Last week in Sunday School we studied Doctrine and Covenants Section 132. Our instructor read verses 1-4, explained “those are the verses about polygamy,” and accepted exactly one comment from the class. “If anyone else wants to talk about it,” he said, “they can discuss it out in the hall.”

So, are we out in the hall now? ‘Cause I’d like to chat.

Polygamy is the elephant in the room in lesson manuals and classrooms of the LDS church. We act like it’s not there but the physical evidence is sitting to my left and my right and filling the entire row behind me.

These literal fruits of polygamy–Brenda, Celia, Mindy, Sam, etc.– are enough to persuade me the practice couldn’t have been all bad. There must have been some exceptionally fine genetic material being spread around by those men-of-many-wives because Utah is full of some of the brightest, most beautiful people I’ve ever seen.

I view plural marriage as a necessary measure to help the early church grow. God wanted Israel to grow and gave Jacob two wives and two concubines. God wanted Mormonism to grow and instituted polygamy for a time. It was certainly successful– through polygamy and missionary work (young fathers leaving their wives and children at home–another desperate measure)– the LDS church reached a critical mass in a short 60 years. Happily, they switched back to the one man, one woman plan in 1890.

Plural marriage may be repealed, but some people haven’t completely let go. Every one of my single friends has dealt with lecherous old men saying, “I can’t believe you’re still single! If they brought back polygamy I’d bring you home in a minute!”

Yuck. Double yuck.

Despite the seeming prevalence of single women in the church, I, for one, don’t worry about polygamy continuing in the hereafter. The mortality rate of baby boys has always exceeded baby girls and millions of young, unmarried soldiers have died in wars throughout history. Those boys will need wives! And the Lord has always used Adam and Eve as the model for marriage, not Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and Keturah or Jacob and Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah. Sometimes I think we should take the entire section 132 and scrawl across the pages, “We’ll work all this out in the Millennium!”

I don’t have polygamist ancestry, and I try not to fret over it’s misuse in the early church. Polygamy simply doesn’t affect my life and my faith today. But when my husband travels he is asked pretty regularly how many wives he has and I did feel a need to defend the church last summer when the FLDS were receiving national attention.

How do you feel about plural marriage? Do you descend from polygamists? Do you joke about it? Do you worry about it? Is it OK to talk about it in Sunday School?

And would you mind sharing your thoughts with Ronda Weaver, a teacher at UVU who is presenting a paper on polygamy in October? You can share your thoughts here or email her at wearehome@fiber.net.

OK, let’s chat; but no scuffling in the hall!

108 Comments

  1. Sarah in Georgia

    August 27, 2009

    I am one descended from polygamy. As a teenager, we had a family home evening on family history where we printed out my dad’s and my mom’s pedigree charts in the fan style, and then colored in the names of people based on historical characteristics, like if they lived in Nauvoo. We also colored in those who practiced plural marriage, and in the end, I had a ring of polygamists around me.

    Mostly, I don’t think about it much. I did have a roommate in college who was waiting for her high school sweetheart to come home from his mission so they could get married. She really struggled with the idea of sharing her husband, but at one point had a moment of understanding. She described it to me as an understanding that as much as she didn’t like the idea, if needed she would be able to accept it. It was more than a trite response and made an impression on me.

  2. wendy

    August 27, 2009

    Once upon a time I thought I had a spiritual understanding of the concept and that it would be okay with me in the future. At one point during that time I was good friends with a couple and sometimes thought, “If we had polygamy, I would love to be part of your family” (but had no inappropriate thoughts about the husband, please–I just really loved them, and my own hopes of marriage felt slim).

    Then I started to read A Mormon Mother, by Annie Clark Tanner. The main character is courted by a married professor. Imagining my own (then non-existent) husband pursuing another woman absolutely horrified me. I seriously couldn’t finish the book (color me whimpy). I’m sure the wife in the couple mentioned above would’ve been horrified had I ever expressed my thoughts. I don’t think I had a clue about marital love at that time.

    I have never understood polygamy since then.

    I don’t think about it in the past very much. I do believe it was ordained of God for that time in our church’s history. I also suspect not everybody who did it handled it well or with pure motives.

    Once in a while when I am overwhelmed by the duties of a homemaker, I laughingly think a sister wife could be a handy thing. But when I spend time with my husband (playful, close times), I can’t fathom sharing HIM with another woman, him wanting to pursue another woman, etc. I just can’t see it. I certainly don’t want it and am glad we don’t have it as a policy now.

    If I die first, I’m sure I would want him to remarry, and really, I trust that the whole polygamy thing in the next life would work out . . . that we’d either “get it” by then or it wouldn’t happen.

    As for appropriateness in Sunday School . . . we’ve had some people be pretty “off” in our ward, and I think it’d be among the difficult topics to handle for many Sunday School teachers. I think if the teacher feels comfortable enough to handle the subject, then it’s okay. If not, it’s good to set a boundary like that. I wish we had more teachers who DO feel comfortable handling the uncomfortable issues or deeper doctrines. They need to be discussed somewhere, right?

    My last thought: Marriage is enough work for two. Throwing another personality into the picture . . . how did those early saints do it?!

    Great post!!

  3. Aimee

    August 27, 2009

    I have mixed feelings on the subject. First, I totally understand why it was necessary and also an important test of faith for the early members of the church. That is all I’ll say about that. As for the hereafter – I have a few, probably not so popular opinions about it. My MIL is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Next to my husband, she is my closest friend ever. She has never been married. She is kind, loving, beautiful, and faithful. IF she never has the opportunity to marry in this life, and IF there is no other option in the life hereafter, I sure do hope someone will agree to share their faithful husband so she can be sealed to my husband for eternity. On the same token, I’m sure there are other women in similar circumstances who will need a husband as well to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom (that is, again, if it is necessary, which I hope it is not!) but IF that happens, I don’t think I could deny my sister the opportunity to achieve exaltation. But I REALLY hope that doesn’t mean that she also get’s to share my husband’s bed. I DO have a problem with that. That’s probably selfish of me, I know. Like I said, mixed feelings on the subject.

  4. Emily C

    August 27, 2009

    “I try not to fret over it’s misuse in the early church”

    Huh? How was it misused?

    I know that the early saints had an understanding of plural marriage being part of exaltation, and their testimonies were strong. Mormon women voted to keep plural marriage. Only the worthy were called to practice it, and sometimes sister wives couldn’t stand each other.

    I have a testimony that the Lord knew what he was doing. And if called to do so, I’m sure it would be hard, but I would be part of it if the Lord wanted me to. Of course, right now it’s hard for me having a husband in a bishopric. Many things in life are hard, and few are 100% without difficulty or heartache.

    I had a religion professor who theorized that it was one of the many things that must occur for this dispensation to be a “fullness”, but that it was unlikely to ever happen again.

    And we know WAY too little and are constrained by mortality to have any sense of an understanding of how this would work in the hereafter.

  5. April

    August 27, 2009

    When I first joined the church I thought plural marriage was just a story! I live in the East so when people would ask about multiple wives I would say it wasn’t true. Then of course I had to teach The Doctrine and Covenants in a singles ward and guess what I found out! Well I first thought I would never be any part of it, I now feel that my Heavenly Father knows me and knows what I can handle and what I can’t. My husband says not to worry he has a hard enough time with one wife he couldn’t handle two. I hope that has nothing to do with me! LOL!
    I expect that if anything should happen to me that my husband would find someone to share his life with him. I do not worry at all about the eternities I have faith in Heavely Fathers Plan for me. I imagine it will be filled with new challenges and trials and the worries of this life will seem trivial. Maybe talk of poligamy should be saved for Relief Society and Priesthood?

  6. jendoop

    August 27, 2009

    I think it is totally appropriate for a Sunday School teacher to avoid discussing polygamy in the very limited amount of time they have. There are things to discuss that are essential to salvation that should be taught in the scant 45 min of Gospel Doctrine each week. I don’t want the necessary learning to be cut because someone needed to express their peeves about something that isn’t an issue. We need to focus on ourselves, what we as an individual living in 2009 need to do. Not judging the past, or the future, on speculation (what it was like, how good it was or wasn’t, who liked it, who didn’t, did they want to claw each other’s eyes out, etc.).

  7. Annette

    August 27, 2009

    Michelle, I’m very much like you. I have no pioneer polygamy heritage myself, and I don’t worry about it affecting me in the next life. I really don’t think it’ll be an issue.

    But it took me a while to reach that place. I had a bit of a crisis as a new bride over it, but then a moment in the temple when I had a calm experience that washed over me (details sparce here because it was rather sacred) that just affirmed I didn’t need to worry–God’s in control, he’s a just God, all will be well, and I’ll be happy. So I trust that, and I don’t worry.

    I think it’s silly that people point to a verse in Isaiah “proving” that men will have 7 wives in the next life–a verse that actually refers NOT to the next life, but to how few men there will be at some point in the last days and how desperate women will be to marry (NOT that there will actually be polygamy again–that’s their own reading into it).

    And yes, Emily C, polygamy WAS misused at times. Not all pioneer men were 100% righteous. They were human. I’ve done a lot of writing about that period, and it’s taken a bit of acrobatics to avoid the topic. I couldn’t avoid it completely in one book, but I danced around it a bit in one scene and moved on quickly, because it IS such a hot button issue.

  8. Camille

    August 27, 2009

    Nothing for or against polygamy here, but I read a blog entry where a girl taking a nursing class was treated to a visiting professor who lectured about diseases within close knit communities. He brought up several different groups (Jews, Amish etc) and discussed the different types of diseases that had been running prevelant within the groups. The lecturer pointed out that no such diseases were common within the mormon community and concluded it was directly related to polygamy.
    I wish I could find that blog again, because she went into great detail about the whole concept. It was very interesting.

