Rejection Letter and Defending Polygamy

Yesterday, I wrote about the new mormon.org and speculated that my profile had been rejected due to unorthodoxy. Later that day, I realized that I was mistaken – that I had never completed all of the required portions of my profile, so it had probably never been reviewed.

I discovered this while I was in the process of revising some of my answers to remove some of the things I knew were probably pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable within Mormonism. Today, I logged into my profile again and found the following (click to enlarge):



The question is not one of my own design – it’s a stock question the church provides to give people things to talk about on their profiles. At first glance, I was surprised that the church would ask members to publicly share their feelings about polygamy since it’s usually a topic the church avoids at all cost.

Apparently, my answer is not correct.  I realize that if my answer were correct – if Polygamy really was just an extraordinary example of poor judgement, it would be somewhat problematic for the Church.  Polygamy is endorsed in our scriptural cannon (D&C 132), it was emphatically preached as God’s will for 50+ years by the leaders of the Church during the 1800’s, and is still practiced in our current temple sealing policies.  To dismiss all of this as a mistake (even if true) is problematic.
Ok, I get it.  So the church doesn’t want to publish my answer because it’s outside-the-box.  I certainly don’t expect the Church to publish anything that gets submitted regardless of how wacky it is.  It hurts a little bit to be rejected by my own faith community, but, you know… Whatevs.  I guess I dismissed their explanations about polygamy before they dismissed mine.  But what kind of answers is the Church hoping for here?  Does the church think that having members of the church defend polygamy will help the missionary effort?  Isn’t this exactly why the Church never talks about polygamy (because there’s no good answer that will make everyone happy)?
Well, here’s what Irene answered:

It was something that was needed at the time. Women in those days actually needed a man to take care of them. If a woman lost her husband, she couldn’t just go out and get a college education and then start a career to support herself and her children. Polygamy made it possible for women to join a family so she and her children could be taken care of. …

Setting aside the question of whether or not her answer is factually accurate, does the church think  this answer will help anyone feel better about polygamy? Especially non-Mormons?

Dave toes-the-line:

Polygamy has been allowed at various times to select people throughout history. This practice only exists when God commands it. For example, in Old Testament times David and Saul both had plural wives. For a period in the modern church’s history there was also a period of polygamy. In the Book of Mormon we learn that sometimes God will give this commandment in order to raise children (Jacob 2:30). God’s commandment has always been one wife unless commanded otherwise. 

This is the answer I expect the Church is looking for, although I still question whether this will be convincing to non-Mormons.

Non-Mormon Readers: How do you feel about Irene & Dave’s answers?


Mormon Readers:  What do you think of my answer?  Is it really that far outside-the-box?  My hunch is that there quite a few members who secretly agree with me, but are hesitant to let their feelings be known for any number of reasons.


[see Rejection from mormon.org #2 here.]

42 comments to Rejection Letter and Defending Polygamy

  • I agree with you, but not secretly. I'm also surprised the Church had that as one of the profile questions. Makes me wonder how many other people they've sent that "rejection letter" to.

  • (NOTE: I just wrote this amazing answer that got erased! ARGH! I'll try my best to recreate it.)

    Hm… Polygamy is one of the worst topics of discussion EVER invented in the history of the world. I hate talking and thinking about it. I particularly HATE when my mother-in-law callously speculates that "someday" a few people may be commanded to participate in polygamy again.

    In part, I agree with your answer, but I'm not sure if polygamy was a mistake. I believe that righteous church leaders are entitled to revelation from God. If I believe this, then it follows that I should believe that polygamy was a revelation from God for A FEW people to participate in. (My husband always has to remind me that only a few people actually participated in polygamy, it wasn't church-wide.) However, I am a strong member of the church who willingly admits that I don't understand and may never fully understand God's reasoning behind polygamy. It could have been a mistake, but Biblical references (such as those given by Dave), albeit still disturbing to me, show us that polygamy was nothing new to God.

    Irene's answer makes sense to me. At least, it helps me feel better about polygamy when I think about it in those terms. It makes sense that polygamy was necessary for those women to have someone to take care of them and their children. But, what of those previously unmarried women that God married to an already married man? That, I struggle with.

