I’m pretty sure Mormons still believe in polygamy. Am I wrong?

Welcome, AMG readers.  I’ve got to tell you:  my book The Book of Mormon Girl just came out on Kindle last week and (for you print lovers) is now available for pre-order here.  Reviewers are calling it “laugh-out-loud funny” and “break-your-heart poignant.” See more reader responses here.

Now, for some serious business.  It’s time to talk about polygamy.  I can’t believe this column has been running almost two years without a serious talk about one of the most definitive elements of Mormonism—past and present.  It’s a subject we carry around in a great deal of silence.  There is a lot to say, so, please, read on through this very important edition of Ask Mormon Girl.

Dear AMG: 

I’m an unorthodox lifelong Mormon. I consider myself to be well-versed on our religious doctrine, and in some BYU religion classes, had heard something about polygamy being “the exception, not the rule” in the celestial kingdom. I just put it on the back burner of my mind because a) I couldn’t even stomach it, and b) It sure as hell wasn’t going to apply to ME. 

On Sunday, the Relief Society lesson was about the three degrees of glory. We of course addressed the fact that if a woman is not married in this life, she will have the opportunity in the next. During the last five minutes of class, the Relief Society President raised her hand to address the topic of exaltation and said, “Well, those of us who have righteous husbands need to be prepared in the Celestial Kingdom for him to take on other wives.” Ummmm, WHAT?! I had a feeling of absolute horror, and had a cold sweat and nausea instantly run over my body. 

The rest of the night, and next few days I spent looking for doctrine of what she’d said. I spoke with many people, none of whom seem to know the answer. I cried. I plead with God for peace. I got more sick about it. These past few days, I’ve been unable to concentrate at work. I feel totally emotionally distant from my husband because, after all, what is the point of being close to him if I have to share him with other women? It goes against every fiber of my being.  I asked my husband what he would do if faced with polygamy in the hereafter. He said if he had God actually gave him a choice, he would choose to be with only me, but that if it were a commandment, he would abide by it because he puts his love of God over his love for me. More nausea. 

My thoughts have been, “Why have I been trying to live such a good life to gain exaltation if it would be my absolute personal hell over there? I would rather be single in the Terrestrial kingdom than practice polygamy in the Celestial kingdom.” I know this probably sounds dramatic, but it’s how I feel. I’ve talked to my parents, and they tell me that I’m thinking about it with my earthly eyes, and that since there’s no specific doctrine, why worry about it now, but honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s affecting my functioning at work, and I’m emotionally shut off from my husband. Please help! What’s your understanding of the doctrine? 


Dear AMG:

After reading your research on the blacks and the priesthood, I felt for the first time I had received a clear explanation with historical background. I am curious why you have not discussed polygamy in more depth. I have read many books, but still have a hard time believing it was a revelation from God. From my perspective, the LDS faith still practices polygamy, not overtly but by permitting men to be sealed to more than one woman. Some personal experiences have added to my doubts, as well. I understand that this is a very controversial subject and perhaps that is why you have avoided it; however, I would appreciate your perspective.


Dear AL and AD:

Thank you for raising the issue of polygamy.  It is an issue our community has profoundly mixed feelings about—shame, confusion, anger, resentment, fear, sadness, conviction, pride.  And one we rarely talk about.

We need to talk about polygamy.

Just last week, after the subject of Mitt Romney’s Mexican-born grandparents came up during a debate, I posted to the @askmormongirl Twitter line:  “Everyone knows Mitt’s ancestors went to Mexico to practice polygamy, right?  Because it was illegal in the states.”  And then, I came out about my own polygamous and non-polygamous ancestors: my great-great-great grandmother Lucy Evalina Waterbury Wight was a first wife, and my great-great-great grandmother Martha Clayton Dorton threatened to cut off her husband’s ears if he took a second wife.  “Come on, Mo tweeps,” I tweeted,  “Lose your shame.  Tweet your polygamous ancestors.”

What followed over the next 18 hours was a remarkable outpouring of Mormon thoughts and feelings about polygamy.  Some proudly tweeted their polygamous ancestors.  Others admitted to shame and confusion about doctrine and history.  Many (usually Mormon men) insisted they found polygamy “repulsive.”

Strong, strong feelings.

We need to talk about polygamy.

In the late nineteenth-century, the US government basically waged political, financial, and military war on Mormons in the west, in part because of polygamy.  Show trials in Congress.  National reform crusades and press coverage.  All of them depicting our ancestors as depraved men and duped women.  And it was all part of a very specific political effort (with strong anti-Asian and anti-Islamic overtones) to maintain the domination of white Protestant “normalcy” in the US.

To survive, our ancestors stopped talking about polygamy.  Some of them went on the “underground,” hiding out from federal agents and moving from town to town.  We learned not to talk about polygamy. We still do not talk openly about polygamy—by Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young, or as doctrine. We are still on the “underground.”  The life account of Joseph Smith in the official church Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith manual does not mention any of his more than thirty plural wives. When I have mentioned his polygamy in public, angry Mormons have emailed me, incredulous, and demanding proof that Joseph Smith was polygamous.  (If you doubt the facts, please see Todd Compton’s meticulously researched book In Sacred Loneliness.  There really is no debate.  Joseph Smith had at least 33 wives.  Many have been profiled at an amazing series on “The Forgotten Women of Joseph Smith” at the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog.)

We need to talk about polygamy.

Polygamy remains on the books in Mormon scripture (many, but not all, Mormons interpret Doctrine and Covenants 132 as an endorsement of polygamy).  And, yes, to this day, the mainstream LDS Church continues to form polygamous eternal marriages between one man and more than one women.  Current temple marriage policies allow a man who has been widowed or civilly divorced (without a religious divorce) to be married for eternity to a second wife.  A woman who has been widowed or civilly divorced (without a religious divorce) may not be married for eternity to a second husband.  Technically, the LDS Church does practice polygamy to this day.

Because of scripture and policy, many mainstream Mormon people today—not the ultra-orthodox FLDS splinter groups of Colorado City, but regular everyday Mormons who look like Steve Young and Mitt Romney–fully expect that heaven will be polygamous.  But they don’t talk about it.

We need to talk about polygamy.

In fact, the Mormon strategy for dealing with the public on polygamy is much like it was one hundred years ago: don’t talk about it.  The official line is that Mormons do not practice polygamy (which is not essentially accurate).  Apologists routinely downplay the historical extent of polygamy, stating that only 2 – 3% of LDS people ever practiced it; historians place that number closer to 20 – 30%.

I fully understand the reasons we tell the world we don’t practice polygamy.  The amount of sheer revulsion directed at Mormons for polygamy is astounding, and it’s ridiculous in a world where other form of non-hetero-monogamous relationship are welcomed or winked at.  We crave understanding.  We want to get along with our neighbors and fit in.  And yet the strategy of telling the world we don’t practice polygamy when polygamy remains a live Mormon doctrine may have some major drawbacks.

We need to talk about polygamy.

Growing up, I was taught not to worry about it.  “Put it on a shelf,” as the classic Mormon line goes.  “We’ll understand when we have an eternal perspective.” But that never worked for me.  From the time I was a child, I have always been a thinker by nature, and serious about my religion.  So I tested myself against the question, “Would I share my husband if it meant my sister Mormon could get into heaven?” And I decided, yes, I could.  I think I was about 9 or 10 years old.  Maybe that’s where my feminism started:  in female solidarity.

I’ve lived with the reality of polygamy for a long, long time.  I’ve seen the very real feelings it generates in people close to me.  I’ve seen white-knuckling, and anger, and heard wives extract promises from husbands, and siblings tell siblings they don’t really count as “Mormon” if they so much as remain silent when the issue of polygamy comes round.  Put it on a shelf? Hide it away? When we are taught to be a knowledge-seeking people?  The fact is, Mormons live with polygamy every day.  Even when we repress it.

Indeed, there are plenty of bright LDS young men and women today who look at the current temple sealing policies and conclude that yes, we do still practice polygamy.  They are not wrong.  They want no part of polygamy, and they find the way the culture denies it or “undergrounds” it to be scary and discouraging. And some of them walk away from the Mormon tradition.

And there are young people today who have no idea about Mormon polygamy or Joseph Smith’s plural marriages until they find it ON GOOGLE—what a wonderful way to learn the family secrets–often from one of the many anti-Mormon websites designed to shame and embarrass members of the faith.

On my twitter thread, @LDSBishop shared a story about an entire family that left the Church because they had no idea about polygamy until they read Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith biography Rough Stone Rolling.

Why should we not inform our own people about our own history?  When we don’t, we set up our people to feel betrayed and ashamed, and we give power to people who would like to embarrass us.  What we refuse to be ashamed of, others can never hold over us.

As for the doctrinal value of polygamy, I have talked to plenty of Mormons who believe that polygamy was always a human rather than an inspired element of LDS doctrine and practice.  (See Flunking Sainthood author Jana Riess here.)  I have talked to plenty of Mormons who embrace it as an iron-clad eternal principle.  And I have talked to plenty of Mormons who think that polygamy may be an unfortunate but necessary part of the eternities.  Why? They cite two big unofficial reasons:

  1. There are more righteous women than men, and if we all need to be married to get to heaven (as per LDS doctrine), then it makes sense that one man may have to marry more than one woman.
  2. If our heavenly parents pro-create spirit children, polygamy would be necessary to create enough spirits to people a planet.

These are my personal unofficial responses:

  1. As a feminist, and for the love of the men and boys in my life, I straight up refuse to believe that one gender is inherently or essentially more righteous than another.
  2. The idea that the creation of spirits happens in a process that parallels sexual reproduction of human bodies is a remnant of nineteenth-century speculative theology.  Fantastic stuff.  But a pretty limiting view of God to believe that S/he has to generate spirits through a spirit uterus.  More recently, Mormon theologians have proposed a view of spirit creation as the “organization of matter.”  And on a more personal level, I loved being pregnant, but if spirit creation means that I have to pregnate a jillion souls, I’m out.

So, count me among the many Mormons who do not believe that polygamy is an eternal principle, even as I honor all the Mormons who did and do believe this, and the sacrifices they made and make for faith.  I love the idea that none of us enters the heavens singly, that we all must be bound together—across the generations—we all go in together.  It reminds me of the Buddhist teaching that none attains enlightenment until all attain enlightenment.  But one-man-multiple-woman polygamy is not an idea I can believe in, and it’s not just because I’m seeing with “mortal” rather than “spiritual” eyes:  symmetry, I think, is an eternal principle too.

But most of all, I dislike the way we hide polygamy, or seek to manage it with carefully-managed or contradictory messages.  That strategy we developed back in the 1890s sticks with us to this day and shapes our guarded, nervous relationships with non-Mormons.  I hate the shame the whole subject engenders.  I hate getting screaming e-mail messages from Mormons who are extremely ashamed that I mentioned Joseph Smith’s plural wives—a matter of historical record—in public.  And I hate getting e-mail messages from Mormons to whom I must gently break the news that such is historical fact.

We need to talk about polygamy.  A subject that drives such strong feelings among us deserves to be handled with candor, respect, and humanity.  That is what I’ve tried to do here.

Read The Book of Mormon Girl. Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter. Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com.



Filed under polygamy

318 responses to “I’m pretty sure Mormons still believe in polygamy. Am I wrong?

  1. I can all too well relate to AD. I’m an active member, and the idea of polygamy is one that I struggle with internally. Every. Singly. Day. In nearly every church lesson at one point or another we are taught to have an eternal perspective. My struggle is that polygamy is what I have to look forward to in the eternities. What a great perspective…

    • Kelsey

      One of the best answers on this subject I ever heard was in an institute class. The question was put forth as to whether or not we must practice polygamy in the eternities. My teacher turned us to D&C 132:19, which reads, “If a man marry A wife…” and then proceeds to list all the blessings of exaltation. Our teacher emphasized A wife, one. All that is required is that we have a spouse. I plan on not sharing my husband in the eternities. I have had panicked, slightly hysterical conversations with my husband about polygamy in the eternities, and he always says that God will do whatever is in our best eternal happiness. I generally assume that means no polygamy for me. However, I have a dear, dear friend who is divorced whose daughters I have nannied and whom I consider to be nearly family. It struck me the last time I saw her that if I had to share my husband with her in the eternities, and make her daughters part of our family, I realized it wouldn’t bother me. In fact, it might actually make it all better. But maybe not. And I certainly would prefer she find her own, sweet and kind, good husband. I think she would prefer that, too. And I think my husband can only handle one of me. The point is, I don’t understand all of it. I truly believe that it is by no means a requirement. That wouldn’t make sense – think of all the young, unmarried men who have died in wars and need spouses to be exalted. There just wouldn’t be enough women to go around. Most of us, I think, will be just the one and one combination, but I think there need to be some exceptions here and there, and God knows when and for whom that needs to be. And all those women who were commanded to live the law of plural marriage must have needed that experience for their own growth and ultimate, eternal happiness. I don’t get it, but thankfully, I don’t have to. One man, one woman, is enough.

    • Moozi

      The best answer I have found about polygamy is from God himself in 2 Nephi. He talks about marriage being between one man and one woman and whoredoms are an abominations….but he says if he needs to raise up righteous seed he “will command it” otherwise people should hearken to the original commandment. “nuff said. Maybe I shouldn’t “go there” by suggesting that Adam had plural wives to raise up a population in a hurry. How could Adam and (one) Eve’s children have intramarried without severe birth defects and populated the earth in such a hurry. There may be things we haven’t yet considered. Polygamy was a HUGE part of the Old Testament…why would it be illogical to think that Adam practiced it as well. This is not just a Mormon topic. ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE POLYGAMY IN THEIR CLOSET therefore none of us should feel ashamed. To even pretend that we can understand God and his purposes is laughable… HE is the CREATOR of us.

      • It is absolutely true that all Christians have polygamy in our closets.

        Your supposition that Adam had plural wives, though, opens a troubling train of logic: who were his other wives? Logic dictates that they could only have been his daughters. This is even more troubling than the idea of polygamy is.

      • terrylinden

        Or for that matter, when Cain was sent away “East of Eden” he found his wife in the strange land. Where did she come from? Anybody?

      • Yes, the Bible has multiple stories of polygyny, but the Bible also has multiple stories of horrific slaughter, rape, incest and murder. That doesn’t make them right–it makes them part of the development of the faith, of people trying to figure out their lives in relationship to God. No mainstream Christian faith affirms plural marriages, nor even touches the thought that such arrangements will be central to eternal life. That doctrine is unique to Mormonism.

        As a non-Mormon reader of this blog, I keep asking myself, and now others, this: how honest is it to keep the centrality of the doctrine of plural marriages in what you call the Celestial Kingdom essentially secret from those who are investigating the possibility of affiliation with the Mormon faith? From the outside, this looks deceptive, but I’m willing to be in a place where I simply don’t understand.

        However, again from reading some of the comments here, I’ve become aware that, as an outsider and a student of religious thought, I may very well know more than many Mormons about the origin of this doctrine. I find this extremely troubling. I also have many acquaintences and some relatives who are Mormon, and have high esteem for them as people and as those who seek to honor God. I am not writing from an “anti-mormon” stance. I really want to know how Mormons justifiy keeping this primarily under wraps.

      • Great discussion here.

        I respect all of the dialogue here. It is very positive and I am sympathetic with everyone here who is seeking to reconcile their faith with this difficult doctrine.

        That being said, something caught my eye to which I must briefly object. “All Christians have polygamy in their closet” is simply historically inaccurate. There is absolutely no record whatsoever of any orthodox Christian ever practicing polygamy in all time (all are encouraged to fact-check my points). Here are some points to consider:

        Polygamy was not uncommon practice among Jews at the time of Christ and the Early Church. Meanwhile, the Greco-Roman world at the time was completely monogamous in terms of marriage, although extramarital sex on the part of the husband was widespread and institutionalized. In Roman law, women were seen as possessions of their husbands.

        The theology of the Christian Church, though, brought a strikingly new interpretation of marriage’s role in God’s plan. In Mark 10:8, Jesus tells us that in marriage, two become one flesh. “They are no longer two, but one.” And if another person is involved, do they become one-and-a-half? The two mold together in reciprocal love. In reciprocity there is complete surrender and exclusivity. What is more, in New Testament terminology, Jesus has come to save his Bride, the Church. Marriage is therefore wrapped up in the symbolism of the union between the Lord and his people, and men are commanded: “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her” (Ephesians 5:25). For a husband to give all of himself up, pouring out all of his love as Jesus did for His Church, how could he have more than one wife? Marriage was thus sanctified as a holy union representing the love of One Christ to His One Body, the Church. In early Christian theology it was spoken of in sacramental and mysterious terms, transcendent of issues concerning practicality or fertility.

        All of the Church Fathers who ever mentioned polygamy spoke disapprovingly of it. The list includes St. Augustine, Basil of Caesarea, Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, and Tertullian. One exception may be seen in Eusebius of Caesarea, who seemed to take a neutral stance, not advocating polygamy for Christians but arguing that its practice by the Old Testament Patriarchs could be reconciled with their righteousness. However, the fact that Eusebius felt the need to address the issue shows how far detached polygamy was from mainstream practice in the Early Church. As the Church’s canon law was solidified in the coming centuries, Western society saw the stamping out of any remnants of polygamous practices.

        The topic was never contested from then until the Reformation, in which the questioning of entrenched norms led many to revisit the idea. The question was entertained in the 16th century, but finally dropped. By the 19th century, the fires of anti-polygamy were so strong, for example, that in Protestant America it led to the (regrettable) persecution of Latter-Day Saints. No Protestant society has seen the widespread practice of polygamy.

        It is worth noting that polygyny has traditionally played a large role in the majority of cultures throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, Christian Ethiopia has stood out as an exception since the Middle Ages, when the Ethiopian Orthodox Church cracked down on polygamy. Indeed, the only way in which orthodox Christians have “polygamy in their closet” is in connection with sub-Saharan Africa, as young, autonomous churches there have in many cases retained the practice.

        So, just wanted to clarify those points, for those who are interested. Great comments, everyone!

      • ILWAMG

        The explanation for Adam’s descendants having to intramarry, and the lack of birth defects to follow, is explained in teachings by Brigham Young. Not that Adam was our link to God, but that he was God himself. I don’t agree with the teachings, but they are there.

      • Reasearch

        Moozi expressed my feelings exactly! In our infant stage of knowledge and understanding, it amazes me that anyone tries to indicate that they know the whys or wherefores of God. I do want to state that although the idea of polygamy was not appealing to me 53 years ago when my husband and I joined the church, I have come to truly believe that definitely could lead a polygamous life. As I have come to deeply love so many of my Mormon female friends, it is easy for me to imagine them being such an intimate part of my life! If we understand, it appears to me that it will be glorious. If we do not understand, we will continue to grow and progress until we can comprehend God’s purposes.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Thoughtfulpastor. . .you’re right. I would suspect that a vast number of practicing Mormons don’t know much about origins of Mormon doctrine or history.

      The Church correlated its lesson manuals (in the 80’s), so every Mormon around the world is taught the same specific lessons of spiritual doctrine to help our daily lives. . .lessons that are built on basic principles of belief (faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost). We are taught about covenants, temple worship, and all the practices that lead Mormons to live a godly life (daily prayer, daily scripture study, weekly family home evenings, weekly church attendance, regular charity, regular temple worship) towards their ultimate goal of exaltation as Gods and Goddesses in the (Mormon) Celestial Kingdom.

      Mormons and potential Mormons don’t get factual history lessons about the origins of our doctrine from the Church, unless we seek this information ourselves.