    The Lord moves in mysterious ways…….

  9. Sarah

    August 27, 2009

    I come from polygamist ancestors. I hold them in high regard and I am proud of all that they accomplished and of the heritage they created for me. But I don’t pretend for a minute that polygamy was easy for them. I don’t pretend to understand much about it at all actually.

    We are a church that practices polygamy, at least in the hereafter. We seal multiple women to one man, and we believe that will be a very real situation in the next life. And yes that would include sharing your husband’s bed. So I think we should talk about it. That said, even President Hinckley was somewhat ambiguous as to whether it is doctrine and whether and to what extent we believe in polygamy. It’s hard to have successful discussions about something very few of us understand (IMHO).

    PErsonally, I don’t buy that there will be men with multiple wives, but that the reverse won’t be true. It just doesn’t make sense. I have no idea how the numbers will stack up in the next life but talk of soldiers or tacking women on as extras is sort of silly (again, IMHO).

    I don’t understand much about it but it is a phenomenon we practice and believe in. It may be taking the easy way out but I do think everything will work out in the end… and I don’t think it will be how our earthly minds generally understand it to be.

  10. Melissa M.

    August 27, 2009

    Emily C., polygamy was indeed misused at times in the early church. Of course it wasn’t always practiced perfectly; we imperfect humans seem to misapply/misuse most divinely appointed systems and doctrines. I’ll give you just one example: my good friend’s great-great-grandfather had several wives and then took a wife who was a showgirl from Las Vegas, much younger and prettier than the other wives. Guess who got most of the attention and gifts? Even her children got special treatment. Understandably, this caused hard feelings in the other wives. I’m thinking that this man wasn’t practicing polygamy perfectly.
    I like the idea that polygamy was a necessary practice in the early church, but that it won’t necessarily be practiced by everyone in the hereafter. And I love the idea that God uses Adam and Eve as the model for marriage. These thoughts give me great comfort. 🙂

  11. Amy

    August 27, 2009

    I think when you make a statement like “The mortality rate of baby boys has always exceeded baby girls…” you should give a source for that information. I can think of no reason that your statement should be true from a biological standpoint. But, if you’re correct, I’d love to read about it more myself.

  12. Peyton

    August 27, 2009

    Understanding polygamy right now is not really pertinent to my eternal salvation, any more than understanding the actual physics and biology of how the earth was created is. Maybe my lack of caring in the now will result in remedial Sociology and Biology classes in the hereafter, but I find there’s really no need to stress about that sort of thing in this life.

  13. FoxyJ

    August 27, 2009

    I honestly don’t think about it a lot. My personal opinion is that there will likely be all kinds of personal relationships in the afterlife, including polygamous ones. God’s ways are not our ways and there are many things that happen on Earth. I know that God is loving and merciful and so I can’t imagine that he would ‘force’ anyone to do something they wouldn’t want to do. I have polygamous ancestors but we never talked about them a lot other to acknowledge that they are there. I think it’s just that they are enough generations in the past that we don’t have a lot of stories or anything about them. I do know it was the kind of situation where my ancestor’s wife had a younger sister who was destitute and alone, so he received permission to marry her too.

  14. CAC

    August 27, 2009

    I guess I’m one of the few selfish ones who cannot bear to think of sharing my husband with another woman! Period! My husband and I discuss this whenever the subject comes up in my mind, and he knows that I feel very strongly against polygamy, to the point where I tell him that if I die and he wants to remarry, that he should find a widow who was already sealed to someone else in the temple, so he can marry her for time and they will both be motivated to live their temple covenants!

    One of my institute teachers taught that Joseph Smith taught that the parable of the talents was also about polygamy… if a man did well by one wife, he would be given more. That was long before I was married, and it still creeped me out.

    I think maybe if you grew up with the idea that you would have to share your husband with another woman, it would be easier to accept (like in the FLDS). But that is definitely not the case in today’s society!

  15. Blue

    August 27, 2009

    my parents were both adult converts, so i have no polygamous ancestors, and this hasn’t really been an issue i’ve struggled with for the most part. maybe i’m just apathetic or too unmotivated (which could be a tender mercy) to get into it, because if i did, i might have more struggles.

    but the way that it HAS impacted me though, which is enormous, is that it was the main culprit in my husband losing his faith and becoming agnostic. reading about joseph smith’s polygamous practices (which he’s described to me from purportedly reputable sources…they aren’t in question but which i won’t get into here) are the primary reason the church lost credibility with him. and that loss is the main reason he can’t see himself ever being part of it again.

    he sometimes points out that if it somehow ends up being true, being a sister-wife is what’s in store for me because he’ll be in hell (his joking term). and i’ll be added on to some other man’s pile-o-wives. “the church has never retracted it’s position that polygamy is the true order of marriage. it’s still right there in the D&C” he reminds me.

    so i do have some issues with polygamy. but i haven’t the resources to do anything about them right now, and think it’s best to focus on bolstering my own faith and raising our kids.

    but not talking about it at all isn’t a good solution either though. if he’d had a venue to work through his feelings as he delved into this topic 19 years ago, we might be in a very different place today. as it was, he just went underground and found writings of other people who were troubled by things, and started to identify with them. all the resources he found were at the BYU Library, mind you. Not an anti-LDS store.

    satan will use anything he can to unseat us…and far as i can tell this is one ENORMOUSLY successful tool.

  16. Emily U

    August 27, 2009

    The Sunday School manual specifically tells teachers to avoid talking about polygamy in this lesson (I know b/c I taught it once), so maybe that’s why your teacher told you all to take it out into the hall, Michelle L.

    I think the reason the manual avoids the topic and reason the church gives ambiguous answers about polygamy in the afterlife is because the church hasn’t really made clear what our theology is regarding polygamy in the afterlife. You have people like Sarah (#9) who are sure it will be practiced, and people like me who are sure it won’t be.

    I do wish there could be some revelation on the topic of afterlife polygamy, because I think it would put the issue to rest. The reason it’s still a hot button issue is not so much about history, as it is about our uncertainty about the future.

    I like & agree with your reasoning about sex ratios in the afterlife, Michelle. I also think there will be plenty of men to go around!

    Also, it’s interesting to notice that in section 132, the Lord compares polygamy to not just to Abraham & Hagar, but also to Abraham & Isaac. I think God is not teaching about MARRIAGE here, but about SACRIFICE. And verse 50 says,

    “Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.”

    Which to me means polygamy was a temporary sacrifice, not an eternal doctrine.

  17. nammeroo

    August 27, 2009

    I’m surprised that the Sunday School teacher shoved aside the discussion of plural marriage. It is a part of our church’s history, and we are studying church history this year. That’s too bad.

  18. Emily U

    August 27, 2009

    #11 – Michelle L is correct.

    I think it’s a pretty well known fact. Not that Wikipedia is the ultimate source of truth, but if you Google “sex ratios at birth” a Wikipedia article will come up that explains it. Basically, it’s thought that Y chromosome sperm swim a little faster.

  19. Michelle L.

    August 27, 2009

    We have a lot of different opinions on the subject!

    Amy– the boy/girl mortality rate is something I learned as a history major at BYU 20 years ago. Here is an article:
    http://www.medindia.net/news/Infant-Mortality-Rates-Higher-Among-Boys-Than-Girls-Study-34597-1.htm and if you Google boy vs. girl mortality rates you’ll find several sources. The male disadvantage begins in utero.

    You’re right. I probably should cite sources when I make statements like that!

  20. Sue

    August 27, 2009

    I think it makes sense that polygamy would be a hard concept to swallow. Heavenly Father intended for us to be a family with one man and one women then the children. Obviously there were exceptions at time, such as plural marriage in the early days of the church and the accounts we know of in the OT. However, I’m sure that it was difficult for those families that were the exception.

    As for the afterlife. Obviously we don’t know but in my opinion it will be similar to how it was here. Only a few were chosen to be a part of it and I believe that we won’t be suffering or unhappy in the Celestial Kingdom so it will be the few,if any, who together want it. Plus, there where righteous people who didn’t have plural marriages so I don’t buy the arguement I’ve heard from a few about how it will be common in the celestial kingdom b/c they’ll be the most righteous.

  21. Emily M.

    August 27, 2009

    Oh, I have so much to say about this. But I will try to be brief. I am descended from polygamous ancestors on both sides, and so is my husband. There’s a story on his side about how his great-grandmother was the child of a third wife, and when her father brought a big barrel of shoes for everyone, they always got to pick last. And another about… oh, I won’t go there. But Emily C., I think for the most part they tried hard, but there was definitely abuse, and a bit of dirty old man in there too.

    Having said that, though, when I read the diaries of Catharine Cottam Romney, I was impressed by how much she and the other women were willing to sacrifice to live polygamy. Polygamy was a part of their testimonies, just like the Book of Mormon, it seemed.

    Annette, girl, write a polygamy book sometime! Seriously. You’ve done the research, and you know the stories, and I firmly believe that if we do not tell our own stories, someone else will, and we may not like the way they choose to tell them. Telling our own stories about polygamy or other issues gives us control over how they are told. When faithful members don’t tell the stories, we give control over our own stories to others, and I think that’s a mistake.

    And there are some great stories. Many people sacrificed a lot so that they could practice polygamy. Decades’ worth of noble stories that we sweep under the rug, because the nobility centers around polygamy, and it makes us squeamish. But let’s be honest about it! Let’s be real! The more open we are, the less we have casualties like Blue’s husband.

