|By: Sandra Tanner; ©2012|
|Plural marriage was first introduced into Mormonism by Joseph Smith in the 1830's.It is a common misconception to think of the practice of polygamy as starting with Brigham Young and the Mormon's trip west. Even though Joseph Smith had already married several women, he did not dictate his famous revelation on eternal marriage and polygamy until 1843.|
Plural marriage was first introduced into Mormonism by Joseph Smith in the 1830's (see Topical Index: Jospeh Smith: Polygamy). It is a common misconception to think of the practice of polygamy as starting with Brigham Young and the Mormon's trip west. Even though Joseph Smith had already married several women, he did not dictate his famous revelation on eternal marriage and polygamy until 1843 (Doctrine and Covenants, section 132). By the time he died he had been sealed to at least 33 women.
For the next fifty years the practice of plural marriage was considered essential to attain godhood. Brigham Young, second president of the LDS Church, declared "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 269, August 19, 1866)
In a sermon reported in the LDS Church's Deseret News, August 6, 1862, Brigham Young stated:
With mounting pressure from the government for the Mormons to obey the laws of the land, the LDS Church abandoned the practice in 1890, although several leaders secretly took additional wives after that date (#101 Messenger, 1890 Manifesto).
Although the current Mormon leaders are very quiet about the matter of polygamy, it is still very much a part of their theology. Joseph Smith's revelation on plural marriage, Doctrine & Covenants, section 132, is still printed in the LDS scriptures. This leads to a certain amount of confusion as to when something is supposed to be considered doctrine. When Larry King interviewed President Hinckley in 1998 about current polygamy among the various splinter groups he responded:
There are two problems with Hinckley 's answer. First, he failed to explain why section 132 is still contained in their scriptures if it does not represent doctrine. And second, his statement that they don't practice polygamy today because it is illegal contradicts the fact that it was illegal to practice plural marriage when Joseph Smith introduced the teaching, and was the reason why Utah was denied statehood until 1896 (see #97 Messenger, Plural Marriage Illegal).
While church leaders no longer allow the practice of polygamy here on Earth, they do allow a living man to be sealed to another woman after the death of his wife, or after divorce. This leads to the obvious situation of establishing multiple sealings on Earth that, according to Mormonism, will necessitate polygamy in heaven. Writing in 1897 LDS Apostle Charles W. Penrose stated:
This doctrine was reaffirmed in October of 2007 at the funeral for the second wife of President Howard W. Hunter, the fourteenth President of the LDS Church. The Deseret News reported:
Another example of plural sealings is Apostle Russell M. Nelson 's marriage in 2006 to a BYU professor. The BYU NewsNet for April 7, 2006 announced the temple marriage of Apostle Nelson, age 81, to Wendy Watson (see [link]). His first wife died in February of 2005 and this was the first marriage for his new wife. This would mean, according to LDS beliefs, that Nelson has two wives sealed to him for eternity.
Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president of the LDS Church, remarried twice after the death of his first wife, and in his book, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, p. 67, he remarked: "...my wives will be mine in eternity."
Harold B. Lee, the eleventh president of the church, also remarried after his wife 's death and was sealed to another woman and was looking forward to a polygamous relationship in heaven. He, in fact, wrote a poem in which he reflected that his second wife, Joan, would join his first wife, Fern, as his eternal wives:
After being widowed, Apostle Dallen Oaks remarried in the temple and believes he will be married eternally to both women. In 2002 he commented on his second sealing:
I know that when my grandfather remarried after the death of my grandmother, the family certainly believed that the new wife, sealed to him in the temple, would be an equal wife with my grandmother in heaven. The official LDS Church Handbook of Instruction says:
The church leaders realize the quagmire their doctrine of "eternal families" becomes with blended families, but don't have any good answers. In an Ensign article entitled Uniting Blended Families, LDS leader Robert E. Wells gave this advice:
Temple sealings are all-important to the LDS people and designate who will be joined to whom in the hereafter. These blended families raise a number of problems for the LDS concept of the eternal union of the family unit. In the case of children born to a mother in a second marriage, but where the mother was sealed to the first husband, would the children be considered part of the first temple marriage? Wouldn't this leave the second husband, the actual father, out of the picture? Assuming the second husband has gone through the temple, but not sealed to this wife, would the children stay with the second husband? Would they then be deprived of their mother, who is sealed to the first husband? The LDS Church has no answer.