      It can be very troubling for many faithful Mormons to discover the factual origins of our history and doctrine. http://whymormonsleave.com/ is a website that just recently went live. It has published on the website a survey of 3,000 once-faithful members who faced crises of their Mormon faith when they discovered the factual history and origins of doctrine.

      I have been a life-long member for 41 years (baptized, mission, married in Temple, active & practicing). My parents were very moderate and intelligent in their approach, and we did talk about difficult and complex issues, and I considered myself “fairly” informed. When my husband and I started researching details and factual history about Mormon doctrine, history, and origins we both became extremely alarmed. It has been extremely disturbing to discover the truth about ALL OF IT.

      The historical and doctrinal story the church fed us on Sunday and in seminary and in the MTC and institute is not the truth of how it all actually happened. Sorry. . .there is no Mormon alive who can claim otherwise.

      That said. . .the principles of living a godly life with prayer, scripture, family, spirit, etc. are universal. Those principles are true no matter what religion you believe in and live.

      How every Mormon deals with this information varies greatly, of course. I have friends and family who are 100% faithful, believing Mormons no matter what historical facts they discover. I have friends and family who have left entirely. I have friends and family who are unorthodox, because the cost of intellectual disbelief at the same time of emotional/spiritual belief is just too great. Unorthodox Mormons want the connection to family and spiritual life that they love in the Mormon tradition, but discover their own testimony of belief through the Holy Ghost for the new truths they are discovering.

      You would have to ask the leadership of the Church (the First Presidency and presiding Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) as to your question: “How Mormons justifiy keeping this primarily under wraps.” Unfortunately, we have not yet seen any satisfactory answers.

      Individuals are trying to ask these questions, and you can find alot of Mormon discussion on http://www.fairlds.org/ and http://mormonstories.org/, but neither of these are official Church websites.

      • Trevor

        What boggles my mind is that everybody is so critical of “so called” mormon secrets. I have seen mormons leave the church over finding out that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. Did they never learn about Brigham Young who had 50 wives? That is definitely not a secret. Brigham, like Joseph, is a prophet of god, a seer and revelator, if he was a polygamist than why is it so hard to fathom that Joseph Smith was. Some times Mormons put Joseph Smith on a pedestal. Let me break the news for everyone out there reading……Joseph Smith was a sinful man. Yes, he was sinful like every human being on this planet except for Jesus Christ. Its okay to be sinful, by the way, if we weren’t, than there would be no need for a savior. If Peter the chief apostle could deny Christ three times than can we cut Joseph a little slack?

        Look, I am sorry if you didn’t get a chance to learn about every single facet of mormon history, but that is part of life, and religion. Do you think catholics, Christians, protestants know every facet of their own beliefs? Of course not. Do you know how many times I quoted bible verses on my mission about stories that people had no concept of? If you were to scrutinize Christianity the way people scrutinize Mormonism you would find as much to be doubtful about if not more. Since the time of Christ there has been many aspects of history within the christian church that is shocking and disturbing. Does this mean that christianity is false? Does this mean that we should doubt every thing.

        I laugh at people that scrutinize religion down to the letter, but than don’t scrutinize any thing else in life to that same degree. They have to understand every thing yet they are completely comfortable enjoying the many comforts of life not understanding fully how every thing works. The fact is that there are many thing in history that is appalling and easy to scrutinize. We are to learn from history, but lets not completely doubt ever thing because of it.

        I often hear people say that the “church” is perfect but the people are not. I disagree with that statement. I believe that the “church” is as perfect as god wants it to be. Meaning, that god allows his church to be imperfect because we are to live by faith. The core tenets are pure, but prophets, yes prophets, can make mistakes (Peter, Nephi etc.) Remember that all have fallen short of the glory of god.

        In terms of polygamy. I don’t think we need to worry about it. God will not force polygamy. God does not dictate who you marry now and I don’t think he will up there. I believe there will be some polygamist relationships, but that is as far as my understanding goes.

    • JA

      I have two thoughts on this. Naw, I’m sure I won’t limit it to just two…
      1- This whole talk about us going to our husbands and asking, “What, will we do, darling?” is not necessary. The first wife has to approve any other wife – so just make certain you are the FIRST wife and say,”NO!” End of conflict. None of this schmaltzy, “Well, I love so and so and I want her to get into heaven so, ok, I guess she can have my husband.” Say, “NO” and say it in ALL CAPS so the angels know you are serious. You might throw in a “Hell NO” but then you won’t get into heaven for cursing, so scratch that.

      2- My second point is my own personal doctrine, so take it with a grain of salt – In the eternities, when we are all perfected, there will be polygamous relationships going both ways – multiple wives, multiple husbands. ( We wouldn’t dare bring that up in Sacrament Meeting.) If the men had a moment to ponder THAT pearl, the doctrine would be shut down in a heartbeat.

      • Listen

        You need to reread D&C 132 on both points.

      • Hope Michelle

        Lol on your first point, I hadn’t even thought of that. But good luck in practice. There are just too many women out there who have been convinced that they must be submissive in all matters, and that their happiness should always sit at the bottom of the totem poll. I know because I am one of them.

        I LOVE your second point.This connects with my favorite part of AMG’s response: ” I love the idea that none of us enters the heavens singly, that we all must be bound together—across the generations—we all go in together. ” To the person who says “read D&C 132” , I don’t think you get it.

    • incognito

      There is a big difference between polygamy imposed and forced upon by religions than about serial marriages or affaires …..

      All are dangerous and harmful to women …

      That is why i stay single and that is why i will never return to the mormon church …

      The only righteous way is monogamous, faithful, loving committed marriage (no cheating, no plural wives, no divorce) till the end …

      That is why i prefer mainstream christianity to mormonism or other double standard religions ;;;; it is safer, more stable, more secure and more fulfilling for all (unless men cannot control their lust) and people should just live it.


      • spcold

        I find it fascinating that contemporary mormons get flustered over notions of polygamy in the eternities and are repulsed by the notion of having to share spouses. It’s like worrying over what we will eat or if the celestial kingdom will have toilets or how painful it will be to have a gazillion spirit babies… Obviously the biology of mortality doesn’t apply to the Celestial kingdom. Granted marriage, pair bonding, and child rearring are biological processes that apply to mortality. But these concepts are mere analogies to the relationships we will have in the eternities. I know it is worrisome to many but it really is like worrying if we can still go skiing in the celestial kingdom… But to address an earlier reply that refuted that polygamy was never practiced by any Christians at any time except mormons, that is false. Charlemagne, the first Christian emperor, was a polygamist. I saw it on the history channel, so it must be true. 🙂

  2. There’s always someone looking to make others feel bad or ashamed and are willing to even be unscrupulous to accomplish this so my reaction when someone tries to make me feel guilty about this or other Mormon doctrines I don’t buy into it.

    The first area of my mission (BTW, I am LDS) had a lot of churches. I’ve never seen as many different churches anywhere else as I have there. It seemed like nearly everyone I met there had seen, heard or read anti-Mormon material. So I heard quite a bit of dissenting opinions there in Van Wert, OH.

    I decided back then that I was going to find out for myself what the story was with the doctrine of polygamy and it didn’t take me very long to do so. I figured I’d start with some scriptures I already knew about on the subject.

    Being named after Kind David in the Bible I’m familiar with his story. Nathan the prophet spoke to David in the name of the Lord specifically indicating that the Lord had given David more than one wife which indicates to me that it was sanctioned (2 Sam 12:8).

    I went to another scripture on the topic I was familiar with: Matt 19:5 where Jesus seems to specifically indicate that marriage is for one man and one woman.

    Thanks to the footnotes in the LDS edition of the Bible I was referred to Jacob 2:30. I had never thought of as a polygamy chapter (probably because these passages are typically used in reference to chastity when teaching high school age kids). In this study session though I saw this verse for what it is: an explanation of the doctrine of polygamy. The Lord will command it when he wants it to “raise up seed”. Aside from that I don’t think that the doctrine itself has been expounded on much more and doctrine is always expounded upon by scripture.

    The practice of immorality is typically associated with unbelievers, sinners or something that can be forgiven later. The idea of living together, having multiple sexual partners, being unfaithful, etc. is just not considered a serious issue for people any more, even for many professed believers. Churches generally don’t condone this type of behavior but people do it. When a church has a doctrine like this, something so different from other mainstream religions, it makes people take notice.

    I think that the doctrine is not more prominent because belief and acceptance of it rely of a stronger testimony of more basic doctrines. Just take a look at what the church’s support of Proposition 8 in California did when it involved a doctrine that the church has been very open about and think what a more prominent role the doctrine of polygamy would do.

    I agree that this should not be a topic we shy away from but I believe that there are better places to put our efforts than spreading the doctrine of polygamy.

  3. Fascinating subject, but saying something is “historical fact” is just another way of saying “I am right.” Dueling “facts” in the abstract tend to leave people believing what they want to believe, rather than providing a way to seek the truth. Starting with Joseph Smith, how many wives did he have? Who were they? When did he marry them? Most importantly, how do we know these answers are reliable? Citing original source documents could give real support of your viewpoint about the extent of polygamy. Otherwise it is just “he said, she and she said.”

    • This has been and is documented. I used to own a book that had a timeline of significant events in the life of Joseph Smith (one that I bought at the LDS owned Deseret Book). I’m sure there is more than one documentation of this and I don’t remember the number exactly but I believe the number of wives Joseph Smith had was in the teens.

    • This is a good place to start.

      There were 32 or 33. Most under the age of 20, one was 14. Most of these marriages were hidden from Emma at the request of the prophet and women were threatened that the “firey gates of hell will be forever closed against you” if they did not agree.

      It IS a historical fact.

    • ASteve

      Actually no, there are historical facts. Some people get their facts wrong, true, but some facts are beyond dispute, like Smith’s marriages to already married women and children as young as 14.

      You realize you can look up the dates of the marriages and the names of the women on lds.org in the familysearch section don’t you?

      • JP


        I believe you are accurate when you state JS was “married” to already married women and minors. The reason for this was explained once by my Stake President. To paraphrase (this is opinion) Joseph Smith was a mortal man capable of making mistakes. The sealing ordinance in the begining of the church was largly misunderstood. It was believed that a female had to be sealed to a man in order to be exalted. So in an attempt to preserve their daughters/wives fathers and husbands were offering up their women to be sealed to Joseph Smith although they never lived with him or engaged in sexual relationships. Esentially they were SEALED to Joseph Smith but MARRIED to another man. Family Search only records sealings.

    • aaron

      Joseph Smith Junior’s personal record on FamilySearch.org (the LDS church’s own geneology research website): http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/af/individual_record.asp?recid=7762167

      • jk

        FamilySearch is NOT a source of historical evidence for or against anything, polygamy or otherwise. FamilySearch is populated with user-contributed data, much of which is incorrect (if you don’t believe me go look through your own ancestors’ info on there and look at all of the details, not just the ones showing by default– a lot of people have added incorrect information, and a lot of records have been combined incorrectly). Yes it is the Church’s “own genealogy research website,” but the data was provided by the users of the site and a lot of the information is incorrect or linked to the wrong people. (Notice some of those “marriages” are listed with dates AFTER Joseph’s death?) There are lots of links in FamilySearch between children and the wrong parents, too. Nobody really had several fathers and several mothers, but records in the FamilySearch database often have several listed. Seriously, some people in the database are even listed as their own fathers and mothers, or were “married” long before they were born. Just sayin’.

    • Diana

      It is interesting that many Mormons argue that Joseph Smith did not have plural wives. This used to be a huge bone of contention between the “Reorganized LDS Church” and the Utah LDS Church. The Reorganized Church claimed that Joseph Smith had not practiced or preached polygamy. The Utah Church countered by having the surviving wives of Joseph Smith swear out affidavits as to their marriages to him.

      Now it’s interesting that what was once considered an “anti-Mormon lie” is a common defense of the faith by Mormons. That’s what comes form the sanitized history presented in Church manuals.

      • Sanitized or simplified?

      • Vinniecat

        I’d say sanitized. It was a real shock to me to learn of so many wives Joseph took, the manner in which he married them, and the way it has been hidden in church history. When I first questioned my parents about it I got the answer that he didn’t have sexual relationships with anyone but Emma, but married them to be more of a caretaker and provider. History has shown this not to be the case.

      • JA

        We can go back and forth all day long about whether something can be proven historically or not. I’ve always thought there are plenty of crazy doctrines currently that I didn’t have to go looking for others. And, yes, I agree we are being disceptive when we rush to baptize people before they know what they are getting themselves into or when we seek out those suffering catastrophic personal crises to convert when they are so vulnerable. The Lord’s church should not take advantage like that.

    • LRC

      The Ensign (an official LDS magazine published by the Church) used to talk about Joseph Smith being married to women other than Emma. For instance, a biographical essay about Eliza R. Snow (Sept. 1973) begins by discussing how “Her beloved husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith, had been cruelly murdered after only two short years of marriage.”

      Of course, the most recent adult study materials about Joseph Smith only list Emma as his wife. Funny how things have changed in less than 30 years.

    • LRC

      Now, while lds.org does not list the names of Joseph’s wives, and while it’s not technically an original source, it’s probably an authoritative source on Joseph Smith’s life and marriages. It does say, in the Gospel Topics section under Polygamy (Plural Marriage): “After God revealed the doctrine of plural marriage to Joseph Smith in 1831 and commanded him to live it, the Prophet, over a period of years, cautiously taught the doctrine to some close associates. Eventually, he and a small number of Church leaders entered into plural marriages in the early years of the Church. …” [You have to click the Additional Information bar to get to this part of the page.]

    • adison

      I don’t think she was trying to prove how many wives he had. Just to make the point that he had more than one and there are many people who don’t know that. If you would like a book made by the church that is available at any distribution center check out Church History in the Fullness of Times pg. 256 it is short, half a paragraph but there it talks about him having more than one wife. No list or exact count but that should be enough to clarify the point she was trying to make.

  4. Jennifer

    I think you missed another class of Mormons who know the doctrine and support it. I have so many wonderful, wise, amazing female friends in this existence. Presuming I reach the degree of glory that would allow me to participate in this doctrine, I cannot fathom not reaching out my hand to those friends that aren’t able to partcipate through no fault of their own. Will jealousy, pettiness and pride exist in the celestial kingdom? Not in my house.

    • standclear1

      Wonderful response. thank you for that!

    • Ingsa

      It sounds kind of judgmental to call those of us (me) that take issue with polygyny jealous, petty or proud. You don´t know the heart or soul of moi. Does an open mind and open heart only go out to those who haven´t been able to “participate”?

    • Vinniecat

      I’m not jealous, I just don’t understand why I would ever be expected to share my husband with another woman in an intimate way. Am I not of the same value as he? Why would there be more women than men that live righteously? It just honestly doesn’t make sense to me – doesn’t fit into the rest of church doctrine that tells me all are of equal value to God. I have many wonderful female friends too, but I don’t want to be a sister-wife with them. The position of wife is already adequately filled with one person.

      • Selina

        Look, I see it this way, we have no idea how we are going to think of things after we pass through the veil. And, if you truly love our Father in heaven you will do anything He asks you to do. AND we will have a better knowledge and understanding of the things He asks us to do. So, learn to get over yourself and your pride. Humble yourself before the Lord, get down on your knees and pray for enlightenment. If, after diligent prayer and scripture study, you feel that something is wrong and that feeling is persistent, it probably is wrong. Don’t listen to someone spouting off “the gospel according to my opinion” because that is just what it is, their opinion. Dig a little deeper and get your own answers through diligent prayer with an open heart, mind, and spirit so that you can learn things for yourself. Don’t question the Lord, just remember that you are human and your little brain cannot completely understand the workings of the Lord.

  5. Diana

    To the Mormons in the late 1800s plural marriage was a bedrock, doctrinal principle. It was the Lord’s way of marriage and they pooh-poohed monogamy from the pulpit. When the government came down on them they came up with the manifesto where they SAID they would end it but continued the practice underground. When that didn’t work they finally quit the practice of multiple LIVING wives. Interestingly, in the early 1900s there was a push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and ONE woman. Mormons sent an apostle to Washington to lobby AGAINST it, because of the “ONE” woman part. About 100 years later there was a push for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Mormons sent an apostle to Washington to lobby FOR it because of the one “WOMAN” part.

    Often Mormons say that polygamy was to provide for widows, as if no other way could be found to provide for a widow. Actually the usual way was for an arranged marriage between a teenage bride and an already-married husband twice her age or more–as happened with my great grandmother and great grandfather.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Let alone the census in Utah proves there was no shortage of men. Do yourselves a favor and look it up:

      The Utah Historical Society includes population statistics in their library. The source for these statistics is the United States Bureau of Census.

      Utah population:
      1850 total 11,380 male 6,046 female 5,334
      1860 total 40,273 male 20,255 female 20,018
      1870 total 86,786 male 44,121 female 42,665
      1880 total 143,963 male 74,509 female 68,454
      1890 total 210,779 male 111,975 female 98,804
      1900 total 276,749 male 141,687 female 135,062

      Once again, you have been lied to.

      • Kathleen:

        Curiously enough, I spent a morning with the people at the Utah State Historical Society, related to this exact question.

        We found that once we excluded the Soldiers, the Miners, the Cowboys, Rangers, Railroaders and the non-LDS (all of whom had a significantly higher ratio of men to women, between 6-to-1 and 19-to-1) there were ALWAYS more LDS women to men, until 1895 or so.

        But that wasn’t the most fascinating part, Kathleen. The fascinating part was that (with the exception of Santa Fe, NM), Utah and the Mormon Colonies were the only places west of St. Louis that even APPROACHED the gender-equity that was enjoyed by cities and towns Back East.

        Which means that the women of the Mormon zones could have left at any time, and would have had no shortage of eager offers from the Boys Across the Mountain.

    • sara

      I don’t think Mormons sent an apostle to Washington to lobby FOR the constitutional amendment because of the one “WOMAN” part, as Mormons are equally against a marriage consisting of two men. One man and one woman.

    • mw

      While I understand that polygamy was practiced in the early part of our church’s history and I don’t fully understand why–though we know that at some points in history God has authorized it and other parts He has not (see Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon), I don’t necessarily believe that it must be part of eternal theology. The fact that men can be sealed to more than one woman is actually more of an issue of matriarchy. This is something I discovered when my husband was the bishop and we read it in the handbook together–any children born to a women who has been sealed in the covenant–even if her husband she was sealed to has passed away–any children born to her thereafter are born within the covenant–much like in the Jewish custom that one is Jewish only if the MOTHER is Jewish. The most important principal is that all of God’s children are sealed together into God’s family. So if a woman is married in the temple and her husband dies, and she remarries, any children born to her are still born within the covenant–and this is true even if she herself leaves the faith, breaks her covenants, etc.–those children will always be born in the covenant! The person with whom she will spend eternity with is something to be sorted out in the eternities, just as many, many things will need to be sorted out (e.g., couples sealed in the temple but one ends up not being valient, etc.) . But if a man is married in the temple and then his wife dies, in order for any more children that are born to him and his new wife to be born into the covenant, they need to be sealed together. So the principle is not out of some hidden polygamous agenda but instead because of a matriarchal principle. And the principal also is that God simply wants to maximize the number of children born into this world to be born in the covenant, so the sealing covenant follows the woman, who is the physical bearer of children. I think we often romanticize being married together in the temple as if that means we will be together in the eternities, but that is only if we are righteous and true to our covenants afterwards–the sealing ordinance is necessary, but definitely not sufficient. There is much to be worked out in the eternities. And I agree with Ask a Mormon girl that I don’t believe that somehow in the eternal scheme of things, there are fundamentally more women than men who will make it to celestial kingdom–what about all the boys who have been killed in wars, who never had a change to marry? It doesn’t make sense that one gender would be fundamentally, in the aggregate, more righteous than the other.