    In the end, I have to admit that the thought of polygamy is disgusting and loathsome to me. Call me a jealous person, but I NEVER want to share my husband with anyone else. Because of that, I think if God does require polygamy of a few more people "someday" he'll rule Evan and I out as potential candidates. :)

  • @Darcey – Do you have a profile? Are you planning to make one?

    @Sassy Sarah – the idea that polygamy may come back in the future is pretty much dead with anyone our generation or younger, I think.

    I also believe that we are entitled to revelation from God – what I guess I'm really not sure about is whether we (as humans) are capable of correctly interpreting our interactions with God. I believe that many early leaders of the church thought that God was commanding them to practice polygamy, but is it possible that they misunderstood God's intentions? Is it possible that somewhere along the line they started to confuse their own feelings and desires with God's? Is it possible that Old Testament Prophets believed that God gave them multiple wives when really they just took multiple wives because it was the prevailing custom of the time?

    I won't call you jealous, I'll call you human. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Ren

    Reuben, the part of your answer that wasn't correct is that church leaders are never, ever wrong.

    Irene's answer is understandable because that's what is repeated in Mormon circles – that polygamy was all about helping widowed women & children. That's what the missionaries told me as well. That doesn't really jive with Joseph Smith marrying women who were already married to another men at the same time or the teenage girls. But it does make people feel better about polygamy because it sounds nice.

    Irene's answer is also very sad and naive because many women, single & widowed, have been supporting themselves and their families without the benefit of college since the dawn of time.

    Dave's answer is on the money the preferred answer. Will it convince non-members? Maybe, but I think it's always dicey territory when the sole reason for anything is "because God commanded it." Ergo, I'm suspicious of anyone who can't give a reason other than that.

    If I were to fill out a profile, mine would be rejected because my answer to this question would be: Spiritually, marriage is a contract between 2 or more people under whatever religious covenants that church and those people decide to abide by. Civically, a marriage is 2 or more people entering into a legal commitment with financial and other obligations to each other. As such, I don't care why the church previously practiced polygamy, why some people practice it today, or why any number of people of any gender get married. It's their own business.

    If pressed I could make a great case for why consenting adults should be allowed to practice polygamy today and it's got nothing to do with deity. But I digress.

    Are you going to rewrite your answer?

  • If anything, I think the Mormon Church is way too pre-occupied with polygamy. I know they are trying to fight a stereotype, but why bring it up when you don't have to. What if someone sees these profiles, but didn't know that the Mormon church had a history of polygamy? It would raise questions in my mind. While Muslims have other pressing stereotypes to fight, you don't see them spending lots of time and energy distancing themselves from polygamy.

    And the polygamists I know are all non-Mormons. And what's so wrong with it anyhow?

  • Anonymous

    i wish you could make up your own questions…

    for example:

    name the three weirdest mormons you know

    or

    what do mormons like to eat.

  • (Non-Mormon here!) It *seems* like they would prefer Dave's answer, but at the same time, wouldn't his answer also be problematic? The church rejected polygamy after the United States outlawed bigamy. It makes it seem like God decided to adhere to human laws, and not the other way around.

    Overall, aren't they editing your personal profile? It sounds like they are using the power of social networking to reinforce thoughts, for you and others, that they require you to perpetuate, but which were not originally your own.

  • I don't know that I've ever heard Irene's explanation before, but it seems like a cop-out type of answer. Like Ren indicated, single women have been supporting themselves and families for millenia.

  • @Ren –
    @Ben – yes, I agree entirely. Also, because even if a woman did find herself homeless and penniless, why does the solution involve marriage? Why not just, you know…, charity?

    @Kassie – I don't think I agree that the LDS church is preoccupied with polygamy. I think the Church tries extremely hard to never ever mention it no matter what, even when it's the elephant in the room. That's why this question in the ad campaign is so out of character for the Church. Generally, I think it's non-Mormons who are clinging to the Mormon=Polygamy stereotype, with the Church trying its hardest to pretend it never happened.

    @Amanda – yay for non-mormons on my blog!!! Yes, a review of the historical events surrounding the end of polygamy does suggest that human laws took precedence over Gods commandment to practice polygamy. I agree that is problematic.

