What I’m about to say to you may seem shocking, but please read through it completely to understand where I am coming from. I have come to the belief that D&C 132 and Joseph’s teaching of polygamy isn’t, wasn’t, and never will be revelation of God, that polygamy is not of God but rather an idea of men. I believe that it is self-evident that a loving God would not be the author of such confusion, obvious inequality, and emotionally/psychological damage. I believe firmly that if there ever was a practice and verse of scripture that has failed the test of fruits of the spirit, D&C 132 and polygamy would be a sure bet.
Galatians 5 reads:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Yet, apparently in Mormondom there is a law that does not mesh with the fruits of the spirit. That law is plural marriage. It is a subject that causes many peoples’ stomachs to wrench with disgust. It is a topic that is avoided and often disregarded as something that only God understands, yet plural marriage has and continues to affect the lives of every Latter-day Saint. You don’t believe me?
In my own life my parents had taught me that polygamy was the marriage system of heaven. My mother would say, “How else would Heavenly Mother be able to give birth to billions of spirit children, unless she did not have fellow women to help her?” People in my very Mormon community would say things like, “When they bring back polygamy…..” or “If the prophet asked you to practice polygamy, would you do it?”, as if it would be the ultimate faith and devotion to God. My wife has even more disturbing experiences. She was taught that the more righteous the man, the more wives he would have in the life to come. This created a harsh dichotomy in her mind. She wanted to marry a righteous man and yet didn’t want to share her husband in polygamous heaven. She was told that it was a principle designed to teach women humility and to overcome jealousy. (Because no man would ever be jealous or upset over having to share his spouse.) I’m sure Mormon readers, especially women, have stories of your own. The doctrine of plural marriage continues to deeply affecting much of the church culture to this day. From the way we treat women, to the way church business is conducted, to temple practices, plural marriage still colors the filter we look through. If you do not believe me, you need to follow this link to learn more.
The reason I have decided to write this post is to stand up for the women hurting from this painful teaching. I’m doing it for my posterity, so they will know where I stood on the issue. And I’m doing it for every polygamous wife that has ever felt the agony of watching their spouse kiss and love another woman. I’m doing this for every faithful woman that wrestles with the tortuous thought of a polygamous “heaven”. I’m doing this in an effort to help people realize, that with honest study and prayer, you can come to see that polygamy should be thrown into the dust bin of mistakes, never to be resurrected again, and that those rejecting polygamy still remain faithful to God. Let me show you why I believe what I believe-
From personal experience, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been of the opinion that a primary purpose of polygamy was to bring forth more children. God requires polygamy to raise up a righteous generation, yet God has shown in scriptures that monogamous couples are preferred for the of start civilizations, dispensations, and righteous generations.
Adam and Eve, the first people.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Noah and his wife, our first parents after the flood that destroyed mankind.
9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah…
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
Lehi and Sariah, the first parents of the ancient Americas
1 Nephi 1
5…and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
In each case Adam, Noah, and Lehi all had one wife at a time. When there was dire need to repopulate the Earth with a righteous population, these men found that a loving equal was all that they needed to brave a new world. The scriptures continue to support monogamy in D&C 42:22, 1 Timothy 3:2,12, D&C 49:16, Jacob 2 and 3, Ephesians 5:31 and the list goes on. There are many scriptures that support the overarching idea that a man should cleave unto one woman and none else.
Science, itself, has shown that those in polygamous relationships have less children than monogamous couples would. For example: if a man had three wives, and each of his wives had three children, there would be 9 children born. Statistically, three men married to those same women would have an average of 12 children instead of only nine. If God was looking for quick repopulation, polygamy is not a good way to go about it.