  6. I think to make the argument that polygamy exists in the celestial kingdom you have to accept that there is a disproportionate number of one gender in heaven over another. That is something I could never accept, so I have always viewed heaven as a place of monogamy. (The implications that there is a disproportionate number of women to men in heaven doesn’t seem to make God’s plan or this life or whatever very fair for men imho)

    • Danny

      Actually Gary, there will be more MEN than women in the CK. It goes like this: If we believe the BofM, that all children that die before the age of 8 will be saved in the CK, then the overwhelming number of people in the CK will be there because they died before the age of 8. Just look at child death rates through history. Up until recent history, lots of children died before 8. Then look at the slight statistical advantage of males to female in the birth ratio. If you extrapolate that through thousands of years, you’ll have more male than female deaths before 8, and more men than women in the CK. So in fact we will practice Polygamy, but it will be Polyandry, (one woman, many men), not Polygyny (one man, many women)

      • sara

        You might be right with regard to the survival rate of girls over boys, but if you look at the genders of the people who regularly attend church on a regular basis and are temple worthy, something tells me it’s more women than men by a long shot.

      • Rebecca

        Yes, but you forget the tradition of female infanticide practiced in many ancient (and some no-so-ancient) cultures. That would at least compensate for the small statistical differences in birth rates.

  7. Tiffany

    Just thank you.

  8. EH

    Your post is interesting, but fails to note one VERY IMPORTANT point. If you marry more than one living wife today, you will be excommunicated from the LDS church. To say that the LDS church still practices polygamy because of the sealing doctrine is misleading.

    Also, I have known women whose first husband has died and then they have remarried and been sealed to the second man as well. I know it is not common, but I know it has happened.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Sorry to burst your bubble, EH. But there are men and women today, active Salt Lake LDS who practice Polygamy. We had one speak at the ExMormon Foundation Conference about 5 or so years ago. He was a high ranking Detective, if memory serves, and very active in “The Church” It is happening underneath your noses…not often, but it is happening. There are schisms within your own ward, and you don’t even know it.

      • Aly

        And there are people who drink, and do drugs and cheat on there spouse and still come to church every week and participate. That does not mean that the church supports these kinds of activities. The church does not police it’s members to make sure they follow every commandment. If they are made aware of a serious sin being committed they will take the appropriate action, but for the most part it is up to the members to go to their bishop not the other way around.

      • tboofy

        If they’re “active” Salt Lake LDS, why are they speaking at the ExMormon Foundation Conference?

    • Vinniecat

      It is my understanding that a woman may be sealed to more than one man only after all parties involved are deceased. The same is not true for men – a man may be sealed to more than one woman, but only to one living woman at a time. Supposedly this gives women the right to choose their post-mortal spouse, but she only gets one whereas a man can have more than one.

      • Holly

        Elder Holland came to the MTC when I was there and was addressing some Mormon FAQs. One of the questions was this–how does God handle things when a righteous woman is married to more than one righteous man? (This happens often when an already-sealed woman is widowed early in life.)

        Elder Holland gave it as his opinion that God would not take away the woman from either man–that is she wouldn’t have to choose. This is obviously not official doctrine, but it think it demonstrates that the current leadership of the church are thinking actively about this issue and that the spirit is telling them what the spirit is telling many righteous Latter-day Saints–that there must be more to the doctrine of polygamy and eternal marriage than is revealed right now.

        I think there are a lot of things that we don’t understand about the sealing ordinance. God reveals things to the church like he does to us–line upon line. Early church members were trying to drink out of a fire hose of revelation, and many times got things wrong. This is especially true because early church leaders were definitely not as clear or careful as they are now to only specify when things were clearly doctrine and when they were opinions. (To wit, I think Brigham Young believed that everything he ever spoke was true by virtue of his mantle, when that was clearly not the case.)

        In any case, anyone who tries to believe everything that the early church leaders said on any subject will find it difficult to say the least. Church doctrines have become more refined and more in harmony with eternal principles as time has gone on.

        We need to gain our own understanding and our own testimony of every doctrine that the church teaches.

        That being said, I do think it’s a problem that the church is trying to sweep things under the historical rug for the exact reasons mentioned in the article–people are shocked when they find out these things on Google or from anti-Mormon pamphlets.

        The church has actually (recently) recognized this problem and are exploring options for how to correct it. It wouldn’t surprise me if they came out with a new curriculum in the next several years that is more forthright about some of these issues.

  9. There are unmarried men in this life (i am one of them) who could marry one of the unmarried women from this life. We also have the situation where a person has married then divorced and then remarried. Also other similar situations. Like get married, spouse dies and then marry someone else.

  10. Olivia

    If a woman is sealed to a man and he dies, she can remarry and be sealed to her second husband. It goes both ways. I trust in a final great sorting out that will leave everyone very, very happy. God has given us so much that is amazing and beautiful in this life–I feel certain that the next will be as good as He says it is. It’s probably very different from what we’ve got going on here, but I bet it’ll be terrific.

    • Kathleen Jones

      And your proof of this is where, Olivia? There are no women allowed to be sealed to more than one man…well except when Joseph, Brigham and the boys were passing wives around back in the day…

      If you want to be considered important in this debate, please prove it. There are no women, officially, in current modern Mormonism sealed to more than one man. (and if you have one, it’s a rouge Stake President/Apostle who went off the rails, which I highly doubt). Women are simply not allowed to be sealed to more than one man in the current church.

      Women are left to fret and sort it out in the next life, while men do whatever they damn well please regarding the notch belt of wives, in Mormon-dom.

      • Vinniecat

        I have read that it is a recent policy to allow a woman to be sealed to more than one man but only after all parties involved are deceased. This is to allow the woman to choose which husband she wants to be eternally sealed to – but she will only have one husband.

      • Kelley

        My great grandmother is sealed to two men. And, it wasn’t to any prophet or apostle.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Glad to stand “corrected”. I admit when I’m wrong…

        Now let’s dissect who and what area of the world is allowed this doctrine. (Or better yet which Apostle gets the “help me” letter). I have MANY friends who’s dad’s were killed in Vietnam, etc. who’s mom’s remarried and were never allowed to be sealed to the man they spent the rest of their lives with…many of which had zero children with the first husband and ALL their children with the new husband…NO Temple sealing allowed.

        I dare say, the line Heather quoted from the “Handbook” is completely vague, though. That last sentence is so ambiguous, it can mean anything. No wonder the rule applies differently for almost everyone.

      • Heather

        I’ll help out with this one. From the Church Handbook, Book 1, pg. 86:
        “A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she may be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life.”

      • Heather

        I’ll help out with this one. From the Church Handbook, Book 1, pg. 86:
        “A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she may be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life.”

      • adison

        Heather I am sorry you are wrong. What you are talking about is on pg. 20

      • Shaun


        I don’t see anything vague in the quote Heather provided. ‘Now let’s dissect who and what’ the quote is referring to.

        The entire quoted text is specifically referring to the vicarious sealing ordinance.

        Sentence 1 begins “A deceased woman” establishing that the woman to whom the rest of the sentence applies is deceased. Sentence 2 begins “However, if she” establishing that the content of the second sentence is still applying to the same deceased woman.

        Therefore your response to the quoted text doesn’t make any sense as you seem to be applying this to women still living. I don’t imagine you purposefully applied the quote to a circumstance it was clearly not intended for and assume instead that you misread it. The posterity of any of the women you mention could have those sealings performed vicariously just as the quoted policy states. Olivia is likewise mistaken, as sealing a woman to more than one man is only permitted vicariously.

        I’m not pretending that Heather’s quote clears up all the questions and concerns you or anyone else has about polygamy in the church. But the quote is perfectly clear when applied to the circumstances it addresses. And, it states those circumstances clearly within its self.

  11. LaurieKC

    Poiygamy (or more accurately polygyny, referring to one man and multiple wives) is a current and historic practice throughout many parts of the world. Some countries bar polygamy but recognize polygamous families that are legal in original countries. Australia is one. The issue with polygamy in the Church is how its handled. The fact that currently, men can be sealed to more than one woman (first wife dies; second wife sealed to him while first sealing is still intact; the reserve is not the case) attests to its currency, and to its potential impact on the way women are viewed (secondary status to men) in the Church. In addition, a woman who is sealed and later divorced, remains sealed to her former husband until she remarries in the Temple. She remains eternally sealed, against her will, to the man who may have abused her. The practice–historical and current–needs discussion. It is unconscionable that anyone can find out on Google, while its not discussed in church circles.
    Anyone who has attended Mormon extended family reunion may find descendents attending organized by first wife, second wife, etc., along with the hierarchical distinction if the first wife with the most status.

    • Vinniecat

      That’s exactly my problem with polygamy, Laurie. The idea that women are of less importance than men in the eternal scheme of things is very discouraging.

      • Kelley

        The problem with temple cancelations is that they are so rare that there is a lot of hear-say involved with them. I personally had my first sealing cancelled. Because my first husband was abusive among other things, I was cleared by my area seventy to serve a full-time mission, even after a divorce. I also had no problems getting a temple cancelation.
        The thing is, you aren’t just sealed to your spouse. You’re also sealed to God (The whole 3 people in a marriage concept). That’s why they tend to want to you stay sealed… not because you’re stuck with that person (because they probably won’t make it to heaven anyways). And, my Mom’s best friend had an abusive husband and even before she met someone else her bishop suggested that they try to get her temple sealing cancelled.
        It really depends on the situation. I consider myself a feminist and I still was impressed with how personal and individual the process was. They take your circumstances into account greatly.
        I’m still struggling with polygamy, a lot. But, I do know that my marriage didn’t just involve my first husband and myself. God was in it too and when I wasn’t taken care of the way I should have been, at least in my case, God was there.
        Best of luck though as you work through it all!

    • himmieblueeyes

      Several years ago, this problem was brought up during an open group discussion with my stake president. He stated that a woman who was abused within her marriage does indeed have the right to a sealing cancellation. A good friend — divorced from a spouse she said had abused her — had believed that practice for years and been miserable about it. She promptly made application for a sealing cancellation, provided evidence of the abuse and, quite swiftly thereafter, received her sealing cancellation papers. She said it was one of the best days of her life.

  12. Steven B.

    If we believe in an afterlife where we will be united with our loved ones, we must accept that some type of polyamorous arrangement exists there. Certainly non-mormons believe the same, no? Certainly widows and widowers of all faiths have remarried. Can this issue really be “peculiar” to Mormons?

    • Since there will be no Mormon Church in heaven, I imagine that we’re ALL in for some changes when we get to the other side, Steven. 🙂

    • No, non-Mormons do not believe that some sort of polyamorous arrangement exists in the afterlife. Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven. We believe Jesus.

      • terrylinden

        Jesus said there would be no marriage. Did he also mean no sex? No pleasures equal to or greater than sex? Of course, we’d need to go back to the original Greek (whoever he was) to avoid mistranslations. Any Classical Greek speakers out there?

      • Rather, Jesus said—

        23 ¶ The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
        24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
        25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
        26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
        27 And last of all the woman died also.
        28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
        29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
        30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
        31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
        32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
        33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

        (New Testament | Matthew 22:23 – 33)

        Jesus’ point/s here can be easily misunderstood, especially without the further background that LDS revelations help with.

        First of all, it does NOT say that people are NOT married after this life. It only says that that business is not transacted at the resurrection. My understanding is, is that it needs to be taken care of BEFORE the resurrection! If a man and woman are sealed by proper authority, and if they are worthy of it, then they can be husband and wife in the resurrection. But all things need to be sorted out BEFORE then.

        Also, consider the reference people Jesus points to, interestingly enough. Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants points out how Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not angels, but are gods, and sit upon their thrones. While I do not believe any evidence is given in the scriptures that Isaac had any wife, other than Rebekah, both Abraham and his grandson, Jacob (Israel) BOTH practiced plural marriage.

        Jesus’ allusion to them is big to me, because of their current (& enduring) marriage and resurrectional status. They are gods! (Don’t worry, we don’t ‘worship’ them. We would only emulate aspects of their Christ-like lives, since we worship one God). Isaac’s marital status may indicate one can become a god and not be polygamous. But as important, neither Abraham nor Jacob (Israel) are condemned for their plural wives. Christendom must consider how often Jesus referred to Abraham in teaching the Jews. And nothing was said negatively about him by Jesus! He stands approved!

        Polygamy was at least briefly restored, because it is part of the “restoration of all things”, including plural marriage.

        Polygamy was also restored because of ME. I would not be here, being descended from the second wife on two lines. That’s my personal answer to the question!

        My Swedish grandfather reportedly turned down the bishop when asked by him to take on another bride. He (my grandfather) replied, “One is enough (for me)!”

        And, there is THIS apparent scriptural contradiction to allowing polygamy— “No man can serve two masters!” (Unless, at least, until one gets a TV series contract that helps cover the costs, if not the wounds)!

        Plural marriage is hard, VERY HARD! I have a hard enough time keeping one wife completely contented. But then, she often does with me, too. But we do love each other. (And, this was indeed one of the defenses given by Mormon women in defense of “the principle”, was that polygamy could help a man avoid engaging in adultery). And I shuddered when I read the woman saying she and her husband don’t want to be with each other for eternity. And, my money is on the likelihood they won’t be, either! God will force no man, nor woman, to ‘heaven’!

        I must mention here that I find the world is so enthralled with the Mormonism’s past with “plural marriage”. And, many of them condemn it. However, when they practice THEIR versions of it (consider this, Newt Gingrich has practiced it twice, between wives 1 and 2, and 2 and 3 – even if he was not FORMALLY married to the subsequent wife, he was, in essence, in a ‘common law’ situation with subsequent wives while still married to previous wives!

        Of course, most Americans and other people in the world practice “plural marriage”, but perhaps most often in a serial rather than in a consecutive or parallel manner. But they practice ‘plural marriage’ nonetheless!

        Moses, who received the commandment from God, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” took on another or other wife/wives AFTER he received that commandment!

        In the 132rd section of D&C it says ‘why’ and ‘how’ the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel) became Gods—

        32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.

        33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham.

        34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.

        35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.

        36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.

        37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

        (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 132:32 – 37)

        Also, while I’ve heard Church leaders and writers give other explanations for why, in the parable of the ten virgins, they were so specified. And of course, President Kimball explained what the parable actually means. But I’ve long believed that the likelihood may be very high that the reference to 10 virgins is that all were meant to be brides to the bridesgroom. Can’t “prove” it. But it makes much more sense to me than any other explanation anyone else has given.

        When you marry, you want to marry a virgin. And, if some don’t show up to the wedding on time, that’s an insult.

        Lastly, I think possibly what the Bridesgroom (Christ) said to the late comer virgins, perhaps needs be slightly altered.

        Here is the parable—

        1 THEN shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
        2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
        3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
        4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
        5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
        6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
        7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
        8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
        9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
        10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
        11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
        12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
        —Matthew 25:1 – 12

        I think possibly what the “Lord” meant where it says, “I know you not”, doesn’t mean he doesn’t recognize them. But, since they didn’t arrive on time, they WON’T “know him”, in a way a bride knows a bridegroom when they’re married!

        Also, I couldn’t locate a “Reply” button after ‘ThoughtfulPastor’s’ remarks. So I will address them here.

        If you are a pastor, surely you are aware of the concept of ‘milk’ and ‘meat’ as taught in the New Testament. My three youngest grandchildren are all boys, 1 is already one year old, the other two will be next month. If I gave any of them a piece of meat of a certain size, they might well gag and choke on it. But milk they can take.

        So it is with so many things. Entering the Kingdom of God is something one enters as a “child”. Not to ‘diss’ new converts or new members, of any age. But one learns, keeps commandments, and more and more of them, hopefully better and better, and they grow and progress in degrees.

        Telling an investigator or new convert about many doctrines that even those with far better understandings have difficulty wrapping their heads around is in no way deceitful, anymore than it would be to broach a kindergartner with nuances about metaphysics or neurology or nuclear science or post-doctoral math.

    • Richard H.

      Most other Christians denominations don’t believe in marriage in Heaven because of the verse is Mark 12:25

      “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”

      Because of this, they don’t have to deal with all the who is going to be married to who in the afterlife.

      • terrylinden

        And as far as Jews are concerned, our general concept of an afterlife is pretty vague. We’re very much a “this world” religion. I love my husband, but neither of us expects–or even wants–to be tied together after death for eternity. Eternity is a VERY long time.

      • Derick Gines

        Thank you for your comments above. I think you hit it right on the head. The scripture in Mark 12:25 clearly shows how the Sadducees were trying to confuse Jesus and get him to misspeak (similar to what they did on many other occasions.) You said, “First of all, it does NOT say that people are NOT married after this life. It only says that that business is not transacted at the resurrection. My understanding is, is that it needs to be taken care of BEFORE the resurrection! If a man and woman are sealed by proper authority, and if they are worthy of it, then they can be husband and wife in the resurrection. But all things need to be sorted out BEFORE then.” There was no question whose wife she would be. The first husband to whom she was sealed (if she was sealed) would be her husband for the eternities. And “when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.”
        When I was a missionary I taught plain and precious truths. I did not shun the topic of polygamy but I didn’t go out of my way, looking for opportunities to teach specifically about it. Why? Because I was there to teach “basic” gospel truths. Gaining a testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true is the most important thing I could help someone do. Helping them understand who they are, and why they are here, and how they can be with their family for the eternities took precedence over everything else. Teaching investigators how to communicate effectively with Father in Heaven, and helping them learn to receive personal revelation, ensures their ability to learn about and understand all of the doctrines and commandments of God. Effort on the part of the individual is obviously the key to such understanding.
        Abraham received a commandment he didn’t like. He was commanded to sacrifice his son. Did he understand it at the moment? No. But he trusted God. Things didn’t turn out how he thought they would, they turned out much better. And he and all his seed were blessed because of his faith.
        We are not meant to follow blindly. We are meant to follow faithfully, which includes searching, pondering, praying, and receiving revelation so we can, in time, understand all of God’s commandments. “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.” D&C 4:7.

  13. Kathleen Jones

    Joanna, I do admire your truth telling here. And that you admit you don’t believe it to be an eternal principal. You clearly are not a faithful Mormon then? We have all kinds of documented speech and scripture from your Profits (yes, I spelled that right for what they really were), that show it is most DEFINITELY an Eternal Principal. Are you now stating that these men lied for their own “gain” and were false prophets? (I realize you never ever drag yourself down here to the comments section and reply, but it would be nice this one time). I wonder if your church membership is in question soon over this blog post?

    • Lucy Stern

      Kathleen, who are you to decide who is a faithful Mormon? Did you forget the principal about judging others? Hummmm… You sound bitter about all of this…

    • Vinniecat

      Kathleen, there are all types of faithful Mormons. We are all at different places along our faith journey and must allow for differences of opinion and doctrinal interpretation. There is a great deal of debate over the validity of polygamy as an eternal principle and the church does change its policies over time.

    • Gunk

      Please, Kathleen, since you seem to understand more about this than others, please explain the principle. Don’t forget the rules and laws around the principle. The circumstances of its use, etc.

