Polygamy: Demise

This is the third and final post on B. Carmon Hardy’s Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice and Demise (Arthur H. Clark Co., 2007). The simple story of the end of LDS polygamy is that it ended in 1890 with the Manifesto. The not-so-simple story involves a Second Manifesto in 1904, which raises the obvious question, “If the First Manifesto ended polygamy, why the need for a Second Manifesto?” The First Manifesto did not end the officially sanctioned LDS practice of polygamy. In fact, it took twenty years to fully execute that momentous institutional change of course.

While most are familiar with the increasingly aggressive federal legislation during the 1880s that eventually forced LDS President Wilford Woodruff to act, the Utah Commission also played an active role in attempting to force change on the Church. The 1890 report of the Commission was sent to Washington on August 22, 1890, alarming LDS leaders. Hardy comments, “Contrary to what churchmen had told the public, the report alleged that more than forty polygamous sealings had occurred in the previous year. To bring an end to such relationships, the commissioners urged that Congress impose additional punishments, including disenfranchisement. A measure of this kind had already been enacted in Idaho and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court” (p. 342). I will quote just a short paragraph from the report.

A large proportion of the twelve apostles and the high dignitaries of the church are polygamists, and all are reputed to be open believers in the doctrine. Indeed, it is believed that no one can be promoted to office in the church unless he professes a belief in it as a fundamental doctrine ….” (p. 343; ellipsis in original)

That last line makes me wonder whether one can be promoted to high office in the Church of 2015 without supporting polygamy as a fundamental (if non-practiced) doctrine. Maybe not that much has changed.

The Manifesto of 1890

So it came to pass that President Woodruff acted. As he recorded in his journal, “I arived at a point in the History of my life as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whare I am under the necessity of acting for the Temporal Salvation of the Church” (p. 344, unredacted). Hardy notes, “the Manifesto appears to be overwhelmingly the work of the church president himself” (p. 344). In the document that became known as the Manifesto, sent to Washington via a press release, Woodruff recognized federal law prohibiting plural marriage and states (the text here is taken from Woodruff’s journal), “I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws and to use my influence with members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise …. And I now publicly declair that my advice to the Latter Day Saints is to refrain from Contracting any Marriage forbidden by the Law of the land” (p. 347, unredacted).

These statements appear to state the intention of Woodruff and, presumably, other LDS leaders to stop performing plural marriages and to prohibit other Latter-day Saints from doing so, at least with the approval of the Church. The course of post-Manifesto LDS polygamy shows otherwise. Hardy thinks the Manifesto “gave the impression of being little more than private opinion publicly expressed” (p. 348). Indeed, public reaction and comment to the Manifesto was all over the map, with official commentary printed in the Deseret News denying it was a revelation and local anti-Mormons suggesting the Manifesto was intended to fool the rest of the nation.

This mixed reaction to the Manifesto prompted a couple of responses. First, in subsequent court proceedings in Utah, Pres. Woodruff provided clairfying remarks, perhaps even going farther in his clarifications than intended. As one contemporary Mormon living in Southern Utah recorded in his journal about Woodruff’s statements in that proceeding: “Among other replies Pres Woodruff declared that the doctrine of Plural Marriage was not taught nor entered into and it was his intention to obey the Laws of the US regarding Polygamy and he counseled the saints to do so, and if any man entered into Polygamy it would be contrary to his views expressed in the Manifesto and would be liable to be excommunicated from the Church. This announcement by him as Pres. of the Church has caused an uneasy feeling among the People …” (p. 354).

Further, to bolster the statements he made in the Manifesto, Woodruff in 1891 publicly declared that it was a revelation. To a stake conference in Logan, he declared, “The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. … I should have let all the temples go out of of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do, and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write” (p. 356).

The Aftermath

In the wake of the Manifesto came a general amnesty for Mormon polygamists in 1893 and, in 1896, Utah statehood. The following decade brought the election of LDS apostle Reed Smoot to the US Senate, the embarrassing Senate hearings about whether he could take his seat, the Second Manifesto in 1904, and later the resignations of apostles Taylor and Cowley from the Quorum of the Twelve. The last actions, coupled with disciplinary actions taken from that point forward against members who pursued new polygamous unions, made it clear the Church had definitively turned away from the practice. Given the extent to which the Church and its leadership were committed to the practice before 1890, it is not surprising it took twenty years to effect the change in direction.