    However. I do think that the place for telling polygamy stories is in fiction, in history books, in outside-of-class reading, rather than Sunday School. This is because there is too much scope for speculation in a class discussion thereof. It veers into what I call “space doctrine” (or, um, “seminary doctrine”), meaning the sensationalist discussion of nonessential doctrine. I don’t think that builds testimonies or invites the Spirit, which, to me, is the point of Sunday School.

    And personally… I don’t like the idea of it. But if I died, I would want my husband to remarry. And, despite the eternal ramifications, it would be okay if he married someone who was still single now.

    Okay, done. I couldn’t keep it short–sorry. 🙂

  22. Emily M.

    August 27, 2009

    Oh, I’m just realizing the irony of the first paragraph, with my declining to tell a story, and then pushing to tells stories later. So here’s the story: the ancestor in question served a mission, and brought back a young girl (thirteen, maybe) to be a nanny/servant for his kids, and then married her when she got to be sixteen or seventeen.

    And I’m sorry, but I think that’s creepy. But then again, I don’t have the whole story, do I? I don’t know what she thought or what he thought, I just have this wisp of a story that’s floated down through time. This is why we need whole polygamy stories–so we can love and appreciate and understand our ancestors better, instead of viewing the whole thing like some kind of embarrassing circus sideshow.

    But as you can see, I’m squeamish too.

  23. Danny

    August 27, 2009

    re: # 6 and 12, While you might not think Polygamy is essential to your salvation, it is/was essential for exaltation according to our first 4 prophets. My GGGgrandfather took several wives because he heard the prophet say you could not obtain exaltation (i.e. Godhood) without it. If this has changed, it needs to be talked about, not whispered about in the halls.

  24. Michelle L.

    August 27, 2009

    Thanks for your stories Em. And I agree, we have to talk about somewhere so that people won’t be blindsided by it later. We need to tell our own stories.

  25. Erin

    August 27, 2009

    I come from polygamist roots and not for one second has the thought of practicing polygamy freaked me out and yes, I’m married.

    Why should it be taboo to talk about? It is part of our history and is completely fascinating. I don’t see why people avoid talking about it.

  26. FoxyJ

    August 27, 2009

    Emily, I just read the novel The Giant Joshua, which has been controversial ever since it was published in the mid-20th century. It’s about the settlement of St. George and focuses on a girl who becomes the third wife of a man called to settle there. She had been raised by his family when her parents died and then he married her when she was 17. It is fairly frank about some of the negative aspects of polygamy when practiced by imperfect people (which is all of us). At the same time, there are other polygamous relationships in the novel that are positive and loving. The people who come off the worst are actually the federal marshalls who come in to prosecute polygamy. Reading that part of the story I could finally understand some of the behavior and feelings of the early church members. Some of it had not made sense before. I felt like it was actually a fascinating book and I really liked it a lot. I think you and Blue make good points about telling our own stories and owning our own history. It’s hard because Sunday School would be the natural place, but like others have pointed out it’s difficult to have a good discussion in such a limited time and large group. (Completely off topic but I think Sunday School should be much smaller classes of about 10-15 at most. Much easier to have a good discussion that way)

  27. Dorigen

    August 27, 2009

    I have to be honest. Polygamy bugs me. A lot.

    I’d like to say that I can just accept that it will all work out and that understanding it isn’t any more essential to my salvation than understanding the physics of creation (#12), but I can’t. I feel like it is so much more essential, since I’m devoting so much of my self to trying to build an eternal marriage with my husband, and I don’t know exactly what’s going to become of it. That’s really hard for me.

    I do come from polygamist ancestors, on both sides, whose names and stories I’m vaguely familiar with. But I hate thinking about it. Early in our marriage we were reading the Old Testament together and I just started bawling when we read the story of Leah and Rachel. There’s something about reading “and Leah was hated” that I just can’t handle.

    My husband is much more in the “it would be hard, but I’d do it if I was commanded to” camp. That’s also really hard for me. This is one subject that we really just have to avoid. I don’t think the effects of polygamy are (or would be) at all the same–emotionally, physically, social, spiritually, psychologically–for men as they are for women.

  28. Sara

    August 27, 2009

    I avoid talking about it because many times the stories that are told are horrible! If you want to hear the good examples you have to take the many many many bad ones too. I have a strong testimony of the gospel and don’t want those who abused their position or the church to become the stereotype of what is truely the restored gospel on earth.

  29. Blue

    August 27, 2009

    one thing i should add is that as strange and uncomfortable as we feel polygamy might be, and as much of a “blight” as it may be considered to be by some, it is STILL a way of life for myriad people in our modern world. My first job out of college was for a middle eastern company, and every single one of the men in my office had 3 wives back in the homeland, and one here in the states. It’s a reality that women in many countries still grapple with today…and their attitude about it is much like our pioneer ancestor’s attitudes. From Riyadh to Amman, the prospect of being a second (or beyond) wife isn’t dead. Nor is having your spouse selected for you.

    We don’t have it so bad.

  30. mmiles

    August 27, 2009

    Besides the infant mortality rate for boys, what about all those wars? Hundreds of thousands of young men, mostly single young men, who died wifeless.

    My ancestors practiced polygamy on both sides, and on one side not as far back as it should have been. I don’t see it happening in the hereafter, and I’ve read too many journal entries to know it sucked in the here.

  31. m2theh

    August 27, 2009

    We come from Polygamous stock and we joke about it! In fact, my dad came back from a meeting with the Stake President and said in all seriousness “i have been called to practice polygamy”, at which point all his kids said was “hooray dad! now we won’t have to take you to the doctor” and “when are you moving to Eagle Ridge?” (Eagle Ridge is the closest polygamous area to us–it’s near Mona, Ut”. And so, his little joke backfired. He had actually been called to be in the High Priest Leadership, but couldn’t resist a good polygamy joke.

  32. Tay

    August 27, 2009

    Polygamy is something that is hard. Perhaps polygamy was essential to exaltation for those who were commanded to do it. Perhaps this topic ought to be more specifically addressed in General Conference sometime. But until then, I think it’s perfectly safe to assume that we can achieve exaltation so long as we are keeping God’s commandments and living faithfully to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And you know what? My ancestors had a really hard time with polygamy, but they did it because they knew it was the will of God for them and the prophet came to them personally. I think if it came down to it, I would be able to do it if I knew it was the will of God. The practice is transcendent to our understanding of how marriage is and what it means in the eternities. 🙂 But that’s ok with me. There’s plenty I don’t fully understand about the Gospel, but I expect to continue learning and then have a full understanding after my death as I learn more without the veil.

  33. john willis

    August 27, 2009

    There is a story about Brigham Young and the famous circus midget Tom Thumb (I don’t know if it is true or not but if it isn’t ,it should be)

    Tom Thumb visited Salt Lake City and met Brigham Young and supposedly said “There is one thing I don’t understand about you Mormons and that is polygamy”
    Brigham Young said “When I was you size I didn’t understand it either.”

    Seriously , there are a number of after the fact justifications for the practice of Plural Marriage that are simply not supported by the facts.

    In the original post it was suggested that Polygamy was necessary for the church to grow. A number of demographic studies of 19th century Utah indicate that the average monogamous wife had basically the same number of children as polygamos wives( see an article by Larry Logue in the 1985 Journal of Family History and another by J. Smith and Philip Kunz in 1976 in Poulation Studies to show that I am not making this up)

    There is also the suggested that there were more women than men in 19th century Utah and Polygamy and Polygamy insured that every woman would have a husband. Not true, a glance at the census returns from Utah in 1860, 1870, 1810 and 1890 show that Utah had a very balanced sex ratio with about the same number of men than women.

    You have probaby also heard the statistic that only three percent of LDS people pratcied polygamy(This appears to date to Joseph F. Smith’s testimony at the 1904 Smoot hearings) Research from Stanley Ivins article in the 1950’s in the Western Humanities Quaterly to recent work by the BYU history professor Katherine Dyanes shows that while the per cent of those practicing plural marriage varied over time and place the figure was more likely in the 20-25% range. (This must mean that there were quite a few frutrated single men in Utah in the 1800’s)

    The notion that polygamy was a means to insure that old widows were taken care of does not stand up to emerical analysis.

    I am an attorney and it was a very interesting experience to study cases like Reynolds V. United States
    (the U.S. supreme court case upholding laws against polygamy) knowing that my ancestor had gone to jail for violating these laws. I was convinced then and I am more convinced now that Reynolds was wrongly decided. The chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court C

  34. Faith.Not.Fear

    August 27, 2009

    I’ve noticed that each lesson in GD this year is addressing a specific topic.

    If I remember right, the lesson focused on the new and everlasting covenant — how to receive the blessings promised. The importance of being married in the temple by the right authority.

    Funny thing — my husband and I read the assignment independently, and he picked up on the polygamy side but I didn’t.

    I am happy to leave the whole thing in the Lord’s hands! If it is asked of us, I’ll be on board (I’ve seen the blessings of women working together 🙂 ).

    ‘Til then I’ll work on being a better wife myself — that’s enough work for a lifetime!

  35. mmiles

    August 27, 2009

    #33- No one in this thread claimed any of the reasons you are trying to counter. The OP claimed it helped the church to grow because men could leave on missions while the women supported each other, not for child bearing reasons.

  36. Peyton

    August 27, 2009

    Danny,that teaching has been changed. It’s published in the Doctrine and Covenants

    “There is nothing in my [Wilford Woodruff’s] teaching to the Church on in those of my associates, during the time specified [1889 to Sept. 24, 1890, when the Declaration was written] which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy. . . . And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”

    If we in fact, “accept his declaration concerning plural marriage as authoritative and binding,” and that Official Declaration 1 has not been refuted by any prophet since then, then we have to assume that it is no longer necessary to practice eternal marriage in this life in order to be exalted. Whether it was in the days of the early Church or not is a moot point, in my opinion. The first four prophets of this dispensation lived in a different time, and the Church has an open canon that can be added to or changed when necessary.

