abandoned, at least not by those calling themselves disciples of Jesus Christ.
Being in the Society of Polygamists
There is more though. We learn from the scriptures that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are polygamists. We learn that these men are the ones who worshiped the one true God. We learn that it will be an honor to sit down with these polygamists in heaven. We learn that the gates surrounding the New Jerusalem will have inscribed on it names of men who are the sons of a polygamist. We also learn that in order to get into heaven we must be a part of or adopted into the family of Israel, a polygamist.
From the sounds of it, being anti-polygamy is not going to be very comfortable in heaven. Furthermore, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made a very interesting promise in the 19th chapter of Matthew. Take it how you will.
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” – Matthew 19:29
Polygamy and Feminism
Currently, there are efforts from both inside and outside the church to get rid of polygamy. Take these two Twitter posts, for example.
The first post is speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed by clearly calling the Prophet Joseph Smith a liar. I also wonder which wife they would tell President Nelson to get rid of. The second post is kind of an insult to the husband, don’t you think? It’s basically saying, “If we had to live polygamy… yeah… you wouldn’t be worth it. Sorry.” However, as the scriptures teach and as the future will show, these people’s attempts to hinder the things of God will only result in their own damnation.
A large portion of those taking this route to eradicate polygamy are the so-called feminists. I say, “so-called” because they are not real feminists. Real feminism, true feminism, like any other true philosophy or ism, has its roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the patriarchal order that has been established by God. If feminists were true to their word, if they really wanted “women’s rights” and “choice” like they claim, they would be doing the complete opposite of what they are doing. They would be calling for and advocating for the return and practice of plural marriage. What greater right is there for a woman than to be able to marry the man she wants to marry whether he already has 1, 2, or 10 wives? What greater act of sisterhood can there be than for one woman to say to another, “I know you are looking for a good man to be your husband and the father of your children. I know that in this day and age good men are hard to come by. I want you to have the same happiness that I enjoy. I know that my husband is a Godly man. Come, I will give of myself. Let the man of my heart take you into his arms. He can be your husband and you can be my sister-wife.”
Mormons believe in polygamy. To say we don’t is to say we reject the scriptures, the teachings of every prophet in this dispensation, the current practices of the church, and even the words of the Lord Himself. How could we call ourselves Latter-day Saints at that point? We couldn’t. A belief in polygamy is part of being a Mormon.
(1) Bio on LDS.org
(2) Bio on LDS.org
(3) Numerous sources. Click here for more info.
(4) Ezra Taft Benson, Diary, April 25, 1950.
37 thoughts on “Mormons Believe in Polygamy”
The word “polygamy” in modern English means more than one wife at a time. Nelson married his second wife after his first wife died, according to the source you give!
So you are saying that Nelson is no longer sealed to his first wife?
Latter Day Saints believe in eternal marriage. This means that one spouse getting called to labor across the works or across the veil between this life and the next is the same and does not give one license to break their ETERNAL marriage vows by choosing another person to swing with while their spouse is away. If you believe marriage ends at death then you don’t believe in eternal marriage. We are all only talking about eternal marriages here. and when Pres Nelson passes to the other side including his current wife, he will have two wives. So will president oaks. That’s called polygyny.
Thank you for your clarifications. My question was based on a lack of knowledge, and I understand now.
Since his first wife, though deceased, is alive and well in the post mortal life and since that marriage covenant it’s still in effect he DOES have two wives at the same time.
I’m sorry, you really lost me on this one. Yes, polygamy is a practice that many church fathers have practiced, even biblical people. Yes, it has been. revealed by God to be so. Yes, people in the celestial kingdom will be practicing it. But its not for everyone. Not everyone in the Church’s polygamy days was allowed to practice polygamy either. Not everyone in the OT’s day practiced it either. Polygamy is a charge Heavenly Father gives to some, but not others. Why? Who knows, who cares. Jacob 2:28 already covered this.
Having two wives over the course of a lifetime, be it through divorce or widowed, is not polygamy. Otherwise, a good junk of the US population would be considered ‘polygamists’. Polygamy is having more than one living wife at the same time.