      While you’re at it, let me enlighten you a bit on “eternal” principles. Right now, Mormons strive to adhere to the Word of Wisdom, a set of commandments and guidelines pertaining to the principle of keeping ones’ body healthy, clean and strong. Such a principle clearly could be described as an eternal principle.

      However, when you and I die, will the temptation or even access to cocaine exist? Depending on where you end up in the hereafter the temptation might. The opportunity to do cocaine won’t. In fact, there probably won’t be any need for the Word of Wisdom for those that receive exaltation. Does that mean the Word of Wisdom isn’t part of an eternal principle just because it won’t have to be lived in the hereafter? The principle will abound, it’s application won’t necessarily be relevant.

      Polygamy may or may not exist in the hereafter. Joanna’s point, which is a good one, is the rationale for polygamy in this life (to raise seed to the Lord) won’t be necessary in the hereafter. Thus, she doesn’t believe it to be an “eternal” principle in that it it’s application won’t exist in the eternities. Her choice of words may be poor, but the point isn’t.

      Make sense, Kathleen?

      • Gunk

        Wow, someone certainly seems to be dealing with some bitterness.

        I take your refusal to answer my questions as evidence you really don’t know much about the principle of polygamy.

        I also fond it rather ironic you dismiss me and in the same breathe accuse me of dismissing any children I may have with doctrinal rhetoric. I made no reference patting children on the head and sending them off without an answer. Quite the contrary, Kathleen. I offered an answer. You on the other hand, evaded giving one.

    • Thank you, CWC.

      Really, Kathleen’s line “I wonder if your church membership is in question soon over this blog post?” is downright comical, given the context.

      Let’s see: Joanna publicly returned her BYU diploma in response to the church’s crackdown on the September 6. She has publicly criticized the church’s position on Prop 8, many times. She has repeatedly and publicly called for changes to church doctrine and policy relating to LGBT issues, feminism, Heavenly Mother, gender roles, and a dozen other topics. She’s done all of this very visibly, for years.

      And Kathleen thinks that this little blog post is going to put Joanna’s church membership in question soon?


  14. Miss O

    Hi there!

    I appreciate your post and bringing this out and admitting that it existed (especially w/JS) and that it still exists now in the doctrine. However, I worry that you may fall under the definition of apostate in that you are making your own “rules” (although you clearly state that they are your “personal unofficial” views). I mean, do you think it’s ok to change the doctrine in your own mind in order for it feel happy? I don’t. As Mormons, the members should embrace their doctrine. Your husband (if he makes it) will marry many, many women. If he does not, and you do, you will marry a man whom has many many other wives. It is what it is no matter how much we want to make it sound prettier or happier in our own minds.

    • jsnsr

      And you believe in this??? Astounding..

      • Kathleen Jones

        What? jsnsr, That is the GOSPEL according to Joseph Smith. It is in your scriptures….do you doubt it?

    • ProgressivePionera

      attitudes like this is what makes it difficult for people to remain mormon. I don’t say that in an unkind way, but rather as a plea to help us stay, don’t push us away if we’re not as “righteous as you are”. Maybe we (the more liberal minded mormons) are wrong, but maybe you are too. Can’t we even conceed that? …I am in the pew right next to you every single week, teaching Sunday school, picking up my kids from primary. I served an honorable mission and taught at the MTC. And I value more than anything the liberty given me by God to think and reason and feel through the power of the Holy Ghost what is right and wrong. The Prophets are wonderful men, but they are men and have said so numerous times. They have made mistakes in the past and will do so in the future. Mistakes are the vehicle to learning. It’s okay for them to make mistakes, as long as they’re willing to change eventually, just like all of us.

      • Vinniecat

        Oh, thank you! If questioning doctine made us apostates, most of us would be. I’m an active Mormon, but I do not believe in polygamy. I also don’t believe people of African origin were less-decent human beings in the premortal life, but this has been taught as Mormon doctrine. Making full church membership contingent on fully accepting, with no questioning, every doctrine in our history, would create a pretty small church.

      • Amy

        Thanks for your post. I always thought I so conservative and I have begun to discover that I am more liberal in my beliefs. It is hard to be liberal in this Church. I deleted friends (members of the Church) from my facebook page so I could post things that I believe in– and not be ridiculed for it. I call myself a bad Mormon because I see things differently. There is soooooo much we do not know. There is so much yet to be learned. Declaring anything as gold without the authority is wrong. Why is it that the Catholic Church gets so little flack for all their faults, but the blogs have millions of comments and arguments over LDS doctrine. Could it have to do with Satan and the fact that Satan will do ANYTHING to discredit us. I am in no way saying we are better than others. But when someone gets close to the truth, many will stop at nothing to prevent that. Ever heard of witness protection programs. Why am I (or Joanna) less worthy to inherit the Kingdom of God because I say I have a different thought or idea. My Patriarchal Blessing says I will be given “even hidden treasures of knowledge” based on my faithfulness. Is personal revelation not allowed? Did God stop answering prayers or helping us to understand. Was Nephi NOT given personal revelation to kill someone? The fact is that polygamy existed. It exists today, and one day, we will know what will happen. Joanna is simply trying to say that we need more open and free discussion of what happened. I read a book recently call the 17th Wife (or something like that). It had stuff about Brigham Young and one of his wives. I was furious when I read some of the things in that book. I know it was fictionalized, but it was based on the truth!!!!!!! We need to be willing to discuss this openly. I have a polygamous grandfather who served with Brigham Young. He took his second wife to Hawaii with him on a mission for Brigham. The first wife, my grandmother, killed herself. She hated the second wife because she felt “put on a shelf” for a newer model. If we discuss this, maybe we can give nonmembers truthful answers and explain what happened. I love this post by Joanna!!!

    • RachelJL

      There is nothing in LDS Doctrine that states that everyone *has* to practice polygamy.

    • Gunk

      Miss O, I’ve taught seminary, gospel doctrine, etc. for many years and completely agree with Joanna. I actually think she’s spot on. LDS Saints grossly misinterpret certain scriptures and fail to fully grasp others. Joanna hasn’t changed any doctrine.

      I highly suggest you review the circumstances for which the Lord requires polygamy and then ask yourself whether those circumstances will exist in the hereafter. Short answer: they won’t.

      The problem with polygamy in the church is the early Saints, like in many other things, were a bit over-zealous about it. Consequently, its importance got over blown. This still happens, though, instead of polygamy it’s abstaining from caffeinated beverages, family home evening, etc. After a quick search on LDS.org you’d think having prayer with your family every Monday night along with a game and a brownie was the key to getting into heaven.

      As a result of overly enthusiastic saints and their misinterpretations, we have an entire generation that sincerely believes once a man gets to heaven he’ll have his pick of the liter, get to marry 7 wives, and wife #1 is supposed step in line. The truth, however, is much closer to Joanna’s line of thought. It just challenges what’s been passed down to you.

      • Kathleen Jones

        So Gunk, when did you get your very special inside scoop on all this “what is really going to happen”? I’d love to hear!

    • Alex

      Where is the scriptural reference that claims husbands in the CK will absolutely have multiple wives? How can someone, or an organization, embrace an idea they do not fully understand? All we can do is remain faithful. Our questions will be answered one day, but that doesn’t make it wrong for us to ask them.

      • DianaofThemyscira

        Alex. . . it’s in the Journal of Discourses and D&C 132. Joseph Smith received the revelation that the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage” meant polygamous marriages. He did not reveal that to mean one monogamous marriage between one man and one wife.

        Brigham Young also taught this according to Joseph’s revelation. BY, also in Journal of Discourses, states that the “new and everlasting covenant” of marriage” meant polygamous marriage and that is the only way to become exalted in the CK.

        But. . .since 1890 and the OD1, the Church discontinued this practice and teaching of polygamous marriage. The Church now practices that “the new and everlasting covenant” is one marriage between one man and one woman, and that is all we need to become exalted in the CK.

        However, the original doctrine as revealed to Joseph Smith was never changed. The original doctrine, as Joseph said was revealed to him in Journal of Discourses, and as he wrote it in D & C 132, has never been changed.

        The “new and everlasting covenant” doctrine is and always has been polygamous. We only practice it as monogamous.

        But maybe that’s enough? Maybe both are true? We will only find out on the other side from God directly. Unless the Prophet today wants to get revelation to clear up the question? That would sure be nice. . .

      • RachelJL

        This really needs to be repeated:
        ****The Journal of Discourses is NOT considered to be official LDS Church Doctrine.****** While we do believe that a prophet does not need to say “thus saith the Lord” for something to be considered doctrine, we also do NOT consider everything they say, everywhere they go, to everyone they speak with, to be doctrine.

  15. I’ve never had an issue with polygamy. It is the secular world and the natural man that makes it seem over-sexualized or “dirty”. It is reckless to believe a plural marriage is based entirely on sex, etc. just as it would be to believe a “traditional” marriage is based on such.

  16. kathleen you are a twit. there must be someone more deserving of your passive aggression. you should go seek out that person and make their lives miserable. when you get that out of your system come back and share a little about your real sadness and anger about the church and your difficulties with fellow travelers attempting to reconcile it in their own way. there might be a conversation there.

    • jsnsr

      I fail to see where Kathleen has said anything that would justify a “christian” such as yourself calling her a twit. Way to go at being an emmissary for your faith. That was a joke, in case you didn’t get it. Mormon ‘thinking’ involves quite a bit of pretzel logic; that you can’t seem to recognize someone pointing out to you the absolute inconsistencies and ‘craziness’ (thus your name?) of mormonism, shows, well, that your name may be justified. Mormons, who think/talk as you do, display beautifully their ability to apply cognitive dissonence…..look it up — it’s real, and my mormon family and friends (and myself, before I ‘woke up’) are stellar examples of how it’s done. I’ve been on both sides (raised in your standard, “pioneer stock” family, temple wed….the whole ‘shebang’, and now, with praises to the universe, have left the church after _allowing_ myself to see the church for what it really is and not what I was indoctrinated to believe), and I used to do as you are doing now..that is, to lash out and defensively insult, just to deflect the harsh light of reality and common sense. Try taking a fresh look at what (and why) you’re defending….it’s tricky, but it can be done. Those I know who have thank the heavens daily that the lights came on. From one who spent far too much of this precious life pretzel-logic-ing myself into (your professed) craziness, highly recommend it.

  17. Kevin Barney

    Well done, as always.
    One quibble: when you say apologists spout an incidence figure of 2-3% you are talking about an historic (and flawed) apologetic. Modern apologists simply follow the historical scholarship:


  18. Charles Dayton

    My wife’s ancestor, Sarah Levitt, was present during the early Nauvoo period. She asked her husband if she would have to share him. He encouraged her to pray about it. She had a dream. In the dream she was told that she wouldn’t have to share her husband (he died later). She wrote that she had a vision of the heavenly order and the beauty of it. She also wrote that the practice would be the means of “saving thousands and damning thousands. It was too sacred for fools to handle.”

  19. Monique

    My heart breaks to read stories like AD’s. I went through a similar process contemplating the thought of polygamy as a ‘reward’ for righteous living. I also met women and men who looked forward to it, or at least said they did.

    Like AD, I felt sick to my stomach. After much thought and prayer, I pleaded with Heavenly Father to help me understand, and it was then that certain verses in D&C 132 (which I had read many, many times) became clearer to me. By the end of this process I came to the following conclusion:

    We should look forward to polygamy in Heaven, just as much as we should joyfully anticipate slaughtering our cherished sons in the hereafter. (See D&C 132:50)

    How are past plural marriages and the perceived gender imbalance to be taken care of? I don’t know, but I believe the Lord when He said there would be an ‘escape’ from this trial.

    • mandy

      This gives me comfort. In D&C 132 is says:
      61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified…

      Did you catch it? The first gives her consent. No one is being forced to do anything.

      And let’s not limit Heaven to fitting into what we do here on Earth. I’m sure I have no idea what Heaven will be like or even what marriage will look like in the Celestial kingdom. I like not knowing.

      • DianaofThemyscira

        Oh dear. . . I don’t think Emma ever gave her consent.

        She was kinda forced to obey. . .by being threatened with eternal damnation. Too bad Joseph didn’t follow his own revelation and ask Emma to give her consent.

        Instead, he married his other wives behind her back.


  20. Monique

    Wow, I just read Miss O’s comment!

    Call the kettle black much? She’s saying that YOU are making up doctrine, then proceeds to say eternal polygamy is a done deal. Who died and made her prophetess?!

  21. John

    Please sisters, Do not say that you admire Joanna’s honesty in one breath and then judge her in another. You are entitled to you orthodox beliefs. However, I think the church is big enough to let us who are less orthodox or less sure in those black and white convictions to come to our own understanding on these issues. That is what agency is for. I will speak as a Man on this issue. I am very uncomfortable about the idea of multiple wives. I can’t know what Joseph really saw or believed he saw, or how Mormons in his time truly felt. From what I have read, it seems it was a difficult and challenging thing.
    All I can say is that I believe in agency, I think that principle exists in the eternities. I think our understanding for how all of that will work out in practice. I do however, believe that our wishes will be respected. I had a BYU professor once suggest that when Polygamy shows up in the scriptures it is the exception rather than the rule. He used a computer metaphor that explained that Monogamy is the default program and Polygamy is an exception to that program. I am well aware that prophets during the 19th century said different things, but I think we have the advantage of hindsight and time to take those statements with a grain of salt. They were living in a reality and a had a world view very different from our own.
    If you enjoy the idea of sister wives in the Celestial Kingdom, I suppose God will grant it to you, because as Alma suggests in Alma 29, he grants us according to our desires. I think there are a lot of contradictory statements and beliefs about the principle of “plural marriage”, and we don’t have very good answers right now, especially official answers. But I would implore you to not judge someone who I admire that is honestly dealing with the issue. You are not in her shoes nor in the right place to do so. Calling Joanna “apostate” or as in danger or having her membership revoked is the very definition of unrighteous judgement that Jesus and Prophets both ancient an modern have warned us not to indulge in.

    • Vinniecat

      Thank you, John. I too believe that agency is the principle that will trump all others. It was the reasoning behind coming to earth and I can’t imagine it being rescinded.

  22. John

    Didn’t get to edit that long response, so excuse the dead end sentences. I just want to say that our understanding of what eternity is limited, and I can’t comment on it. What might be more relevant is that polygamy has been and is currently practiced all over the world in other cultures. I am curious what Mormon missionaries do in those situations, do families get broken apart? Hard questions without easy answers, just like our own complicated history.

  23. We usually have such a congenial group at AMG. The heat on this topic is a measure of the strain it has caused us all. People, be kind to one another. Chill. Reflect. That’s the whole point of this site. Thank you for reading.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Would be cool if you bothered to actually answer a few of the pointed questions, at you, Joanna.

      • Matt


        I think your questions have been answered. Just not by Joanna. You assume that just because you have read some speeches by Mormon leaders in the 1800s that you know what Mormons believe. But you have not accounted for the fact that the Book of Mormon clearly states that under most circumstances God does not approve of polygamous relationships. It is entirely appropriate for Mormons to weigh the teachings and history and come to a conclusion for themselves.


    • Hiker

      Of course it’s a congenial crowd when you are talking about stuff that doesn’t matter.

      Polygamy matters Joanna. You said so yourselft. It’s elephant in the Mormon room. My brother put together a great genealogy page for our family and every one of my nineteenth century ancestors was polygamist without exception.

      If you talk to people raised in the church and born in Utah, you will find the same story. A high percentage of Mormons in the US and Canada have polygamist ancestors.

      Let’s talk about polygamy says Joanna.

      I respect you for bringing up the subject. I took guts, especially when the logical conclusion of the discussion is that either God wants men to marry multiple women or the prophets have all been frauds. The latter actually makes the most sense to me but I am an apostate. I am guessing that is why you are being labeled an apostate by hateful people.

      You talked about the elephant in the room. That’s a serious sin in some people’s minds.

  24. Hiker

    It’s too bad you can’t edit these things. I meant to say, “It took guts, especially when….”


  25. Aly

    If we had all the answers we wouldn’t need faith.

    • Some truth to that POV as long as you don’t use it to mean “because the answers may be uncomfortable or even that we may not have ‘the answer’ then we shouldn’t have the conversation nor the grapple.”

  26. Andrew

    Forgive my ignorance, but I am really surprised to hear that some Mormons don’t know about Joseph Smith’s wives. What percentage of the church do you think doesn’t know?

    • Corinne

      Andrew, I thought the same thing. I was born and raised LDS and was aware that the practicing of polygamy was started with Joseph Smith, and of course he had multiple wives! This was no surprise to me at all! I think it is important for members to be aware of ALL of the church history, if only to be mentally equipped for the nay-sayers who try to “shock” us with the facts that have been “hidden” from us.
      As far as my feelings on her post; I agree with Joanna.
      Also, I think that our agency is an eternal principle and the Lord will not force us to do something that could potentially make us unhappy for eternity!

  27. Latter-day Pastafarian

    This is a simple misunderstanding regarding words. D&C 132 teaches celestial marriage is polygamous. This is LDS canon, thus doctrine. Pres. Woodruff issued the official declaration that ended the “practice” of polygamy. This is canon as well. We (I’m a “un-corollated” Mormon by birth, missionary, temple wedding, currently inactive) believe in polygamy but don’t “practice” it. It’s very similar to a recovering alcoholic who has been dry for many years…… That person is still an alcoholic.. In order for the church to change its belief in polygamy doctrine the church will have to remove or reword D&C 132. This has napped before and my example is the Lectures on faith. They canon and then removed in 1910ish. Read the intro to the D&C. The LDS Correlation department invented in the 1960 is steering this white washing of history and cover up our institutional sins instead of confessing them. Mainstream Mormons are non practicing polygamist.

  28. courtney

    I found out JS was a polygamist at age 16, and it was a SHOCK. My older sister mentioned it, and I said something along the lines of “no wonder Emma wandered off in her own direction,” and then received a prompt scolding from my sister. I guess I thought it was some random distant thing, not a big deal because it wasn’t very common? Not sure what I really thought of it (despite my ancestry being part of some of the biggest polygamist lines). I battled with this topic for the next several years, through BYU and everything until I came to a similar conclusion as you, Joanna. I don’t know how polygamy came to be in the early church, but I don’t think it was inspired, and I don’t think it will be a part of our lives in the hereafter. Certainly that doesn’t align with church teachings, but it’s how I get through the day. (and yes, I have extracted promises from my husband 🙂 in the case of my unfortunate death, he may only marry a woman who has already been sealed to someone else. call me selfish, but I won’t share!)

  29. Marj

    I grew up female and Mormon in Utah thus it was inevitable that I spent a lot of time agonizing over this. I decided that I would never allow it and of course any one I married would agree. I actually made my husband promise before we got married never to marry anyone else in the temple even after I died. Twenty-five years later my perspective has changed. I honor and respect my ancestors for their devotion to God and obeying His will. I hope that if I am every faced with a difficult and distasteful trial, that after receiving personal spiritual confirmation I could make an equally difficult decision.

    I don’t think that polygamy is an eternal perspective. (Jacob 2:27) I think it was a test — a trial by fire kind of test for the church. I believe in a just and kind God who loves me and want me to be happy. I believe that God values and loves me equally as much as he values and loves my husband. I do not believe polygamy will generally be practiced in the celestial kingdom if at all. I think that God will have a lot to sort out after we die and polygamy is just one more thing. I respect the feelings and fears surrounding this issue and I don’t make light of them because I had many of the same. But I know that God loves me and wants me to be happy and is fair.