    My challenges are not the challenges of the early Saints. I will not be judged according to the challenges they faced, only according to the challenges I face. Whether plural marriage is practiced in the next life or not should not affect the way I live my life now, and is therefore not pertinent to my eternal salvation. I need to live the best I can now. The next life will take care of itself when I get there.

  37. Kathryn P.

    August 27, 2009

    I have a sweet friend who married a widower, with one young daughter, in the temple. His first wife died of a brain tumor. My friend raised that little girl with amazing love and tenderness. I ache for my friend and all the lovely women like her, when people make ignorant and insensitive remarks about polygamy in gospel doctrine class.

    There is a one-woman play which depicts the life of one of the former Relief Society General Presidents. In one scene she begs the mayor of Salt Lake City to marry her because she is a widow and has no way, as a single mother in the 1800’s, to support herself and her children. I think she was his sixth wife. As pampered females in the year 2009, most of us have no idea regarding the realities of being a woman in previous centuries.

  38. john willis

    August 27, 2009

    Sorry I hit the send button too early. In any case Christine Durham, chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court in a case of an FLDS leader found that in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases that Reynold should be overturned. She convinced me, but was unable to sway any of her brethren on the Utah Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Please don’t assume that I am about to leave for Colorado City to take up Warren Jeffs mantle. I have no desire to practice plural marriage or have the Church bring it back.

    However until we are more honest and open about polygamy we will not be able to “put it behind us” as Elder Ballard encourged in his BYU commencement address.

    As I read D&C 132 I see the concept of “doing the works of Abraham” as central to the section. Those who practiced Plural marriage, both men and women made sacrifices comparable if not identical to Abraham and Sarah. If the Church would not of practiced Plural Marriage we would of ended up as a very different church , more along the lines of the Community of Christ.I believe their sacrifice was worthwile even if plural marriage is not an eternal principle.

  39. Karen

    August 27, 2009

    I thought I was the only one who didn’t think polygamy was an eternal principle! Sheltered me.
    I do think, however, that it was a necessary temporal principle when the church practiced it and I don’t think we should shy away from owning that part of our history. I think we do need to have thoughtful and open-minded conversation about it because it is such a stumbling block for so many people. And, as was stated above, if we don’t tell the story from our point of view, then someone else will. And we may not like what they have to say. Great post!

  40. Queen Scarlett

    August 27, 2009

    I dated a boy in college who told wanted to marry me that he had an old girlfriend who wasn’t a member…but he’d want to take as his add’l wife in the hereafter.

    Um… yeah – no thank you.

    He really messed with me on the polygamy front. I will admit I’ve struggled with understanding it… cuz it is not easy. But there have been times when I think… would be nice to have live-in help… as long as I am the only one allowed the goodies.

    But… I’ve stopped thinking about it… doesn’t matter to me right now. I’ve had good friends who are smarty-pants help me understand. Also… my husband isn’t into it one bit… “I already have you… I don’t want to… nor could I take more estrogen”. So there you have it… I’m keeping him.

    There are so many other important, life-saving principles to work on… I just don’t have the time, emotions or desire to keep it at the top of my list to squirm over.

  41. Queen Scarlett

    August 27, 2009

    Apparently my fingers and my brain are not cooperating.

    I dated a boy in college who, wanted to marry me, told me… that he had an old girlfriend…

  42. Peyton

    August 27, 2009

    I don’t want to y’all to think that I’m not bothered at all by the idea of polygamy. I have no idea if it’s an eternal principle or not, and because of that, I mostly don’t think about it.

    I could not handle being called to live polygamy today. (A) I love my husband more than anything, and (B) I’m an insecure person. I wouldn’t want to share him, and I couldn’t stand the constant comparison–which wife is the better cook or housekeeper? Who is more industrious? Who’s better in bed? Who does he love more?

    But I also think, if I were to die, I’d want my husband to remarry. He is a much better man now than he was when I met him–he’s more active in church (which isn’t to say that he wasn’t active before, just that he didn’t care as much), he’s more responsible, he’s more considerate–and I don’t think it’s just being married to *me* so much as having more than just himself to answer to directly. If I were to die now, before we had kids, I wouldn’t want him to slip back to what he had been (have to retrain him all over again, assuming I got the chance). After we have kids, I’d want him to have someone to help take care of them and love them the way I wouldn’t be able to.

    As I am now, I don’t want to have to share him in any life. But I figure by the time I knew if I did have to share him, I’d already have a slightly higher being’s more-eternal perspective, and maybe I’d understand it.

    So I just don’t worry about it now. In the short run, it’s not that important.

  43. Christie

    August 27, 2009

    This is one area I really struggle with accepting. I’ll be honest here – I think it was a mistake. It bothers me that the convenient timing of abolishing polygamy was when Utah needed to become a state. Since when do we withdraw from ‘eternal’ principles to bow to the federal government? For me, that’s the hardest part about it all – the fact that they so willingly traded in something they claimed to be an eternal principle for statehood. I do belieive Joseph Smith was a prophet, but I do not believe polygamy will be key to my eternal salvation. I accept it as part of my history, but can go no further than that.

    Interesting discussion here though. Wouldn’t it be fun to sit in a room and have it live?

  44. Bro. Jones

    August 27, 2009

    #43 I’m with you, sister. Both on the feelings about polygamy and the wish for this to be a live discussion.

  45. claire

    August 27, 2009

    I have a hard time seeing polygamy the way it was practiced in the early church as anything other than, at a basic level, prostitution. I know that’s incendiary. I’m not saying it never was anything more than that, but that all the explanations people come up with strike me as wrong. Take the 6th wife of the mayor, for example, or the younger destitute sister someone mentioned, or the urban legend about the poor widows. Why did sex have to be involved at all? Why couldn’t the saints be commanded to take care of these helpless people? Why couldn’t the saints have been commanded to help single women make a living, if that truly was a problem? To me, it all boils down to the repugnant idea that people were trading sanctioned sex for protection and support, and that men were always on the receiving end. Not okay with me on any level.

  46. Katrina

    August 27, 2009

    Very interesting discussion! I also have polygamous ancestors and I also have a hard time understanding it. But my personal feelings on it are that I don’t need to worry about it right now. My husband is still sealed to his first wife even though they are divorced. He is also sealed to me of course. That is just how the church does it. Do I think I’m going to be sharing him with his first wife when we are all dead… heck no. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I do know that. In the end we are all supposed to be sealed to each other. And probably our relationships won’t be exactly as they are here on earth.

    Another thing is that polygamy as it has been practiced here is completely unfair in the long term. It is set up for a patriarchal society where women must be taken care of. This I get. But I really doubt that women will need “taken care of” in the eternities like that. So if there are men who have more than one wife, I surely hope there are women who have more than one husband too! God is just and I don’t believe that he would make polygamy the rule. Not to mention the fact that it would leave a whole lot men without wives.

  47. Jennie

    August 27, 2009

    I really don’t have a problem with polygamy, but only if I could pick the wife. I would love to be the cooking wife, not the cleaning wife or the laundry wife.

  48. Ronda

    August 27, 2009

    Ladies, These comments are great! When my second husband (both of us are divorced) talk about this, we kinda push it into the “it will be figured out in heaven” envelope. As well, my understanding is, if polygamy is an eternal principle, we’ll have a choice – that’s what I’m betting for. And I’m from polygamous stock, including a great grandfather who founded a town in Idaho, bought a “city block” built houses for his 3 wives on 3 corners and 1 for himself on the last corner. He became mayor of this community, and, as the story goes, when the people of the community wanted to see him, they looked for his hat hanging on the front porch of one of the houses.

    I like this story, and I’m proud of this heritage. However, it’s my family’s story, not “Big Love’s” or the FLDS. Our genesis may be similar, but the end outcome differs.

    With that said, I sometimes wonder if having a sister-wife would be such a bad idea. I could work, she could stay home. I could whine about my husband, she could do likewise. I could say, “I have a headache, and isn’t it Clare’s turn anyway?” My sisters, daughters, friends – we joke about this in today’s context, but we don’t joke about our heritage.

    Please, if you would like, I would love to hear your stories – either here or you can e-mail me: wearehome@fiber.net.

  49. Fairchild

    August 27, 2009

    #37 – You are referring to “The Sixth Wife” about the life of Emmeline B. Wells. That was a fascinating show that I DVR’d off of BYUTV several years ago. It was great how she picked her own second husband, the mayor (who would be richest), and then guilted him into marrying her (by pointing out it was his priesthood duty to care for her). I wish I still had a copy.

    I am descended from a second wife. When the manifesto came out, she took her children and left her husband. I have no idea why or what that meant. DH also has an ancestor who begged her husband not to take another wife when they joined the Saints as converts. He had promised her when they joined that he would not if she didn’t want him to and he kept his promise.

  50. Sarah

    August 27, 2009

    Emily U (#16),

    I have no opinion on whether it will be practiced in the next life, actually. What I said (or meant to say, obviously it didn’t come off right) is that the Church endorses polygamy in the next life by sealing multiple women to more than one man. Assuming, of course, that the Church holds those sealings to be real, and to bind a man and woman together for eternity.

    I feel fairly certain that our relationships will continue in the next life. How that will all work out is anyone’s guess.

  51. Merry Michelle

    August 27, 2009

    John Willis and Kathryn P.–I LOVED what you two had to say! I completely agree that we really have no idea what life was like for a woman in that era, and also that Polygamy far was more about sacrifice and total obedience than it was about sex (though when it come right down to it–I think the intimacy aspect has always been the hardest part for me to swallow).