It is self-evident that monogamy is the only type of relationship where total fidelity, trust, and equality can be accomplished. This is something a polygamous relationship cannot provide. In polygamy, marital relationships are perverted beyond something recognizable to any modern Mormon. The Proclamation to the Family, heralded as the blueprint to a successful, godly society states,
All human beings-male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny…Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and carefor each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another…We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
Let’s take Brigham Young for example, He was said to have approximately 55 wives. A loving husband and father would surely spend an equal amount of time loving and caring for each wife and her children. Unfortunately, for Brigham Young’s wives that would mean that Brigham would help change diapers and play catch, less than one week a year. Many of his wives lived together in dorm-like settings. This would mean they may have seen the president of the church more often than one week a year, but the quality time a monogamous relationship is more likely to achieve, was not possible. These incredibly strong women were forced to be basically single parents, loyal to absentee husbands, in a place they called Zion. Many of them relied on each other to help raise their children so adequately supplied to them. Happiness and love was an afterthought. Zina Huntington, one of Brigham’s and Joseph Smith’s wives depressingly stated:
“It is the duty of the first wife to regard her husband not with a selfish devotion… she must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy… we believe in the good old custom by which marriages should be arranged by the parents of the young people.” -New York World, November 17, 1869, as cited in The Lion of the Lord, pp. 229-230
Brigham Young seemed to ignore the lack of love and care with these words:
My wife, though a most excellent woman, has not seen a happy day since I took my second wife;’ ‘No, not a happy day for a year,’ says one; and another has not seen a happy day for five years. It is said that women are tied down and abused: that they are misused and have not the liberty they ought to have; that many of them are wading through a perfect flood of tears, …And my wives have got to do one of two things; either round up their shoulders to endure the afflictions of this world, and live their religion, or they may leave, for I will not have them about me. I will go into heaven alone, rather than have scratching and fighting around me. I will set all at liberty. ‘What, first wife too?’ Yes, I will liberate you all.”I know what my women will say; they will say, ‘You can have as many women as you please, Brigham.’ But I want to go somewhere and do something toget rid of the whiners; I do not want them to receive a part of the truth and spurn the rest out of doors.”-Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, 1856, pp. 55-57
This comment was an ultimatum given to the women of Utah with a choice that they shape up, or leave and face damnation. Of course, many women did not leave with the threat of eternal damnation over their head. Nevertheless, there was something disturbing to these women that caused grumblings and commotion in the church. It wasn’t just the wives of Brigham Young that suffered. I feel disheartened for the wives of Heber C. Kimball, who struggled for his financial and loving support, when he said:
“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business… I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece.”-Deseret News, April 22, 1857
Apostle George Q. Cannon further contradicts the proclamation to the family with this statement,
“It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome, with her arts, sciences and warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded. She was a mono-gamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.”-Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 202
I’m confused, and who wouldn’t be? I understand why the above statements were made. The presidents and apostles defended something that they thought was of God. They were trying desperately to make something work that could not be fixed, they needed it dressed and painted to look presentable to the world. They convinced themselves that polygamy had a purpose and was sensible, yet failed to see that it was a puzzle piece that did not fit in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s discuss the arithmetic of polygamy. Whoever invented polygamy didn’t think the numbers through very well. Polygamy as a long term, multi-generational, possibility, requires an obvious greater number of women. A wise God, knowing polygamy as heavenly form of marriage, did not populate the Earth accordingly. In fact, if anything God did the very opposite of what polygamy requires. It is estimated that for every 100 females born in the world there are 107 males born. There is already a shortage of girls in the world and polygamy compounds the problem. D&C 131 makes the case for man’s eternal happiness and exaltation even more dire in the face of the doctrine of plural marriage.
1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 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];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
Most Latter-day Saints consider marriage a blessing, an essential step in progression toward perfection, and most importantly a covenant with God to enter his presence. Let me emphasize that it is a REQUIREMENT. Unfortunately, not only will 7 men be left out of marriage possibilities per 50 couples, which is troubling, but polygamy makes marriage an even more daunting endeavor. If every “righteous” man was to take an extra wife, that would reduce marriage possibilities by half. Now instead of 7 men left as bachelors, we have a staggering 57 men unable to find a spouse. That would be 57 men unable to enter the kingdom of God, even if they desperately desired to do so.
If polygamy is the choice form of marriage than there will be some obvious demographic problems with heaven. If every man had three wives, that would mean heaven would be composed of 25% men and 75% women. That seems like some drastic gender inequality. On the one hand, women are forced to share a man because of the sheer lack of them, and on the other hand, it is just as appalling to realize that a loving God would save so many more woman than men. What is it about a man’s gender that predisposes so many less of them to be saved?