  30. My paternal Great-Great Aunt, Desdemona Fullmer was married to Joseph Smith and later, after his death, married to Ezra T. Benson:

    Desdemona Fullmer

    and I have polygamist heritage on both sides of my family, click on my link to see my mom’s book about my maternal great-great grand father who was also a polygamist. Also I am an ancestor of John Solomon Fullmer:


    I don’t think I would be here if it were not for that practice, and for that I am grateful. That being said, I believe that the practice was the fall of Joseph Smith as both a prophet and husband. He lied, some say for the Lord, to both his wife and to the public including a lot of members of the Church in the early days of its practice. In the first century of Mormonism that has always been more men than women in the Church so the excuse that they needed to practice polygamy because of the “more women than men” argument is bogus. One thing I can give to the Fundamentalists is their integrity as they continue to practice it because it was an intregal part of the “Commandments” of the Lord as stated in the D&C. Like a lot of practices and teachings in the LDS Mormon Church, polygamy have been dismissed as a practice for heaven and not earth as Joanna stated above. The United Order, where all Saints were to keep all things in common, a voluntary socialism, if you will, was another of these abandoned practices. My Great-Great Grandfather, John Blythe (see my mom’s book), led a United Order endeavor unsuccessfully in Salt Lake City. Maybe some eternal practices are too Sacred (secret) to be practice here on earth, and maybe members (women in polygamy, and men in United Order) are to jealous, greedy for them to work! 😉

    The Church not only misrepresents its history with polygamy but with numerous other beliefs. Polyandry comes to mind as well as the translation process for the Book of Mormon. The deception continues.

  31. DianaofThemyscira

    Great response to AD & AL, Joanna! I agree 100% with you. For many who aren’t familiar with her life’s story, she is married to a lovely Jewish man. From everything I’ve read about her, she is very comfortable with her position as an unorthodox Mormon. (And I can’t wait to read her new book!) There should never be a place among us as Christians first and Mormons second to question another person’s belief and life choices. The first two great commandments are the most important, and we need more of that . . .(love!) as we discuss topics such as this.

    The problem with polygamy for active, practicing, and believing Mormons is that if you believe the historical, documented facts about the practice and doctrine of it, then it is very difficult to believe that the LDS church is led by prophets of God who won’t lead God’s church astray.

    And then where does that leave you? Scared and panicked because everything you’ve been taught your whole life may not be 100% true.

    That is why active, practicing, and believing Mormons will jump through a million mental gymnastics and talk about “just having more faith” and “putting it on a shelf” and “not thinking about it too much.”

    Apologists do the same.

    The facts remain as they are. . .Joseph Smith is the author of our Mormon Doctrine. Where does doctrine come from? God as revealed to his prophets. Joseph Smith revealed all the doctrine, and every prophet thereafter has never changed the doctrine, rather they reinforced some, and down-played others. Prophets since Joseph Smith will change practice and policy, but there is not one prophet alive or in the past who contradicted Mormon Doctrine as established by Joseph Smith.

    The facts remain that Joseph Smith taught polygamy as the “new and everlasting covenant” (D&C 132 and Journal of Discourses). We practice the “new and everlasting covenant” today as a monogamous marriage between one live man and one live woman. But the doctrine of needing to practice polygamy to obtain the highest degree/level within the Celestial Kingdom remains valid and intact, as revealed to Joseph Smith.

    If that Mormon Doctrine does not sit well with you as an active, practicing, true believing Mormon, then you’ve got some work to do. If the way Joseph Smith practiced polygamy (marrying a 14 year old child – Helen Mar Kimball, marrying women already married to men who were alive (and then JS sent some of those men away on missions), marrying Emma’s best friend (Eliza Snow) and doing all of this behind Emma’s back, in secret, and then blaming Emma for being an outspoken, confident woman who disagreed with her husband marrying other women) . . .then you’ve got some work to do.

    I was born in the covenant, lived true-blue faithful and believing, served a mission, married as a virgin in the Temple, served as YW President, Sunday School Stake Counselor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, etc. I did it all. After years of adult cognitive dissonance, when I finally had the emotional realization that the church may not be 100% true, I found such peace. For me, the emotional fear of the inconsistencies within Mormon Doctrine as established by Joseph Smith was gone. I still participate with my family at church, we want an LDS religious community, and are still connected to it, but the peace from not having to do the mental gymnastics anymore is wonderful. I believe in Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ, and I believe all of the people on this planet are children of God and will all be entered into Their peace when they die.

    What that looks like exactly. . .well, we’ll all find out eventually. It’s more important to live a life of peace and joy in this life, than one of fear and worry about what will be in the next life.

    • LR

      I need you in my neighborhood. My ward, My circle of friends. As a side, how do you deal with temple recommend interviews that call for answers a bit on the ridged side? I participate as a temple worker and love the service and I dread my recommend interviews. If I answer with the blanket “yes” or “no” I find that i am not representing the complexities of my beliefs, faiths, doubts. Having had some bad experiences with priesthood leaders, I am hesitant if not mum to share my inner workings and have them judged, have me judged. There is definitely dissonance there with what I answer and what is in my soul. A wise leader and servant could be a blessing but an unwise one could cause much damage. It is very hard to know which is which. Am I worthy to enter the temple? Does that mean I have to be in sync with ALL the rules. (Does it mean that I shouldn’t go to Burning Man?)

      • DianaofThemyscira

        Hi LR! It’s tough. . .isn’t it?

        I grew up back East and now live in Sandy UT and attend what I call my “Queen Bee” ward. It was shocking for me to see what these Sandy Queen Bee ladies are like (think seriouslysoblessed). Luckily, I do have a few like -minded friends, and we find solidarity with each other. As Gospel Doctrine teacher, I focus on the majority of the ward who aren’t in the “Queen Bee Club,” and countless of those people come up to me thanking me for my perspective. So. . . we would probably have some fun together in a ward!

        My personal feeling is that the TR questions are to be answered to God, not the Priesthood Holder. It is between you and God only. But, as a practical matter, it is difficult to not have understanding with most of the PH leaders in your ward (maybe, if that’s the case). By nature, I’m not very open with my personal feelings, so I answer honestly and just keep the answers to Yes and No.

        It does create some cognitive dissonance, and you have to work that out on your own.

      • emily w.

        LR, I empathize with you there. I will be needing to go through another recommend interview this summer and I’m already feeling some anxiety for the same reasons you mentioned above. In interview I had once, the Bishop (a very compassionate man) said to imagine that God was asking these questions to you. At the time, it made for a very spiritual experience. I was able to forget about this Priesthood leader sitting there facilitating this discussion. It taught me that my life is between me and God and that no other “authority” needs to get in the way of that. The very last question of the interview is if you feel you are worthy to enter the Temple. Think about if God were asking you that question. Do you feel “worthy”? I don’t believe that S/he would ask me yes or no questions because God is more complicated than that, and so are we. But I believe in a loving, compassionate, understanding God who knows me as His/Her child. If going to the Temple amidst doubts and concerns helps me feel peace and helps me feel closer to God, then I think that’s what S/he would want. Anyway, I don’t pretend to have all the answers but that has been my experience thus far. I hope you find peace in your own way, friend.

    • Amy

      Diana, I like you!!!!!!!! I have many of the same feelings of you. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe in God, and I do my best to be the best I can. I love the stories in the Book of Mormon and Bible, and trying to be like Jesus. I have trying to have more faith like Job, and I am trying to endure. This Gospel makes me happy. It helps many. I am not perfect, neither is anyone else. I am okay with that. I know I have much to learn and a long way to go before I rest, but I think the Lord will be okay with me.

  32. Reason

    What i find odd is that no one has mentioned what JS or BY has said on the topic. Brigham often said it was a man’s duty to take more than one wife. And even if you do not like the doctrine that it will be practiced in heaven doesn’t make it less so. Not believing it wont change the doctrine.

    In an 1884 Mormon Church general conference, church president John Taylor asked for all monogamists serving in ward bishoprics or stake presidencies either make preparations to marry a plural wife or to offer their resignations to the church office. (Abraham H. Cannon Journal, April 6, 1884, Vol. I pp 177-8)

    Even after the 1890 manifesto there were apostles who took additional wives. You can’t ignore the history nor can you ignore what has been proclaimed an eternal doctrine. You dont have to like it but that is LDS doctrine.

    • Matt

      What of the Book of Mormon which says very clearly that in most circumstances God does not approve of polygynous relationships?

  33. Thank you for your boldness and sensitivity. Count me as one who left the Mormon fold, one of those significant reasons being polygamy.

    When I was working on LDS historical books/projects in the mid 90s I came to be alienated from LDS faith (but not the culture quite so much since I was a lifelong LDS member) over doctrinal and historical issues. That eventually moved on to an alienation from God due to philosophical issues. I mostly had kind bishops through those years who knew polygamy was among my strong issues with LDS doctrine were I to resolve some of my skepticism with God, yet found ways they felt I could still participate within the church community, such as in Scouts, with humanitarian service project leadership, and, at the end, even as a Sunday School teacher teaching a more secularized New Testament history to the 14 year olds.

    This double-life of doctrinal and faith alienation while maintaining cultural and limited-church participation was hard on our marriage. About a decade later we had close friends who approached my wife privately and mentioned they would enjoy if she became a sister wife in the hereafter because of my lack of belief. My wife told me about this bizarre proposal; we laughed a little, but it brought to the forefront the painful reality of where our marriage was. What she didn’t tell me is that she had become involved in an affair with them.

    When it all broke a couple months later and the church discipline followed it was mere window dressing to our wrecked marriage. We still wanted to try to save our marriage, and we knew our lack of unity in being real with each other about faith was a big issue. Sadly, when dealing with the bishop and LDS family services counselor my lack of faith was seen as a precipitating event to our then-present crisis. Surely it was among the issues, but the crisis at large was the affair with which I was not involved. My wife resented that spin we were getting, too. When healing from that crisis one of my issues was the twisted polygamous aspect of it. Yes, it was doctrinally and largely practically deviant from historical LDS practice and modern mainstream LDS beliefs but it flowed from the cultural secrecy that many LDS still believe in polygamy. I couldn’t gain any ground with my leaders for empathizing with this core reality to this hurtful and deviant twist of circumstances – that it was grounded in this cultural reality of secrecy about polygamy. It made me feel how such Mormon men like William Law may have felt when they discovered Joseph Smith had made proposals to their wives on the sly.

    Looking back a sad but real silver lining is that this broken circumstance is what we needed to be free of mere religious tradition. Eventually, as we found a new marriage counselor and explored the core of the faith identity we wanted to share as we rebuilt our relationship we realized the traditional message of grace (to which we had been exposed by non-LDS friends mostly) really resonated with us. We began a hard journey of fixing our relationship; my coming to have peace with God was also a journey. For my wife she has her own way of telling her story of faith, but for myself I came to have an unexpected change of heart and perspective, and found a peace with philosophical uncertainty unlike I had felt before. We soon found belonging within the Christian community that emphasizes belonging by faith in the gracious work of God through Christ.

    In the years since I have come more to desire and seek authentic bridges of understanding with LDS persons. This has been fueled by the distance we’ve experienced with family and some friends by us leaving the LDS church. Where I have found such bridges it has been with persons whose identity is in Jesus much more than anything distinctly LDS. I don’t know many of these persons in the circle of LDS members I know, and yes, there are still usually differences in belief among us, but I see them and myself having a sense of belonging and camaraderie because of our priority of putting Jesus the highest from where to grow our identity out.

    Polygamy continues to be a red flag issue that brings up long held hurt in me. I don’t really talk about it, even to God. All I know is that I am confident I could never doctrinally belong in community with persons who revere such belief. Yet to love such persons seems so difficult at times that I can only bridge it with God’s help. And it will probably only come if I talk about it with more transparency and vulnerability, especially with Him and work to gain that healing.

    I wanted to speak of my story to echo the post’s sentiment, even though our journeys are different, to agree that this really needs to be talked about much more than it is kept in silence.

  34. jen

    I understood that polygamy was a part of the church’s doctrine. I’ve now left the church, but I have a friend who still teases me for once saying, “Any woman who isn’t willing to live polygamy is selfish and they don’t understand the plan of salvation. They don’t understand the doctrine of the church they belong to.”

    I also was okay with it, because of my grandparents. My grandma died when I was five, and my grandpa remarried. For most of the grandkids, she was the only grandma they ever knew… to imagine an eternal family without her there was not what anyone wanted. And a family without the grandma I don’t remember, but is my mom’s mom would also be very sad…

    At the same time, what if the genders were reversed… That would have been heartbreaking.
    I’ve since left the church. If there is an afterlife, we will ALL be family. It doesn’t matter. The idea of marriage and eternal commitment seems a bit silly to me too…

  35. My daughter and son-in-law are Mormon, and I love and admire them. Te princial thing that separated Mormons was their then belief in polygamy. That is what caused the heinous murder of Joseph Smith. When Utah was asking to becojme a State, it was necessary for them to denounce polygamy. Thus, if they now even talk about the subject, they are confessing that their founding prophet was wrong, and his error was prompted by his sexual desires, and his error continues to separate LDS from other Christian sects. It is strange, because we Protestants have similar differences with the Catholic Church, centered on their belief in inerrancy of the Pope in certain matter. But we don’t find the same separation. My hope and prayer is that Mormon leaders will some time, some way, come to find their way to Jesus unimpaired, for He stated certainly that there is no marriage in Heaven.

    • Ms.freedom2fly

      Thank you for praying for the Mormons and their leadership and speaking the truth about what Jesus said about marriage in heaven. Heaven is about being with God forever not making our own worlds to become gods ourselves. God is the reward in heaven, He has gone to prepare a place for us!! PTL!

  36. Lisa Contreras

    Oh my dear AD, my heart is breaking for you! Reading your response felt like I was reading something that I would of wrote myself only a few years ago. I too had some of those exact same emotions, thoughts… I can’t even put into words. I was in a living hell over the thought of polygamy. I too was thinking if I had to share my husband in heaven, then I don’t even want to go there. It would not be heaven for me, but HELL! I asked all the same questions that you did. I asked my mom, the bishop, close friends… and they basically all said the same thing- “I don’t like it either, but there is no jealousy in heaven.” So, I took it to God. Father in heaven, I prayed, is this doctrine true? Why do you want this of women? Do you not love us and know this would make us miserable? You promised that the first wife would be able to choose if her husband would take another wife, but that is not the case with Emma Smith. She was told that she would be destroyed if she didn’t practice polygamy and she was miserable and hated it! I just don’t understand.

    At the same time that I was going through this, I was also having a battle in my heart. What if polygamy really wasn’t true? What if God revealed to me that It was not from Him? What would I do then? I was scared. I wanted it to be true because that means the church is true, and I did have a testimony, I truly believed in the church, and if it wasn’t true, then I would be lost and believe in nothing. I was taught that all other churches were corrupt, so I certainly wouldn’t believe in other churches! So, if polygamy was true, the church was true and I was miserable, but if It’s not true, then I have no faith and I would be miserable too. I was scared. God help me.

    Well, God did help me. He just gave me peace. The peace that came to my heart was to not worry about it. So, I just said OK, Im not going to worry about it anymore. I continued living my life, raising my family mormon… and put it out of my mind. Now, fast forward about 10 years. I now have 5 children and our family makes the move to Utah. It was so different. I was from CA and this was just like a different environment! Our whole neighborhood was in our ward, all my children’s friends were LDS, I could go to the library and get all kinds of church books… we loved it! But once in a while those old feelings would surface. I started to get really negative. I didn’t want to go to the temple anymore. When I was teaching primary or young woman’s and the lesson was on Joseph Smith, I would skip it. Well, finally I started doing a lot of early church research. I was blown away by what I found out that the church never talks about. Or how much the church has changed! Really the church isn’t that old, would God change His mind so quickly? Even what the prophets taught from one to the next was different. Long story short, I started going to a little Bible church and was taught about grace. That it is through Jesus Christ ALONE and not my works that please God. The Bible became totally new to me. The things that it teaches is actually in direct contradiction to Mormonism. Because I was still hanging on to the Mormon religion but studying and questioning so much (I spent many hours in the Bishops office) It was a really hard time in my life. I went into the church bathroom laid on the floor and cried! Father help me! I don’t care if polygamy is true, If that’s what you require, I will do it! But, if it’s not true, I don’t care either, I will still believe in you and follow you. That is when I was freed. I was willing to follow Jesus no matter what. He lifted the weight off of me. It was not about me. It is all about Him.

    Oh, I wish I could just make you understand what a wonderful, wonderful awesome God we have! He loves you so, so much! He is unchanging, His doctrine is unchanging! He forever was God and He will forever be God, and we never will be. The whole idea of polygamy is so that we can go and create and be God’s ourselves! That is totally wrong! When we place our faith in Him we have the right to become His adopted children and we get to live with him forever through Jesus Christ. I pray that you will pour out your heart to God and ask Him to show you this truth. I promise that if you truly seek Him, He will free you and bring you more joy than you will ever know.

    Also, a great website to further look into polygamy is- polygamy what love is this. They have a great book called is polygamy biblical. It’s just a starting point. And remember that Jesus said His burden is light. That is very true. I wish you the very best on your journey and you will be in my prayers.


    • Ms.freedom2fly

      Wow!! Such bravery on this blog of women who speak honestly and openly. Thank you for sharing.

    • DenHigh

      As a Mormon, I am not sure how you missed the parts of the Atonement about grace and mercy. In fact, they are discussed quite often in our ward. Last week, it was discussed in an excellent Sacrament Mtg. talk and in Gospel Doctrine. Because of this, my gut feeling is that your post is disingenuous or completely false.

      • Brenda

        Wow. Just–wow.

        Disingenuous? Completely false? How about this: Mormons are so caught in the “faith without works is dead” thing that grace and mercy are oftentimes glossed over and/or overlooked. I was raised Mormon–outside of Utah, in the bible-belt, no less–and I don’t remember much about grace and mercy being taught. How lucky you are that they are discussed frequently in your ward. That was not my experience. Obey the prophets. Keep the Word of Wisdom. Attend the temple. Read the Book of Mormon. All of these deal with works, not grace or mercy.

        Lisa was not disingenuous nor false. However, it appears to me that maybe (maybe, mind you–this might be a stretch and I could be completely wrong, though I doubt it), you, DenHigh might have a little work to do with regard to grace and mercy toward your fellow beings.

  37. Joanna, I love this! Okay, I’ll come out of the closet, too–my great-great-grandparents were polygamists. My great-great grandmother, Julina Lambson, was the second wife of my great-great grandfather, Joseph F. Smith. His first wife divorced him because of polygamy. I think my great-great grandfather had six wives total.

    Thanks for the column. I’ve printed it out and filed it away to share with my own daughters someday when they start asking these questions.

    • When I wrote this I was laughing. But I should also confess, you had me in tears just moments before I started laughing. Wow, we do need to talk about polygamy, don’t we.

  38. Gunk

    Great column. Polygamy is one of the great elephants in the room that we seem to abhor talking about. If only the same amount of attention and debate pertaining to caffeinated beverages was also dedicated to polygamy.

    I taught early morning seminary for a few years and found most of my seminary students had never heard of polygamy. Sad, truly sad as it not only reflects a lack of teaching in the home but also a lack understanding of doctrine. I made it a point to have a lesson on it every year.

    Rather than study and talk about polygamy, we stare at our shoes and fidget in our seats. I can certainly see why. Women, understandingly struggle with the idea of having to “share” their husband while men don’t want to be painted as sex-maniacs.

