Sunday, December 3, 2017

Polygamy is NOT an Eternal Principle

A few months ago in Relief Society, a sister in my ward casually mentioned that polygamy is an eternal principle. There was no push-back on that, it was just accepted and people moved on.

Except me, of course. I let it simmer in my mind for much longer than I should have.

I eventually reached out to say that while I appreciate the perspective, this conclusion is not official doctrine* and I for one do not believe it, so please be mindful there are differing views in the room. We had a pleasant conversation from there, but the usual tropes came out...

  • I was encouraged to read the scriptures and pray on the eternal nature of polygamy.
  • I ought to think of the sister who never married. --I wouldn't want to let my jealousy stand in the way of her exaltation, right?

All of this assumes God didn't have the foresight or math skills to get the ratio of righteous men and women right in heaven. It also ignores the fact that many more male infants die in their angelic state than females.

So what do I say in response? First, my typical snarky comeback:

"Okay, well, if you're all cool with polygamy, I'll be sure to volunteer you to share your husband with the billions of women who need him to get into Heaven." Thanks for taking a hit for the team!

(I'm a jerk.)

But in all seriousness, my next favorite line to deliver in this case is:

"Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time. I'm having a ball!"

We should look forward to polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom as much as we would gleefully anticipate sacrificing our sons on altars there, too.

Which is not at all.

Indeed, when referencing polygamy in Doctrine and Covenants  132:50 we read:

Behold, I have seen your sacrifices and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac. (Emphasis added.)

Polygamy hardly seems like a celestial reward when it's likened onto a great trial. Note too that God intends to remove this hardship at some point, though the timing of that is unclear. Many even believe Joseph Smith was able to escape consummating polygamy because for as many wives as he had, we only know of children coming from Emma (modern DNA studies continue to support this).

How then can people say polygamy is eternal? I used to approach this topic from the point of defending my conclusion, but today I've had enough of that. Today I play the offense and ask others how they can still promote an ideology that is not only blatantly false, but just as important hurts so many women!

I could concede a fair counter-argument in favor of polygamy...

If The Creation story featured Adam and Eve and Janet and Cindy. That is to say, if the Male:Female union weren't the standard and ideal from the beginning.  
If LDS polygamy produced more children than would have otherwise been expected of traditional marriage (news flash: It didn't).  
If men routinely outlived women (the opposite is true), allowing them more opportunities to remarry.
And especially if The Book of Mormon didn't deliver a scathing condemnation of polygamy except to allow the case where God tries his people with it (see Jacob Chapter 2, also Genesis 38:9-10). 

Bonded, but not sealed by Krazy Glue

At this point, some might point out that sealings have been performed for multiple women to one man and that this practice still goes on today. That is true, that's not wrong, but it's not entirely correct to understand it that way. One must first realize that the word "sealing" as it is used to describe temple marriage is a misnomer. A "sealing" is not actually a sealing (i.e. enduring) until it is bound by the Holy Spirit of Promise, this is generally understood to take place with a Second Anointing ordinance that includes the Washing of the Feet. When the sealing power was restored to earth and in both Kirtland and Nauvoo, men were married and "sealed" to multiple spouses, but second anointings were reserved (in almost all cases) to the first wife only. This would support the 1:1 male-female union as eternal in nature and anything else as temporary.

Furthermore, Jesus our Exemplar repeatedly showed us that female singularity is key along the path to exaltation. Though obvious, Jesus was born of ONE woman, from a virginal womb. In death, he was laid to rest in a virginal tomb (never used before) and returned into the presence of ONE woman, Mary Magdalene. Similarly, though Abraham had other wives and far-outlived Sarah, when he died he was interred next to his first wife's grave and hers alone (Genesis 25:10). This pattern would be repeated with Emma Hale Smith laid next to Joseph Smith Jr.. These examples give a picture of what the morning of The First Resurrection will look like, and it's not a polygamous model.

Do I point these things out to dig at subsequent wives and single ladies? Do I not care about their eternal destiny? Am I motivated out of jealously to share this viewpoint?

I've taken away nothing. The concluding argument pro-polygamists have always given is not to worry, "everything will work out in the end." That last bit remains true. We both agree that God is love, He is merciful and will take care of everyone in His great plan. The fundamental point where we differ is, I have faith that His plan does not handle women as expendable, dime-a-dozen figures in a play centered on man. Rather, I propose this radical thought that we are of equal worth, and that the singular male-female union is celestial. Worlds without end.