    P.S. BYU took the one woman show “Sixth Wife” over to Scotland in 2000 to compete in the Edinburgh festival (I know because I worked the lighting and sound board for it). It attracted quite a big audience.

  52. Karen

    August 27, 2009

    In reference to Sarah (#50)
    Do you think it’s possible that the multiple sealings are kind of like proxy sealings? i.e. the women are being sealed to one man here on earth, but really, the man is acting as a proxy for her eternal husband. I have my own reasons for believing this, but I’m curious if anyone else thinks this is a possibility. Proxy ordinances are nothing new in our church, so it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to me.

  53. sean

    August 27, 2009

    I’m a convert sop I don’t have any polygamy history and it hasn’t really effected me until this past year. Last summer were the FLDS and last fall was prop 8. During the FLDS saga there were a lot of Mormons condemming the actions of those people. I felt that this was in contrary to our 11th article of faith. We want people to respect us for that brief time we practiced polygamy, but we were very quick to condemn those that are still practicing it.
    Then with prop 8 I had several friends complaining to me that my church had no right to put up such a fight for one man and one woman marriages when it was our church that had practiced one man and as many womenas you can get marriages so many years ago. That arguement was a challenge to my faith. How can we as members tell others how to define their marriage when we ourselves have celebrated two forms of marriage (And continue to celebrate polygamy in the life to come)? That was hard and every time I asked that question in church i got hushed and told I wasn’t following the prophet. I still campaigned for prop 8, but I still wonder from time to time about that.
    As for personal polygamy practice – I’m having a hard enough time finding one wife; finding 2 or three sounds very daunting but I would if the prophet told me to.

  54. Michelle L.

    August 27, 2009

    Karen, I think you have a very good point. From what I understand it’s the sealing that’s important not necessarily who it’s too. Which is why divorced women keep their sealings until they remarry.

  55. Lucy

    August 27, 2009

    I’m coming to the discussion late and confess I haven’t read the comments so perhaps my own thoughts are already represented.

    As confusing and poorly understood as polygamy is, I think it is counterproductive to dismiss it as much as we do in the church. Now, I love President Hinckley’s response to Mike Wallace in the 60 Minutes interview about it being in our past – moving on. I thought for that audience, in that sphere, it was absolutely the right answer.

    In our own halls, however, I think we should know our history. I grew up ignorant about Joseph Smith. When I’d hear things like how he ran for president, or how he used seer stones to find treasure or how he had more than one wife, I felt bad. Like – this must be from Satan bad. I could never investigate because you know what happens when you look for answers or explanations about any of that stuff. You get exactly the wrong kind of information and it’s highly perverted from the truth.

    It never really unsettled me to the point where I couldn’t be an active member of the church, relying on a kind and loving Heavenly Father to give me the knowledge and understanding when I needed it. I felt much better when I read Richard Bushmans’s Rough Stone Rolling, a biography about Joseph Smith, a couple of years ago. Finally, some answers (and they weren’t scary) that I felt reliably, and honestly gave me the understanding I needed about this beloved prophet.

    I am a member of Goodreads, and have the second most popular review of the Book of Mormon. Because it has gotten some attention, I have seen what the other popular reviewers of the Book of Mormon have to say and the MOST popular review is a very negative one. It’s popular on votes received but also has lots and lots of comments. One day, I decided to skim them.

    The vast majority of the comments are replies from a teenage boy and a teenage girl, doing their best to battle the infidels who slander Joseph Smith’s name by calling him a polygamist. The absolute belief in which they defend his one and only marriage to Emma is commendable…and totally wrong. I worry about them, what will happen to their proud young testimonies, when they learn more. Will they feel lied to? Were they?

    I don’t think we need to have a years study of the subject matter in Gospel Doctrine, though there is probably enough comments to fill up that kind of class time, but I wish we seemed less…ashamed of it. I don’t even think it needs to be explained, although you have to wonder why it was a commandment and why the saints were commanded to discontinue. And I don’t mean the statistical or economic reasons. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet who had a revelation and did his best to understand and be obedient. I belief Wilford Woodruff was a prophet and had a revelation and did his best to understand and be obedient. If I do or do not have sister wives (and my current desire hopes no), I hope I will do my best to understand and be obedient.

    I think I could comment on a segullah post everyday, because they are usually so thoughtful and discussion worthy, but I rarely do because I feel so detached. This was an excellent forum for a discussion. I hope I have time to go back and read what everyone else had to say.

  56. RaNae

    August 27, 2009

    karen #52.
    except that every proxy odinance has the words “for and in behalf of.”
    so no I do not believe that is the case.

  57. Karen

    August 27, 2009

    Michelle L.,
    Exactly! For me, the practice of polygamy and the commandment to cleave unto our spouse and none else seem like oil and water. If it’s the sealing ordinance that’s important and not necessarily (although, of course, ideally) the person to whom one is sealed, then that’s a perfect emulsifier. For me anyway.

  58. Karen

    August 27, 2009

    RaNae (#56)
    Only we wouldn’t really know for whom it was “for and in behalf of”. I may be wrong, but it helps to reconcile two conflicting things in my mind, so that’s how I can understand it until I know more.

  59. RaNae

    August 27, 2009

    I probably didn’t word what I was getting at very well, Sorry. what I should have said was every ordinance is done for a specific named individual Identified as specifically as we are able to do so.
    so the sealing is between specified indivules.
    does that make sense?

  60. Lucy

    August 27, 2009

    I’m descended from polygamy and while I will say that those who do have it in their blood lines are some of the strongest people in the Church still today, I hate the scar that it has given the Church, still does today, and if the Church lives to be a million years old there will still be that ‘elephant in the room’. It will never go away. And I have wished many, many times that they never would have done it. It was simply just morally wrong and illegal in this country.

  61. Mindy

    August 27, 2009

    I’m of the camp that we should be able to talk more about the hard stuff. Why is it that we only hear difficult things about our history from outside sources? Then when we hear about it, we are left doubting our faith and have to grapple with it alone as opposed to being armed with understanding. If there are things that were mistakes we should be able to say that. No one claims the prophets are/were perfect. And if it’s not a mistake, then why do we ignore it or “leave it in the past.” If it’s a part of our doctrine, we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. If it’s merely a product of what was going on during those times we should be able to say that too. I just wish the first presidency would speak more clearly to the subject of polygamy.

  62. Peyton

    August 27, 2009

    I have to say, after reading the comments faithfully, that I suspect the reason we gloss over polygamy in Gospel Doctrine is that we can’t keep it to a historical discussion. We always want to talk about the doctrine itself, and–as we no longer have official Church doctrine regarding polygamy–we would end up in a (long) discussion made up of personal opinion/testimony and dubious doctrine.

    I think a big part of its being an elephant in the room is that many still believe that we as a people will be called to do it again, whether in this life or the next (whether that is true or not, I couldn’t say), not that we ever practiced it in the first place. We can praise our ancestors for their ability to rise to the occassion, but we don’t want to think about us having to do it.

    Even though it’s in the past, it still isn’t completely history, so we can’t discuss it rationally, and then we’d just end up missing out on other, important, CURRENT doctrine, like the importance of eternal marriage.

    I’ve really enjoyed the discussion and hearing everyone’s differing viewpoints, but I’m glad it didn’t happen in Sunday School.

  63. Peyton

    August 27, 2009

    “Even though it’s in the past, it still isn’t completely history” FOR US. In our heads.

  64. Ariana

    August 27, 2009

    I have a hard time with the church’s history of polygamy and because of that I avoid thinking about it. I think that is common response. The church seems pretty closed about it and I have a hard time not thinking it is a bit creepy. I struggle with looking at it from a spiritual perspective, and instead lean towards skepticism, which makes it even more difficult to understand.

    I’m surprised about how many people are able to believe that one day it will make sense and just leave it at that. It makes me wonder if that approach is the “righteous” way to be. If someone’s faith is strong enough, will they naturally come to that understanding? And is that the only understanding a person can come to which will bring them peace? I don’t know. I know that I haven’t received that knowledge for myself. But I am interested to know how others have come to it, and see if it can guide my understanding.

    I love many many aspects of the church, but sometimes things like this (polygamy) come up and they shake my faith a bit. However, I love how Segullah gives brings up so many topics and allows so many people to comment. It gives air to issues that might otherwise never come out. I guess you could say I have a testimony of Segullah. 🙂 Now if only polygamy were that easy!

  65. Selwyn

    August 27, 2009

    My first exposure to polygamy was reading “A Study in Scarlet” (Sherlock Holmes story) – which I remembered while taking the discussions with the missionaries. Turns out the book has significant errors in it, but at the time I was pretty concerned about what “Mormons do”!

    Now it doesn’t worry me. It’s not in effect now, it’s been revoked so it’s unlikely to be put back in effect.

    I remember reading something that was discussing the hereafter, concerning spouses (member or not), worthiness of each person/spouse and the number thereof. The part that stuck with me, paraphrased, is that if we’re in Heaven, it won’t be Heaven if we are not happy or satisfied with what that involves. I’ve got more pressing concerns in the here and now to be guessing about what may happen then.

    And as Michelle L said in a comment, the sealing is important. There is a definite process to go through to cancel a sealing, and it isn’t done unless another sealing is going to occur.

    I know for me, the fact I’m sealed to someone who has broken his covenants isn’t an issue – I’m sealed to my sons and that’s the most important fact. Beyond that, families are forever and I trust God has it all figured out.

  66. Selwyn

    August 27, 2009

    For extra clarity,we’ll be divorced soon, which is a definite “issue”, but being sealed to my sons, and my own personal dedication to my covenants is the greater issue and worth.