    Joanna, you make some great points, which I think too often are not thought through. I’m of the school that the gospel is simple and makes sense. Here a couple of my thoughts on the topic:

    Everything procreates within its sphere. Procreation between two mortal beings results in a mortal child. Procreation between one mortal and one exalted being (however it was done) resulted in Christ. So then, what would procreation between two exalted beings result in? Certainly not spirits without bodies. So the notion that eternity is just women popping out babies and men fathering as many as they can not only sounds unpleasant, but doesn’t stack up. Who wants to get woken up in the middle of the night to a screaming baby for the rest of eternity? Not I. Clearly then, the creation of spirit children is done in some other way.

    What then is the purpose of polygamy? Jacob outlines it perfectly in Jacob 2: 28 – 30. It’s so the Lord can raise up seed, referring to members of the House of Israel. The Lord, will not need to raise up seed in the hereafter. All seed raising should have been done on the Earth. You and I might need to raise some seed once we get to the Celestial Kingdom, but as outlined above it won’t be in the same way as done here.

    Why then still practice polygamy in the temples? Here’s where the water gets muddy. I speculate it has more to do with ensuring everyone has someone in the hereafter to perform the necessary ordinances for them and being sealed to someone so they can gain exhalation than anything. Not eternal sex, as I’ve heard some – even BYU professors – claim.

  39. terrylinden

    My God(dess) what a whirlwind of a subject! I have two thoughts:
    (1) Re hiding from or not speaking about polygamy: I’m pretty sure somebody important said that the truth shall make you free, and he was right. It does. It may not make you happy, but it DOES make you free.
    (2) Re interpretation of doctrine–whether or not this text supports it or that text does not: The sages who wrote the Talmud deferred many topics which simply could not be untangled until the return of the Prophet Elijah, which would herald the coming of the Messiah. Allowing for the difference in belief as to whether the Messiah has or has not returned, it sounds to me like this is one of those subjects.

  40. If folks are genuinely interested in learning about Joanna’s place on the faith spectrum, there’s an excellent book which provides lots of relevant detail.

  41. RachelJL

    No one else has brought this up yet (that I’ve noticed, apologies if I’ve missed it), so here is what the Book of Mormon has to say regarding polygamy:
    from http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/jacob/2?lang=eng
    and I’m just going to copy and past, so try and disregard the awkward inclusion of footnote links that won’t work here:
    24 Behold, David and aSolomon truly had many bwives and concubines, which thing was cabominable before me, saith the Lord.

    25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a arighteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

    26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

    27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any aman among you have save it be bone cwife; and concubines he shall have none;

    28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the achastity of women. And bwhoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

    29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or acursed be the land for their sakes.

    30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up a seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

    31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their bhusbands.

    32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit awhoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our afather, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

    35 Behold, ye have done agreater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the bstrictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

  42. Vinniecat

    Polygamy is a deal breaker for me. If there is a requirement for it in the eternities, count me out! I don’t personally believe it is doctrinal, but a creation of a flawed individual and perpetuated by other flawed individuals. The fact that it is still perpetuated today, though downplayed, is very disturbing. I long for the day when the church emphatically denounces polygamy in its entirety. I have tried and can find no way to make one man deserving of more than one woman or vice versa without demeaning one or both sexes. The idea that I am not of equal value to God as a man due to my sex is preposterous., but for me, that is exactly what polygamy means.

    I also long for the day when our church teaches its true history and stops placing our prophets on pedestals but recognizes that they are human beings who have made mistakes. Thank you for this thoughtful piece, it eloquently expresses many of my frustrations and concerns.

  43. Pingback: Mormons Argue | thoughtfulpastor

  44. Bitherwack

    My understanding is that since we know that, “when men exercise compulsion, the heavens withdraw.” D&C 121:37 It is safe to assume that polygamous marriages have always been entered into by the full approval of all parties. (And so has the law always been in the US) It is also very possible that ‘the principle’ existed as a ‘restoration of all things’ and therefore no longer necessary today. (Along with the United Order, etc.)
    My grandmother grew up in a polygamous family in the Juarez Colonies too. (She knew Camilla Kimball there.) Theirs was a harmonious, loving family by all accounts (their copious diaries have made fascinating reading.) I sincerely believe that the Lord would NEVER force polygamy on anyone who would not joyfully embrace it. I, personally would not mind it (because of my heritage, I guess I don’t experience the kind of revulsion others experience?), but my wife has made me promise not to, so I will very gladly comply. (Though oddly, she has said that if she dies first, she wants me to remarry so that there will be someone to take care of me… clearly it will have to be a civil ceremony!)
    AD, you should have absolutely nothing to worry about. You do not want to be in a polygamous marriage, so in spite of your husband’s willingness, you should have no worries. You have your agency, and on top of it all, we know that the only thing that constrains an omnipotent Heavenly Father is his inability to deny us our free agency. I hope this issue (brought up by a rather insensitive sister) will give you no more worries. It, and other people’s misguided opinions should not in any way affect YOUR marriage.

  45. How do I say this? I’m sort of living Plural marriage right now, due to a divorce and the temple clearance I was given to re-marry. My current wife got a cancellation of sealing to marry me, and we have been married over 7 years now. But my ex-wife, (although she has a recommend and is active again) has not sought a cancellation (but I wish she would). I wish shhe would so that I could request a sit-down discussion with an apostle. I have so many questions.

    But here’s something I know for sure. When I came back from my mission, there were wild, false doctrines floating around my home in Michigan. One of them was that ALL member of the Celestial Kingdom must be in a plural marraige. So my mom and I talked about it, and then she wrote a letter to Elder Bruce R. McConkie to get his insight. He wrote back the most wonderful letter when he debunked ALL the false doctrines. ANd on the question of the necessity of plural marriage in the Celestial Kingdom, he said that was nonsense. He said Nephi is a perfect example of a man who inherited the Celestial Kingdom without having more than one wife.

    • Kathleen Jones

      *Brigham Young said you are damned if you deny polygamy.
      “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

      * Brigham Young compared his sermons with scripture.
      “I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom…I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95).

      Was he a Prophet of God or wasn’t he?

      • RachelJL

        Brigham Young was the prophet for his time. Back then, if you were commanded to practice polygamy, you were expected to. No one now is expected to: in fact, we’ve been commanded not to. (Not in this life, anyway.) I’m not worried about the next life because it doesn’t effect me now, in that way. I had a very hard time with the issue of polygamy in my early twenties, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me now. I could go through my thought process/feelings now, but it doesn’t seem necessary, with as much discussion as is going on here already.

        We have also been told that current prophecy takes precedence over the past. Practicing polygamy in this life in our current day gets you excommunicated.

        Another point: the Journal of Discourses is NOT considered official LDS Doctrine.

    • RachelJL

      I’ve been told repeatedly that we will not be required to be sealed to anyone in the eternities that we do not wish to be sealed to. Also, that we don’t need to worry: that it will all be sorted out in the eternities.

  46. I am a non-Mormon reader of this long.  I am also a United Methodist Pastor and had a long and complex journey out of Christian fundamentalism in order to live out my calling by God.

    And, like many others outside your fold, much of my exposure to polygamy comes from the media:  Big Love and, most especially, the morally repugnant “Sister Wives.”

    Twice, I have written my responses to “Sister Wives” on my blog.

    First here when it first started.  Second, I wrote here particularly about polygamy and my problems with it.

    Now, I’m suspecting you don’t want to be connected with either of  those shows any more than I want to be connected with Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer or any other TV “evangelist” who fattens his or her own pocket at the expense of the faithful.  However, the language that Kody Brown and his harem use to justify their choices is precisely the same language I read here. 

    In my own complex spiritual journey, I have currently reached a point where I can no longer pretend to know the mind of God, nor will I any longer live in the cognitive dissonance (mentioned often here) of being told to believe one thing when everything I know and have experienced suggests such a belief is not only false, it is also detrimental to my relationship with God.  It sounds like some in the Mormon world are reaching a similar point.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could talk about this in a non-confrontive, grace-filled, hopeful way?  It just sounds more Kingdom of Heaven-like to me.

  47. I just realized my links did not show up in the above post. Here’s my first blog on Sister Wives: http://thoughtfulpastor.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/a-harem-by-any-other-name/

    Here’s the second one: http://thoughtfulpastor.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/sister-wives/

    • Brenda

      Very well written posts, thoughtfulpastor. Thank you for adding your links.

      And I agree–that Kody guy is disgusting (my words, not yours). He makes my skin crawl, and I’ve not even seen an episode, just advertisements for the show.

      • Thank you. We’re all trying to figure our way through complicated lives and competing theologies. Again, just wish we could do this more gracefully, knowing that all of us are seeing through a mirror dimly–and missing a huge amount of the big picture.

      • Sally Whitaker

        I think it’s really important to be able to trust in the Lord. I know we have different views sometimes with others (within and outside) of ones religion. But, the fact that the Lord can comfort and guide us on an individual basis is such a great relief. Many times I know He has aided me in hurt, confusion, and major trials. He looks out for us and loves us.

  48. SteveS

    So why do we have hitch all our hopes on someone else’s explanation about what the afterlife is going to be like? Do we really know what (and for some of us, who) we’re all going to be doing in the next five years? so why do we know for sure what our eternal life is going to look like, folks? Faith doesn’t have to be based in doctrinal propositions, a benchmark of “belief” that must be attained to achieve some sort of blessing. At its base should simply be trust that God knows what is best for each of us. I suspect that we’ll all be surprised by eternity, and relieved that there will be more change built into our eternal lives than the few doctrinal statements about the afterlife by Joseph Smith would suggest.

    From my perspective, Joseph Smith’s teachings about the afterlife were, as Brodie, Bushman, and others have pointed out, intensely focused on the perpetuation of family relationships that Smith missed in his own life (c.f. the death of his brother Alvin Smith, the many deaths of his children, the loss of his father, etc.) Above all, Joseph wanted to be with his loved ones with God, and the temple sealing and doctrine of polygamy were the ritualistic means by which such desires could be guaranteed past death. Smith’s line of reasoning was probably very simple: if you believe that in order to enter heaven you must literally be immersed in water by someone with the authority to do so for God (or else consigned to hell forever), what also must occur for someone to stay married to their spouse after this life is over? Obviously, someone with the authority to bind spouses together for God must perform the sealing ceremony, or else those poor souls will be consigned to an eternity of loneliness! Genius!

    What results is a double-edged sword: whereas a new rite now exists that enables women and men to have an assurance that their relationship need not end at death, it also presupposes that we all know what Heaven will be like (at least as it applies to family relationships) thereby limiting our ability to consider the (very real) possibility that actual Heaven could be much different than we can even imagine or comprehend. Fact is, no one knows what Heaven is like. People who claim to have seen visions of heaven have seen just that: a subjective, often highly-symbolic experience that cannot be confirmed scientifically. None of these visions arising from the LDS tradition even claim to be a comprehensive explanation of what heaven is in its entirety.

    So for now, what do we do? We join with our loved ones in the hopes that our relationships will persist longer than the relatively short duration of our mortal lives. We participate in rituals that symbolize our commitment to nourish and prioritize these relationships while here on earth. We sacrifice our time, talents, youthful bodies, energies, and money working on those relationships, ever hoping that those individuals we care for most will choose to stick with us in the long run as well. I personally have no idea what heaven will be like, no idea what kind of relationships I’ll enjoy, for how long, to what purpose, or what the nature of those relationships will be (physical intimacy? conflict and resolution? telepathy? 😉 ). But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I’ll just do my best right now with the relationships I’ve got, and hope for the best.

    Does that perspective invalidate Joseph’s assertion that we all must be sealed to enter the highest heaven? maybe, but maybe Joseph, with all his righteous desires to be with his family forever, wasn’t correct about the nature of ritual ordinances, or correct about the necessity of the sealing ordinance in particular. Maybe his view of eternity wasn’t comprehensive. Maybe polygamy was simultaneously about sexual desire for young girls eager to please the charismatic leader AND about redefining the family into something bigger than father mother son daughter? Maybe it was harder for Joseph to distinguish between his own carnal, emotional desires and the divine influence than we claim it should be in our own lives? Maybe he was right when he said that we are all saved together, but wrong on how that was going to be accomplished?

    So for me, polygamy need not be a shameful thing to hide. I don’t understand it, and couldn’t see myself living it, but I honor the hope those who did practice it that their loving relationships might continue past this life. I honor the hopes that those who have married more than one spouse (sequentially, not simultaneously) in this life have of being reunited with both spouses in heaven, and in not having to face some Sophie’s Choice-style decision between them in order to move on. I honor the hope of those who choose to end their marriage in this life to not have to be sealed to an unwanted spouse for eternity. I honor the hope of individuals who love each other, but for whom society refuses to grant the right to perform a legal contract rite of “marriage” to desire to perpetuate those relationships eternally. I honor Joseph Smith’s vision of a heaven where we all find ourselves together, bound by loving ties after a lifetime of effort and struggle, triumphs and failures, ever striving toward God.

  49. Liz

    An interesting point (that doesn’t necessarily contradict anything in here) is that after a woman dies, she can be posthumously sealed to many men. You can only be sealed to one man while living, but after you die, they just seal everybody to everybody and assume it’ll all work out.

  50. Hmmm…I must admit,as a non-Mormon,I feel I have only the right to ask this one question:Mormons need to talk about polygamy to what end,and for what purpose? I’m sure you already know how I,a moderate evangelical view the issue,so I’ll leave it at that.I can envision no ready-made solutions for this conundrum,so the question remains:Whither polygamy?

  51. Justin

    Let’s talk about Polygamy? OK, as a man, I don’t have a problem with it and would live it if it is indeed a commandment of God. I am not repulsed by it and can see that there are benefits (and I’m not referring to sex, because we all know after a couple of years of marriage, sex drops way down on the list of priorities) for all parties involved in having more than one wife.

    • ..and then rises again when the woman hits aboooouuuut 33 😉
      Sex is a HUGE part of life. It is so primal and expressive. You can love yourself through sex, feel really close to your partner, show love for someone else, improve your own health (physical, mental, emotional). If sex has dropped down ‘the list’ I’d seriously take a look at WHY and bump it up back up much closer to the top 🙂

  52. Noe

    So, I’m currently an “investigator” and have been meeting with the missionaries for a few weeks. I asked them – and other LDS couples in the room – if they would practice polygamy if the prophet asked them to tomorrow. They all said, “yes…it would be difficult, I’m sure, but yes.” I love so much that I’ve learned about this church so far, but REALLY? How could something like this ever be from God? And the “raising up of seed” argument doesn’t work for me. And what about times when there are more men than women? It was the first time during the discussions that I felt utterly sick. Where’s the Spirit in that?

    • Carl Reese (previously posted as hiker)

      Assuming there is a God, that sick feeling you had is the spirit telling you to run not walk away from the Mormon Church.

      People raised in the church, like me, are under considerable pressure to do fantastic mental gymnastics to justify 70 years of perversion because to accept that the first six prophets of the church led the church astray for 80 years is to accept that that the very foundation of their lives is made of sand. The LDS church claims that modern prophets gained their authority to speak for God authority restored to nineteenth century prophets. If Joseph Smith and Brigham Young weren’t prophets, the whole religion becomes an institution of men. Mormonism is founded on a vision where Smith was told that all other religions were “abominations because they are the institutions of men.” It was tough for me to accept for that reason. That, and if it weren’t true all my ancestors were duped and many of them were perverts. It’s a tough pill to swallow and many of the comments here are convoluted arguments by people with similar ancestry to mine and are intended to make the pill easier to swallow.

      Joanna and others here talk of there being different interpretations of the intent of polygamy. Hmmm. Polygamy was part of the LDS church for seventy years and preached by men that claimed to be prophets from the pulpit in conference hundreds of times. It was placed in canon in the Doctrine and Covenants section 132 and it’s still there waiting to be reinstated.

      There is no reasonable doubt about what those men meant about polygamy.

      There is also no reasonable doubt that the founders of the church were not prophets and by extension the current leaders are not prophets either. Using clear eyes it’s obvious most of the founders of the LDS faith weren’t even righteous men Polygamy isn’t the only issue demonstrating that. Google is your friend.

      Joanna and others here have a strong vested interest in maintaining ties with the church and leaving the church can be a wedge dividing families. Our parents taught us the LDS church was the only way to an eternal family. I left the church and it hasn’t been great for relations with my parents. I don’t regret leaving though. The church will not be a wedge between me and my daughters.

      The fact that I have daughters influenced my decision to leave. Polygamy is inherently sexist. About a hundred years ago the LDS church banned polygamy but in the same breath did not sweep away the sexism that seventy years of polygamy created. Sexism was institutionalized in the Mormon Church. Women are taught to be subservient to priesthood leadership still and women do not hold the priesthood. Women are under huge pressures. It’s not surprising that Mormon women lead the world in per capita consumption of antidepressants.

      Polygamy is a sick legacy that continues to give today

      Still, I understand the pull the LDS church has on Joanna and others here. I wouldn’t tell another Mormon how they should deal with the messy hand we were dealt. As an investigator, you don’t have ties to the church.

      I recommend you kindly tell the the missionaries you aren’t interested. There is no need being rude to missionaries. I served a mission and I hated that.

      • Kenny


        Your experience is clearly very different from mine (see my reply to Noe below).

        I am an active member of the church and have polygamists amongst my ancestors. I can’t imagine polygamy being practiced today, nor would I ever want to practice it. But I can accept it as part of the heritage of the church – both modern (LDS) and biblically (Abraham, Issac, etc).

        I can’t help but feel that you are doing Noe a great disservice by suggesting that s/he walk away from investigating the church based on the practice of polygamy at one time and your personal dislike of the church. Nor should Noe join the church simply because of my experiences and love of the church.

        Every person should listen carefully to the message of the Gospel, read the Book of Mormon, prayerfully ask God if it is true.

        I know that there is a God and that there is a Prophet on the earth today. The priesthood authority comes from God and was restored through Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and all the successors down to Thomas S. Monson were and are men called of God. Anyone who honestly prays about this will know this as well. Millions already have.

        As for sexism in the church, again, my experience has been completely different from what you have claimed. Women are not thought or taught to be anything but equals to men.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Kenny, you are a man. You will never understand viewing through the Mormon lens you see through. Carl does, because he’s left and see’s it now through clearer eyes.

        It’s easy to dismiss, when you haven’t seen it a different way. My own father decided he couldn’t participate, nor be friends with life long friends, due to their opinions of women. They were high up leaders (those of you who don’t know Mormon lingo, that means perceived to be righteous men who walk and talk w/ God and the members revere them) of the church who simply can’t relate to women being equal.

        Maybe it’s changing, on a greater level, with the younger generation…but I’ve found way too many friends from my olden days, who still believe women are subservient…it’s frightening. (and we are only in our 40’s) Many of whom think it’s really cool to talk the nasty to the Exmo (me)…because, well hell, we left we must love to be bad girls, right?

      • RachelJL

        I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with so many jerks in your life who are LDS. I never had to deal with much woman-hating (except for a little, maybe from a few jocks in high school…who weren’t LDS). My father’s parents taught their kids that girls could grow up to be whatever they wanted to be. It wasn’t until I got to college that I heard stories from friends whose fathers had pressured them not to choose certain majors, etc. for reasons that seemed ridiculous to me. However, I was well aware that things hadn’t been so easy for my aunts outside of the family. Not all priesthood holders are like that. Maybe it’s that I’m just so danged stubborn (like the rest of the family) or that my aunts and my step-mother were strong-willed, and I wanted to be like that too. I have no idea. But I do feel fortunate. But again, I can promise you that not all men in the Church are like that.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Thanks Rachel…I was raised in the church. I’m very aware there are wonderful men in the church. I have a brother-in-law who is a total gem. (the others, meh…). The problem is that it does breed misogyny. When you give men, who desperately lack any kind of self esteem and who have either a desperate need to “matter/be honored/worshiped”, or have real feelings about being superior to women, and give them make believe powers, many, if not most, believe they actually have them and can wield them.