Addendum: I was asked when, if ever, God gives the "green light" to the practice of polygamy. To that I say at most He will give a yellow light, which is to proceed with caution in the following circumstances based on scriptural references:

  1. The Law of Sarah is invoked in a permissible season. That is, when a woman requests that her husband take an additional wife and the Prophet approves it. 
  2. As in OT times, when a man dies and his brother is legally required to marry his widow for protection and provisions. Today there are men who feel prompted to marry a widow who had been sealed to her first husband in order to "raise up seed" to him.
  3. When God decides to try his people? Ugh. But even then I have faith He will provide an escape as mentioned earlier. 

In 2/3 cases, the focus appears to be doing what the woman wants, which I found to be fascinating. And note that the third item can be satisfied by the second scenario described, potentially making this 3/3 pro-woman. 

Also interesting, the Second Chapter of Jacob says polygamy is not to be practiced unless God commands it for "raising up seed." A search of the scriptures reveals that the phrase "raising up seed" by itself is typically used in only two ways: In the general (i.e. not related to polygamy) sense of righteous branches of The Tribes needing to keep their line going, and the more applicable Old Testament setup of brother-in-law duty to widows mentioned above. (We're thankfully past that now.)

As for the prophecy that one day 7 women will grab a hold of 1 man and ask to be called by his name (see Isaiah 4:1), I think it's possible that as the elders flake out on us there will be many righteous single women in the last days who will yearn to have their temple ordinances complete and request good men to stand as proxies for their would-be-husbands. I'm not fretting about this for two reasons: 1) Again, a sealing is not a sealing until it is bound (i.e. things will get sorted out later) and 2) I've already volunteered my RS sister's husband to take care of all that. :)

*Ironically, Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine (which is not actually Church sanctioned) says that polygamy is forever... But he also said blacks would never get the priesthood, so miss with me that


  1. Hi. Just wanted to say, as a single woman: I have no interest in being exalted as a side piece. I'd much rather be in a lesser kingdom, thanks much. I can't speak for all single women, but I can speak for me.

    1. Being a side piece isn't His plan for any of His children. Good attitude Rose!

  2. I agree with you. I’m married, but I would much rather be single than be a side piece or a multiple wife. No thank you. I would much rather be a ministering angel. Sometimes I hope that eternal marriage isn’t a true principle and that we are all individual units in the Celestial Kingdom. Is that bad?

  3. You can be single in the Celestial kingdom.
    If you wish to remain an individual, Moses 1:39 certainly supports that construct.

  4. Jacob 2:30 actually isn't a loophole saying God will allow polygamy at times. If you read it in context, it actually says the exact opposite and is in perfect keeping with the rest of the chapter. Verse 25 explains what God means by "raise up seed." God is commanding his people in that very chapter -- commanding them to have only one wife. And the term "these things" is used multiple times throughout the entire chapter -- and every single time (including verse 30) it refers to the abominations Jacob is warning against. Verse 30 is God saying, "If I want to raise up a covenant people, I will command them, otherwise they will hearken to the bad ideas of old." Make sense?
    Not to mention that the following verses explain why God rejects polygamy -- because of the harm it causes women. If this verse were really saying God wants polygamy at times, it would mean he wouldn't care about women in those instances because he wanted a lot of children born. Impossible! God always cares about women and, as you said, polygamy doesn't result in more children being born.

  5. I was thinking about people who have talked/taught about temple issues, and thought of you, so I checked in on your blog. I have left incredulous comments on your posts before, but this time I am nearly spluttering with indignation! How can you say things like this and allow yourself to stay in the church? It's like I'm reading an exMormon post. I agree with you about these topics, but nearly everything you've written goes against LDS doctrine or condemns the prophets. I believe things like this, and that makes me an apostate. You believe things like this, and you're comfortable saying you believe in the church. I don't get it.

    Take a few minutes to read through any volume of the Journal of Discourses, and you'll see that Brigham Young down through Joseph F. Smith taught polygamy openly and regularly as an eternal principle. (Heber J. Grant was also a polygamist, but two of his wives had died before he became the president, so he was not actively a polygamist while a church president.)

