Comments about ‘LDS Church posts article about the history of plural marriage in early Utah on its website’

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Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 7:15 p.m. MST

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Cinci Man

What a fantastic article. A very few of my ancestors practiced polygamy, but for those who did, it benefited them immensely in the early years of the church. I'm glad that I am not asked to live that way, but am humbled that my ancestors who did, overcame trials and pulled together as a family to make it a blessing for everyone in the family of those days. Transitioning out of polygamy had to be heart wrenching and even more challenging than living it in the first place. But today, I believe marriage between one man and one woman is good for our day. I love marriage. I love family. I love the temple. I love companionship and partnership as we build our eternal lives together; working at it each and every day. Thank you dear leaders of the Church for your excellent work.

Here, UT

Must read: "A Mormon Mother" by Annie Clark Tanner.

This details just how polygamy affected women in early Mormonism. It's not "anti-Mormon" and she remained faithful to the LDS Church until she died; but she clearly shows how hard polygamy was for the average Mormon woman stuck in the practice.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

"....For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants."

In contrast to the Mormon women who defended the practice are those who endured it in sad silence. For a first wife in a plural marriage, it must have been abject humiliation to wonder if her husband no longer found her attractive. How difficult it must have been not to not brood over it.

Those women deserve to be heard from too. In the apologist rewriting of history, the dark side of plural marriage too easily gets swept under the rug.

Texan from Utah
Flower Mound, TX

It is a great article. I was, however, very pleased with the way the LDS Church put down spurious doctrines that had arisen with regard to race in their excellent article on Race and the Priesthood. I would like to see them do the same here. Even though the article clearly states that, "The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s standard", there are still many in the LDS Church who believe this standard only applies to mortality and not to eternity. Many priesthood holders in the LDS Church still believe that plural marriage is God's standard for the highest degree of celestial glory.


There are a number of theological issues that have always been perplexing to me. Polygamy, same sex attraction and women and the priesthood to name a few, remain beyond my understanding. I look forward to eventually making sense of each of these issues though I suspect complete understanding will not occur in this life time. Faith in God is requisite to personal peace. Our finite experience seems to preclude an adequate perspective to fully comprehend God's purposes. I am willing to set such issues aside for the time being and focus on the basic tenants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Efforts to acquire more Christ-like kindness, compassion and love should keep me very busy

1.96 Standard Deviations

Texan from Utah-

"[...] Many priesthood holders in the LDS Church still believe that plural marriage is God's standard for the highest degree of celestial glory."

Strange. I don't know why church members would speculate on such a thing. I don't think the church needs to address this formally since it is already spelled out in the scriptures.

D&C 131:1-2 makes no reference to plural marriage for the highest degree in the celestial kingdom. It says:

"In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];"

Eternal marriage is required enough for the highest degree. Married to one person is good enough. Church members don't need to speculate on the eternities -- a simple reading of the scripture will answer this question.

layton, UT

RE: Craig Clark, Wilford Woodruff received the revelation to discontinue the practice and return to the standard of monogamy.
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.

J S had 34 wives from 14-56 years old, 10 were still married to other men, i.e. Orson and Marinda Hyde(John C.)Bennett was the most intimate friend of Joseph for a time. He boarded with the prophet. He told me once that Joseph had been talking with him about his troubles with Emma, his wife. ‘He asked me,’ said Bennett, smilingly, ‘what he should do to get out of the trouble ?’ I said, ‘This is very simple. Get a Revelation that polygamy is right, and all your troubles will be at an end.’” (Dr. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits: Joseph Smith the Prophet — His Family and His Friends, 61-62)

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO


John Bennett is not a reliable source of information on Joseph Smith. Once close to Joseph, he became his most bitter enemy. Many of the conversations Bennett later describes having had with Joseph are not credible in my view.

As for Wilford Woodruff, he never claimed to have received a revelation to discontinue the practice of plural marriage. He was writing in regard to then current legal realities. The Manifesto, which advises Church members to not enter marriages prohibited by the law, signaled a decisive change in Church policy but not in Church doctrine.

Alameda, CA

I'm grateful for the vast true teachings released by the LDS church thru Deseret News. This helps me to explain o questions others have and boosts my testimony of our beloved leaders who I pray for daily. I am not fazed by the negative comments and give low credibility to those who would try to discredit any true teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Keep up the superior news reporting.

Ft Thomas, KY

This article makes me feel sick and sad inside. Deep in my heart I can feel that polygamy is wrong and yet I am a member of a church that feels otherwise. What am I to do? I feel stuck.