Any Latter-day Saint reading this post should also read the essay now available at LDS.org, “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage.” Of the three detailed polygamy essays now posted at LDS.org (paralleling the three posts in this series), this last essay does the best job of presenting contemporaneous LDS views and covering the historical details without engaging in questionable justifications and apologetic arguments. Ironically, and despite how it was presented to outsiders, the essay essentially admits that the Manifesto of 1890 was neither intended nor implemented to end the officially sanctioned LDS practice of polygamy. As the essay acknowledges, “The Manifesto [of 1890] marked the beginning of the return to monogamy, which is the standard of the Church today.” The real change came in 1904, when LDS leaders finally committed to terminating the practice (or at least ceasing to perform new plural marriages) within the Church: “The Second Manifesto was a watershed event.”

Conclusion

LDS polygamy went from being a secret practice by a small group of insiders close to Joseph, to a publicly acknowledged widespread practice among the general membership of the Church, then back to a nonpublic unacknowledged practice, and finally to an underground practice that was eventually pushed entirely out of the mainstream LDS Church. Taking the long view, polygamy is still with us: while the Church studiously avoids the practice (by quickly excommunicating any Latter-day Saint involved with polygamy), the Church still affirms the doctrine and retains in its scriptures the revelation of July 1843. The recent polygamy essays at LDS.org have, if nothing else, legitimized the substantive public discussion within the Church of the doctrine and practice of LDS polygamy. We are obviously at the beginning, not the end, of that discussion.

Coming up next week: a review of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding (Greg Kofford Books, 2015) by Brian and Laura Hales.

47 comments for “Polygamy: Demise

  1. Anon
    1
    April 16, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Current temple sealing policies allow for a living man to be sealed to more than one living woman (divorced men need a clearance for an additional sealing to a new wife, but divorced or widowed women must have any previous sealing canceled). How is that not considered to be polygamy?

  2. Cameron N.
    2
    April 16, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t think many would disagree with you Anon, but I could be misinformed?

  3. Dave
    3
    April 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Anon, typically “polygamy” means concurrent rather than successive marriages. To call both by the same term seems like a misuse of the term calculated to confuse the discussion. Almost all churches recognize successive marriage; what complicates the LDS case is our view of eternal marriage, which raises the question of polygamy in the hereafter. But survey data indicates many believing Christians view their marriage as continuing (in some fashion) in the next life; given the frequency of remarriage in the modern world, that raises the same polygamy question for many of them as for the LDS case, except it does so indirectly. So Anon, your question really treats the problem of successive marriage more than the doctrine or practice of polygamy. Perhaps you are a traditional Catholic who opposes remarriage?

  4. Anon
    4
    April 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Dave,

    I am an active LDS member who is confused about why a widowed woman must have her previous sealing canceled if she wishes to remarry, while a widower doesn’t face that choice. He can have both wives sealed to him (examples: Elders Oaks and Nelson). They are not required to have their previous sealings canceled, as they would if they were women. This also relates to questions about the language of temple sealings (women give themselves to husbands, husbands do not give themselves to wives) and other issues related to the temple.

    It is a sincere question. I find it very frustrating that those with authority to answer these questions do not address them, and leave members to speculate. If it’s done for a specific doctrinal reason, then why?

  5. Dave
    5
    April 16, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Anon, my understanding is that the treatment of men and women requesting a successive LDS sealing is more equitable than it used to be: men do at least need to obtain a temple clearance before receiving a second temple sealing; women need obtain a temple cancellation. I understand it is the same process, even the same form, for both men and women. And if special circumstances arise, one can request an exception. Anything in LDS practice is simply a guideline; senior leaders can *always* grant an exception to their own rules.

    I do understand that the messy details of sealings, clearances, and cancellations can create difficult situations and result in bad feelings. I do wish the Church would loosen up the system and at least be more willing to consider special circumstances and grant exceptions. For someone in that situation, keep asking for an exception and sooner or later you’ll probably get it.