        When he speaks the family will obey. If he’s given “authority” positions, well, you know the drill. We’ve all met those kinds of leaders. Makes for some seriously screwed up people, and congregations.

        They aren’t all like that. Some don’t even want any authority at all. They just want the make believe blessings from being in the “one true church”, but aren’t willing to even be effective in their “priesthood”…It’s a giant mixed bag. I know that.

      • WGC

        Kathleen, I think you need to re-examine this statement:
        “…well hell, we left…”
        If you had really left, you would not have the need to post your bitterness against the Church as often as you do in a transparent attempt to convince yourself that you HAVE left.

        Either walk away and live your new ex-Mormon life in peace, or try to find your place in the Church in a less bitter way. But stop your trollish diatribes. It is obvious that you don’t seek a greater understanding, but only wish to sow discord. Do it somewhere else.

      • Katy

        Noe, that sick feeling you have likely won’t go away.

        I once was an “investigator”, then convert and active member (for many years). My advise is to really REALLY think about your decision. I was told to pray about it and if I’m being honest I never got that “confirmation” but I wanted it so badly, I convinced myself I had recieved revelation that the church was indeed true.

        I wrestled with my doubts for years until I finally left.

        You may in fact have a totally different experience and find the church to be a great comfort, but at least go into it with open eyes. I’m in no position to say what’s best for someone regarding their beliefs. Just wanted you to hear it from someone who’s been in your shoes…that sometimes we want so badly to believe in SOMETHING that our judgement can be clouded.

        All the best

    • Kenny

      I have sympathy for both you and the missionaries in this situation. Having been a missionary, I can tell you that there is no harder question to field than the polygamy question. Answering that question is extremely tough – especially as 19 to mid-20s young men and women who have probably not been in any serious relationships and certainly have not been married (therefore not having much context to put the question in); to say that it would be difficult is an understatement to say the least.

      My heart goes out to you as well – having been raised within the church and in a family that was willing to discuss any elements of church history openly and honestly, I have grown up knowing about polygamy and it is still a tough subject to understand and come to terms with – I cannot possibly imagine how it must seem to you as an investigator.

      For myself, I try to look at polygamy the way I would any other issue within the church – I take a step back and remember that my purpose on earth and within the church is to become one with Christ and Heavenly Father, receive a remission of my sins, follow the Lord’s example and instructions, and progress to achieve my highest potential, all while trying to help lift those around me. The Lord has stated that His “work and (His) glory (is) to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39, this is in the Pearl of Great Price – ask the missionaries more about it if they have not introduced you yet).

      Knowing that God cares about His children and wants them to have all that He has and knowing the He has put in place a great plan to help all who are willing achieve happiness gives great context for me to then analyze any questions that I might have. I know that Christ lives and is the Redeemer of mankind; I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God; and I know that the Christ’s gospel has been restored through the LDS church. Because I have prayed and know those things, I am able to proceed without fully understanding polygamy and the role that it will play in the eternities. I take comfort in knowing that God is not going to give any commandment without providing a way to accomplish it (1 Nephi 3:7). I also take great comfort in knowing that God isn’t going to allow us to be tempted above our ability to overcome temptation (1 Cor 10:13) – to me that would means not asking us to live a law that we are unable to live (even if it is simply because it is too hard emotionally). And lastly, the Lord tells us in section 89 of the Doctrine & Covenants that he gives commandments that are “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints”. (Note that unlike accepting Christ, baptism by proper authority, and recieving the Holy Ghost – all of which are required – polygamy was never a commandment for all members, nor am I aware of anywhere where God has revealed that all people would have to live a polygomous life.)

      I would take your concern to the Lord. Ask if the Book of Mormon is true. Ask if the Joseph Smith was called of God. Then express your concerns about polygamy.

      Good luck to you. Being an active member of the Church is the best decision I have ever made.

      ps. As for the attitude of doing that which God asks, I think everyone should strive to do whatever God asks – and I pray we all have do truly have that strength. Sometimes that may seem hard, but I know I have been blessed when I have done hard things because God asked. ie – tithing.

      President Eyring wrote a great article about this. http://lds.org/ensign/2008/06/safety-in-counsel?lang=eng

    • emily w.

      Noe, thank you for your thoughtful and open response. As a somewhat unorthodox member of the church, I would say that that feeling you felt was your conscience. Mormons believe that their conscience is the “light of Christ.” It acts as our intuition much like “the Spirit.” I can’t speak for what it may have been telling you but Mormons also believe in personal revelation from God as well, which means you can ask God about the feeling you got and what it means. Every church makes their truth claims and every church says they are the best choice; the Mormon church is no different in that respect. But Mormonism does offer a beautiful plan in its most basic form. It offers the opportunity to be part of a community with genuinely good and committed people. It offers one of many pathways toward spirituality. Mormonism can provide meaning and purpose to one’s life. These are the things that I am most grateful for and why I value my membership in the church. Please don’t think that I am trying to persuade you to be baptized, I simply wanted to offer my own experience with Mormonism and why I am still a member. Carl goes his way, I go mine, Joanna goes hers and you will go yours. Our paths might cross or intertwine with one anothers but each are valid and I feel we must respect whatever that happens to be.

      • Amy

        Emily, I have learned a new term this week–trolling the internet… I am a member trolling the internet right now. AskMormonGirl blog is so amazing because for about the 3 or 4th time in my life, I have found other who think like I do. It is a beautiful plan, and it makes me happy. I don’t have all the answers. No one does. I keep responding to posts on this blog because I am so happy to know there are others–maybe many– who feel like unorthodox members. Thank you for your post, and thank you for helping my faith increase. I am not the only unorthodox member, and that is wonderful to me!!!!

    • Kathy

      And this is exactly why Mormons don’t like to talk about polygamy. If there was full disclosure on all the beliefs and practices of Mormonism, probably not many people would join. I wouldn’t have.

    • Sally Whitaker

      When the prophet Joseph smith was given the commandment to instate polygomy, it was very hard for them to do. It was a test of faith for them. Like so many of the inspired verdits from the called prophet, We don’t see the why or whatnot until later. Thus, the beauty of having a prophet or Seer. I thik we’ll see moreof this indays to come. God hasn’t left the human race to fend for itself like some think. He’s there for us as we open the door to let Him in.

    • There’s no spirit in the “I’ll do whatever I’m told … ” kind of faith. A far better answer is along the lines of needing to have a long conversation with God under those circumstances. Quite likely your missionaries haven’t even tried being married to one person let alone multiples. What they are expressing is unfounded optimism. I wouldn’t take it seriously.

      Ultimately what you do or think about your relationship with God is strictly personal. If what you discover in your investigation resonates in your soul then history, speculations and doctrinal hair splitting don’t matter: you forge that link with the divine, it doesn’t matter if you are in the company of saints or jerks. It’s a separate matter how you live with the big, open social club we call a church. If you give it a chance I think you’ll find a few really great people in the church, a bunch of nice but not terribly deep people and a few dysfunctional knuckle draggers. If you can focus on the great folks its good. Stay away from the incurious and willfully ignorant. It’s a church after all, not heaven.

      • Sally whitaker

        Things I’ve learned I’d that the prophetis right on. He is a spokesman for God and this proves out. When we follow in this light, obedience adds to our blessings.

      • Obedience has nothing to do with it, it’s just a pleasant side effect of righteousness. When we find what is good for us, we do it. When we hear wisdom, we adopt it. Living as God does brings happiness. Practicing righteousness brings holiness. Holiness brings happiness and godliness. We start with few things and adopt more as our capacity grows. We may be seen as following the commandments in doing so, but obedience to commandment is not the cause of our happiness. Both are blessings of living a holy life. It is living the principle that causes our happiness.

        It’s back to same issue: those that lived the law of polygamy a century and a half ago because they were solely being obedient rarely found happiness in it. Those that live it because they thought it would make them better or happier did find happiness in it. How much obedience is needed to make happiness? I don’t think there is any amount. How much happiness does it take to make us obedient? just a little bit.

        Do prophets tell us how to be happy or how to be obedient?

      • Sally W.

        Maybe happiness is not the right word. Holiness, like you said is a better word. The Love of God and joy are different than happiness, but all are better than feelings of misery and disconnection from God’s love. Thanks for the corerction.

  53. DMcP

    According to family search group record, JS did have many wives. Interesting that he didn’t have children with ANY of them except Emma. What are the odds that all his subsequent wives were barren? Draw your own conclusions here. check it out http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/af/individual_record.asp?recid=7762167

    On another note, I’m sorry that this topic stirs so many members into state of anger and non-functional behavior. It doesn’t matter what people believe is going to happen in heaven. At this point, we have clarity on how it will all fit together. Do you think we would go through this (sometime horrible) life just to have reward that is less than amazing? Do you think that the Lord would take away free agency in Heaven and FORCE someone into polygamy? I doubt it.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      You’re wrong.

      He did father at least one child that we know about, and many other that were assumed to be.

      You need to listen to Todd Compton’s podcast and get the historical facts: http://mormonstories.org/?p=65, about his book: “In Sacred Loneliness” about the wives of Joseph Smith. This podcast is a good place to start, and I’m sure there are other great sources as well.

      Also, Joseph Smith was a genius. A brilliant, charismatic, intelligent genius. I have no doubt that he could figure out when women were fertile and plan his sex with his wives on a rotating basis to have sex when they were least fertile.

      To assume that a regular, red-blooded human man did not have a sex drive is simply naive.

    • DianaofThemyscira


      I apologize. . .I was not referring that “one child” to be the ones referenced in that DesNews article. I was referring to Josephine Rosetta who was born from Sylvia Sessions, a plural wife to Joseph on February 8, 1844.

      I am referring to journals and historical documents that indicate he did father a child:

      “In early 1882, Sylvia Sessions became ill with dropsy (most likely congestive heart failure). Her daughter Josephine Rosetta later recounted, “Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days were numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret from me and from all others but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=6304#more-6304)

      I find this series fascinating about the wives of Joseph Smith: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?s=Remembering+the+Forgotten+Women+of+Joseph+Smith&submit=Search+fMh. Especially Emily Dow Partridge’s experience. Emily kept meticulous journals, so you can read about her marriage to Joseph directly from her own words. No middle man historian to interpret her experience.

      But you are of course exactly right that DNA evidence has not proven any biological offspring. (We also cannot get post-coital semen analysis from any of his wives’ va-jay-jays. . . .ha ha ha. . .oh yikes). Even that DesNews article said this: “But not every case can be solved. A few alleged children of Joseph Smith died as infants and their burial places are not known. Descendants of daughters are particularly difficult to test conclusively because the easy-to-identify Y chromosome signature only works to identify male descendants.”

      We can’t get the proof.

      Just like no one can prove that the First Vision actually happened. Just like no one can prove that the Book of Mormon is an accurate historical document. Just like no one can prove that the Book of Abraham is a historical document. Just like no one can prove that God exists.

      Therein lies the difficulty with religion. . .it is all a subjective, personal, and faith-filled endeavor. And that is why this issue of polygamy is so murky and can be difficult for many Mormons to make peace with. It is not a black and white issue, just like religion is not a black and white issue.

      We need to be patient with ourselves, and our fellow human beings as we try to make sense of historical documents (or lack thereof) with personal/emotional/spiritual belief. I lived for many years with intellectual disbelief, at the same time having emotional belief, and that is a very difficult life to live.

      We each have to find some sense of peace in a personal way, and always remember that God loves us all no matter where we are on the faith spectrum.

      • RachelJL

        Thanks! That was well-written, and a very good post. It’s nice to learn something, and have new places to look as well. 🙂

  54. A

    Thank you so much for writing this post. Your feelings mirror my own, and this has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time. A girl in a class suggested reading the book Women in Eternity, Women in Zion, which helped me a bit. I’m still left with many unanswered questions and wish this was something people wouldn’t be so afraid to talk about. Thank you again.

  55. Heather

    As an active member of the church, I wouldn’t want to practice polygamy. It’s just kind of scatological. However I have had the discussion with my husband about this subject. We are taught that polygamy can be practiced as long as it abides within the laws of that land. So I say to my husband, if we moved to Saudi Arabia, where polygamy is practiced, you would be able to have more wives. Yes, was the reply. I honestly don’t see the harm in polygamy. (Sure the marrying off little teenage girls is another story) How is polygamy different to men or women having multiple sexual partners and have children as a result? Many times growing up I was asked if I had more than one mom, because no sane women would have 6 children all by herself. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to be hidden. The more the merrier. Haha!

  56. KayLee

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. This is something that has burdened me my entire life, but more excruciatingly for the last three and a half years (the time I have been married). I have spent sleepless nights weeping over this topic, wondering if I should just give up, fake it, ignore it, or deal with it. I tearfully asked myself, my stake president, my therapist, my mother, my friends, and my husband how to reconcile Jacob 2:24 & Jacob 1:15 with D&C 132: 1 & 38 a thousand times. No one had or has the answer for me.

    I think that neither The Church nor the culture wants to bring polygamy up for multiple reasons. One reason, of course, is that it is uncomfortable to talk about. Another, more important reason that I feel has been overlooked is that there really is no place for this type of debate in General Conference, Sacrament Meeting, or Sunday School. This issue is not one for the masses, but one for the individuals to determine for themselves. We need to take a deep breath and be open and receptive to the Spirit. If we battle each other based on he said she said, or modern vs. ancient prophets, or this scripture vs. that, we will end up in a mess.

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him or her ask of God, that giveth to all men and women liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him or her.” Personal revelation on ANY and EVERY topic is the only way to really know the Truth. Once the Truth is known, it won’t matter what others believe and share, because you know the Truth as it pertains to your mission, your life, and Heavenly Father’s plan for you.

    Thanks again for bringing out this issue, it is something we should all think about, wrestle with, and come to a comfortable belief in for ourselves with God.

    • Mommy2Bof3

      Read Jacob 2:30. That helped me, along with 1 Nephi 4. (The part where Nephi slays Laban) Nephi and his family practiced the Law of Moses. They lived by the 10 Commandments, which included “Thou shalt not commit murder.” Yet, when Nephi was sent to obtain the brass plates, the Lord commanded him to kill Laban. The Lord is the Lord. If He decides it is necessary for someone to die, for a group of people to move, for a man to take more than one wife, etc, it is His right as God to command it. The Lord will also never give us more than we can handle. He won’t ask more than we can give. He knows us and He loves us. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” It is hard to let go of worries we may have on certain subjects. Understanding polygamy was a HUGE struggle for me. But once I decided to trust the Lord and focus on the things I KNEW to be true (Christ as our Savior, the Book of Mormon, eternal families, etc), I gained a better understanding. Keep the Lord in the loop, and so will you.

  57. Eckhard Francksen

    Did not read all of the comments, so maybe I repeat something that was said before. I absolutely agree that there are some topics (not only polygamy) that should be not only discussed between members like on this blog but be officially stated and commented by the church. The church would do itself a great favour. Sad enough if people who think loud about certain things which belong to the history of this church, are seen as too critical by some other members who believe to have satisfying answers on polygamy. The justified questions from society – and from members – will not decrease but increase in the future. Younger generations do not want to keep quiet about their questions and if their church does not give them any official answer they could at least build their own opinion about, it is no wonder that they get into psychological and emotional stress, resulting in pseudo “solutions” like creating own teachings or taking unofficial teachings which fit them most, as official teachings of the church. It could be any other topic, this does not matter. It is all about how the church deals with some topics and leaves things up to single members who have to find an individual way to faithfully follow things that give them a lot of inner trouble. Am I criticizing the church now? – I am an active member of this church and strongly believe in the gosple of Jeus Christ, taught in this Church. I am happily married and got two kids. We perceive to be a very lucky and lovingly family. But since my wife and I married, a “dark shadow” is following us because I have been a widower before we married. So officially I am sealed to two women. It takes quite a lot of faith to step into this kind of situation – from both sides, wife and husband. It even gives me troubles trying to imagine how my first wife feels and thinks about it, not being able to tell me her opinion. Yes, people in our situation live in a trauma and the only way to manage is put all trust in God that he is (of course) capable of giving every single soul eternal peace and joy one day. We faithfully proceed in being active members of the church, putting all our trust in God. That’s all we can do. Yes, we need to talk about it. And we need to learn that we are no “bad” or “unfaithful” members of this church just by asking questions. The church teaches that you can find out the truth of all things and I really believe in personal revelation for personal matters. So I see millions and millions of members through generations, trying to receive personal revelation on this topic because the church does not talk about this topic and gives no official statements. On no General Conference. I wonder how many letters are sent to the prophet by uncounted desperate members who are in deep moral troubles. And still – no official statements. An official statement is more that overdue. I could imagine that there would be two possible reactions on an official statement: Either there would be millions who finally would find peace in mind, or there would be millions who would quit their membership immediately. Could this be one of the reasons for the official silence?

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

    • My answer your last question is to name a precedent: Worldwide Church of God. They finally did the right thing to correct doctrinal and hierarchical error and paid a huge cost in organizational power and size. I’d say they more greatly honored the right choice because the Kingdom of Heaven is bigger than us all.

      Besides that, they made themselves more authentic, vulnerable and transparent with those persons they hoped would still continue on by calling them their church home. To look at the tenor of the dialogue coming out from those who didn’t continue on with them (like the Restored Church of God) is to pretty much see the LDS claims dressed up in new faces: sole claims to institutional truth and loyalty to men (Herbert Armstrong and his righteous successors) more than Jesus.

      The question for the LDS church is whether they are willing to honor the trust, commitment and sacrifice in life and finances, of those who’ll still continue on with them with their primary heart identity in Christ and not the Institution of Joseph – and let the pieces of the empire fall where they may.

  58. I have this theory about polygamy/sealings that I have yet to find other advocates for. Let’s hope I can type my theory out clearly here.

    First, I should say that I don’t believe in eternal polygamy. I believe in an eternal reward, not punishment, and for that poor girl at the top of your post, eternal polygamy would be a punishment. What kind of God would do that to her? I also don’t see any evidence yet to think that polygamy was a salacious thing for Joseph Smith. If he was doing it for sex, why aren’t there any more biological children from him? I highly, highly doubt that the women of that time were charting their periods to avoid pregnancies or seeking out doctors to abort their babies. And people get really worked up about the girls in their teens, but of his 30 wives, several of them were 30+ as well! If he was out to get the young’uns, why get a lady in her 50’s too?

    So Joseph Smith did some unique stuff with sealings. There were/are sealing of families, and sealing of couples, and back then they also had sealings of men to other men (possibly women to other women? I’m not a scholar).

    Here is my theory: I think we give Joseph Smith too much credit sometimes. I don’t think that the way God spoke to him was quite as cut and dried as we often think, and a lot of the things we took to be literal mandates/thoughts/feelings/expressions of God were and are really *Joseph’s interpretations of what God told him*. And somehow polygamy and sealings got jumbled up along the way, and we’ve been hanging on to it every since. Joseph took this idea of linking everyone together, and he ran with it, to the point that at one time men were arguing which prominent priesthood leader they could be sealed in some sort of brotherhood rite too in some sort of “ride his coattails to heaven” pyramid scheme (again, not a gospel scholar, just someone who likes to read, so my interpretation might be off).