  67. Melissa

    August 27, 2009

    I think I’m an odd one out here. I descend from polygamy and I’m totally OK with the concept- it isn’t my first choice, but I’m not totally put off by it. I absolutely adore my husband and I feel that the bond and love I have with him is special and unique to us.

    While the thought of “sharing” him where intamacy is concerned makes me a little squeemish, I’d be OK with that too if we all felt that it was what Heavenly Father’s will like most of the early saints did.

    When I think of my very dear and best female friends, I think “It wouldn’t be that bad to share our lives as “sister wives”- taking care of kids and homes together”. So I guess I’m OK as long as I get to pick/approve of the other wife 🙂 I guess my OK-ness comes from a view of polygamy as a relationship (no, not romantic on the part of the women…) between everyone- not just husband & wife 1 and husband & wife 2. Sorta just one big happy family 🙂

    My husband and I have talked about this before and the funny thing is, he always vehemently says that there is no way he could handle more than one relationship at a time 🙂

  68. ~j.

    August 27, 2009

    Haven’t read the comments, so please excuse if this has already been mentioned.

    As for this being discussed in Sunday School…I’m reluctant because of potential investigators/visitors who may be in attendance. In particular, I envision my own family members who, despite all my insisting that We Don’t Do That, they’re skeptical; their witnessing discussion of this practice with any kind of esteem or even longing or pining would not be appropriate, and would only be confusing. Not that it’s to be ignored: many of my favorite people on this planet are descendants of those who practiced polygamy; it DID happen. Whether or not it will happen, or should happen, or if we’d be able to tolerate it if it happened…yeah, I think that’s a conversation that’s to be had elsewhere, not in Sunday School.

    From lds.org:

    Sunday School is for all Church members and interested friends of other faiths ages 12 and older. Its purposes are to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen individuals and families by encouraging them to study the scriptures, obey the commandments, receive the essential ordinances, and keep the associated covenants.

  69. dalene

    August 27, 2009

    great comment ~j.

    in short, i am descended from what has been dubbed one of the most heart-wrenching episodes from the annals of Mormon polygamy (or something to that affect) and yet polygamy is totally a non-issue for me.

    kind of up there w/ women holding the priesthood.

  70. Brenda

    August 27, 2009

    I want nothing to do with polygamy, even in the afterlife. Nothing. I understand and believe that it was necessary in the early days of the church. Those women are better women than I am. I have actually told my husband that if I die, I don’t want him getting sealed to anyone else. He’s completely fine with that. Maybe it’s my own insecurities speaking, but no thank you.

  71. Human Bean

    August 27, 2009

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this discussion. Many interesting points have been raised and I actually found that it has made me feel so much better about my own reservations/fears of polygamy. My parents were both converts to the church and my mother (a strongly independent and opinionated woman) spoke freely about her willingness to live the principal of polygamy should it ever be reinstated in the gospel. Frankly, it freaked me out to hear her say these things. It became even more difficult once I was married to the love of my life and the issue came up again with my mother. I felt so confused and hurt to think that the sanctity of our tight-knit family could ever be trespassed by the entry of another “partner”, and that this was OKAY with my parents who I knew to love each other dearly and without fail. I could NOT reconcile this principal with what I knew to be the covenant of everlasting marriage. I never argued this issue with my parents- they knew I felt differently but I left it there.

    I have often wondered since then if I was harboring ill feelings for the gospel as it was and as it could someday be again- if my faith was conditional and therefore I should be ashamed of my insecurities and fear. Was I living a lie- continuing to take the sacrament alongside scores of faithful members, regularly holding callings, attending temple sessions, all while a giant question mark floated over my head?

    I am truly thankful to those of you who have contributed to this discussion. It sounds silly to say this has bolstered my faith- but it has. I feel comforted to know that I am not the only one to question this principal. I will rest a little more peacefully knowing that I am not a Pariah among saints.

    Thank you.

  72. Michelle L.

    August 27, 2009

    fantastic comment ~j

    and Human Bean, I love you! And you are certainly not alone.

  73. Ian Cook

    August 27, 2009

    I certainly appreciate the many mixed feelings about polygamy. I know my wife is not keen on the idea. I also think that a woman’s opinion on the subject should hold more water than a man’s. 🙂

    Many have described polygamy as immoral etc. I wonder how much of this dislike is merely cultural. There have been many cultures throughout history, and even today that practice polygamy and they seem fine with it. The culture in the U.S. and many others are very intolerant towards the practice, but others don’t seem to have a problem.

    I might liken this to other practices. Some cultures eat horses, cats and dogs, but we do not. As a matter of fact, most Americans are repulsed by the idea. Other cultures who don’t have this stigma, have no problem.

    I don’t know, maybe i’m wrong.

  74. E

    August 27, 2009

    I have polygamous ancestors and I have the deepest admiration, respect, and gratitude for them. I am in awe of their faith and accomplishments in helping to build up the early kingdom. I do not think polygamy is or ever has been the ideal family structure, and my ancestors suffered because of it. This makes them more heroic to me, that they were willing to sacrifice like that. I am not offended by polygamy and don’t worry about what will happen in the eternities.

  75. Mindy

    August 27, 2009

    Ian, I think you’re right to say that much of polygamy has to do with culture. I guess my biggest hang-up with saying it’s ok because of this is that (as far as I understand it) current cultures that practice polygamy are cultures that devalue and suppress women.

  76. m&m

    August 28, 2009

    I only had time to read a few comments tonite, but I saw this, and agree:

    And we know WAY too little and are constrained by mortality to have any sense of an understanding of how this would work in the hereafter

    I think part of what makes this topic so hard is that we really do know so little — either about why it was practiced in the past, and how things all play out in the eternal realms.

    I am one who really isn’t that bothered by it, to be honest.

    While I understand that people feel frustrated when topics like polygamy are not dealt with in SS, I agree with the decision not to discuss it. There is nothing that can dismiss the Spirit in a class faster than speculation and debate. And this is definitely a topic on which people often don’t agree, and about which we have so few definitive answers except that it happened for a time in our history. The rest is more for historians to grapple with (although I am amazed at how little resolution seems to ever be found about the topic).

    I was interested in how Elder Ballard recently encouraged us when asked about polygmay not to speculate about why it existed, or not to use OT polygamy as an explanation either. Again, the feeling I get is that the best thing we can do about polygamy is not worry so much about it.

    I know. Easier said than done sometimes. But I think it’s a wise approach. I tend to see this as ultimately something that has the potential to be a distraction more than anything…a topic that, imo, the devil can use to pull people away from simple, pure, powerful truth.

  77. Kathryn P.

    August 28, 2009

    Ronda, I’m going to help you by answering the specific questions you need for your research:

    How do you feel about plural marriage?

    The telestial version as practiced by a tiny group of Americans appears to be demeaning to women. Since I have absolute faith in my Heavenly Father’s love and respect for me, I assume that if there is a celestial version, it will be filled with joy and peace, like everything associated with my Savior.

    Do you descend from polygamists? Yes. My paternal grandmother is from 100% pioneer stock, so there were a couple of polygamists in my family tree.

    Do you joke about it? No.

    Do you worry about it? No. I have much more urgent things to worry about.

    Is it OK to talk about it in Sunday School? I teach primary where my goal is to spiritually feed my class, by strengthening their testimonies of the Savior. I want them to feel the Spirit and the love of the Savior in my classroom. If I were teaching Sunday School, I would have the same goal. So if you can discuss it within those parameters, go for it…

  78. Kathryn P.

    August 28, 2009

    M&M and I must have been typing at the same time, but I agree with everything she said.

    Plus I wanted to clarify that “the telestial version as practiced by a tiny group of Americans” was referring to the Texas compound group and my opinion is solely based on a few TV interviews I saw whenever they were in the news… I’m clarifying to help Ronda with her research…

  79. Tiffany W.

    August 28, 2009

    Would I want to practice polygamy now? No way. It’s definitely the sharing of my husband issue.

    Do I think it is completely disgusting or awful? Not really. As someone pointed out, there are still many countries in the world which do practice polgamy. Is it always fair or impartial? No. And it does bring up issues of women’s rights.

    As for the eternities. I do believe that it will be practiced, to a certain extent in the eternities. My father has been married two times. His first wife passed away when she was barely 25 years old. He is sealed to her and their children, my three older sisters. He is sealed to my mother. And my four younger sisters and I are sealed to them. Do I want the bond broken between his first wife, my three older sisters and my father? No. I also have faith that things will be peaceful and happy in the Celestial Kingdom. Why should my father have to choose between women that he loved and honored in this life? I’m not sure how my Mom feels or thinks about it. She has never shared her thoughts in that direction with me.

    I guess my only other complaint about the idea of polgamy is that women weren’t allowed to practice polyandry.

  80. David Svir

    August 28, 2009

    From a man’s perspective…

    I am 34 and have been married for 5 years to the woman that is perfect for me and she makes me want to try harder and be a better person (cliche sounding I know). With that said, and perhpas it is just me but I really underestimated the complexuty of marriage and women.

    My wife and I get along well and we have our “moments” like everyone else (or so we say to comfort ourselves…) and from my perspective it is a great marriage. HOWEVER, as I have read and learn about plural marriage, the one thing that I have not read much about is how this can be a hardship for all parties including the man.

    Having an intimate relationship with my wife on all levels takes a lot of effort. Having a happy marriage and a happy content wife is something that I focus a lot of energy on. We have two sons so far and this makes it that much harder to carve out the time needed to focus on our relationship.

    Now add a second and third wife and more children…

    I believe that a woman should be able to have a close intimate relationship with her husband, I would find it hard to provide the level of relationship they deserve to more than one woman. I understand that the Lord qualifies those that he has called and perhaps this is how it was successful by those that were called into this.