    For helpful details, see this recent FAQ post at Mormon Mentality:

    http://www.mormonmentality.org/2013/06/18/faq-temple-cancellationclearance.htm

  6. Hunter
    6
    April 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Good write up. I always enjoy your take on things, Dave.

    Quick question: in the last paragraph, you say that the recent polygamy essays have, “if nothing else, legitimized the substantive public discussion within the Church of the doctrine and practice of LDS polygamy.” What substantive public discussion is this referring to? Just the standard private ongoing discussions around kitchen tables, or are you referring to something else?

  7. Dave
    7
    April 16, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Hunter. I think for a long time the general position of the Church on polygamy was, “We don’t want to talk about that.” The careful work of Correlation in removing almost any reference to the practice of plural marriage from LDS curriculum materials (even the manuals on Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) is consistent with that approach.

    Publishing the essays strikes out in a new direction. They provide a “safe” and credible documentary source for initiating a discussion, either in a lesson setting or with a local leader. Without the essays, what could a good Latter-day Saint refer to as a reference: Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith? Quinn’s paper on post-Manifesto polygamy? Compton’s book on the plural wives? Newell and Avery’s book on Emma Smith? Now we also have the Hales books, particularly the shorter treatment just published by Kofford Books. I think legitimizing the public discussion in this manner is a real step forward.

  8. Clark Goble
    8
    April 16, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    The church is in a bit of a difficult place. It can choose to do what it often does for work for the dead and just seal everybody and let the Lord work it out in the millennium. (What I’d favor were it up to me which thankfully it’s not) However if they do that, given past practice of polyandry it could be seen as giving doctrinal credit for polyandry as well as polygamy. As much as I’m sure this makes them uncomfortable I suspect opening the other kettle seems more distasteful. Throw in the odd phenomena that not everyone buys into “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and it does get a bit messy.

    Not to me mind you. If I die I’d want my wife to remarry. If she died I probably wouldn’t consider it. So I guess as a practical matter I’m much more comfortable with de facto polyandry than polygyny. Realistically though anyone who remarries is doing one of these. It’s hard to call it anything but even if some see it as only temporary. Exactly why it makes so many people uncomfortable escapes me since I suspect most people would want their spouse to remarry. Surely that relationship means something in the afterlife.

  9. DQ
    9
    April 16, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    “without engaging in … apologetic arguments”

    What kind of world do we live in where an institution is viewed disfavorably if it defends itself?

  10. Sheldon
    10
    April 16, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    As long as the Church practices sealings for eternity and allows second marriages it will face these issues. The gender asymmetry is an awkward issue. The only way to get around this remnant of polygamy is either to give up all temple sealings (which I certainly can’t imagine) or to forbid second marriages (which not even the Catholic Church does).

    As some one who is sealed to two wives as a result of the death of my first wife, I’ll deal with the issues in the next life. If an eternal family has any meaning, it would have to include all three of us.

  11. FarSide
    11
    April 16, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Dave, let’s be honest. The church didn’t have an epiphany a few years ago and say: “Gee, maybe this carefully correlated, sanitized, and homiletic version of our history that we have masticated and carefully spoon fed to the members is not the best way to go.”

    The reality is that the church lost control of its narrative because of the Internet, forcing it to be more forthright about its past and the peculiar evolution of its doctrines. Today, rather than castigating and intimidating scholars and historians such as Michael Quinn and Linda King Newell, who had the temerity to tell the truth, and warning members against listening to these “alternate voices,” the church now admits (albeit grudgingly) that these authors pretty much got it right.

  12. Fred
    12
    April 17, 2015 at 6:46 am

    I think it’s great that the church is more open about its stance on polygamy. Now it needs to take the next step and completely renounce it by taking out section 132 from the D&C and stopping the practice of sealing widowers, etc. to other wives. It was a bad practice here and will continue to be in the afterlife.

  13. Anonymous for this post
    13
    April 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I’ve attended a wedding where a man was sealed to a second woman several years after his first wife had passed away. It was difficult for the children. Nobody discussed polygamy, and everyone was very grown-up about it, “It will work itself out in the next life.” But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an emotional concern for many of the children. It was difficult.