If we take it a step further and follow the example of Brigham Young, then heaven looks like a miserably anemic place for men. Brigham Young married 55 women, which if allowed as a possibility in heaven, would mean that 98% of the heavenly populace would be women and only a 2% minority of men. That surely doesn’t sound like heaven for women. Finding an exalted man would be as hard as finding a natural redhead in Spain, you just might want to bring your camera, when you die, to photograph that rare species. If, on the other hand, the demographics of heaven were more aligned with mortal demographics, instead of multiply wives, it would seem that women would need to take multiple husbands. It feels just a little more painful when the tables are turned, doesn’t it?
D&C 132, STRANGER THAN FICTION
That being said, let’s dive into D&C 132, the scripture that was said to be revelation concerning the plurality of wives. This is the same revelation that justified the practice from Joseph Smith to President Joseph F. Smith. It is the principle that led indirectly to Joseph Smith’s arrest and death, when he ordered the burning of the Nauvoo Expositor, which published his secret practice of plural marriage. It is this revelation that has continued the justification of polygamy among Mormon splinter groups, to this day. It is this revelation that has spread ideas of eternal plural marriage in the next life and the possible return of the principle in this life. But what does this chapter actually say? So, in proper LDS fashion, please pull out your scriptures and turn to D&C 132
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—
Abraham is first mentioned as a practitioner of polygamy, which is no secret. It is common knowledge that the practice of multiple wives was not only acceptable in nomadic cultures, but was also a means of status, and a culturally acceptable way to build a tribe. We should not confuse the cultural acceptability of a practice as a sign of God’s tacit approval. The Lord, in the Old Testament, makes no mention of giving any wife to Abraham. It is presented as an idea of Sarah. As she was unable to produce any children for Abraham, she decided that the culturally acceptable practice of polygamy might be a good solution. It could even be said that a lack of faith, by Sarah and Abraham led to that tumultuous polygamous relationship. The Lord had promised Abraham offspring, yet Sarah could not bear any children. We know, from the story, that Sarah did actually bear a child, Isaac. But instead of waiting for the Lord to deliver on his promise, she toldAbraham, “I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children.” There was no God involved. In fact, this relationship between Hagar and Sarah would breed discontent and jealousy and eventually lead to the expulsion of a child and woman into the desert, away from their family. Does that seem like a gift from God?
Isaac did not have multiple wives, He was married to Rebekah.
Jacob also practiced polygamy, but once again there is no mention of a command from the Lord. He was tricked into marrying Leah, and Jacob realized that Laban, her father, was the mastermind of the deceit. Jacob was so intent on marrying Rachel that he continued working for Laban, in order to finally marry the woman of his dreams. Zilpah and Bilhah were handmaidens of Jacob’s other two wives, none of which were God commanded relationships. In fact, the scriptures are pretty clear that Zilpah and Bilhah were used by Leah and Rachel in a twisted game of one-upping each other.
Moses is just pure speculation, Moses married Zipporah and she is not referenced very much afterward. Moses later marries an Ethiopian woman. There is no reference of plural wives or having two wives at one time.
DAVID AND SOLOMON
It is no secret that David and Solomon had many wives, if you could call them that. Many were concubines, lesser-wives, or as Webster’s 1828 dictionary refers to them “an inferior kind”. Let’s be honest, when there are hundreds of wives to one man, they are not wives in the modern sense, they are property. And I can confidently proclaim that there are no concubines, or “property wives” in the eyes of a loving God. There are only women. Their inherent value does not change by their title or by the way they are treated. Jacob, of the Book of Mormon, makes it clear that David and Solomon were not acting under the direction of God. Jacob 2 states:
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
THE DOCTRINE AND PRINICPLE
It is important to realize that in verse 1, the revelation states that it is a doctrine and a principle to have plural wives. Many people reason away D&C 132 because they believe that polygamy was a practice and separate from a doctrine. Verse 1 says otherwise. Let’s go on-
3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
The Lord is saying that if you KNOW the law, you MUST OBEY the law. This should mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not following the command of the Lord. or are we?…Monogamy is commanded by the Lord in every other scripture. Is God bipolar? I thought our God was the same today, yesterday, and forever.