    As far as what will happen in the next life regarding plural marriage, it does not matter to me. I can figure it out when I get there. Hopefully, “there” is the celestial kingdom with my family.

    My two cents…

  81. bekah

    August 28, 2009

    As a second-generation church member, I don’t have any polygamous ancestry. I’m personally not a huge fan of the idea, although I could see how it could have been necessary at certain times in history. But my genetics professor at BYU said that his funky, occasionally circular genograms always made him the hit of any conference he attended.

  82. Fairchild

    August 28, 2009

    #71 Human Bean – I think it’s okay with God if we have doubts. He understands. I found a lot of comfort in this quote from Conference last November from Elder Anderson. I hope it helps you too. “Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.”4

    Through the years we take these important spiritual steps over and over again. We begin to see that “he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”5 Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew.”

  83. ABC

    August 28, 2009

    I think it’s astounding how many readers actually think that polygamy won’t be practiced in the hereafter! Not only that, but to clump those modern men who would even “consider” plural marriage into a single, lecherous group is ridiculous.

    When I was a little girl, my mother died unexpectedly. My young father remarried the following year – and he is sealed to both of my moms. So technically, that would make him a “spiritual polygamist”, for lack of a better term. Does that make him slimy, selfish, or gross? Does he rub his hands together in glee, with the knowledge that he’ll have two wives?

    Hardly.

    Let us not forget our very own Elders Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson, all of whom are also sealed to both of their sweethearts.

    I’ve always thought that this sort of situation spoke volumes about the second wife. To marry a man she knows she’ll have to “share”, right off the bat, really says a lot, no? Sisters, if you had met the love of your life (assuming your husband is the love of your life) and he was a temple-sealed widower, would you have walked away upon his proposal to you? Something to consider.

    Really, if someone is going to have a “problem” with plural marriage in the next life, and plural marriage is only practiced by those who are exalted, then I suspect that those who are asked to do it will already have the kind of unselfish and celestial heart that it would undoubtedly require. So if you are struggling with it now, I wouldn’t worry. You probably won’t be asked, and if you are – then trust that you’ll be in place where it WON’T upset you. You will be beyond the struggle. The rest of us really won’t need to worry about it.

    I hope that makes sense! It goes along with the whole, “God gives us nothing we can’t handle” teaching. Like so many other doctrines, FAITH is at its root.

  84. faithful

    August 28, 2009

    I don’t think the question is IF there will be polygamy in the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom because obviously there are men sealed for time and all eternity to multiple wife’s especially if you read the last part of 132:44. To me the real question is will EVERYONE in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom be in a polygamous relationship? I have no reason to believe everyone will be, the promise is I believe that if you and a spouse are sealed for time and all eternity and you are faithful to your covenants you will receive the promised blessings. Remember the Lords way is never to force someone to do something they are not willing to do; so those in plural marriage covenants do so willingly, not forced or coerced but willingly. So IF you are in a multiple eternal marriage it will be your desire to be in such.

    Also our ways are not Gods ways, we have mostly a selfish myopic love in this world; this is nothing like the love Heavenly Father and Christ have, exalted beings will share that same type of unselfish love for all, or they cannot be exalted beings.

    We currently have a veil placed over us; we cannot now see and understand the depths of the relationships and love we once had and shared with each other; you cannot understand this doctrine seeing with only your earthly eyes and hearts. But have faith that when the time comes you will have a perfect understanding of it and a heart to accept it. If you so desire. I have a sneaking suspicion that our hearts will be changed on many things when we meet the Savior look how the hearts of the Nephites changed after he came. So right now I have faith in my testimony of the gospel along with a spiritual witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith and I am willing to wait for better vision and the mighty change of heart I know will come.

    I just had a twisted thought; when the veil is removed from our eyes we will see that we are married to our own brother or sister that we grew up with. How is that for reality?

  85. Kathryn P.

    August 28, 2009

    Thanks ABC and Faithful. I LOVED your wise insights…

  86. Mindy

    August 28, 2009

    I think it’s a little harsh to imply that anyone who struggles with this principle won’t make it to the celestial kingdom. Everyone has to work this out in their own way and I think it’s a good thing to take the time to make peace with principles that many people struggle with.

    I struggle with polygamy but I have no problem with my husband remarrying in the temple if I die before him. I wouldn’t want him to be alone. I see this situation as a different one than reconciling the way polygamy was practiced in the past.

    I also want to point out that revelation can change. For instance, I know people who struggled with the church’s policy on priesthood and race (I was too young at the time to be aware). This was a legitimate struggle and church leadership eventually changed their policy to reflect God’s truth. I’m not saying that polygamy necessarily falls into this same camp. I don’t know. But those members who struggled with it (including leaders of the church) didn’t lack faith.

  87. Anon

    August 28, 2009

    “To me the real question is will EVERYONE in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom be in a polygamous relationship? I have no reason to believe everyone will be.”

    Actually, BY disagreed with you on that point.

    “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266).

    “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).
    (for some explanation on the second quote, see http://en.fairmormon.org/The_only_men_who_become_gods_are_those_that_practice_polygamy%3F)

  88. Karla

    August 28, 2009

    My only problem with the example of a husband being sealed to two wives (because of death of the first wife) is what about a wife in a similar situation? I have a cousin who married a widow and so can not be sealed to her in this life. I would hope the same thing would apply to him being able to be with her in the next life as well as the previous husband. Otherwise, that argument doesn’t hold water with me.

  89. Katie

    August 28, 2009

    Recently one of the podcasts I listened to had an episode about polygamy: http://podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/smnty/2009-08-12-smnty-polygamy.mp3. The podcast is in no way affiliated with the church, and Mormons only get a very brief mention as a group who used to practice polygamy, but I still found it to be very interesting. Two things surprised me: one, the host’s opinions of polygamy were plainly made more positive by the Big Love show, hated by Mormons everywhere. Second, the economic theory of polygamy works in the second half of the show really made a lot of sense to me, as it seemed to mirror how polygamy worked in the early church. Their conclusion: it’s not easy, but in some situations maybe not so bad. Listening to this podcast actually helped me feel a lot better about the whole polygamy question.

  90. Peyton

    August 28, 2009

    #87 — At one point Bruce R. McConkie said that black men would never hold the priesthood.

    Things change. We have an open canon that allows that.

  91. April

    August 28, 2009

    I want to thank ABC for her comments. She said it way better than I could have. My mother’s husband is also sealed to his first wife, who had passed away. And she, without a doubt, plans on having him as her husband in the next life and not some unknown “eternal husband” (Karen #52). She knows she’ll have to share her husband, and has faith everything will work out.

  92. ABC

    August 28, 2009

    #86 – My apologies. I didn’t mean to imply “that anyone who struggles with this principle won’t make it to the celestial kingdom. ” I am just saying that those who have a pure enough heart to gain exaltation will also (as #84 wrote) “have a perfect understanding of it and a heart to accept it. If [they] so desire.” I don’t believe that a celestial heart is one which would hold contempt for anything, plural marriage included. Will the principle of plural marriage exist? Yes, the scriptures tell us so. Will we all be required to live by it? No one can be absolutely sure, but if history serves as a model (which seems to be the Lord’s way of doing things), only some of those who are exalted will be asked to live in plural marriage.

    #88 – I don’t know if your response was directed to me, and I’m unclear about what “that argument” actually is. However, I have often wondered the same as you – what will happen to widows who remarry (but cannot “reseal”). I know of more than one couple who have responded with a smile and said, “The Lord will make it all work out.” I believe that, too. The Plan is all about our eternal joy, isn’t it? That alone brings a lot of hope. 🙂

  93. Karen

    August 28, 2009

    The further this conversation goes, I agree more and more that it’s not Sunday School material. Lots of people have strong opinions that they stand behind. And I’m sure many opinions that seem to conflict have come through personal pondering and personal revelation. Maybe this is best worked out between each individual and Heavenly Father.
    But may I say something to people who struggle with this doctrine? If you study the scriptures and revelations and pray and ask Heavenly Father he can answer your questions in His time and His way. Heavenly Father is not sexist and he wants all of his children to have eternal ideal marriage relationships if we are faithful.

  94. Michelle L.

    August 28, 2009

    I agree Karen, this is NOT Sunday School material.

    And the Brigham Young quote? I don’t buy it. He said a lot of things just as a man that certainly weren’t prophetic.

  95. Anon

    August 28, 2009

    “And the Brigham Young quote? I don’t buy it. He said a lot of things just as a man that certainly weren’t prophetic.”

    You just made a 180 degree turnaround from what I thought was the point of your original post of having thoughtful hallway discussions about this “elephant in the room” as you summarily dismiss what was viewed then as prophetic (and the rhetoric came not only from him, but from other leaders) by many followers. This is what they believed and this was what was taught by prophets. Just because it isn’t viewed as prophetic today because we are culturally uncomfortable with polygamy, doesn’t mean it wasn’t viewed as such then.

    It makes me wonder if soon we’ll be saying “And the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young polygamy and polyandry? I don’t buy it. They did a lot of things just as men that certainly weren’t prophetic.”

  96. m&m

    August 28, 2009

    Actually, BY disagreed with you on that point.

    “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266).

    Actually, I think there is another way to look at this quote. At THAT TIME, the plurality of wives was something that was preached as revelation from God. Not everyone was asked to live it, but I think everyone needed to accept it on principle. To fight against or reject the prophets at any point in time can mean spiritual trouble.

    I don’t think we either need to negate what he said for his time (I think it did apply to them then), or stretch it to ourselves now or to eternity. (We hear nothing about this now. This is to me a perfect example of why continuing revelation is so important. In fact, we are in essence not to like the principle now, because living it now would mean our damnation (in the sense of a cessation of spiritual progress in the covenant) because we would lose membership in the church. 🙂

    My $0.02.