    Also, yes, I'd say that group-think and conformity are alive and well both in this ad campaign & in the church at-large. The optimist in me, however, sees this ad campaign as an opportunity to break down stereotypes and expand the range of ideas that are allowed to exist within the Mormon umbrella. On one hand, the ad about the skateboarder successfully does this – that guy is surely not your run-of-the-mill Mormon. On the other hand, progress appears to be slow, and the umbrella is not yet large enough for me.

  • I don't think the church should be defending practices based on how that will appear to people not of the same faith. If you believe that God leads a church through divinely inspired and appointed leaders, you don't have to feel the need to defend 150 year old practices. If you don't think a church is divinely inspired, then why do you bother trying to defend it in the first place? If it is just a bunch of old guys giving advice, then why even belong?

    For the record, I think Dave's answer is obviously what is being looked for. Also, to say that Old Testament prophets imposed their will as God's commandment is sketchy. At some point, you have to decide whether the bible is the word of God or not (same goes for the Book of Mormon and modern church leaders). If you think it is just a nice collection of stories with an occasional good moral lesson thrown in, then really, why bother?

    I guess I don't understand the buffet line theology.

  • @Scott – I think it can be difficult for us (as humans) to fully understand the will of God. I believe that God speaks to us, but I'm not sure we always understand Him correctly. I am drawn to Paul's description of "seeing through a glass, darkly." There is no bat-phone directly to God, including among the leaders of the Church. I don't attribute any malicious intentions to Old Testament prophets that may have (or may not have) confused their own desires with God's desires. I'm sure I regularly confuse the two. As I approach God through prayer or scriptures, I have found it to be a more fulfilling experience when I ask the questions "What is Good?", "What is helpful?", and "What is inspiring?" rather than "What is True?" Truth is hard for me to recognize, but Goodness always seems to stand out. Your experiences may be different.

  • I make no claims to understanding the will of God, but I believe that He has called men who can help interpret that will. I'm glad I don't personally have to look through every single scriptural story and try and decide whether I think that particular one was inspired or just narrating the selfish desires of somebody thousands of years ago. I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't read scriptures with a critical eye, just that I agree with you that it is difficult to fully understand the will of God, which is exactly why there is a need for continued revelation to help interpret that will. Believing that isn't saying church leaders are infallible.

    At the very least, when you post an answer on mormon.org about polygamy that you know goes against the churh's teachings, I don't think it is fair to say, "It hurts a little bit to be rejected by my own faith community." In this case, I don't think you are attributing the rejecting to the right source.

  • @Scott – you're right. Thanks for calling me out on that. I rejected the church's explanations for polygamy before they rejected mine. I've added that to the original post.

  • I think the Mormon church does bring it up a lot, but usually defensively. Take Big Love for instance. The church has been very much against it. But the show itself has shown that not only are the polygamous families involved not members of the Mormon Church, but that the Mormon Church looks down on them. With that being the case, why not let the show do its talking for them.

  • @Kassie – I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I think the church has tried very hard to almost completely ignore the show.

    I'm a big fan of Big Love, though. It's a great show.

  • Anonymous

    As one who has studied polygamy, both Mormon and non-Mormon polygamy, for a while now – I still have not come to any final conclusions as to why polygamy was part of the Mormon church at one time. I am not sure I ever will. As a woman, I find the doctrine confusing, uncomfortable, and unsettling. The doctrine of polygamy has caused me to question my relationship and my value, as a woman, to God.

    However, during my intense study to try to find answers about this issue, this one thought keeps coming to my mind. What if polygamy is simply just a test of obedience and a test of faith. Like the test that God required of Abraham – to sacrifice Issac. What a horrific commandment that had to be for a father who dearly loved his son. Yet he was obedient and actually considered this heart wrenching act – he didn't run from it, dismiss it, rationalize it. Most importantly, he was willing to obey God in all things even something that he probably did not – could not understand or even comprehend at the time.