4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and 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.
Again the Lord is saying you must practice the new and everlasting covenant or you can’t enter his presence. Reiterating the importance of the covenant. This, once again, makes it very difficult for men to enter the kingdom of God if all the women are already married.
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
What has caused more confusion in the church than polygamy? What has called into question the character of Joseph Smith more than his secret practice of taking plural wives? Why have we ignored this topic for so long and concealed the fact that Joseph was a polygamist? It may be because it’s confusing and not from the Lord.
15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
Did you catch that, The God of D&C 132 is saying that Mormon marriages will pave the way for us to become gods, while all of our single members will become our servants. This God puts so much weight on becoming married in the new and everlasting covenant, that any other unions will be dissolved. Those loving and righteous people will live as single angels, doing our bidding for eternity. This sounds great for my wife and me, but I can’t help feeling concerned for my non-temple married friends and the single adults in the ward. D&C 132 even lays it out clearly, marriages do not happen in the here-after. Which means that God is a respecter of persons. This God seems more interested in saving and exalting married temple goers, than Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and other people, who have done far-more good than I ever will, but were never married in the new and everlasting covenant. It means that God is a respecter of a woman’s ability to get married more than her innate worth as a person. This verse seems to place the entire value of a person on their ability to snag a spouse. Does that sound like the God you worship?
19 … if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection… and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions…and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.
I find it most interesting that God said that the only thing that would prevent a covenant married man from entering heaven would be murder. What about abuse, extortion, adultery, torture, child abandonment, or racist hatred? Wouldn’t those prevent others from possibly entering the kingdom of God. I am definitely not the judge of anyone’s salvation, but it seems clear to me that a loving God would not make such a claim, that anything short of murder is permissible, as long as you enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. So is God a respecter of married persons? As long as you have made the right covenants, you can do whatever you want and “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Nephi 28:7-8) Does that sound reasonable?
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
This would be a fair comparison if Isaac was really offered as a sacrifice, but in the most widely used story of the Abrahamic/Isaac sacrifice, Abraham did not actually kill Isaac. In other words, polygamy was not really a test, more like an ultimatum. The early saints actually followed through with the “test” of polygamy and practiced it for nearly 80 years. There was no killing of Isaac involved. Neither should forced polygamy have been involved.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness…
38 David also received many wives and concubines, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were givenunto him of me…
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things.
Do women have a choice? “received” and “giving”? Are women given as prizes to the most obedient males? Granted, I believe God works with our cultural practices, but polygamy was no longer considered a cultural norm at the time of Joseph Smith. If anything was a revelation from God it was the suffrage movement of the 20th century that turned women from property into people. If there is anything that is evidence of a restoration, it is the final realization of women’s rights. A truer restoration is that of a women’s God given equality and independent mind and personhood, which existed long before Abraham and King David. We needed a restoration of the importance of women.
It seems curious that very little from Old Testament times was “restored” in this “restoration of all things”. Why wasn’t blood sacrifice restored? Why wasn’t the old dietary laws of no pork or shellfish restored? Why weren’t Levite males the sole possessors of the priesthood like in the times of old? Luckily, Joseph wasn’t commanded to circumcise himself, like they were of old. None of that was restored, yet the primitive practice of polygamy made a triumphant return.
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 bedestroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
What happened to the agency for Emma? The Lord respects the agency of mankind SO much that humans are allowed to commit murders, run prostitution rings, embezzle millions of dollars, torture, and molest, without instant judgment reigned down upon their heads. The Lord, in His mercy, seems to allow them time to change and repent. Yet Emma Smith must practice polygamy or the Lord will DESTROY her? This sounds much different from the Lord of D&C 3 who stated to Joseph,