Yeah, but “a good junk [sic] of the US population” aren’t Mormons that have been sealed for time and eternity- they understand that they are married until death. Being sealed for eternity to two women is technically polygamy.
Hey look what I have handy:
Yeah… I’ll take the Prophet Joseph’s teachings over some random member
Me too :)
What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” Joseph Smith
The lady who wrote that post is clueless. As an example, she wrote:
“When the sealing power was restored to earth and in both Kirtland and Nauvoo, men were married and ‘sealed’ to multiple spouses, but second anointings were reserved (in almost all cases) to the first wife only. This would support the 1:1 male-female union as eternal in nature and anything else as temporary.”
Actually, according to the Nauvoo Book of Anointings, which she dubiously claims to have seen, and which I have a typescript of, Out of 172 second anointings of men in Nauvoo, 113 were for polygamists and their wives, 46 were for couples who later practiced polygamy, and only 13 were for people who never did (9 of whom were either dead, died soon, or apostatized).
The best scripture confirming polygamy comes in 2 Sam. 12:7-12. Here we have the prophet Nathan quoting God in condemning David for his adultery with Bathsheba. In verse 8, God says that He (God) gave David his master’s wives and then goes on to say that if he (David) wanted even more, God would have given him more. But because of his sin, verse 11 says that God is going to take away David’s wives and give them to another individual man who will have his way with them rather than just being a caretaker for them.
If God hates polygamy, why did God give David all of those wives and then give them all to another INDIVIDUAL man rather than giving them to several men so that the women would have monogamous marriages..or even send them back to their families?
First of all, I agree with the article’s premise – polygamy is 100% part of Mormon doctrine. It’s hard-wired to the whole concept of the eternal family. Get rid of Section 132 and there goes the doctrinal foundation of eternal marriage. Second, the Church is trying so hard to distance itself from this fact, but it can’t. What to make of President Hinckely’s comment to Larry King, “I condemn it [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.”?
It’s not legal because man decided you could only marry one woman. D&C 98:4-7, we are commanded to do whatever the Lord commands and befriend the constitutional law of the land…furthermore the law of man is evil.
Yeah, but he said it’s not doctrinal. I think he was lying, but still.
I love this website because you guys OWN and embrace all of Mormonism – “warts” and all. I think you guys are in apostasy (at least as defined by the current church” but so I am I. Me to the left and you all to the right.
Not one of your quotes quoting Joseph Smith actually quoted Joseph. They were each a quote from someone else stating what they believed Joseph to have said. Do you have quotes to share -preferably that were made in public-
that are actually from Joseph Smith and are not hear say?
Correction. It is not what they “believed” Joseph to have said. It is what Joseph told them.
And I ask you – Do you have any direct quotes from Joseph on temple ordinances? Heavenly Mother? Or is that just hear say too?
Much of Joseph’s deeper teachings will not be found in his own public comments.
Joseph’s King Follett discourse was only what other people say he said.
I would direct you to section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants. A deep study of that section will teach one that, with regards to Celestial marriage, there is the law (Plural Marriage) and the conditions (being sealed by the power of the Holy Priesthood). That is how I see it, anyways.
There are many testimonies from those who were most closely associated with Joseph Smith that he (Joseph) did indeed practice this law and even taught it.
Great article! What is the purpose of Plural Marriage? To raise seed up unto the Lord. If this is the case it would make sense that only those willing to do this would be worthy to live that way. For example Jacob 2:23-24 says the people didn’t understand the scriptures – they were using this way of life to commit whoredoms not raise up righteous seed unto the Lord, so the Lord took this blessing away from them. Then in Ether why didn’t Jared go talk to the Lord instead of asking his brother to always do this, could the brother of Jared have been a polygamist, I mean what woman do you know has 22 kids (Ether 6:22).
The purpose of plural marriage is what D&C 132 says it is. If you want to take your family into heaven, it has to look like the families in heaven. You can’t just enter heaven doing things your own way. You have to learn to do things the way they are done there instead. God directs Abraham concerning his own family in many ways that are foreign to us, and run wildly against our traditions. Abraham is commanded to send away Hagar and Ishmael, and to give nothing but gifts for inheritance to his seven sons through Keturah. If I sent away my wife away as Hagar was, or married other wives, I would be condemned by God. But when God himself directs a family, he reforms them according to the requirements of heaven so they can bring their family into heaven with them.
