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Mar 3rd 2007

Polygamy

This article was recently submitted to all-encompassingly for publication. It is one of a series of informational posts intended to address widely-held misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. –Admin

The practice of polygamy, or plural marriage (one man taking more than one wife), by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) began in 1843, after Joseph Smith recorded a revelation from God about the covenant of marriage.[FN1]

Leaders of the Church regulated the practice of polygamy, and it was only entered into by Joseph Smith and those closely associated with him, including Brigham Young. Each marriage was authorized by a Church leader and performed by the power of the priesthood. The men and women of the early Mormon Church found it difficult to accept this doctrine, but obeyed it when asked. [FN2]

“In the Book of Mormon [a book of scripture translated by Joseph Smith in 1829], the prophet Jacob taught: “For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife. [But] 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” (Jacob 2:27, 30). At various times throughout biblical history, the Lord commanded people to practice plural marriage. For example, He gave this command to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon (D&C 132:1)” [FN2]

The purpose of polygamy has not been fully explained in revelation from God. The scripture in the Book of Mormon states that the Lord may choose to “raise up seed unto [himself],” a larger group of people that would be faithful to Him. Polygamy can also be seen as a way to test the faith of the people. Obedience is an important doctrinal principle, and the practice of polygamy certainly challenged the members of the early Church. They had to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, believe that the instruction to practice polygamy came from God, and be willing to obey it. Polygamy also served to set the Church apart from the rest of the world. In a way, it was easier for the early members to stay true to their convictions because they were isolated both geographically (in the newly settled Salt Lake valley) and sociologically by the practice of polygamy. This isolation did not last, but may have served an important purpose, nonetheless. [FN3]

In 1890, the president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, received a revelation that the Church was to end the practice of polygamy. In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley, current president of the LDS Church made a statement to clarify the Churchís position on polygamy: “This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. . . . If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.” [FN2]

Other Links:

  • Beliefs of the Mormon Church
  • Mormon Polygamy
  • History of Plural Marriage
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    1 http://scriptures.lds.org/dc/132/4-33#4 (The Doctrine and Covenants, section 132)

    2 http://www.mormon.org/question/faq/category/answer/0,9777,1601-1-114-1,00.html

    3 http://www.mormon-polygamy.org/purposes_mormon_polygamy.html

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