  97. Lucy

    August 28, 2009

    I agree with Karen. I think the discussion is suitable here, and all sides should be welcome to share their thoughts, but if this is a sample of how a discussion might go in a Sunday School class, then the direction to NOT discuss it in class is a wise one. The debate about who does what in the Celestial Kingdom, historical quotes, what constitutes prophetic and what doesn’t aren’t really that inviting of the Spirit.

    I wonder how our history can be more accurately, but wisely, discussed at church? I can remember the Brigham Young manual that was used a few years ago in RS/Priesthood and the absence of all of his quotes and experiences with polygamy were notably absent. Obviously, that was done on purpose. But, to not have any discussion about polygamy when talking about Brigham Young seems incomplete. It was such a part of his personal life, and certainly a major part of the doctrine taught to the Saints at that point of the early church.

    I’m totally blanking the source, which doesn’t make for a very good comment, but isn’t there something in the scriptures (?) about it being easier to hold on to “Old Ways” and resist the New Law? I mean, Christ himself implemented a major change to the way things were taught as correct His gospel was practiced.. I’m sure those faithful Jews struggled with giving up something they so firmly believed as God’s Law.

    We are commanded to follow our living prophet. I think, with no disrespect or Brother Brigham bashing, that what President Monson says is more important than anything a former prophet or apostle has said. If we believe he has the mantle of leadership and the Keys of revelation.

    And I do.

  98. m&m

    August 28, 2009

    We are commanded to follow our living prophet. I think, with no disrespect or Brother Brigham bashing, that what President Monson says is more important than anything a former prophet or apostle has said. If we believe he has the mantle of leadership and the Keys of revelation.

    IMO, that is WHY we don’t see stuff about polygamy, etc. in SS classes and manuals — because ultimately, my feeling is that the purpose of these manuals has not really been history, but reinforcing the truths that have remained constant throughout this dispensation. The teachings in the prophets’ manuals have reinforced what our living prophet teaches today.

    I love that, actually. The patterns of prophetic teaching reinforce what truths matter most, and help us see the consistency in the doctrine and counsel that has stayed the same.

    I know some people don’t like it, but I love it. I love watching for those patterns. They are guideposts that I cling to.

  99. m&m

    August 28, 2009

    We are commanded to follow our living prophet. I think, with no disrespect or Brother Brigham bashing, that what President Monson says is more important than anything a former prophet or apostle has said. If we believe he has the mantle of leadership and the Keys of revelation.

    IMO, that is WHY we don’t see stuff about polygamy, etc. in SS classes and manuals — because ultimately, my feeling is that the purpose of these manuals has not really been history, but reinforcing the truths that have remained constant throughout this dispensation. The teachings in the prophets’ manuals have reinforced what our living prophet teaches today.

    I love that, actually. The patterns of prophetic teaching reinforce what truths matter most, and help us see the consistency in the doctrine and counsel.

    I know some people don’t like it, but I love it. I love watching for those patterns. They are guideposts that I cling to.

  100. April

    August 28, 2009

    My problem is that polygamy is not fair. Why can’t a woman be married to more than one husband? In the afterlife, a woman would know who the father of her children were and would not feel bad that her husband is with another woman if she could be with another man.

  101. mmiles

    August 29, 2009

    I don’t know April, it seems to me the people I personally know who have dealt with infidelity in their marriage by both parties did not feel less hurt simply because they did the same thing.
    As for me, I wouldn’t want to be with another guy, so that being allowed sure wouldn’t help.

  102. m&m

    August 30, 2009

    April, maybe this sounds like a pat answer, but everything that I see about life suggests to me that ‘fair’ means something different to us than it does to God, that mortal measures of fairness are not the same in the eternal scheme of things.

    I just can’t imagine that in the afterlife we will see things as we do now; the veil is a real thing, and so is our fallen mortal way of living, seeing, believing, etc.

  103. Annette

    August 31, 2009

    On the off-chance that anyone’s still following this thread . . . 🙂

    First off, Thanks Emily M for your confidence in me! I know for a fact, however, that my publisher won’t touch the topic of polygamy with a 100-foot pole. Not gonna happen.

    However, a fellow writer friend of mine felt strongly about writing some of her ancestors’ story out–they were not only polygamists, but one of them was the guy who figured out who to get through the Hole in the Rock.

    She tried the regular LDS publishers and got the typical response (basically, great story–take out the polygamy and we’ll take a second look). She refused to take out the polygamy, so she self-published it.

    If anyone’s interested in seeing some LDS fiction dealing with polygamy it’s worth taking a look at–it’s not only a fascinating look at the Hole in the Rock, but an interesting take on polygamy, since the author had to wrestle with the issue herself to write about it.

    It’s called Season of Sacrifice, by Tristi Pinkston, and you can order it from her website.

  104. mormonhermitmom

    August 31, 2009

    I think I’m safe, who’s going to read this far right? Snerk.

    Have polygamous ancestors on both sides. The idea bothers me personally but not doctrinally.

    My family have joked about it. “I can’t possibly bear ALL the spirit children necessary to populate a whole world when I’m exalted by myself.”

    I know I’ll have to wait for all the answers in the eternities. I think THAT is our test for our generation. Can we LET the polygamy issue rest so we can get on about the business of raising our families, preaching the core of the gospel and have FAITH that everything will work out for everybody concerned? The discussion has been great, and it needs to happen, though not in Sunday School, but ultimately, it’s in God’s hands isn’t it? Can we trust Him or not?

  105. Michelle L.

    September 1, 2009

    Hey Annette and mormonhermitmom– I’m still reading! So, so interesting that Mormon publishers won’t touch polygamy– we could learn so much! And yes, mormomhermitmom it all comes down to can we trust God or not. You choose to trust Him– me too.

  106. Mmm

    September 1, 2009

    My husband kissed me today and told me “You’re my favorite wife.” It’s good to know that if we ever have to start practicing polygamy again…as the alpha wife I’ll have the one up on all my “sisters.” 🙂

    Oh – and in response to the comments regarding polyandry – I don’t know any woman in her right mind who would actually want more than one husband. I have a hard enough time getting mine to stop leaving his socks in the middle of the living room floor…two might just put me over the edge.

  107. Alison Moore Smith

    November 12, 2009

    I realize this is an old thread. Oh, well.

    Polygamy bugs the heck out of me and has for… ever. I have a polygamous ancestor — one who DIVORCED her husband and then married a guy who was single. My husband has polygamous ancestors but, hey, he’s a Smith.

    The problem with President Hinckley’s answer (echoed by many here) that, “It’s in the past,” is that it’s simply untrue. Sealed men are still, routinely, sealed to additional women. Hello? Women must have a sealing canceled to do so. (Unless they are dead. Then they can be sealed to all their previous husbands, which makes no sense at all.)

    The problem with “church doctrine” on polygamy is that in the context of the early church (with polyandry and all), with many prophetic statements, with today’s sealing rules, it’s impossible to make some kind of coherent policy statement. (Why would women married to worthy members be sealed to, for example, Joseph Smith?)

    The problem with the “raise up seed” argument is that, in fact, polygamy didn’t accomplish that end. I’m not going to take the time to link to a source, but FAIR has a bunch of stuff on that.

    Today we use the prophets manuals in church, with biographies that are completely doctored to remove the appearance of polygamy. They’ve got all sorts of irrelevant biographical info, but “forget” to mention, oh, WIVES, even of prominent polygamists. Any multiples are carefully crafted to look as if they did not occur simultaneously.

    While I’d be thrilled to have polygamy obliterated from our history, we have this problem. We have all these women who gave up their marriage/love/family dreams, who gave up all those things they had been raised to believe, in order to do what the prophet told them to do. They gave up so much to follow God — more than I could ever give up. More than most of us would give up.

    And now we erase them from history??? Seriously? How about we just stop talking about Brigham Young instead of blotting out all his wives?!

    My husband says not to worry he has a hard enough time with one wife he couldn’t handle two.

    I’m sure he meant that to be funny, but I find it terribly condescending. If that’s the way we reassure our wives that we’ll be faithful… And, yes, it bothers me just as much in the reverse. “Man, I couldn’t STAND having two husbands. I mean you are such a slob with your socks all over and all…”

    Perhaps the most problematic part of historical polygamy to me is this: one-sided fidelity. When you marry in these circumstances, the woman is required to forsake all others, to be loyal, to cleave to her husband. But the man is allowed to continue to be on the lookout, still out courting women.

    I think there is no way for this to have a positive outcome. More to the point, it avoids the very thing (IMO) that makes marriage so wonderful. We work together. We work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But what happens when a man simply doesn’t HAVE to settle for one wife? He can go to wife A when he wants to talk about intellectual things and to wife B when he wants to do something adventurous and to wife C when he wants good sex. And where does that leave the other wives when he’s not dealing with her particular expertise?

    I grew up in Utah, active all my life, graduated from seminary, graduated from BYU. It wasn’t until I moved to Florida in the early 1990’s and read Mormon Enigma that I ever even heard that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. I was dumb-founded. What an idiot I must have been.

    Assuming I was the only dolt on the planet, I once mentioned in RS that Eliza Snow was married to both JS and BY. I nearly caused a riot! I was accused of making the whole thing up.

    OK, so it wasn’t just me who didn’t know.

    I think it’s high time we stopped pretending this isn’t still an issue and just address it. Take it out of the hall and into the class. Get some facts and some answers. Whatever it takes.

  108. Insurance Quote

    December 30, 2009

    i must admit this is one of the most informative posts i have read today. kudos to the author

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