10 But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;
11 Except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.
The Lord is merciful and He tells Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, the man that the translation of the Book of Mormon hinges upon, the one who communed with the Father, that if he does not repent and translate…he’ll become ordinary. Yep, ordinary. Most likely cut off from the Spirit. The same way that all of us are when we sin. It seems that God is much more willing to be merciful to Joseph than he is to Emma. Joseph’s transgressions will lead to being ordinary; Emma, on the other hand will be destroyed. Does God love Joseph more than he loves Emma? He seems to be willing to give Joseph multiple opportunities for learning and growth; Emma not so much. It is interesting to note that Mormon splinter groups, that continue to practice polygamy, use this scripture to scare women into continuing to practice polygamy. These women are taught that they too will be destroyed if they don’t practice polygamy. Let’s continue with D&C 132
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
This is one of the most damming of verses for the earlier practitioners of plural marriage. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others, by definition, committed adultery. Both presidents of the church married women who were already married and several women who were not virgins. Joseph Smith even lied, or as the church officially stated, he used “carefully worded denials” about the fact that he had many wives to the public and to Emma Smith. This does not help the case for the revelation or the obedience of church leaders to the commandments of God.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
In this verse we learn that if a women commits adultery she will be destroyed. No such warning exists in this chapter for men committing adultery. Yet, if we apply this scripture to men, then the earlier leaders of the church should have had reason to fear for the destruction mentioned in the above scriptures. But previously we learned that as long as a person married in the new and everlasting covenant doesn’t murder someone they will be exalted. So….definitely don’t kill someone, but maybe adultery is okay? I’m not sure. I’m really confused now. Also, why is this God so obsessed with virgins? We should also reject the idea that women are “given” to men to multiply and replenish the Earth. Is this a commandment to multiply and replenish? Yes! But D&C 132 completely ignores any other womanly attributes. Women are not just wombs, but equal partners that I would hope a loving God would recognize for more than just their virginity or wombs. Tithing is also a commandment, we don’t teach men that all they can hope to be is a tithe payer. We don’t have lesson after lesson on the value of men being their ability to pay tithing to God. I, likewise, don’t believe that God views women primarily in their virginity and ability or lack of ability to bear children.
66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.
I don’t profess to be a scholar or a scriptorian. But, what eventually was revealed was the abandonment of the practice under pressure from The United States. I will not judge the character of Joseph Smith or his contemporaries, that is job only for God. What I sought to do here was show that we should look at our scripture and the words of the leaders of the church with honesty. And when I look honestly at D&C 132 and the fruits of such words, I do not see God, but the works of men. How about you?
I don't understand why all the feathers are ruffled here. Taking the time to really prayerfully ponder this, isn't it perfectly normal to believe that one of God's most important revelations can be summarized like this:
The only polygamy that is acceptable to God is a union with a virgin, or up to ten virgins, after first giving the opportunity to the first wife to consent to the marriage. If the first wife doesn’t consent, the husband is exempt, and may still take the additional virgin wives, but the first wife must at least have the opportunity to consent. In case the first wife doesn’t consent, she will be destroyed. Also, important to note, the new virgin wife must be completely monogamous after the marriage or she will be destroyed as well.
How much does it have to make perfect sense, before you naysayer types will faithfully accept that it makes perfect sense? :)
My argument against polygamy comes down to the nature of God. If this comes up in conversation I'm going to put it this way... "By saying that polygamy is a creation of God, I'm being asked to believe in a God who is so concerned about JS marrying a 14 year old that he sends an angel with a flaming sword to force the issue... Yet that same God supposedly didn't have time to tell the Angel to intervene when 120 innocent people were slaughtered at Mt. Meadows. I'm asked to believe in a God who took a large portion of scripture to lay out every detail of how men should form polygamous relationships with virgins... Yet that same God did not have time for revelations about equality of race/gender or ending war."
Apologists can write volumes on the details of who qualifies as a virgin and how many times sex was involved, etc. etc. etc... But look at the big picture. What kind of deity are they asking us to worship?! I'd rather not worship a God whose energy is so devoted to the micromanagement of men exercising dominion over as many women as they please, all while ignoring matters of actual import to humanity.
Was the truth about marriage revealed:
1) The first time it was canonized in the original D&C 101 as monogamy with specific reference to polygamy being illegal?
The "Statement on Marriage", as adopted by an 1835 conference of the church contained the following text:
"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."
(That was removed from D&C 101 in 1876 during the heyday of polygamy in Utah and D&C 132 was canonized at that time as well.)
2) The second time it was canonized in D&C 132 as polygamy is required for exaltation?