    What if polygamy is the same type of test – a test of obedience, a test of faith? Could it be that simple? A test of obedience for those that lived it and a test of faith for those of us who don't understand it now. For most woman polygamy is heart wrenching, it is horrific, it is a concept that reaches into the inner soul and painfully twists our heart. Why would God allow it – why would he command it for some and not others? Could it just simply be a purification process, a trial like cancer, illness, or death of a loved one? (Notice the things I compare polygamy to. lol)

    I don't have the answers to these questions – and I am not sure I ever will – at least in this life. But perhaps that is part of my test. Just a thought!

  • Ren

    @anon I've heard "just a test" ascribed to many commandments and actions and it doesn't fit into my paradigm of a loving God.

    There was a member of my family who used to demand obedience to ridiculous things. It didn't merit them respect, just the apt description of a controlling mind%&*#er.

    There are people today who do what Abraham was about to – kill their children because they think God has commanded it. They end up in jail. Same goes for people who murder today in the name of God (which seems to be sanctioned in many cases in the bible and BoM). They go to jail – and rightly so.

    I don't personally have a problem w/ polygamy as long as everyone participating is a consenting adult. But I can't accept that God commands anything senseless as a test of obedience. I wouldn't want a thing to do with deity so petulant.

  • @Anonymous – You're definitely not alone in finding polygamy in the LDS church uncomfortable and unsettling. I suspect that most LDS women feel very similarly.

    I've also heard the "just a test" explanation for polygamy before. …and it's just as good as any other explanation I've ever heard. It's just not very fulfilling to me because it doesn't really convince me that God is someone I should worship. It makes god sound kind of tormenting and arbitrary.

    @Ren – Yes, I also don't have a problem with consenting adults doing whatever. I'm no historian, but it's my general understanding that the circumstances surrounding polygamy in LDS history were a little different.

  • Anonymous

    Non-Mormon Protestant Pastor here. I just came via Google trying to figure out why people seem to hate polygamy so much. This was prompted by a discussion in a bible study earlier.

    Anyway, Reuben, your answer seemed like the most honest & penitent — that's probably why they rejected it. As I understand it, LDS is just as strict with doctrine as the Catholics. So you basically said the first couple of Popes were fallible.

    Irene was partly correct in that women needed men in the ancient world (whether Israelite or Roman culture) even more than they do now. However her example is flawed as widows received special legal dispensations and often support from the community as well.

    Dave's answer was just a lot of inaccurate butt kissing (sorry, Dave).

    I agree with what Ren said about consenting adults. As long as it also does not conflict with God's law of course. With people now having two or more spouses in their lifetime, how can we be outraged when some choose to buy outright instead of using the marriage-divorce-marriage installment plan?

    Why must marriage be a civil matter anyway? It should be a covenant with God. If other laws that exist to protect adults and children are broken (as in the FLDS) then by all means let justice be done.

    It's just hard for me to understand why there is so much vitriol against polygamy/polygyny. I suppose I'm just waking up to the issue though I've been aware of LDS, its past, and the clear differences between it and the FLDS cult for some time.

    I know it can't just be legality. Pot is illegal and adultery is illegal and driving while intoxicated is illegal, but I've talked to plenty of Christians who seem sympathetic or even in favor of such behavior.

    Since I spent most of my Christian life in solitary study and worship it just never occurred to me that it would be an issue to mention in a group that the Bible does not condemn (even when they think it does) poly' marriage. Boy was I wrong! Rough crowd.

    From my outsider and across the country perspective, I believe the LDS apologizes too much and responds too often on this issue.

    As the Muslim population in America increases and Political Correctness becomes more ridiculous, I expect we will all have to learn to love polygyny soon anyway. The debate is already happening in the UK and the Muslims are winning. Not really the victory of scriptural accuracy I hope for though.

    P.S. Sorry about the rant, Reuben! Nice blog. God Bless.

  • @Anonymous Non-Mormon Pastor – have you heard the one about how Catholics & Mormons approach infallibility?

    Wendy Ulrich was quoted as having said –

    “In the Catholic church everyone says the pope is infallible but nobody believes it; and in the Mormon church everybody says the prophet is fallible but nobody believes it.”

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Reuben, the people who accept or reject these submissions are BYU students who work at the MTC. Don't feel like it's the church itself who has rejected this answer – it's really just some kid.

