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A practice that ended more than 120 years ago still misunderstood

Published: Saturday, Aug. 6 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

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salt lake, utah

That explanation did not make any sense whatsoever and is not accurate.

The bottom line is that the LDS church does believe in polygamy, although not currently in this life.

Also, it is quite accurate to say that a splinter group(B) is related if it formed entirely out of another group(A) that retained most of the of the original beliefs of group A.

Harwich, MA

If polygamy were legalized in the United States the Church would be the first to jump on the bandwagon. It's Church Doctrine. It's part of the new and everlasting covenant and an integral part of founding of the Church. In reality it's the defining Doctrine that binds the entire thread of Mormon existence into a complete package.

Buena Vista, VA

I agree with GiantSquid in that this explanation is lacking somewhat. Here's why: Even today, if a man marries a woman for eternity, and she dies, he can marry another woman for eternity. In the next life, he presumably will have two wives. This is not a rare occurrence either. Perhaps polygamy is the exception in this lifetime, but I couldn't say the same for the next life.

Sugar City, ID

I do not see how you can read Jacob 2 and have a different view from Hudson's. During the time of my mission almost all of the missionaries were descendants of polygamous marriages. To me that was the purpose of the exception. Also apparent to me is that in the next life, procreation will not be driven by hormones but by participating in God's work and glory.

Salt Lake City, UT

"No such punishments are noted for those who practice monogamy."

Brigham Young and others have said things about monogamy the way homosexuality is talked about today. Even that it (monogamy) was what destroyed Rome. It sure wasn't made very clear in the 1800s that there's nothing wrong with monogamy.

Salt Lake City, UT

"During the time of my mission almost all of the missionaries were descendants of polygamous marriages. To me that was the purpose of the exception. "

If you look at the number of Brigham Young's wives versus his children you get a ratio so small it puts his wives on par with the lowest birth rate nations at present. Polygamy did not increase child-bearing since 3 wives would be able to raise more children with 3 men then with just one.

Bountiful Boy

These perspectives make sense only if we choose to totally ignore the thousands of doctrinal statements earlier LDS leaders preached about the essential centrality and eternal nature of polygamy.

Besides that, this simplistic perspective leaves out the stories of the hundreds of polygamous wives who became cast off wives when the practice was called to a halt. I suspect their stories - if told - would give us pause when we so glibly explain that the practice of polygamy was "ended" in 1890.

Mint Julip

The problem the church has with polygamy is that God condones it in their scripture for raising up righteous seed. However, DNA results so far have not been able to link descendants to Joseph Smith. Also, many members don't like the idea of him having relations with Helen Mar Kimball or his other young brides. Then you throw in the fact that many of his wives were already married to righteous men capable of bearing children. Also, census records that show that polygamous relationships produced fewer offspring than monogamous.

This leaves the church scrambling for a new defense and so far, I have seen nothing that comes close to making sense. This article is a perfect example of that!

Provo, UT

This comment complies:

I don't know of anyone who would disagree with the statement: If God tells you to marry multiple spouses, then you must do it.

The problem is who can verify that God told them to do something?

How do you know that God told Joseph Smith to "marry" Fanny Alger, and to keep that relationship secret from Emma, and to engage in that relationship about 10 years prior to any official revelation was published about God's commandment for polygamy?

How can you say that God really told Joseph to engage in polygamy, but God did NOT tell Warren Jeffs? Or Brian David Mitchell?

Everybody agrees we should obey God's commandments. The trouble is, God seems to always be a no show when we are looking for him to publicly verify that he gave this or that commandment.

It seems we are always given God's word by the very people who stand to benefit from the commandments being given!

layton, UT

Hudson said,The practice ended in 1890 after LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation.

Polygamy continued despite the promise to abandon it. In 1899, then Apostle Heber J. Grant President would plead guilty to unlawful cohabitation and be fined $100. In 1906, sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith "pleaded guilty before Judge M. L. Rictchie in the District Court Friday to the charge of cohabitating with four women in addition to his lawful wife." He was fined $300, the maximum allowed by law. (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/24/1906).

"This doctrine of eternal union of husband and wife, and of plural marriage, is one of the most important doctrines ever revealed to man in any age of the world. Without it man would come to a full stop; without it we never could be exalted to associate with and become god..." JOD 21:9). 1879, Joseph F. Smith

Somewhere in Time, UT

Polygamous wives were NOT cast off unless they chose to be which some did. In fact, no one stopped practicing polygamy after the manifesto. What stopped was new marriages being entered into. There were those who didn't believe the Church that polygamy had ended. They were shocked when they got excommunicated by entering into new polygamous marriages.

I think Hudson's analysis is excellent. It is clear in Jacob 2 that polygamy is an abomination that is forbidden by God unless it is "commanded." It is clear that the Church needed to grow and be populated during the 19th century. When the purpose for polygamy had been fulfilled, it was abolished and rightly so. It was a terrible burden and sacrifice which caused endless heartache to many.

