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Polygamy is the practice of having more than one wife and is an older doctrine within the Mormon religion. It involved taking more than one wife, an accusation pointed at both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the earliest of Mormon prophets. Although the practice of polygamy before the Millenial Kingdom (1000 year reign) is not an active doctrine in most Mormon circles today, it set Mormons apart from the rest of the United States during the 19th century. There are accounts indicating that Joseph Smith himself had 27 wives2 though he publicly denied this many times (cf. the official Mormon family geneology web site). Because of his denials, many of the splinter groups headquartered in the eastern and southern states do not believe Joseph Smith ever taught the practice. If they do acknowledge polygamy as a teaching of Joseph Smith, they claim that it was a sin on Smith's part and was not a true principle given from God. These groups do not believe many of the doctrines taught by Smith in the last few years of his life, claiming that he had fallen away from the truth.

It was Brigham Young (with 56 wives)3 who, in 1852, first gave polygamy the push to become a semi-regular practice within the LDS Church in Utah. After a series of legal decisions made by the United States government toward the late 1800's, the church issued an official declaration [1] suggesting that members refrain from any marriage that is unlawful in the land. The practice continued for several years in Canada and Mexico, but gradually came to an end. Today, members of the LDS Church are excommunicated if they are found to be practicing polygamy. There are several splinter groups in Utah who encourage the practice of polygamy while sharing many beliefs and doctrines with the LDS Church.

The doctrine continues today in subtle form. If a wife dies a husband may be sealed in the temple with another wife without annulling the previous sealing. Thus, the man is expected to spend eternity in union with at least those two wives. Some mainstream Mormons also hold that the practice will continue in the Millenial Kingdom. Some, but few, still assert that plural marriage is necessary for Celestial exaltation (as attested to by Brigham Young). Given that there are more women than men required in this doctrinal framework, some hold that there will be more females in the Celestial kingdom, and that females are somehow more spiritually inclined than men, thus proving themselves worthy of their entrance into the kingdom.

It is also of note that D&C 132 is still a part of the Mormon canon.


[edit] Polygamy is condemned in the Book of Mormon

In the Book of Mormon's book of Jacob, chapter 2, verses 23-29 and 33-35[2], the practice of taking multiple wives is described as "whoredoms" and "abominable" before God, and the lands that practice such things are cursed by God.

[edit] Necessary for exaltation

We know that marriage is required for exaltation:

"Our exaltation depends on marriage.... Our Heavenly Father has given us the law of eternal marriage so that we can become Like him. We must live the law of eternal marriage to become as he is -- able to have spirit children." (Gospel Principles, p. 231.)

How polygamy factors in to exaltation is commonly misunderstood, and it is in fact actively obfuscated by modern LDS leaders, teachers, and apologists (commonly discounted with a reference to Official Declaration 1).

LDS Church teachers in time since D&C 132, have demanded that polygamy be followed, and reinforce the damnation of not entering into polygamy:

". . . he that abideth not this law (polygamy) can in no wise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord." (D & C, 132:27)

"Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law [polygamy] and ye shall be saved." (D & C, 132:32)

'"The only men who become Gods . . . are those who enter into polygamy." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269)

"I bear my solemn testimony that plural marriage is as true as any principle that has been revealed from the heavens. I bear my testimony that it is a necessity, and that the Church of Christ in its fullness never existed without it. Where you have the eternity of marriage you are bound to have plural marriage; bound to and it is one of the marks of the Church of Jesus Christ in its sealing ordinances." (George Teasdale, Journal of Discourses, vol. 25, p. 21)

'"The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle [polygamy] reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord . . . they will finally go down to hell and be damned if they do not repent." (0rson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, pp. 224-225)

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[edit] Faith-promoting rumors of early Mormon demographics

Although many Mormons defend "the practice of polygamy in the early days of the Church by pointing to a surplus of women in Utah, census reports for the time show roughly equal numbers of men and women." [3]

[edit] D&C 101 (since removed)

This was removed in 1876 and replaced with section 132.

"Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." -D&C 101:4, History of the Church, vol. 2, pg. 247

[edit] After the 1890 Manifesto

"After the 1890 Manifesto officially ended plural marriage, thousands of Mormons in good standing, including a number of apostles, continued to marry multiple wives in secret. When Congress demanded that furtive polygamists be rooted out, Joseph F. Smith, who was a nephew of the founder and became president of the Church, issued a Second Manifesto, in 1906, in which he declared that anyone who participated in the practice would be excommunicated. Nonetheless, Smith himself continued to perform secret plural marriages. In 1933, the Church's president, Heber J. Grant, began a determined policy to eradicate polygamy altogether." [4]

[edit] Excerpt

Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: Portrait of Religious Excess, p. 293:

A multitude of Mormon records provides irrefutable evidence for Smith's prerogative with an array of women, many of them just a few years older than his own children. And while the prophet now stands astride the Mormon world like a colossus, in Nauvoo he maneuvered within the charisma of his own mystique to defy both church, Nauvoo City, and Illinois marriage laws, as well as to conceal his behavior from his wife Emma. This equivocal deportment, secreted by a deferential and circumspect group of men and women, created two cultures in Nauvoo—one where monogamy and fidelity prevailed—the other where eros and duplicity seemed to subvert the highest moral values, and where exonerating the "Lord's Anointed" became more important than telling the truth.

This dichotomy left Joseph's and Emma's marriage hanging by a thread. Emma spent the last three years of her husband's life jealously battling his errant yearnings, more than once threatening to return to her family in New York. On one occasion, according to Smith's private secretary, she threatened that if he continued to "indulge himself she would too." Although Emma apparently countenanced two of her husband's 1843 sealings—to Emily and Eliza Partridge—she recanted within a day and demanded that Joseph give them up or "blood should flow." Her change of heart came after she found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. The realization that the sealing represented more than a "spiritual marriage" or "adoptive ordinance" devastated her.

Smith used this ruse that same month, May 1843, to convince another young woman, Helen Mar Kimball, that her sealing to him would be of a "spiritual order and not a temporal one." Helen, fifteen-year-old daughter of Apostle Heber C. Kimball, reported that the prophet admonished her: "If you will take this step, it will insure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father's household & all of your kindred." "This promise was so great," Helen later remembered, "that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward." Lamenting her [p.294] decision, Helen confided to a close Nauvoo friend: "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."

[edit] Quotes

Joseph F. Smith (Prophet, Seer and Revelator) JD 20:28

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