  • @Anonymous – yes, you're right. That's a good perspective.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that spending so much time discussing polygamy ends up as ironic processing–it causes us to just think about it more. "Don't worry about polygamy. Stop thinking about polygamy!"

  • Kyle

    So which part of your answer was doctrinally incorrect? That church leaders are capable of mistakes or that polygamy was a mistake?
    I think the church is missing the point of a social network, if everyone has to toe the line and say the same thing than there is no point in having one!

  • I'm curious why people think that the new mormon.org is a social network. There are no "friends," no comments, no "likes," no interaction, which is the antithesis of a social network. It's more like a commerce site where you can leave a review about a particular item, except there is only one item and it's being "sold" by the owner. This comparison doesn't quite carry through, of course. Since these opinions are being hosted by the Church on the Church's site, it's within the rights of the Church to dictate what it allows or doesn't allow to be viewed on the site. Even if the site has the appearance of complete freedom of speech. I don't necessarily agree that people should be told what they can't say about a particular doctrine, but if anyone has a dissenting opinion, there are plenty of outlets with which it can be shared. I think that it is more honest to allow people to share opinions like you tried to do, Reuben, with this first answer, but as an introduction to the doctrines of the Church, they really need to keep it as consistent as possible.

  • Anonymous

    Here's my thoughts on the whole polygamy thing:

    What would have happened to the Church, historically speaking, if not for polygamy? What effect did the practice of polygamy have?

    Well, among other effects, it forced the Church to separate itself from the surrounding society, and, in fact, the people had to leave their native country for a completely different place. Perhaps this isolation from society and country was necessary for the members/doctrine/Church to fully develop a separate identity, rather than re-assimilating into Protestantism. When polygamy was being practiced, Mormons were set apart from outsiders in a crucial (and very visible) way: their very families were not like others.

    After Mormonism and the Mormon identity were more fully developed, polygamy could be dropped without fear that the Church would become just another Protestant sect, or worse yet peter out in the manner of many new religious movements. It was clear that the essential message would be preserved, so there was no longer a need for such drastic separation from the mainstream.

  • Anonymous

    (The above can be considered as an explanation of why God might command a people to live polygamy for a while and then tell them to stop.)

  • Carl Youngblood

    anonymous, the problem with this theory is that it really isn't an accurate description of how the history really happened. For one thing, most Mormons were not in polygamous relationships, even during the early Utah years. Read these posts for a much more nuanced view of the challenges of this era in church history:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/03/03/correlation-an-uncorrelated-history-part-1-the-mormon-underground/

  • Re: Why must marriage be a civil matter anyway? It should be a covenant with God.

    It is a civil matter because non-believers and others outside your faith tradition have marriages and families that are every bit as valid and loving as yours — which have absolutely nothing to do with your God. I'm happy to respect your own interpretation of your own personal marriage, but you have to understand that marriage and family are concepts that are a lot bigger, and have a life and meaning outside your particular community and faith tradition.

  • Anonymous

    I think mormon.org included this question among those you could include in your profile (and you don't *have* to choose this as one you answer; it's one of many possibilities) is because non-Mormons ask about polygamy all the time. It's to give such people an acceptably Mormon answer that the question was written, not because the church likes to bring up the issue or is trying to reshape Reuben's thoughts, for cryin' out loud.

  • Hellmut

    Aristotle didn't observe that the family is the basic unit of a particular sect but of the state. In a society with religious freedom and diversity, marriage has to be a civil matter.

    If we were to allow religion to lay claim to marriage that would not only be the end of religious freedom but would undermine the state itself.

  • Anonymous

    The problem I have is that they are flagging Reuben's comment which is an accurate representation of the answer you would get from many mormons while leaving Irene's which is factually inaccurate.

    The historical record shows that the reason for polygamy was not taking care of the families of young widows. It is also not given as a reason in LDS scriptures. The doctrinal reasons are exaltation and to produce children. Historically it was because an angel with a flaming sword told Joseph Smith he would be killed if he didn't do it.

    While it is true it was only practised by a third of the male membership who were mostly in leadership positions with them taking multiple wives it would have been unsustainable if all members had practised it.