3) The third time it was canonized in Official Declaration 1 as monogamy once again?
4) The fourth time when interracial marriage/sealing was allowed in the temple via extending the priesthood to blacks (Official Declaration 2)?
5) The fifth time in the Proclamation on the Family (not canonized) as a political device to exclude and clarify against same-sex marriage? (Since the scriptures do not say one way or the other.)
Thank goodness for clear, never changing doctrine!
Thanks for republishing this. I dont understand why church leaders are so up in arms. If they would let mormons experiment upon the word, as mentioned in Alma, we would have much more fulness of the gospel than we do now.
Truth begs scrutiny, invites inquiry, and welcomes examination. It demands analysis, applauds debate, and withstands every test. It is a friend of skeptics, adores controversy, and does not shy from criticism. It is fearless of future discoveries, embracing them with open arms. It laughs at scorn and ridicule, bristles with contempt at sophistry and spin, and has no use for apologetics. Truth endures, timeless and timely, living in the past, the present, and in every possible future.
What, then, do we, as seekers of truth, have to fear from any of the forms that truth takes? Absolutely nothing! Rather than turn away or run from our fears, we should face and confront them instead. We should be well informed, earnestly studying and prayerfully considering the evidence. We have been promised that if we will truly seek, we will find answers; knock, and doors of understanding and wisdom will be opened to us.
Christ provided this bit of wisdom for evaluating truth: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”
The fruits of polygamy are overwhelmingly bitter. Heartache, sorrow, deception, favoritism, jealousy, abuse, neglect, competition, resentment, loneliness, and a legacy that continues to haunt the Latter-day Saints, in the form of splinter groups that are involved in many unspeakable atrocities and evils, all claiming to have sprung from this twisted tree. A test? Unlike the Abrahamic test, there was no “ram in the thicket” provided for poor Emma. A tribute to the remarkable character of women coerced into this practice, to be sure, who made the best they could of an awful situation.
If polygamy is “of God”, then my moral compass is completely broken, for I cannot see its fruits as anything but rotten. I share the sentiment of the Van Allen’s, that it’s past time for some further light and knowledge from above, to either clarify or repudiate this practice. It is deeply disturbing that, over a century later, “we do not know” is still the most ubiquitous (and prophetic) commentary available from our leaders on a topic that allegedly even God himself deemed necessary to violate the prime directive of agency to threaten the prophet with an angel and a flaming sword for compliancy, but nobody seems to actually know why! Begging the question — has anyone even bothered to ask, in the years since?
Today at Times and Seasons there was a post about the origins on polygamy. I shared the following after having done a little more research myself:
Thanks Dave. This line in particular read as though in Neon lights:
“Somewhat surprisingly, the essay does not actually tell the reader that the 1843 revelation was only circulated to a rather small group of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo.”
This caught my attention because just today I read for myself the actual text of the Nauvoo Expositor. In short, all my life I had been led to believe it was published by a bunch of apostates spreading lies about Joseph Smith. Today I learned the truth for myself. Paradigm change. These were good guys! They were people of conscience who like any whistleblower were more concerned about truth. They go out of their way to reassure their commitment to goodness, righteousness, and peace, and yet they were declared a public nuisance! They believed in the pure doctrines of Mormonism, including the Book of Mormon, but they had reached the end of their tolerance of privately urging Joseph to repent of the secret polygamy and when they felt he had gone off the rails they felt they they owed it to tell the public the truth. In essence, they print affidavits that they had knowledge of the secret polygamy AND of the revelation we now call Section 132! The problem is that Joseph was concerned about this becoming public knowledge. So he had the Nauvoo Expositor declared a public nuisance and destroyed.
Yikes. It’s even messier than that. They indeed accuse Joseph Smith of cornering young women who had come long distances for the truth only to be told secretly by him that there was this “higher law” they needed to live, marry him, or be damned. [And not tell anyone!] They print his rationale:
“It was right anciently, and God will tolerate it again: but we must keep those pleasures and blessings from the world, for until there is a change in the government, we will endanger ourselves by practicing it – but we can enjoy the blessings of Jacob, David, and others, as well as to be deprived of them, if we do not expose ourselves to the law of the land. She is thunder-struck, faints, recovers, and refuses. The Prophet d*mns her if she rejects. She thinks of the great sacrifice, and of the many thousand miles she has traveled over sea and land, that she might save her soul from pending ruin, and replies, God’s will be done, and not mine. The Prophet and his devotees in this way are gratified.”