    These teachings have never been rescinded! The church has been very clear that polygamy was stopped for legal/political reasons, not because the doctrine changed.

    We know the modern LDS church still believes in polygamy as an eternal principle because D&C 132 has never been rescinded. In addition, multiple temple sealings for men offer additional evidence that they still believe it. The day that the church requires men to get a sealing cancellation before being sealed to a second wife, I might *start* to believe they've abandoned polygamy as an eternal principle. Your explanation about the holy spirit of promise and/or second anointing holds zero weight for me. As far as the church cares to portray it, the second anointing doesn't exist. There are zero results on for the phrase. If you use Google to search, you can find "Do not attempt in any way to discuss or answer questions about the second anointing" in the Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual. There has never been any teaching about whether the holy spirit of promise can seal more than one marriage/sealing.

    Joseph Smith did not follow the possible justifications you give. We know he did not follow the Law of Sarah as you've explained it (and the way it's written in D&C 132 is absolute insanity), and we have no evidence that he had children through his polygamous wives. So this condemns him too.

    1. Katie,

      I'm glad to discuss this with you and I appreciate your return.

      Here's the deal, so-called Orthodox Mormons can't understand why I still identify as LDS. Ex-Mormons think I'm nuts to stick around. And then there's the in-between folks who are just as baffled, and frankly upset with how I'm making this work... because I'm making it work in a way that no longer excuses them to stay away from the Church.

      And I'm in a very good, solid place right now. So much so I'm, as I put it, no longer playing defense.

      Katie, why do YOU think D&C 132 is talking about eternal *polygamy*? Why are YOU holding onto things said by Brigham Young some 170 years ago? (Both modern and personal revelation are great things.) Why do YOU think mere humans are going to be 100% correct about God's will 100% of the time (see also: blacks and the priesthood)? Why are YOU going to limit our understanding of things divine to a Google search? (I have seen scans of the Nauvoo anointing registry that have since been taken down.) And so on...

      Katie, I don't know where your church activity falls these days, but that you have these things on your mind and have such a strong response to such topics tells me that you're in spiritual-wrestling mode. I'm right there with you. I think it's a great place to be. But whereas you think I/you/we have rolled out of bounds, I'm gonna tell you we're still in it to win it. And win it all.


    2. I never saw your reply back in December.

      I re-read this post today and found something new to be indignant about: "A "sealing" is not actually a sealing (i.e. enduring) until it is bound by the Holy Spirit of Promise, this is generally understood to take place with a Second Anointing ordinance that includes the Washing of the Feet."

      I totally reject that. The Second Anointing is generally understood to be administered based on your position in the church and who you know. Have you ever heard of a humble farmer who hasn't held high callings in the church receiving it? I haven't. I think that if such a thing existed, it would be available directly from the Spirit or Christ to man/woman, not through a church organization.

      Back to your reply:
      Why do I think D&C 132 was talking about eternal polygamy? Because it was. That's how it was portrayed for decades. It is disingenuous to say that it wasn't. In addition, it is throwing multiple prophets under the bus, which I gather you wouldn't be OK with.

      I personally am not holding on to anything Brigham Young said. I reject him and his teachings entirely. I DO NOT think that humans are going to be 100% correct about God's will 100% of the time. In fact, I believe the percentage of time they are correct to be quite low, and the exact percentage cannot be known until many years have passed. As such, I do not see any point in following the teachings of a prophet, especially on critical issues such as doctrine about women, LGBT+, etc.

      I think this type of wrestle is an absolutely horrific place to be. In the past, I thought it was OK to continue to wrestle while staying in the church. Even very recently, despite having no belief left, I though maybe I could attend church and just look for the good in it (I considered this in a desperate attempt to get my husband not to leave me over my church issues). But as my boys get older, and I see them heading toward being trapped in the cycle themselves, I deeply grieve that I was too weak to get us out earlier. I see no point in "winning it" any more. I have no idea what that would even mean.

  6. I found the following statements online attributed to Joseph Smith. The way I see it; Joseph was either a liar who taught and practiced polygamy in secret or he was telling the truth. You can't have it both ways. I personally believe he was telling the truth.

