Will there be Polygamy in Heaven?

Huzzah! New question in the inbox!  This one comes from someone named Kennedy, who I don’t think I’ve ever met:

I like the way you answer questions so I’m just gonna be straight up! =) Is there going to be polygamy in the ck [Celestial Kingdom]?? I ask because my grandpa is being sealed to his new wife (my grandma died a few years ago) in a few weeks and my family, frankly, has been skirting around my question or just giving me crappy answers. So, he be sealed to both of them? It’s all confusing to me…

Well that’s a pretty heavy question, eh Kennedy? I don’t really consider myself a reliable source of info, so you shouldn’t either, but I’ll tell you what I know about it.

To your exact situation in terms of current church policy, Yes, your grandfather will be sealed to both of them, which heavily implies that he will be married to both of them in a polygamous sense in the Celestial Kingdom. Most members of the church will stop short of making any absolute statements about what will actually happen in heaven, which is probably why you’ve been getting crappy answers to your questions.

Let’s consider your broader question: Is there going to be polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom in heaven? Well… that depends on who you ask. Ask any member of the church during the second half of the 1800’s, and the answer would be a resounding “Yes, of course there will be polygamy in heaven!” During this time, church members were very clear on this point, and acceptance of polygamy in heaven (and on earth) was somewhat of a litmus test to be in full fellowship among the Mormons.

But things have changed since then. While I was growing up during the 80’s and 90’s, I heard the occasional reference to polygamy being practiced in heaven, but usually only by old people. I certainly grew up with the understanding that polygamy would exist in heaven, but I also heard a lot of faith-promoting-rumors that certainly weren’t true.

Now in 2011, I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard anyone at church teach about polygamy in heaven (except for this one guy – he was really old and that’s a story for another time), and General Authorities of the church haven’t consistently taught that principle in General Conference for several decades.

So when your family is skirting around the questions or giving crappy answers, well…, that’s pretty much what the entire church has been doing for a few decades now. So it’s not just your family. I’m not sure anyone really knows if the idea of polygamy in heaven is still Mormon doctrine or not.  You won’t find it in any Mormon lesson manuals, and you definitely won’t hear anything about it in General Conference, but D&C 132 still teaches it, and the current temple practices still strongly suggest it.

Do some members of the church believe there will be polygamy in heaven?  Sure. Some do. Mostly old people. You would be hard pressed to find any member of the church age 40 or younger that is excited about it. To be frank, I think the reason nobody talks about it is because nobody really wants to believe it. I’ve never met a member of the church who wants polygamy either on earth or in heaven, except maybe some old people.

Does that mean it’s not part of Mormon doctrine anymore? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. If nobody believes it, nobody wants to believe it, and as a result nobody talks about it, in my opinion, that pretty well makes it a former doctrine. At the very least, a belief in polygamy in heaven is absolutely no longer required to be a faithful and active member of the church. If you or your family wants to believe in polygamy in heaven, there is certainly precedent for those beliefs.  If you want to ignore it and dismiss any teachings about polygamy as archaic and outdated, you’ll certainly fit in as well.

What do you think readers? How would you answer this question? Give your answer in the comments below.

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15 comments to Will there be Polygamy in Heaven?

  • Ren

    Polygamy in CK? Yes, based on Mormon theology.
    If I had to be married again, polygamy would be the way to go. Very convenient and less hassle (for the women). No idea why a guy would want all that responsibility though…

  • Ren

    PS, it’s spring. Nearly summer. Take your stocking cap off in your banner. 😛

  • @Ren – based on current Mormon Theology, or past Mormon Theology? Last time I checked, current Mormon theology is playing up the one-man-one-woman thing pretty strongly, and the polygamy-might-come-back-sometime-later is a quickly shrinking footnote.

  • Katie

    Everything I’ve heard says yes, there will be polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom, but no one will mind because we’ll all be perfect. Yikes, huh? Does that mean that my husband and I will be sealed to some other chick once we get there? Not if I have my say, and I do think we’ll have a say in it.

  • katie

    My understanding of current temple practice is that a man can be sealed to another woman after his first wife has passed away (as you state) and that when you are doing temple work for a woman who had multiple husbands during her lifetime, she is sealed to all of those husbands. Not really sure how that is going to be sorted out in the next life, but just wanted to note that it is not only men that are being sealed to multiple wives in the temple.

  • @katie – yes. that’s worth noting. The take home message there (for me), is that the Church doesn’t really have any idea who is going to end up sealed to whom, so any statements regarding polygamy are speculative at best.

