The Crime of Separating Families

NOTE: The following story about separating families was published by an Apostle in 1853.

A certain wealthy, kind, and benevolent man, in Asia who knows nothing of Christianity, purchases for himself ten virgins and marries them all at the same time, according to the customs and laws of his country. Each of his wives raises up unto him four children. After which a missionary from Christendom happens along and preaches to him and his numerous family, Christianity: he, and his ten wives, and forty children, all believe and wish to be baptized into the Christian Church. He is told by the missionary that he must divorce all his wives but one, without which he cannot be received. But neither the missionary nor the man himself know of any rule to decide which one of the ten is to be retained? They were all married to him at the same time; all have been true to him; and each have borne to him an equal number of children. But at length, without any rule, the decision is made; nine-tenths of his dear family are put away; not however, without a heart-rending sacrifice of feelings on the part of himself and his beloved family. He and his one wife are now admitted into the church and considered good Christians. But two-thirds of his family who are thus torn from his embrace and cast out, begin to doubt very seriously whether Christianity is as good as the religion of their own nation. They begin to think that a religion that will thus break up families cannot be good; they renounce it at once, and turn to their idolatry. As for the other third of the sorrowful out cast wives, perhaps they may even yet have a feint lingering hope that Christianity is a true system of religion; but having no husband and protector, they finally meet with an opportunity of marrying idolatrous husbands: and after a while, having no Christian husbands to guide them, they entirely lose what little faith they had, and embrace again the religion of their husbands and fathers, and the poor children follow the examples of their mothers. Thus the nine wives and thirty-six children who believed in Christianity and would have entered the church with their husband and father, had they not been put away, are forced into circumstances, calculated to destroy and entirely irradicate from their minds all faith in the Christian religion. Does Christianity require missionaries to pursue such a course among polygamist nations? Does it require them to tear asunder family ties; to break up and scatter in some instances nine-tenths of those who are nearer and more precious to each other than life? Does it require them to pursue a course calculated in its very nature, to make them loathe and detest Christianity, as more cruel in their estimation than the grave? By what law of Christianity do they teach such to divorce any one of their wives, except for the cause of adultery? O Christendom, where is thy consistency! it is gone! it is fled! and absurdity and every species of wickedness have taken the place thereof! Thou corruptest the nations with thy whoredoms, and yet thou wouldst fein persuade them that thou art righteous;

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has long maintained it’s position that the family is ordained of God and that “the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” The church has also taught the importance of families in several other places (here and here, for example).

We recognize an ever-present need to strengthen families. Families are meant to be together. Forced separation of working parents from their children weakens families and damages society.

To learn more about how families in Utah have been broken apart in the past, read Domestic “Spying” and the Mormon Motto.

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