    It's easy to fool a man, but nearly impossible to convince him he's been fooled. --Mark Twain

    • "MARRIAGE. v. 4 "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." 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251 (1835)
    "...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one." (Joseph Smith - who at the time had supposedly and secretly taken at least 25 plural wives)
    • Joseph Smith refers people to extract from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage which disavows polygamy, stating that this is "the only rule allowed by the church." Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 909 (1842).
    • Joseph Smith repeats again statement from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage to deny all allegations of polygamy being practice. Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 939 (1842)
    • Joseph and Hyrum Smith announce the excommunication of Hiram Brown, a member of the Church, for "preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan." Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 423 (1844)
    • Hyrum Smith, with full knowledge and consent of his brother Joseph, publishes statement categorically denying any teaching of plural wives or polygamy, and that all such teaching is false doctrine.
    • “… some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may has as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practiced here.” Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 474 (March, 1844)
    • "...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411) Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday May 26, 1844.

    The dishonesty regarding polygamy is exemplified in the following statement regarding these denials by historian D. Michael Quinn:
    Some elements of these Nauvoo denials obviously did not square with the historically verifiable practice of plural marriage during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. In an effort to counter the Reorganized Church’s use of these Nauvoo denials, Joseph Fielding Smith, an assistant in the Church Historian’s Office since 1901, asserted in 1905:
    "I have copied the following from the Prophet’s manuscript record of Oct.5, 1843, and know it is genuine" and then quoted Joseph Smith’s diary that he alleged concluded, ". . . and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise." The handwritten Nauvoo diary of Joseph Smith for 5, October 1843 actually ends: "No men shall have but one wife."

    1. You lost me at, "I found the following statements online attributed to Joseph Smith..."

      "You can't believe everything you read on the internet." ~Abe Lincoln, 1868

  7. As a long-time, still-active member who HATES this makes me sick...I have concluded that the Book of Mormon ONLY considers polygamy an abomination and does not allow for exceptions (as stated in a previous comment). Here's a great site explaining Jacob 2:30 which can only be interpreted as pro-occasional polygamy if it goes contrary to all surrounding verses:

    Adultery is an abomination and so is the excuse to commit adultery--polygamy. 132 makes it look like this came from God, but Hagar was Sara's slave and she had no choice. I suspect God tolerated polygamy the same way He tolerated slavery.

  8. Isaiah Chapter 4

    Zion and her daughters will be redeemed and cleansed in the millennial day—Compare 2 Nephi 14.

    1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.

    2 In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

    3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:

    4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

    5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.

    6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.

  9. What does "to take away our reproach" mean?

    And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. (Isaiah 4:1)

    This scripture has been the subject of much contention. Other scriptures put it into context.

    What does "reproach" mean? It appears at least four times in the scriptures in this sense. Once here, once in Nephi's quote of this verse, and in two other cases:

    22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
    23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: (Genesis 30)

    24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
    25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. (Luke 1)

    In each case, "reproach" refers to the depressed state of a godly woman without children. Worldly women do not want children. Women of God consider motherhood as an essential part of their identity, hence the lack of children is a reproach. In the case of Elisabeth and Rachel, they had never had children. However, this is not necessarily the case with the women in Isaiah 4:1.


  10. It's 3.5 years after my original comment. I came here because I got a notification that someone commented.

    I haven't been to church since a couple weeks after writing my original comment. So as I read through this post, it was pretty emotionless and gave me a thankful feeling of "Glad I don't have to deal with any of this -- it's not my problem any more!"

    That is until I got to the end. My husband is still in the church, and not sealed to me. I hadn't thought about multiple women wanting to be sealed to him as more men leave the church. Gross. Oh well - it is what it is. I guess I will deal with that if it ever happens. (Clearly I did read it 3.5 years ago, but it didn't stick in my brain).

    I am also satisfied that I have broken the cycle of blind church membership for 3 of my 4 kids. If they ever want to reactivate as adults, that can be up to them. I still have a very young 4th kid as well.

  11. Similar to honest Abe warning us about the internet, the early Saints were encouraged to lie for the Lord...but they really were. I'm undecided on Joseph and polygamy but I'm suspect of those who years later made statements tying him to this whoredom (Jacob 2).

    Here's a podcast that looks at scriptures and disproves a lot of church traditions and precepts of men, including plural marriage. I feel like it's all making sense and God is good again, something He wasn't when I believed he was behind the multiple wives mess. It's the Ironrod podcast and this one's on sealings.