It might be helpful to point out that terminology can be key. Sometimes “plural marriage” (the doctrine of plural wives) refers to God’s version, and “polygamy” (more precisely, polygyny) as man’s version, the unacceptable false imitation of God’s version. These terms can sometimes be understood as a type of code, to those with ears to hear, that the doctrine of plural wives is true while the practice of polygamy is false.
And stated a different way, plural marriage is still practiced but only with one living wife at a time, not concurrently to multiple living wives.
Can a man be married to and sealed in the Temple with a woman who is dead? Say a woman who died young and unmarried?
“He showed that the revelation that had been the subject of attention (Section 132) was the only one published on Celestial Marriage, and if the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated, so must be the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissolubly interwoven with each other.” (Charles W. Penrose, Millenial Star 45:454)
Reject polygamy = reject eternal marriage. You can’t pick one and drop the other. Nice try though, revisionists =)
i made two other replies. where are they?
I deleted them because they are trash
Orson Hyde Quote part 1
I discover that some of the Eastern papers represent me as a great blasphemer, because I said, in my lecture on Marriage, at our last Conference, that Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children.
Orson Hyde Quote part 2
All that I have to say in reply to that charge is this—they worship a Savior that is too pure and holy to fulfil the commands of his Father. I worship one that is just pure and holy enough “to fulfil all righteousness;” not only the righteous law of baptism, but the still more righteous and important law “to multiply and replenish the earth.” Startle not at this! For even the Father himself honored that law by coming down to Mary, without a natural body, and begetting a son; and if Jesus begat children, he only “did that which he had seen his Father do.”
Plural marriage is such damaging doctrine that has done nothing to further God’s work. Free will, such a significant part of the gospel, is thrown out for the first wives of these two examples, Nelson and Oaks, as they find themselves plural wives sealed to women they didn’t choose. Here’s two sites for consideration: the first explaining that polygamy was condemned by the Book of Mormon, including in Jacob 2:30. The second making the case that this polygamy teaching might not have come from Joseph anyway.
I can’t even argue with you. Just laugh. LOL.
Let’s just forget all the evidence of Joseph’s polygamy. LOL
Great article. I have come across so many people who think 132 is written ‘by satan’ but are fine with every other section. The logic there gets me every time.
If you want to be with God, you family has to look like God’s.
Very well written article. I wish there was more activity on this site as it would be such a blessing to me and my family. I would love to know where to get more insight and understanding on this topic and many more.
we are working on getting more activity here again. Thank you for your interest. Could you be more specific on what insight you’re looking for?
There is such a misunderstanding of plural marriage, not only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but all around the world. Plural marriage gives men and women more freedom in a marriage. Women can choose a man who is already married and proven that he will take care of her, by looking at the other wives that he already has. She is less likely to be abused as there are others in the same place as her. She is able to have more of a community for support with emotional issues as well as help raising children. The man is able to have help with his wives and not be manipulated by just one wife.
We can find all of the quotes and all of the scriptures to prove or disprove plural marriage, but in the end it is strictly up to the people who practice it. Someone who doesn’t practice plural marriage can only give a biased opinion, based on hearsay. There are plenty of trials for plural marriage and it definitely isn’t for everyone one to practice.
And one of the easiest scriptures to see about plural marriage is right in front of everyone with the parable to of the ten virgins. It has been said that the virgins are bridesmaids. But if you read the parable, they are waiting for their husband to come. They represent the followers of Christ (us) and are waiting for His coming as the Savior. If they are bridesmaids, then they are not making any covenants with the Groom. They are only witnessing the wedding. So if you don’t plan on making a covenant with Christ, you will view the virgins as bridesmaids. If you do plan on making a covenant with Christ, you will view the virgins as future brides. Why would Jesus then talk about one man marrying multiple women at once if it was not of God?