  • I’d think the LDS Church would have to de-canonize D&C 132 in order to make this a former doctrine. That section is pretty dang explicit.

    Polygamy has never been popular. It caused schism in Nauvoo. Panic over it was a contributing factor in the assassination of Joseph Smith. Even with leaders in Utah pushing it, statistical analysis by historian Laurence Foster shows that it was in decline and probably would have gone out of style on its own, even if the Saints hadn’t been pressured to give it up by the Federal government. Let’s face it… It’s not easy to make it work. One one on one relationship is just a lot less complicated and, in many ways, more emotionally satisfying.

    The fact that the Church allows serial polygamy in the form of temple sealings to more than one wife also suggests it is not a former doctrine. Way back in the early 80s when I was a branch president and had access to the priesthood manual of instructions, it explicitly stated that a man who had been previously sealed could be sealed again to another woman, but not the other way around. A woman once sealed to a previous husband, could marry a second time for time but not for eternity. If that’s still the policy, I’d say polygamy is doctrinally in force.

  • @John – I agree with you. You’re right, maybe I misspoke. The continuation of temple sealing policies does suggest that it’s not quite yet a former doctrine. I’m just more inclined to believe that the Church just hasn’t gotten around to changing the sealing policies yet, but that they eventually will.

    But then the question becomes more intriguing. Why is nobody talking about it then? Why isn’t it in our lesson manuals? Who was the last General Authority to proudly proclaim this doctrine (my guess is you’d have to go as far back as Bruce R. McConkie…)?

    And I suppose I’m speaking more culturally here. Culturally, I just don’t hear anyone talking about it. If young members of the church believe that polygamy is God’s will for heaven, I’ll bet they believe it despite what they know about God, not because of it. I just don’t know anyone that chooses monogamy in this life that isn’t at least somewhat troubled by the prospect of polygamy in the next.

  • Greg

    John is correct. In an eternal context plural marriage is both doctrine and practice. It’s even a bit trickier than that since when you are doing work for the dead basically you can seal by proxy any couple that had children together, so you do get situations where women are sealed to more than one man and men sealed to more than one woman.

    That said, saying there is “polygamy in heaven” assumes we know a lot more than we probably do about the nature of relationships in the next estate.

  • @John @Greg – thanks both of you for chiming in. Sealing to multiple partners is clearly part of the historical Mormonism. Despite D&C 132 and current temple sealing practices, I still think polygamy is nearly irrelevant to modern Mormonism based on what I see on the ground at church each week and in General Conference. I think Greg is right that “polygamy in heaven” assumes a lot more about what the sealings will look like in the next life.

    I think it is significant that references to polygamy, either earthly or heavenly are not found in any manuals or in any curriculum. Often, we don’t even talk about it in sunday school when we study D&C 132. Multiple partner sealings in the temple seems more like an administrative policy reflective of past traditions rather than any kind of doctrine that church members have strong feelings about.

  • Well, for obvious cultural and political reasons, silence about polygamy has been de rigueur for about the last hundred years. And as long as monogamy is the law of the land, and as long as Declaration No. 1 is the law governing the Church, there’s no practical reason why it would be discussed.

    “Strong feelings”: The most I can think to say about it is that it was a trial of faith for the Church when it was taught and practiced.

  • Raegan

    I finally came to terms with this concept by acknowledging no one truly knows what will happen with individuals who are sealed to more than one person; however, I do know that in order for these men and women to earn entrance to the Celestial Kingdom, they must have a temple sealing. Who am I to prevent another woman from returning to our Heavenly Father simply because I get a little “skweemish” with the idea of polygamy? I have faith that the One who implemented this plan has included the answer to this question, so I can “sit back” and focus on my imperfections that may cost me an opportunity to find out the answer. When that time comes, I am sure my mother will be more than willing to fill me in.

  • Michael

    If I were a betting man, I’d put the same odds on polygamy in the CK as on the hijackers of 9-11 being met by 72 virgins. Point being, both are just myths used to promote a particular world-view. I tend to agree with Stephen Hawking and think that when we die, we are dead and our body decays. That’s it.

    (Sorry to rain on the parade. Feel free to delete my comment if it is offensive.)

  • Ruth

    This has been so helpful. I stumbled on this site by accident when I was google searching the topic. I just finished reading “Rough Stone Rolling” and it left me feeling sick really. I actually loved the book but the polygamy thing left me feeling dark. This helped. Thanks.

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