    I know that my answer would likely have been rejected because the concept of polygamy isn't a problem for me if all are consenting. My main problems with mormon polygamy are the young girls like Helen Mar Kimball at 14 marrying an almost 40 year old Joseph Smith and the secrecy.

    More damning to me is that the leadership publicly lied to the membership and the world for the first 70 years of its existence. First there was Joseph Smith's denials, it took Brigham another 10 years before he told the whole Church, and then the church lied to everyone with the manifesto, which it turns out was never intended to end polygamy. This duplicity and dishonesty to the membership and others is one of my biggest problems with polygamy, so I don't think my answer would be accepted.

    What is ironic is that a factually accurate description is "incorrect" but a member putting factually inaccurate myths is considered "doctrinally accurate".

    As for the answer of many mormon men dying in wars it is directly copied from Islam who actually have a recorded history that it happened. My guess would be that a mormon heard the muslim explanation and thought "that makes a lot of sense, especially with all the persecution that mormons received". So he told someone and then the mormon faith promoting rumour team kicked in.

    Either way it was a mistake for them to put the question on the website, especially since the majority of members have no concept of how polygamy started or the actual reasons why it ended. It's one of the issues that mormons are told to take on faith, without full explantion, which is something a visitor reading the website will not do.

    Irene's answer makes you feel good but is a lie, which says a lot.

  • Anonymous

    I hope this makes sense, it is late and I am tired, but I wanted to comment.

    I am a member of the church, with many ancestors who practiced polygamy. I had a really hard time understanding polygamy growing up. Since I've gotten into family history and learning more about it I was surprised that some women loved it. Others did not, and most often in these cases it wasn't done correctly.

    What I have concluded is that you cant understand an eternal law with a worldly perspective.

    I have heard many explanations for polygamy. And honestly I don't know what is doctrinal. I know that I may not be where I am today if it wasn't for polygamy, so I better be grateful for it.

    One thought has crossed my mind lately though, I have a sister who is mentally retarded, She will never marry in this life. We know that marriage is essential to Gods plan. Would it be right for her not to receive exaltation because there was no righteous man for her to marry?

    I just had another thought. In the early days of the church I wonder how many men never married. I do know of one in my family, but I think it may have been a weird situation. The leaders weren't marrying all the women and leaving men without a woman to marry (like the FLDS). There were more women who accepted the gospel than men. Should they be denied exaltation?

    When you look at it with an eternal perspective it makes more sense.

    I also wanted to say that Christ does speak directly to the prophet. This is the very reason we have a prophet. This is Christ's church, and he does lead it. The prophets may not have done everything exactly right, but that doesn't mean that the principle or law was incorrect. They are men and they aren't perfect. We aren't either, that's why we cant judge.

    Also, I did want to point out that the church has admitted to at least one mistake. They started baptism for the dead before it was commanded of them and weren't doing it in the proper way. After receiving revelation they waited for the temple to be built and re-performed the baptisms. Baptism is also an important ordnance to receive exaltation. It was important for them to get it right. Would it not be the same for marriage? If it wasn't done right, it would have to be done correctly. With all of these important ordinances there are witnesses to make sure everything is done correctly. The wrath of God is definitely greater than the wrath of man. I think if it was a mistake it would have been corrected. Just a thought.

    The thought of sharing my man still doesn't sit very well with me, I am really hoping that if it ever is required of me, in this life or the next, I will understand it better. My husband has often told me he wouldn't really like to have the responsibility of another family either. This wasn't something that Joseph Smith wanted to do. And I'm sure it wasn't easy by any means.