    That being said, the new sealing was an emotional salve to both the husband and wife, and it was the most beautiful marriage ceremony I’ve ever attended. For those of you who have never attended the marriage of two mature parties with a life of experiences, you’ll want to do that before you die. It’s a glorious thing to see two individuals who have lived full lives give each other freely to the other.

  14. Josh Smith
    14
    April 17, 2015 at 10:22 am

    D&C 132 conflicts with the LDS faith’s young women values.

    The young women value “individual worth” states, “I am of infinite worth with my own divine mission, which I will strive to fulfill.”

    D&C 132 teaches that a woman’s “divine mission” is to be “given” to a man. That God commands men to marry multiple women without telling the original spouse. That God will not bother to tell the woman about it directly; she only finds out through the man and after the fact. Basically, D&C 132 teaches that God does not speak to women about matters of supreme importance to the woman. That’s not individual worth. That’s chattel.

    A couple weeks ago you posted a link to Laura Hales’s post “A Plea to Seminary Teachers and Parents.” The post rationalized and justified teaching D&C 132 to seminary students as divinely inspired content. The comment section of Hales’s post was filled with a bunch of adults, presumably seminary teachers, slapping themselves on the back and giving high fives for teaching the “meat.”

    Since your last posting I conducted a quick research poll. I asked 3000 households whether we should teach teenage girls that God gives women to men according to D&C 132. The result is that 98% of parents believe this is complete nonsense in 2015. In fact the only households in favor were located in Fallujah and Colorado City. I’ll let the economists unpack the data.

  15. Old Man
    15
    April 17, 2015 at 11:17 am

    FarSide (#11),

    Let’s be honest. Once again we hear the tiresome chant that scholars “knew” long ago. They did NOT know. L.K. Newell and M. Quinn revealed uncomfortable (for some) data. They gave their interpretations of that data. Some things they got wrong. They were not the final word, nor should they expect to be. Their interpretations needed to be fleshed out, alternatives explored and examined, etc. Younger scholars can and do make contributions to what we understand, and their interpretations often alter the visions presented by older historians. (For example, Hales convinced Quinn that “sealings for eternity” were practiced during the Nauvoo period.) History evolves and is subject to human judgment. I have read a great deal on Emma Smith and I personally think Newell’s book was a significant work, but it is starting to show its age.

    No person was capable of writing those LDS.org essays even twenty years ago. History is a journey of interpretation and argument. We should not normally expect the Church to respond to or participate in academics. Many historians have huge egos and would love baiting the Church into a discussion for PR purposes. That is not the work of the LDS Church.

    Fred (#12),
    Your “next step” doesn’t follow the first, and how do you know what it will be like in the afterlife? Do you want remarried men to renounce one of their wives for eternity while we are at it?

  16. Josh Smith
    16
    April 17, 2015 at 11:51 am

    #15:

    In order to genuinely participate in this conversation I think you should reveal your name and just a wee bit about yourself. If you’re a practicing polygamist, please disclose at least that. I think you owe at least that.

  17. Old Man
    17
    April 17, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Josh (#16):

    I owe you nothing. And if comments #14 and #15 are examples of genuine participation in a conversation with you, I’ll pass.

  18. FarSide
    18
    April 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Old Man, your argument falls flat when we remember that church previously went to considerable lengths to conceal inconvenient truths, such as the existence of multiple versions of the first vision, punished those who have had the courage to shine the spotlight on unflattering historical episodes, closed its archives to those with inquiring minds, and repeatedly admonished members to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” (e.g., stay away from Sunstone symposia). And there is no reason to believe that these practices would not have continued, but for the Internet.

    You are in denial if you believe this conduct has not damaged the church’s credibility. Sure, the new essays are a small, baby step in the right direction, but it is offensive to hear them described as a “safe haven” for those with questions. Such an attitude evinces an institutional desire to infantilize the members, treating them as too naive and gullible to figure things out without the guiding hand of their betters in Salt Lake.

    Yes, Quinn, Newell, and others were not always correct in the interpretation of past events, but only a fool would believe that the new essays are complete, objective, accurate, and unbiased assessments of the topics they cover.

  19. Dave
    19
    April 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. We do tolerate anonymous and pseudonymous commenters, as long as they abide by our comment guidelines.