Ft Thomas, KY

I don't think these are 100% official church doctrine. If they were they wouldn't come out in a gospel topics article on the church web site, rather, The First Presidency would issue them in a signed statement on official church letterhead.
So in my opinion they are helpful for some, but not official church doctrine or policy.

Salt Lake City, UT

It's good to make this clarification, I don't know how many times I've heard or read false ideas like "it was instituted because there were more women than men back then".

"I don't think these are 100% official church doctrine. "

I find that most of what is said here and in the one about blacks receiving (or not receiving) the Priesthood actually has been said by church officials in more... official contexts, it's just that people lose track of them and fall back on false explanations for why these things were in place. For the most part this is more like a reminder rather than something new.


The article could be a little more clear about plural marriage families after the Manifesto. Although, the Church abandoned the practice of plural marriage, it certainly did not go around breaking up existing families. For this reason, some families moved to Mexico and Canada, not to continue the practice but to preserve their current families.

sharrona - The Apostle Heber J. Grant President was married in 1884, six years before the manifesto. He never married again. He was charged with unlawful cohabitation and fined $100 not for performing a marriage but for the birth of his daughter in 1899. His wife made her choice, she could divorce her husband due to the change, stay married and never have children, or go into hiding and have a child with her husband.
President F. Smith is more interesting, he married in 1899, only one year before the manifesto. He never married again, but he did continue to have nine children. For this reason he was charged $300 the maximum allowed.

Christopher B
Ogden, UT

How young were some of Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's wives do we know? I have heard some were as young as 13-14 is this right?

And if so, why would God tell a prophet to marry a 14 year old?

And NO, claiming "that's how they did things back then" doesn't impact anything. God knows that a man marrying a 14 year girl is wrong, so please don't suggest that God was tied to the societal norms back then.

San Diego, CA

"Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all." ... much the same as Mormon women today are free to wear whatever clothing they like to church on Sunday, including pants.

Los Angeles, CA

Obviously the Church believes that by disassembling the discussion of polygamy (away from Joseph Smith and its origins) it can make the practice seem more palatable. However the attempt is unwise because it is impossible to do and it appears cowardly and deceptive.

For example, the discussion on the website admits that women were married at young ages in Utah (age 16 or 17 or, infrequently, younger), stating that it is "was typical of women living in frontier areas at the time". However, Church leaders were marrying young girls, as young as 14, long before they arrived in Utah. For those of you who don't know, the average marrying age at the time for women in America was approximately 21.

Danny Chipman
Lehi, UT

Christopher B,

Why would God impregnate a 14-year-old virgin who was espoused to another man? Didn't He know that was wrong?

If I'm not mistaken, some states (back east, I think) still have the legal marrying age at 14, if the parents consent. If God's say-so isn't good enough, I guess you could believe the government.


Now let me get this straight: if my wife dies and I marry another one in the temple, am I, in the eyes of the Church, married to both of them or not?

If I die, can my wife marry another man in the temple without first divorcing me?

If I can marry multiple women (as long as all but one are dead) but my wife cannot marry multiple men (whether dead or alive) do our beliefs regarding plural marriage really differ today very much from 150 years ago?

1.96 Standard Deviations


Even if the mean (average) marriage age was 21 back then, that doesn't mean anything. Averages can be deceptive. You need the variance/standard deviation to get a better picture of the age distribution. Not everyone who married back then was at "average" age.

For example, if marriage age at that time was normally distributed, 95% of the of marriage ages would be within +/- 1.96 standard deviations of the mean of 21 years (assuming this mean is true). So, if the standard deviation of marriage age at that time was 4 (making up a number here), 95% of the marriages occurred approximately between ages 13-29. Therefore, marrying at age 14 would not necessarily be considered uncommon.

In short, give me the real standard deviation of the marriage age of that time period and then we can have real discussion about the "average" and what it may imply. Reflecting upon the 19th century with a 21st century mindset isn't always the wisest thing to do. Neither is giving a half-hearted statistical effort to support a case.

Far East USA, SC

From the outside looking in, many of the "revelation" biggies are very easy to come to a rational logical conclusion.

Polygamy is most likely explained by the concept of human weakness.
The end of Polygamy is fairly predictable based on pressure from various angles.
Black and the Priesthood was also predictable as outside pressure increased.

Guidance from above or not, with the exception of the start of Polygamy, any wise leader would have done these things for the survival of the LDS church.

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