  • Fbisti

    A good range of comments and theories. However, somewhat lean on facts. Even a cursory study of Mormon polygamy in the 19th Century (though it was officially sanctioned into the early 20th) reveals that:

    -Section 132 was supposedly "given" by the Lord in July 1842 (or '43) in order for Joseph to finally convince Hyram to accept the principle.
    -The doctrinal rationale for taking multiple wives was to increase one's reward in the Celestial Kingdom. To get more power and dominion and a bigger "kingdom." On many documented occasions women had their sealings canceled in order to be re-sealed to Brigham or Joseph and thus ensure an even higher seat in heaven. If you don't recognize this as a problem, try thinking of it as selfish, not Christ-like.
    -On several occasions Joseph himself publicly excoriated and denigrated women (e.g., Nancy Rigdon) who spurned his request to becoming one of his wives. He purposely attempted to hurt their reputations and standing in the church community.
    -On at least one occasion Joseph publicly excoriated a man who had been caught by civil authorities practicing plural marriage. Denying that he and the some in church leadership were doing the same. He lied to the public, but he also often lied to his own followers in this regard.
    -The 3% figure (of men that had plural wives) is a myth. Research has shown this figure to be in the 40% range.

    All that is only what I can remember top-of-mind from having read just ONE scholarly and objective historical research: Van Wagoner's "The History of Mormon Polygamy."

    So, I agree fully with Reuben about polygamy. It was not from or a commandment from God.

  • Jeff

    I didn't read this whole comment thread, but I can tell just by reading my immediate predecessor that there is a lot of error in it.

    Polygamy is and was a commandment. It is the fullness of celestial marriage. While the Lord has requested that we stop practicing this law for the time being, it will return one day (relatively soon in my opinion) and continues to be practiced righteously in other spheres of existence.

    All of this is taught clearly by our scriptures. If D&C 132 was a mistake, it would not reside in our canon. It would not have endured so long. The Prophet would not have been allowed to lead the Church astray at such great cost if it were not of the Lord. Anyone who believes that this Church is actively led by the Lord cannot really repudiate polygamy.

    It is not only present in the D&C, but throughout the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon makes a few mentions of the practice, stating that the Lord allowed it (Jacob 2). There is a very large corpus of modern discourses discussing the principle of plural marriage and its virtues, nature, and eternal attributes.

    Polygamy was not stopped because it was a "mistake". Official Declaration 1 gives the reason over and over again; if we continued to practice the higher law of plural marriage, the Church's disincorporation would have continued, the temple confiscated, desecrated and destroyed, our ability to publish and preach severely impaired. The Lord, in His wisdom, chose that we ought to not practice the fullness of celestial marriage at such a cost, but only when the absolute breaking point was reached. I believe that the Gentile nations would be held responsible for the blessings lost among generations of Saints because of Gentile persecution.

    Polygamy is out-of-step with Western Christanized norms but it is not out of step with the Lord or His Church. The evidence for that is abundant and clear. Plural marriage permeates scripture as a true principle practiced by almost all of the recorded patriarchs. We have modern revelation, canonized in the D&C and records of thousands of preached discourses, that strongly supports the principle and indicates our obligation to adhere to it, at least intellectually and spiritually if we cannot, for a time, practice.

    See also http://zionlist.blogspot.com/2010/06/seeing-beyond-babylon.html .

  • Aaron L

    Irregardless of whether your feelings of polygamy are correct or not (I agree with you BTW), I think that it's troubling that the church is censoring peoples' comments like that. I see the new mormon.org as a place for people to explain their personal beliefs rather than a place to get the facts. I personally think that it would help the church's image if they let it be known that not everybody buys into everything. I would certainly feel better about being a member if I felt more accepted despite being a little heretical.

  • Laura

    I found your blog on Timesandseasons and I loved your answer. I just answered this question in what might be an unorthodox way and I'm wondering if I'll get the same response. Irene's answer being accepted scares me a little bit.

  • Anonymous

    I have a friend who has been my best friend for over half my life. We were talking about polygamy one day when we were about 17 and I was expressing to her how unsettling I thought the doctrine was. She said to me that when she was studying and trying to understand polygamy she finally came to the conclusion that if I (her best friend) was one qualification short of entering the celestial kingdom she would do anything to help me get in. Including sharing her husband. Don't get me wrong, that is certainly NOT what I would prefer, but still, I think I would do the same for her. I don't know, I'm still pretty young and I haven't gone through the temple yet, and I know that means my perception is limited, but I think if we love one another with a perfect Christ-like love we wouldn't want to withhold any potential happiness from anyone. Maybe that answer is a little bit simplistic. It still feels weird to me, and I STILL severely hope I don't ever have to participate in polygamy, but does make a little bit of sense now.