    Josh, glad you follow the links.

    FarSide (#11), maybe the Internet was the epiphany. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

  20. FarSide
    20
    April 17, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Touche, Dave.

    Lest my sometimes strident tone be misconstrued, notwithstanding my disappointment with the manner in which the church has portrayed its history and the evolution of its doctrines, I do applaud the new essays and the church’s efforts to rethink the content of its instruction manuals.

    I sincerely believe that the leaders of the church are fundamentally good men—and women—who have been called to serve in their various capacities. They are far more righteous than I’ll ever be. If at times I am frustrated with some of the decisions they and their predecessors have made, it’s only because I care about the institution. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t waste my time expressing my opinions on these topics.

  21. Josh Smith
    21
    April 17, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    OM (#17): Fair enough. But, I won’t call you “old man.” I don’t call anyone that and it makes me feel bad when I write it. I’ll refer to you as “OM.”

    I’m genuinely interested in those who advocate D&C 132 as good moral teaching for youth, particularly young women. If you’re a practicing polygamist, then that would tell me that you think it’s a good thing to teach youth because, … well, because you’re actively “engaged,” if you will. You’re committed to raising up the next generation of polygamist thinking individuals.

    If you’re not a practicing polygamist, then there are other reasons why you find those ideas compelling. I’m curious why.

  22. Cameron N.
    22
    April 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Farside, I like your comment. I suspect if we did an empathy exercise of being in their shoes, it probably takes a lot more patience in their roles to not impose their personal will to accelerate things, due to the nature of quorum unanimity, revelation, as well as not changing too rapidly.

  23. Owen
    23
    April 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I think the compelling nature of many of the ideas in DC 132 (I won’t defend the whole thing as currently written–it needs some divinely inspired editing) has to do with how deeply we as humans feel our attachments to our spouses, families, and friends. I ache at the separation I experience from my friends who live far away, I can barely sleep when my wife is traveling, and I have no doubt I would feel the same about a new wife if my current wife were to die. And she would probably feel the same about a new husband. I would hope so. The situation of continuing to love a departed spouse and also loving deeply a new spouse are common human experiences. Mainline Christianity offers little comfort for these longings, and all the melodramatic horror over any hint of polygamy in the eternities seems to me quite odd given what all Christians believe about the effect the Atonement has in death on those who are accepted by Christ. Do we really imagine complex family relationships being difficult for perfectly charitable beings to navigate? Have you seen how complex many families are nowadays even in life?

  24. Josh Smith
    24
    April 17, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve been too general in my comments. Let me clarify. Teaching young women that they are daughters of God and have “individual worth” is a good idea. The following verses are inconsistent with that teaching:

    132:39 God “gave” wives and concubines to David. He acted badly, so David’s wives and concubines were “given” to another.

    132:44 Women can be “taken” and “given” so that a man can be “ruler over many.”

    132:51 I don’t even want to guess what that’s about.

    132:52 “And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, 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.” Absolutely not!

    132:54 “And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.” WTH?!

    132:55 More threats for Emma and more wives for Joseph.

    132:56 “And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me.” Like the time Emma married a couple dozen women without Joseph’s consent?

    132:61-62 More virgins given to men (10 virgins, wow!) .

    132:63 This is just for the boys, ladies, so don’t be getting any ideas.

    132:64 Holy crap! Go look that one up for yourself. (Spoiler alert: it involves destruction for women who don’t like sharing a husband.)

    132:65 Please let this almost be over.

    132:66 “let this suffice for the present.” Thank gawd!

    I personally reject these verses right here and now. The above verses are not worthy to pass on to future generations. There is no way I’m sending my daughters to a class where this material is taught as God’s revealed word.

  25. Dave
    25
    April 17, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Josh, certainly a close reading of D&C 132 raises some questions. A discussion along those lines, with a response by the Hales, can be found at the Joseph Smith’s Polygamy site maintained by the Hales:

    http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/response-to-the-van-allens/

  26. Josh Smith
    26
    April 17, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Dave, I skimmed the Hales’ arguments. I’m sure that type of apologetics is interesting material for some. I’m uninterested in a theological debate about the merits of polygamy in this life or the next. I’m more interested in religion as a means of teaching values.