The whole premise, that it was “right” anciently, is false. Even the Book of Mormon says it was anciently abominable before the Lord:
And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
And so the secret revelation that is now Section 132 that was only canonized during the heyday of Utah polygamy (in 1876 I believe) screams out to me as one that is completely off and needs to be addressed deeper rather than put on the shelf, exactly as Kirk Van Allen has done on his Mormonverse blog. We need to come clean about this practice. Our Church cannot afford to dig in and defend this when it was so obviously wrong. We need to choose truth and what’s right over painting a false narrative.
The new church essays try to tell us the practice was commanded by God. That was their big mistake in what have otherwise been very good essays. They should have made room for the fact that the truth might actually be more complex. At worst, Joseph allowed his power/position to do wrong. At best, he misunderstood that polygamy was never commanded by God at all and was overly committed to “restoring” a practice that didn’t need to be restored. If we’re actually going to believe in a God that truly works in simplicity and plainness unto his beloved children (as the Book of Mormon makes clear) than we need to be frank that the secret Nauvoo polygamy was anything but. God obviously allows things to happen, but I can’t buy that he willed it. The only saving grace is that we finally corrected course before it completely destroyed the church.
D&C 132 was a justification for Joseph’s practice of polygamy. And the revelation itself has so many problems.
or [this very blog post]
And I just realized that by pointing out my sincere findings and sharing them here I will now be lumped in with apostates attacking the church when in reality I love the church, but I love the gospel and the truth more than a false church narrative. I want us to have correct narratives that embrace grace and the messy truth so that we can become all we’re meant to be. But in order to succeed we as a church collectively still must overcome all the false teachings and ideas that are still with us.
You'd have a lot less angst if you became RLDS/COC.
One can also spare oneself much angst by using their own volition to take polygamy from off the proverbial shelf and place it in the proverbial trash bin, where it belongs.
I reject D&C 132 (as well as stories of angels with flaming swords) as feigned because D&C 121 makes clear that the Lord himself leads through genuine kindness, unfeigned love, and persuasion--NOT by way of force, coercion, or threat of destroying Emma (or any other women) who don't give their consent for marriage against their own heart's desire.
That's not the kind of God I choose to worship.
It's stunning to me how many fellow LDS want to chalk this mess up to God's ways being higher than man's ways (or even worse, just ignore the facts all together because it makes them uncomfortable.) There's a reason they're uncomfortable--there's no comfortable way to try and fit a square peg in a round hole.
The Lord told us (simply and clearly) in D&C 121 that HIS way is actually one of kindness, persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.
I have no angst about *that*.
Highly recommended podcast:
082: Curtis Henderson – The Errant Nature of Polygamy, Fallible Prophets, and Seeking for Truth
"Curtis Henderson was raised in Star Valley on the farm where his polygamist ancestor, Samuel Goforth Henderson, made his home. He has studied LDS Church history for years. He is a scholar of polygamy in his own right, having studied the subject exhaustively. He has written on the subject, and links to his papers can be found below. He is a life-long member of the LDS Church and remains active to this day. He graduated from BYU in Sociology.
"In this Episode Curtis Henderson explains how he came to understand that polygamy wasn’t ordained of God. He speaks about his views on Joseph Smith’s prophetic mantle, accepting that he was a man capable of great works and great mistakes. Curtis speaks about his quest for knowledge and truth, and explains how he has held on to his faith in Mormonism despite it’s troubled history. He gets to the heart of personal responsibility and inspires us to follow our consciences and the evidence when addressing such a difficult topic like this."