  • American Yak

    Hey Reuben. Interesting topic. It's strange, but also entirely understandable that the Church is censoring/editing (depending on your point of view, I suppose) topics. It's unfortunate that they have to, but I suppose they have an image to maintain or something like that. Even thinking about the implications kind of boggles my mind…but I do think it's understandable…

    Anyway, to the topic at hand, I totally believe in polygamy. I suppose I'm always surprised that people have a hard time with it, even though I guess it does fly in the face of contemporary *norms.*

    — but even so, why do we struggle with this concept so much? It seems knee jerk to me, less-so rather than actually thinking about doctrine or reason, we seem uncomfortable with the whole idea, and therefore can't deal.

    I don't intend this to be a personal tirade against you or your point of view, which I respect. Rather, just vocalizing what always seems surprising to me. Why should we have such difficulty with this past? What is it about polygamy that seems so egregious or malevolent? It's preponderance suggests that early leaders were at fault — Joseph and Brigham MUST have been wrong in this case.

    I state it emphatically as my opinion (and I'll let opinion suffice under emphasis) that these two were following higher law.

    Less emphatically, I actually feel it's true.

    But on just a more conversational level, what is it that's so scary about such a practice? Am I the only one that thinks it actually seems reasonable and normal?

  • American Yak

    Btw — I also think it's interesting that we're SO SHOCKED with the idea of polygamy, almost paramount with views on adultery and fornication — even though we believe in chastity as a Church — when we discuss polygamy we raise it almost to the same level of shock and awe that we would fornication.

    Tsk, tsk!

  • Not to be all ranty, but this is going to be a bit of a ranty comment.

    on Dave’s quote: I don’t think that God ever condoned polygamy. Just because a person did something and their story is in the bible, it does not mean God condones it, or commanded it. The stories in the bible are simply the truth and all men sin and fall short of the glory of God. Even David, even Saul. The only one who hasn’t is Jesus and that’s because He IS God. Just because something is in the bible it doesn’t mean God approves of it. It just means that it happened.

    Speaking about Irene’s quote, I also don’t think that polygamy has ever been needed. You don’t have to marry someone in order for them to have the kindness in their hearts to take you into their home and take care of you. Marriage is not needed in order to be taken care of. But the man wants something in return. The only thing that a married man can do with his wife that a man who is not married cannot do (morally) is to have sex. So basically, the men were trading the taking care of the women for sex. Because, of course it would be wrong to have sex with a woman unless he were married to her, right? Or maybe it’s wrong to have sex with more than one woman, period.

    And you’re right Reuben, Dave’s answer would not be convincing to non-mormons, lol…

    I completely agree with your response to above comments:
    “I also believe that we are entitled to revelation from God – what I guess I’m really not sure about is whether we (as humans) are capable of correctly interpreting our interactions with God. I believe that many early leaders of the church thought that God was commanding them to practice polygamy, but is it possible that they misunderstood God’s intentions? Is it possible that somewhere along the line they started to confuse their own feelings and desires with God’s? Is it possible that Old Testament Prophets believed that God gave them multiple wives when really they just took multiple wives because it was the prevailing custom of the time?”

    I also agree with this comment from above:

    “Overall, aren’t they editing your personal profile? It sounds like they are using the power of social networking to reinforce thoughts, for you and others, that they require you to perpetuate, but which were not originally your own.”

    On this comment:

    ““In the Catholic church everyone says the pope is infallible but nobody believes it; and in the Mormon church everybody says the prophet is fallible but nobody believes it.”” – No one is infallible but Jesus.

    p.s. Whatever happened to Joseph Smith? Did he die to save the world (past, present, and future) from eternal damnation? just asking 😉

    Disclaimer: Whoever has read the above comment, please do not take anything I have said personally. Arguing with me is fine, but please don’t be mad at me for having opinions. This comment is spoken completely out of my own personal beliefs and was not intended to offend anyone or push any beliefs on anyone. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and the above is simply mine.

  • Monique

    Dude! This is a FASCINATING post! The thing that is most intriguing is that we now have a way of ‘testing’ whether our beliefs fall in line with _current_ Church doctrine. Cool.

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