    I reject the verses cited above because:

    1. Women should not be conceived of as chattel.
    2. Threatening someone with “destruction” if they don’t comply with a demand is “duress” or “coercion.” One shouldn’t coerce another adult to accept something. (Moreover, if I understand history right, Emma never really accepted polygamy and it looks like she avoided “destruction,” so …)
    3. Threatening someone with “destruction” is actually illegal. Several times in D&C 132 it states “will be destroyed” leaving it unclear who the destroyer is, but a prosecutor could probably put together a case that “the Lord’s servant” is a likely candidate to go about destroying people. I’d like to see someone prosecuted for saying what is said in D&C 132.
    4. Threatening one’s spouse with destruction is bad.
    5. Threatening someone with “destruction” in order to gain sexual favors is at least assault. (See D&C 132:64)

    The verses I cited above is basically a 19th century manual on “How to sexually exploit women by appealing to their faith in God and if that doesn’t work using threats of physical violence.” It’s disgusting. One doesn’t need any background knowledge or “nuance” to reject it outright.

    Put another way … if someone stood up in church and testified that he knew these verses to be from God, would you let your child go to his house? HELL NO! That man has “sexual predator” written all over him.

  27. jcobabe
    27
    April 17, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Testimony at the Bloggernacle has to be considered as a hostile witness in this and most related issues. Nothing is to be trusted. Revisionist history is the rule of the day, and generally goes unchallenged.

  28. fred
    28
    April 18, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Old man:

    I find it hard to believe that polygamy will be a good thing for anyone on the next life. I could be wrong, but it seems hard to conceive of an after-world where polygamy is a happy and joyous practice.

  29. Chris8
    29
    April 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I have observed many LDS marriages in which men treat their wives as servants because they believe that they will have multiple wives in the celestial kingdom. Depression among women in the LDS Church is exponentially higher than in women of other religions. The Church must face the fact that polygamy is an unacceptable lifestyle that demeans and demoralized women. Clearly, Jesus never condoned it and it was an aberrant lifestyle choice for too many men in early Church history.

    Because Utah courts have ruled that polygamy is no longer illegal, the Church needs to decide if they renounce this horrible practice by removing D&C 132 or find more women and young adults leaving the Church. I know many folks who have had their names removed from Church records after they have discovered Joseph Smith’s history of polygamy AND polyandry. The Church must honestly address these issues or missionary work will be stifled and Saints will suffer.

  30. Jan
    30
    April 18, 2015 at 1:30 am

    Has anyone researched what happened to the polygamous widows if men in the early days of the Church? My great-grandmother lived in a polygamous marriage and was left destitute with her young children when her elderly husband died and his first wife and her children received all of his inheritance.

  31. Lory
    31
    April 18, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Thanks to all commenters who speak against polygamy. The practice, and also the belief in the practice, hurt men and women today.

  32. Tim
    32
    April 18, 2015 at 7:28 am

    “Because Utah courts have ruled that polygamy is no longer illegal…”

    Uh, not true. The Utah courts have ruled that laws against cohabitation are illegal. Polygamy, however, is still illegal in Utah, just like it is illegal in every other state. A man cannot be legally married to more than one person at a time. Even in Utah.

  33. April 18, 2015 at 8:08 am

    As someone who had been led by God to do things I never thought I would, I have a testimony that polygamy is and was of God. I also firmly believe that none of us today really know what we are talking about when we approach it. Our world and theirs is vastly different.

    Until you are at a point in your life when you have to make that sort of decision, you can never understand what might have happened in Joseph’s time.

    I do not doubt that, polygamous or monogamous, abuse has no place in marriage. However strong the contemporary wording in D&C 132, women are not less in marriage, polygamous or monogamous.

    But I do know that if I were married to a wonderful man of God, and one of my sisters was not, I could in no way look into her eyes and not welcome her into my marriage so that she, also, might receive all blessings of exaltation. It would be hard. It would require Celestial-level charity and compassion to be more concerned about her welfare than about keeping my husband to myself. But because that is true, I believe in it.