Here is the info on each of his works:
INTERPRETING AND INTERRUPTING POLYGAMY
View online: http://goo.gl/1zZXCe
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/Ef98MN
SHOULD WE DEFEND OUR PAST POLYGAMY
View online: http://goo.gl/kaKX6x
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/xSZ42t
THE ERRANT NATURE OF LDS POLYGAMY
View online: http://goo.gl/nAkD6T
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/dx2Mox
LDS POLYGAMY BROUGHT TO NAUGHT
View online: http://goo.gl/HKtKkC
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/jS0Z2r
BRIGHAM YOUNG’S CHRONOLOGICAL WANING FROM POLYGAMY
View online: http://goo.gl/sKhhkV
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/OBjPQX
ON THE ROAD WITH JOSEPH SMITH, BUSHMAN (QUOTES)
View online: http://goo.gl/Xbw3wg
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/j3uTLo
BENEFITED AND TROUBLED
View online: http://goo.gl/dl3HtD
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/GgdOjK
ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT MY BOOK REVIEW ON HALE’S 3-VOLUME SET
View online: http://goo.gl/1oAv4p
Download PDF: http://goo.gl/S5P7lk
Always impressed by your thoughtfulness, diligent research, and passion, Spencer. Thanks for the interesting read.
Hi Spence long time no talk. I have a question what accept any of the D&C? The source is the same. Just curious.
Hi Kelark. Good to see you drop by again.
I honestly don't hear the same "voice" of God in the rest of the Doctrine of Covenants. This section is quite an anomaly. The rest of the D&C attributes a very tender, forgiving, and compassionate voice to Jesus Christ/God, for the most part.
Just like in any scripture in the Bible, I embrace the good and reject that which violates my own conscience.
Just curious what Bible scripture do you reject?
Kelark, I know there are some Christians who take every word in the Bible as though it literally is God speaking. I'm not that literal. Not sure where you fall along that spectrum. Sometimes scripture can challenge us, and sometimes we must challenge scripture.
“The word of God” has always been communicated and mediated through human filters. It naturally follows from that realization that some of the words we've canonized are not God’s words at all, but rather the words of men speaking in their weakness and cultural contexts--as well as their biases.
The Bible says all kinds of horrible things that men attribute to God. Just look at the Old Testament. How comfortable are you *really* with the god of the Old Testament? (Especially compared to the god of the New Testament.) On a good day the god of the Old Testament is indifferent. On a bad day he is angry and on a really bad day he is genocidal. Though you have to search it out, you can find the loving God in the OT ("my hand is outstretched still") but it's a matter of discerning for yourself which scripture is most inspired and the more accurate depiction of God.
Leviticus says divorce is an abomination, eating shrimp and shellfish is an abomination and the punishment for them is stoning. It also says homosexuality is an abomination. Yet we mortals pick and choose which scriptures we want to emphasize, accept (either literally or metaphorically) or use to beat others up with.
I can’t accept all scripture as equally inspired. Much of it rings true and resonates with my conscience and inspires me to love God and my fellow man more and better. Some of it sets off alarm bells, which helps me recognize through Spirit what is good and true and comes from God. I believe each individual has the responsibility to discern for themselves, through the Spirit, truth from error--even in the scriptures. And even then, that's a subjective process.
Honestly, most of the time it's not even that I choose to accept or reject individual scriptures; rather, it's about the lens I (or we) use to *interpret* scripture. Various christian denominations have long disagreed about interpretation of scripture. I'm in the camp that believes the most important lens Jesus showed we must ultimately use to look at scripture is the lens of compassion (and the primary commandments to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.) If what we read insults our conscience (genocide, rape, or any other gory details that men did, even in the name of God) then that is a good sign it doesn't likely reflect the truly compassionate God worthy of our worship.
Some people think in black and white terms that you either accept all scripture as inerrant or it cannot be trusted at all. I say that's ridiculous. There is no such thing as an inerrant or infallible standard to discern the mind and will of God. It doesn't exist. So faith--authentic faith--is filled with all kinds of uncertainty. Uncertainty makes some really uncomfortable so they come up with all kinds of crazy apologetic arguments with which they cloth themselves to comfort themselves. As for me, I've learned to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity and lean into that vulnerability rather than run from it. When all is said and done, it actually makes me more humble and compassionate to realize we're all in the same boat trying our best to follow our God-given moral compass. We're no better than anyone else; we're all in need of the same grace.
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