It should be noted that the first seven presidents of the LDS Church practiced plural marriage. For example, my great-great grandfather Brigham Young was married to over 50 women and fathered at least 56 children. His successor was Apostle John Taylor, who had 14 wives and 36 children.According to LDS doctrine, these men will have all of their faithful wives and children with them in the resurrection, which would mean they will be living polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom.
Thus we see that the doctrine and practice of plural marriage has not been abandoned, but only delayed until the afterlife. It seems the LDS Church simply wants to keep it out of the public eye for better public relations and fear of being identified with polygamist splinter groups.
When God created humans He instituted His plan for marriage: one man should have one wife. In Genesis 2:18 we read: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Verse 22 relates the creation of Eve, again showing that there was to be just one woman for each man. Verse 24 states: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh."
The first mention of polygamy in the Bible is Genesis 4:19: "And Lamech [a descendant of Cain] took unto him two wives..."
If there was ever a justification for polygamy it would seem to have been needed when Adam and Eve were to populate the earth. Yet we see the pattern of just one woman and one man.
The same pattern is carried out by Noah at the time of the Ark (Genesis 7:7). Noah took his one wife into the ark. Again, if polygamy were ordained of God, why didn't He tell Noah to take additional wives to repopulate the earth faster?
God instructed Moses that the kings of Israel were to have only one wife: "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away." (Deut. 17:17)
This is exactly what happened with Solomon. We read in I Kings 11:4:
David's heart was right with God because he did not turn to other gods, not because he practiced polygamy.
LDS will sometimes point to 2 Samuel 12:8 to prove that David's wives were approved by God. But that verse indicates that he inherited Saul's wives, not that David actually married them by God's appointment. It was the custom of the time for the succeeding ruler to receive all of the prior ruler's property and women. This is not a proof that God intends people to practice polygamy. It is contrary to the pattern of marriage established with Adam and Eve and His instructions in Deuteronomy.
Just as divorce was permitted, so too was polygamy. But it does not represent God's will. In Matt. 19:3-9 the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce and Jesus answered:
The Pharisees then asked him why Moses allowed for divorce. Jesus answered:
In the New Testament the practice of polygamy would have kept a man from leadership in the church. Paul instructed Timothy: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife..." (I Tim. 3:2)
Paul also wrote to Titus: "...ordain elders in every city...if any be blameless, the husband of one wife..." (Titus 1:6)
Even the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy. In Jacob 2:24 we read: "Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord."
Mormons will sometimes appeal to Jacob 2:30, saying God could make exceptions to verse 24 and command polygamy. It says: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things [instruction in Jacob 2:24]."
This verse seems to indicate that the reason God would order the practice of plural wives would be to speed up reproduction ("raise up seed"). Since Joseph Smith's polygamy did not achieve this (as there are only a couple of children suspected to be from Smith's plural wives) it would appear that Jacob 2:30 would not apply.
Also, Smith seems to have begun practicing polygamy even before his revelation, Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. Verse 52 instructs Smith's wife, Emma, to "receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God."
Mormons will sometimes argue that the date on the revelation (July 12, 1843) is only the date when the revelation was committed to paper, not when it was actually given. But verse 52 demonstrates that Smith had already taken plural wives before the revelation was given, no matter what the date. The second half of verse 52 seems to suggest that Smith had also taken some women as wives who were not virtuous.
As Christians we turn to Jesus for our view of heaven. He never taught anything about the necessity of marriage either in this life or the life to come. Also, the idea of marrying in a temple was foreign to both Jews and Christians during New Testament times. In Luke 20:34-36 we read:
Sandra Tanner is the great-great granddaughter of Brigham Young, second president of the LDS Church. As a teenager, she was challenged on the truth claims on Mormonism, which eventually led Sandra and her husband on a quest for truth. This led her to leave the LDS Church and embrace evangelical Christianity. Together, Jerald and Sandra started and led a ministry to help other Mormons investigate their faith and embrace the Bible’s teachings. Sandra has published numerous books and appeared on many media programs on this topic. Find out more at Utah Lighthouse Ministry