There are those who wish to cling to the idea that polygamy is some eternal principle that is required for exaltation. It is NOT. That has been made abundantly clear by Brigham Young as well as numerous other General Authorities.

Unfortunately, we are still suffing the repercussions from 19th century polygamy. I'm really sick of it.

Colorado Springs, CO

@Cats: Are you sticking with that explanation of why polygamy ended within the church? If you say so!!

Chino Valley, AZ

Its only a matter of time; if gay-marriage are now becoming the "law of the land" its only time that polygamy will be legalized again and become the "law of the land".
It seems the Lord approved this kind of union and then stepped out of the picture, leaving up to us to deal with the issue.
Polygamy seems to have caused a decay in the one to one spiritual marriage and created a portal for human interpretation.
Wives desiring to become sister wives, mothers offering up young daughters to older men and men gathering up females for own use, all in name of their religion.
It is up to the women to put an end to this kind of practice and find true love in the Lord.
The Mormon Church will always be blamed for polygamy because if the narrow mindedness of people, and there are plenty of them.


Polygamy ended because Utah wanted to join the United States and the US forbade the practice.

Give Me A Break
Pullman, WA

Interesting perspectives.

I do not see how we can understand life or judge behaviors as they existed 150 years ago. But one thing we can understand for certain: a great gulf separates plural marriage as practiced by 3-6% of the LDS faithful during the 1800's, and polygamy as practiced by 100% of the FLDS today. Among the many differences are these:

1) There were no "lost boys" in the LDS Church. No one was kicked out because they were male. Because plural marriage was not practiced universally in the Church and men were scarce, there was no shortage of women needing a home.

2) The practice of plural marriage was not instituted "to please" the husband. In the vast majority of cases, the husbands did not ask for additional wives, and in many cases, they did not choose.

3) Many 1800's LDS plural marriages were solely for the responsibility of support, rather than for propagation.

Finally, more women will see heaven than men. If the LDS are so off-base - then don't look for them in heaven. If they are spot-on however and their marriages are eternal, be thankful righteous women will have a home.

Dallas, TX

"In the Lord's eyes monogamy is not a sacrifice, but a blessing. But polygamy is a sacrifice. When God does command polygamy, he understands it is a sacrifice of the joy that would be there for his children if they could live the higher law "

Boy, where to begin. Joseph Smith said that whatever the Lord commands is right. Thus to the person receiving the command, there is no higher law or lower law or regular law, there is only one law: what God just commanded.

And Joseph Smith made it clear that God's law can not be circumscribed or contained within a boundary, so it cannot be discussed in the form of a rule and an exception, as Hudson misguidedly does. One day God says build up, and another day He says destroy.

So that the current command is the only issue, and it can change tomorrow. God's law is fluid - not static, but fluid. If a person adheres to the current command, they will receive supreme joy, not some lesser form of joy - supreme joy.

And if we as a people ever forget this, we'll be as dead as the protestants or evangelicals.

Provo, UT

To Give Me A Break,

According to Richard L. Bushman (and many other scholars), what you wrote about polygamy is completely false.

Somewhere in Time, UT

Dear Xcribe: There were also serious political reasons why it ended. That is a fact. The Church had done everything possible to live by this commandment at great sacrifice. When it became untenable, the President of the Church pleaded with the Lord for guidance and was told that this burden was now lifted.

I admit it requires faith to accept that. But, polygamy had fulfilled its purpose and was now abandoned for a higher law that would allow the Church to go forward and not be destroyed by the U.S. Government. God is also a smart politician. He accomplishes his work while not violating the free agency of mankind. Under the political climate of the time, the Church could not survive and go forward. It was abolished and the Church was able to grow and prosper. This was a relief to the vast majority of the membership. This was not something that anyone enjoyed. Most members hated it. It was a terrible sacrifice and burden.

no fit in SG
St.George, Utah

Forty years ago, when I moved to Provo so my husband could attend BYU, the LDS talk of polygamy made me so terribly uncomfortable! I won't even try to talk about the Temple stuff, as you may not put my comment in, anyway.
So much about the LDS Church is questionable. Unfortunately, my emotions took over after a horrendous death of a loved one and I was baptized into the LDS Church. I failed to do my research when, after asking missionaries question after question about the LDS Church and it's history, I was told "that is something we do not know the answer to and we go by our faith". No Internet back then like there is now for me to do the quick and thorough research.
Basically, I felt tricked, which was my own fault.
I have found after forty years, that there are still no answers to my questions, and some of "the answers" the LDS did have, changed to fit better into doing their recruitment. My opinion.of course.

Brian Mackert

Seriously? This from a Prof @ BYU & a memeber of FAIR? Should we expect anything less from that combo? Clearly she didn't bother to read the first few verses of D&D 132 before giving such a scholarly review of the prophecy!

"Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for [b]all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same[/b].

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and [b]if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory[/b]." (D&C 132:3-4)

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