    But all that aside, no one who claims to believe that marriage should be between any consenting adults can claim that polygamy is evil. Not and maintain moral integrity. You simply have no right to judge that for someone else. No more than you have a right to judge and condemn the situation of people who lived nearly two hundred years ago.

  34. Josh Smith
    34
    April 18, 2015 at 8:53 am

    SilverRain (#33):

    We can enough to reject D&C 132:51-65 outright. We can judge it on the merits. There is no reason for you or anyone else to defend the rhetoric in 132:51-65. It is morally repugnant to threaten a woman’s life in order to coerce her into marriage. It is morally repugnant to manipulate a person’s faith in God to coerce her into marriage. That is wrong. It was wrong in 1831. It was wrong in 1843. It is wrong today.

    I don’t reject polygamy everywhere at all times. At one point in my life I lived in Jordan. Part of my work involved living in an amazing place called Wadi Dana. There were Bedouin tribes, semi-nomadic shepherds, who used the land to feed their goats, basically subsistence living in the desert. I shared meals with some of these families (and maybe I partook of tea and maybe even a hookah). The experience gave me enough material that I could IMAGINE a world where polygamy was a good idea. If you are a nomad in the Arabian Peninsula circa 2000 b.c., and if you want to have children, it may require more than one woman. Life is unforgiving when you’re a nomad in the Arabian Peninsula. Because of my experiences, I can conceive of that world.

    Arabian-Peninsula-nomadic-tribe polygamy is fundamentally different from D&C 132:51-65. What you read in those verses is male kingdom building. Those verses are about men (or at least a man) using people’s faith and threats of violence to advance his status and gain sexual access to women. There is no reason for intellectual humility when approaching that idea. Reject it. There is no reason for patience to see how things work out in the eternities. Reject it. Those verses don’t “raise interesting questions”; those verses are morally repugnant. I’m LDS and I reject them without reservation.

    (And, just for the record, I’ve rejected them for many years and have thus far avoided “destruction.”)

  35. Anon
    35
    April 18, 2015 at 10:44 am

    SilverRain…

    If the situation were reversed, and your husband had a brother that was not married through no fault of his own, would you likewise welcome him into your marriage? Would your husband?

    I ask this because I want to know if the blessings of exaltation come through the union of people who unselfishly love each other, or if they only flow through the priesthood of the husband. Brigham Young made assertions on multiple occasions that the husband is the lord of the wife, and much of the language in the temple reflects that line of thinking.

  36. April 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Good analysis of polygamy by an LDS sociologist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erTwhTCAAss And yes, she points out that it can be a positive thing for women today.
    You know that Martin Luther correctly pointed out that nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned. And ironically a judge recently made a decision on a gay marriage proposal in which he correctly stated that polygamy was what traditional families were all about.

  37. M Miles
    37
    April 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I echo Josh Smith’s sentiments. I too worked in places where, “The experience gave me enough material that I could IMAGINE a world where polygamy was a good idea.” However, at the same time the experience gave me enough material to see that D&C 132 is a very bad, horrible idea. Really, after seeing if up close, there is no way I can imagine 132 a revelation from God whatsoever, or see it as anything but a gross violation of human rights.

  38. April 18, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Josh…It’s morally repugnant to kill someone. Still, God commanded Nephi to do it.

    Also, I’d be very surprised to discover that “Josh Smith” is Emma Smith’s online pseudonym.

    Anon, I don’t know. That’s never been an actual doctrine, and I’ve never spent much time worrying about things that don’t exist yet. If and when God commands someone to do that, I’ll ponder it then.

    My thoughts on priesthood are complex, and not really fit to be condensed into a blog comment. I will say that I suppose the Church as a whole has learned much regarding priesthood in the last hundred and fifty years, however slow some of her individual members may be in catching up to modern revelation.

  39. Josh Smith
    39
    April 19, 2015 at 12:41 am

    This is my last comment on Times and Seasons for the foreseeable future. It seems like a needed venue in the world. I’m glad such a place exists.

    Today was a great day. My ten-year-old daughter and I “re-queened” a beehive, and we checked on our other hives. There’s no joy on earth that compares to finding healthy looking brood in an over-wintered hive. Great day.

    I also cleared out last year’s blackberry bushes. The thorns are hardened from aging. Under last year’s dead leaves–and the thorny bramble–I found new shoots. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re two weeks early here in Idaho.

    You know what I kept thinking about while I was doing things that genuinely enrich my life? D&C 132:51-65. The ideas in those verses disgust me. It’s not so much the polygamy, though that is part of it. The part that really disgusts me is the use of religion to manipulate and threaten the very people it is meant to uplift. And the ideas aren’t dead. It’s not hard to see that conceiving of women in those terms has led to general attitudes that we live with today.

    I thought about this as I worked my blackberry bramble, and I like to think I had an epiphany–organized religion is not my bramble bush to clean up. It’s loaded with all kinds of nasty thorns from yesteryear, but that’s not my problem. Somebody else can clean it up–or not. Maybe somebody who loves it more. Maybe somebody who finds purpose and meaning in cleaning up brambles. My solution is to forget about fixing it and simply engage less with it. If I happen upon a late summer blackberry, praise be to God. If not, I like raspberries too. And heaven knows I love honey. There’s simply too much good in this life to try and clean up the mess that is organized religion. I’m going to do other things with my time.

    SilverRain, … Obviously you’re going to have to find someone else to discuss why you believe God commanded Nephi to kill Laban. I’m done engaging in that type of discussion. Now if you’d like to talk bees … :-)

  40. Brad L
    40
    April 19, 2015 at 2:00 am

    “We are obviously at the beginning, not the end, of that discussion”

    Indeed we are. Thanks for the review and comments on the demise of polygamy, Dave. I find it interesting to read LDS folks saying things that they never would have said before related to polygamy. Just a few months ago, I read an article in Meridian Magazine defending the practice of taking a teenage bride, claiming that in Joseph Smith’s days it was not uncommon. Before the essays came out, talk of Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen Mar Kimball at the age of 14 seemed to be kept on the lowdown. The same goes for the Second Manifesto. It will be intriguing to see how discussion on polygamy unfolds in the LDS church. In some ways, members appear to have become more divided, with some rushing to defend everything that Joseph Smith did as being of God, and others proclaiming polygamy to be one of Joseph Smith’s wrongdoings.

  41. April 19, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Josh, I’m always up for talking yard work. My day was fixing sprinklers, and I didn’t think about polygamy once. You don’t want the internet to interfere with real life.

    Thanks for discussing it so far. We don’t disagree that coercion is a terrible thing, especially through religion. I’ve had it happen to me, and because of pondering scriptures like D&C 132, I was prepared and knew what to do. All I’m grateful that part is in there.

  42. Lory
    42
    April 21, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Josh Smith, Thank you for your comments.

  43. Me
    43
    April 27, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    I’m sorry but I am going to call you out on the comment: “That last line makes me wonder whether one can be promoted to high office in the Church of 2015 without supporting polygamy as a fundamental (if non-practiced) doctrine. Maybe not that much has changed.” Does anyone really believe that? I doubt it has ever come up in an interview. I find the focus on this one doctrine/practice to be a bit of looking beyond the mark or even to the side of the mark. It has become a gospel hobby for some that ultimately makes no difference at all. There was an op-ed piece in the SL Trib today about it. It’s old news. Move on. Don’t over analyze things. I have grown up in the church for all of my 45 years and none of this is news to me and I didn’t grow up in Utah. I learned it long ago in seminary, the MTC, and my own study. I always find it fascinating that there are people who are or act surprised by such things. Did they not pay attention? Were they not interested enough to do a little reading of their own? Many complain that these things were not taught in Sunday School or in other church meetings. Do they not forget the Lord’s own injunction to focus on what matters most, i.e. faith and repentance. We haven’t gotten those things down yet. Sorry if this doesn’t sound charitable but this has become a pet peeve to me.

  44. palerobber
    45
    April 28, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    @ Dave #3, #5

    “successive LDS sealing”?

    i’m sorry, but how can two sealings that are co-eternal be “successive”? that makes no sense.

  45. Tara
    46
    July 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Josh Smith, I just came across the article-pretty late I know. THANK YOU! I applaud you for standing up for women and our worth!

  46. Josh Smith
    47
    July 14, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you, Tara.

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