    The whole “men can be sealed to multiples but women can’t” is a form of sexism left over from a time when women had less rights, pure and simple. And we all need to stop getting so worked up over the idea that whoever we are sealed to is who we are stuck with forever. What if you are married to a sorta righteous guy, who dies, and then you marry a second super righteous awesome guy who doesn’t ever get sealed to you. Are you really going to get up to heaven and have God say “Too bad, should’ve gone for Johnny instead of Ryan (never mind that Johnny lived in Boston and you lived in Utah and you never would have met if the funeral hadn’t happened, etc). Or what about my baby brother, who died at birth, and according to statements my mom has found will be exalted because he died before 8. He has to get matched up with someone somehow, right? And there are billions of other kids who have lived and died before the age of 8 (aborted babies?) who need spouses as well. And what about all of the single sisters and brothers who are promised that God has not forgotten them? Basically this whole “matching everyone up with the person that will bring them ultimate happiness” thing is a big mess, and I’m glad God is the one who is going to figure it out and not me.

    Also, I can try to dig up a name for you if possible, but my friend has a first-hand example of a woman being sealed to more than one man. I just emailed my friend and he said they attended the sealing personally, and everyone there knew what was happening. Maybe we can have hope that the Church is progressing faster than we think it is after all!

    • RachelJL

      There were also women who were sealed to Joseph Smith and possibly other General Authorities after the men had passed away. The women asked for it, I guess, because they thought it was a good idea to be sealed to a prophet? Not sure.

  59. Jennifer

    I find it so interesting how the more liberal Mormons create their own quasi-Mormon religion in their heads in order to make it more palatable. They go against scripture and teachings of the prophets in order to do so. I think Joanna is doing that here. Despite the words of D&C Section 132, which clearly state the polygamy is an eternal principle, Ms. Brooks states, “Count me among the many Mormons who do not believe that polygamy is an eternal principle, even as I honor all the Mormons who did and do believe this, and the sacrifices they made and make for faith. I love the idea that none of us enters the heavens singly, that we all must be bound together—across the generations—we all go in together. It reminds me of the Buddhist teaching that none attains enlightenment until all attain enlightenment. But one-man-multiple-woman polygamy is not an idea I can believe in, and it’s not just because I’m seeing with “mortal” rather than “spiritual” eyes: symmetry, I think, is an eternal principle too.” So there you go. The gospel according to Ms. Brooks. She didn’t like it so she made up something new. Why not? If it works for her, then it works for her. She can have her cake (believing in Mormonism) and eat it too (rejecting the so-called eternal principles of Mormonism). Bon apetit!

    • SteveS

      Careful, Jennifer. We all do this. There is not one of us who does not pick and choose the principles by which we try to live from among the many teachings and philosophies available to us. And many of these liberal mormons are doing something a bit different than what the concept of “cafeteria mormonism” suggests: many liberals (myself among them) reject outright the notion of an “all-or-nothing” approach to mormonism, so they really aren’t picking certain favorite ideas and passing over other principles and concepts that they know they should be living as well. These liberals declare that some of the offerings are bad for body and soul, despite the love, time, and care put in to preparing such selections.

      Their perspective is that you don’t have to come to the buffet believing that everything there is good, and that you should take all of it if you were a true follower. Rather, you recognize that the principles and doctrines are at best very human attempts at explaining the Divine, some of which are “truer” than others. Liberals do their best to pick the morsels that seem most beneficial to themselves, passing over other concepts that do not ring true to them.

      So yes, it is “the Gospel according to Ms. Brooks”–but it’s not about making up something new (without authority) as it is finding what’s true for her without becoming too concerned about the fact that she’s not eating “the whole enchilada”, to use another food metaphor. Once again, we all pick and choose what we will believe and follow. My claim and Joanna’s claim on Mormonism need not threaten anyone else’s claim on the same identity. We all need to stop creating for ourselves a creed or benchmark of belief up to which everyone must measure in order to rightfully use that term “Mormon”. One thing is for certain, though: belittling another’s spiritual path isn’t generous or kind.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Why must Jennifer be “careful”, Steve? Are you using your priesthood authority to chastise the “little woman”? She’s a grown adult with her own mind and feelings and has the god given right to say whatever the hell she wants to. Reign you righteousness in, dude. It’s wasted here. You have no authority here (or anywhere actually, it’s all pretend!)

      • SteveS

        Kathleen, I’m sorry if you misinterpreted my words. Perhaps they weren’t clear, and if so, that’s possibly my fault. When I cautioned Jennifer to be careful, I simply hoped that she would see that perhaps her soft critique of Joanna and other “liberal” mormons’ spiritual selectivity was misguided and unkind. I don’t know Jennifer, and perhaps she didn’t mean her comment as an insult, but her use of the term “cafeteria mormonism” suggested to me that she didn’t quite understand what Joanna and others are doing when they accept some doctrines and reject others. I’ll say it again, just to be clear: liberal mormons don’t select doctrines to believe and ignore others that they know they should follow but cannot. Rather, they accept some doctrines and reject others as their intellect and spirit guides them. For us, Mormonism is not an all-or-nothing proposition, all true or all false. Rather, it follows the nature of all truth in human history: moments of clarity in the midst of human missteps.

        At no point did I wish to “us[e my] priesthood” to chastise. This is misdirection and not really worthy of additional attention. Let’s have a real dialogue, ok? The strength or weakness of our ideas and perspectives can operate on their own without appeals to external authority, and without supposing that any conversation between men and women need exert some sort of power or domination dynamic. I assure you I would have made the same comment had a man written what Jennifer did.

      • SteveS

        I looked over my comment to Jennifer, looking for evidence of my use of “authority” to bully my point. I used the word “authority” in this sentence: “So yes, it is “the Gospel according to Ms. Brooks”–but it’s not about making up something new (without authority) as it is finding what’s true for her without becoming too concerned about the fact that she’s not eating “the whole enchilada”, to use another food metaphor.” Here, the “without authority” clause was meant to communicate that none of us has institutional authority to declare new doctrine, and I seriously doubt that Joanna is using this blog post to assert an authority to claim new doctrine for the LDS Church, or for Mormonism at large. It was NOT meant as a reminder that Joanna, as a woman, has no “priesthood” authority on doctrinal issues. Indeed, I don’t think that has anything to do with my point. Upon review, my wording wasn’t clear, and for that I apologize. The intent of the sentence was to assert that yes, we create a gospel unto ourselves, but it’s not about claiming authority to speak doctrine for the Church, it’s about choosing what works for us and being our own moral compass.

      • Katy

        I see both Steve and Jennifer’s point in regard to picking and choosing. I’m not really one to talk about who’s right or wrong. I don’t think either are. I’m a former Mormon who now takes great peace in the “not knowing”. I draw comfort from many different religious practices…BUT.

        You knew there was a But, right? haha

        My only issue with picking and choosing in regard to Mormonism is that the church is so bold about saying it’s the ONLY true Church on the earth. To me that just leaves me feeling icky. Always has. How can you reconcile NOT believing in official church principals and still associate yourself with a church that says it’s the one true church?

        I remember hearing some church official at the time say that either Joseph Smith’s story is 100% true or the entire church is false. Not a direct quote, as I’m recalling this from memory, but I remember that struck me to my core. I was like…well that really doesn’t leave much room for picking and choosing!

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Jennifer, I can’t speak for Joanna, but from what I have read and listened to on John Dehlin’s podcast with her, I suspect her faith journey has some similarities to mine.

      I am not a liberal Mormon who is picking and choosing which cake to eat and which to reject. As I was living with cognitive dissonance for the past 14 years, I struggled with varying degrees of my belief in Mormon Doctrine. Intellectually, I was beginning to believe that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be (it isn’t all 100% true like we were told since Primary days). Yet, emotionally I still believed 100%, because the emotional testimony is the most child-like, deep and gutteral human reaction of all. But that dissonance (intellectual disbelief at the same time as emotional belief) was causing so much anger in me. So much. Finally, in another knock-down, drag-out fight with my husband, I realized that I am tired of anger. Why feel so much anger in this life, while holding on to the hope of eternal life in the next? I want peace and joy now. In that moment, the emotional hold of that emotional belief left me. I did not have fear anymore for the “what if” it isn’t all true. I had peace. It’s going to be ok. My relationship with God and Jesus Christ are personal, and the most important, and I understand the spiritual experiences I have had, and will never deny them.

      So. . .crossing that threshold helped me understand that Joseph Smith and his Mormon Doctrine that he received as revelation may not be from God. Therefore. . .polygamy for me is not an eternal principle.

      Yet. . . Mormonism is my tradition. It is my foundation for belief in God and our Savior Jesus Christ. I still want a religious community, and faith, and will continue to do it within Mormonism.

      And that’s ok. There’s not a weekly, practical place for me and people like me, yet, in our doctrine. . . but the majority of Mormons feel like I do and live their lives with varying degrees of belief. Only maybe 15% of Mormons are truly orthodox. (Of the 14 million members worldwide, how many are truly active, temple-recommend holding practicing members? A very very small percentage, indeed).

      So. . .yes! There is a place for Joanna at the Mormon table. Absolutely. We should never question another person’s validity as they describe their faith journey.

      I don’t know, but I suspect for her the emotional release came as she was in that fireside for singles (as a mid-twenty-something-year old) and looked around and realized that if she was going to wait for her LDS husband, she would still be 40 years old like these other single sisters still waiting. I suspect that realization helped her cross the threshold of emotional, childlike fear and realize that she wanted a life of love, joy and peace NOW, and she found and married her Jewish husband. Of course she’s going to have unorthodox views according to her life’s story. (Let’s all read her new book!)

      (Sorry to analyze Joanna’s life, it’s just what I suspect based on what I’ve read and listened to, and I’m just relating my interpretation of hers to my own life story.)

    • emily w.

      Dear Jennifer, I find it interesting that you think it is “the more liberal Mormons” who “create their own quasi-Mormon religion in their heads to make it more palatable.” Perhaps you confused Joanna’s personal beliefs for that of all Mormons. She doesn’t claim to speak for all of us in the quote you cited. This is the way Joanna conceptualizes the eternities, which also happens to be the way I conceptualize it as well. Surprising as it might come from us “liberal Mormons” who worship on the alter our own opinions, this view isn’t necessarily going against scripture (see Jacob 2:24 – 27) or prophets (President Hinckley condemning polygamy on Larry King in 1998 and saying it is not doctrinal). So forgive me for feeling peace in my own conceptions of the after-life. I don’t pretend to know it’s complexities because God’s thoughts are not my own and His/Her ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our human experience only permits us to see a portion of what Heaven is and might be like for we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12). But despite the differing between our human conceptions of eternal things, Sister, I hope that you can envision a table in Heaven where you and me and Joanna might sit down and eat cake together, because I sure can.

  60. Paula

    Thank you for this. As someone who is considered by the LDS church to be eternally married to the man I was married to in the temple but divorced civilly and his new wife (all 3 of us still living), I feel it is important that people discuss this and understand this concept and don’t just assume it won’t matter to them. To the people who got cancellations of their sealings, I am sincerely happy for you, but that was not allowed for me. I am stuck with my ex and his current wife in the eyes of the church that spent so much money touting the one man, one woman view of marriage in my own state 4 years ago. When my LDS friends tell me not to worry about it, it just makes me want to scream. That’s so easy to say when you are not the one that doctrine is condemning to what looks a lot more like hell in its definition of heaven. As for being apostate, If Gordon B. Hinckley can get on national television and print articles and say that he is not sure that what have been taught for over a century as core beliefs are really doctrine or are really taught, things you can look up as being taught by prophets of the church, then how on earth can any Mormon or the church itself all Joanna apostate for picking and choosing from among possible interpretations?

  61. Nina

    My beliefs on this are totally non-orthodox. It seems to me that the odds there are exactly as many women as there are men who are prepared to progress towards spiritual creation is astronomically small. So there must be some kind of plural marriage. Plus I don’t see any good reason that young widows and widowers who lose a spouse and marry again should have to pick one or the other or that one of those spouses should have to face being cast aside. I’ve long thought that polygamy was a historical artifact of a nineteenth century patriarchal culture and that in heaven people will marry as they please, as pairs or in polygamous or polyandrous groups. After all, if marriage is to provide everyone support in their personal growth and provide a team for raising children, this will work quite well. There’s absolutely no scriptural backing for this. Just my own logical deductions.

  62. chris

    This is reasonably written, but with some very very poor misleading sentences. In fact, if I were to take the some rhetorical stance you do on this topic, with regard to your writing style, I would say something like “Brooks writing style is to intentionally mislead her non-Mormon readers.”

    It’s no more inflammatory than telling people the Mormon church still practicing polygamy. You can’t be practicing something if you’re not doing it. To be a in polygamous relationship, you have to, you know, be in one. Not sign a piece of paper that says some day in heaven long after you die, you may or may not be in one.

    This makes no sense at all. I can only assume your vitrol over the disparity in how the sealings are done is why you have intentionally used such misleading language. The only problem is, your active attempts to mislead, in order to put pressure on “someone” to consider changing a practice are cutting you off from the Spirit of the Lord. I’m not saying fully cutting you off, as I’m certain (hoping!) you do many kind and loving things for people, so you have that portion of the spirit that accompanies one of God’s children who seeks to develop Christ-like attributes. That’s a truly important thing, and perhaps even more important. But what you’re lacking, and what I presume you’d like to have as one who values enlightenment and education is the portion of the Spirit that enlightens you mind and expands true doctrine, and reveals some of the mysteries of life and God to you. You can not have the spirit teach you true doctrine line upon line if you mislead others as to what the church is doing (ie. we’re not practicing polygamy).

  63. John

    I read the blog and the responses with much interest as my wife has really struggled with the idea of my having another wife in the CK. After reading an Emma Smith biography she was surprisingly more at peace with it. My take is as follows:
    – I have no problem with JS practicing polygamy as I have no problem with Brigham Young, Abraham, or David doing the same. It could be that polygamy provided a way for the Church to survive in the early days when women far outnumbered men.
    -I don’t know what will happen in the CK. anyone who says they do know are being speculative at best. What I do know (in my case anyway) is that I will have no ” future wives” unless it is something that my wife and I agree about completely due to a greater understanding of the Eternities.
    -I think LDS people don’t like talking about polygamy because there is some embarrassment with the subject ( as with the priesthood issue). I don’t think a lot of people are at peace with these issues or their resolution
    -Lastly, I think that.

    • John

      (oops, bumped by my toddler). I was going to say that there are some things we are just going to have to accept of which we won’t have a complete understanding in this life. Take the testimony you have gained by following His gospel and try to live the best life possible.

  64. Carl Reese

    Many have asked if God would force His children to follow polygamy. I believe He would not.

    However, God would not force His children to not drink whiskey but that commandment does rest in the Doctrine and Covenants. According to the D&C polygamy is a commandment and we have the agency to choose whether to follow it or not. That’s how it written. We have agency to engage in plural marriage or not but only those that choose to follow the commandments will attain the CK.

    That’s what Joseph Smith taught. That’s what Brigham Young taught, that’s what John Taylor taught, and for a while that’s what Wilford Woodruff taught. The first seven presidents of the church were bigamists.

    There was nothing ambiguous about what the founders of the church taught, hey didn’t leave much room for interpretation, and it’s a huge stretch to suggest there are different interpretations.

    If those men were prophets, plural marriage is a divine principle and at one time plural marriage was a requirement to enter the CK. For me the evidence suggests that the founders of the church were not prophets, seers and revelators and by extension neither are the current general authorities.

  65. As an evangelical Christian, with deep roots in Mormonism and a polygamous heritage in which one of my great…..grandfathers fled to Mexico with only one of his wives and left his other wives and children behind in Utah to fend for themselves, I find this topic to be very interesting. Reading all of these comments breaks my heart. It is sad to see women concerned about having to share their husbands. It is sad to see men not wanting it either. It is sad to see divorced women “stuck” in an eternal marriage they don’t want. What is even more heartbreaking to me is seeing people here being put in the position of trying to make sense of what it all means in light of what was taught by the church in the past, what is being taught by the church today, what will be taught in the future, and what all of it really means. Does God want us to know the truth about how things really are? Is God a God of confusion? Why would God create so much confusion about polygamy and eternal marriage? God never commanded polygamy in the Bible. Why whould God command it in the 1800s? God commanded us to care for and help others in the Bible. God did not command men to take widows or others as their wives in order to care for them in the Bible. God did not say we are married for all eternity in the Bible. God did not say we need to be married/sealed in order to be with Him for all eternity in the Bible. God did say in the Bible that the way to be with him for all eternity is to put your faith and trust in Christ. What I see here is a whole lot of confusion. Right now I am praising God that none of this is a problem for me. I don’t have to worry about who my husband or I will be married to when we die because Jesus said in the Bible that there will be no marriage in heaven and the Apostle Paul said in the Bible that marriage ends with the death of a spouse. No confusing doctrines or teachings to sort through. Just simple truth.

  66. WGC

    I’m not going to comment on polygamy directly, but I would like to address two recurring themes in the comments so far: agency and cancellation of sealings.

    AGENCY. No, God will not and cannot force us to act against our desires and wishes. But remember—agency is the right to make moral choices and suffer the consequences of them, good or bad. It is not a libertarian concept of being free to do whatever we want. Every choice comes with constraints. Now, if a person has been faithful and obedient and is exalted, I know one thing for sure. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ pled with the Father that his disciples would be one as He and the Father are one. If He pled for that to happen in this life, imagine the unity of those in Exaltation, fully joint heirs with Christ of all the father has. Imagine the knowledge those beings have, the perspective and wisdom which are not ours as mortals. If we are as unified as that, you will not refuse to do anything asked of you as a requirement by God, because you completely understand why it is necessary, or if you don’t, by that time your faith is so perfected that you will obey perfectly the will of the Father. Your agency will be to obey.

    Don’t worry about polygamy or anything else in the Celestial Kingdom. Whatever happens will be right. We won’t be forced, because we won’t refuse, since that will be the type of being we will have become.

    CANCELLATION OF SEALINGS. There are three covenants we make in the Temple, two are individual, but the marriage covenant is a communal covenant, entered into as a couple. As with all covenants there are specific rights, privileges and blessings associated with that covenant—while the covenant is in force—some of them are bestowed on the couple, some on the individual. The blessings on the couple depend on husband and wife living the marriage covenant righteously together. Individual blessings depend on the individual living righteously. When a marriage ends in divorce the couple blessings are obviously terminated. The sealing is kept intact to allow the individual covenant blessings to continue. Also, when a couple is sealed they are not just sealed to each other, but are “adopted” into the resurrected family of Christ, His family in exaltation, heir to all he has. As I understand it, even if the husband is excommunicated the sealing is not cancelled for the wife, because to cancel the sealing is to cancel the covenant you took and all the blessings that flow from it in your life, and to “unadopt” you from the family of Christ. In essence, to cancel a sealing without another sealing to take its place excommunicates you from those blessings.

    You will not be forced to be married to your divorced spouse. Since you are not living the communal part of the covenant it would be a little hard for it to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to be effective in the Celestial Kingdom.

    • WGC

      Sorry, the last paragraph under AGENCY should have started this way:
      I don’t worry about polygamy or anything else in the Celestial Kingdom.

    • RachelJL

      Thanks so much for posting that! I am also divorced, and still sealed to my ex-husband. I wasn’t sure how to explain my lack of worry over the matter. I think I was blessed to have a Dad who knew how to explain these things to me when I was growing up. Of course, I still have many questions, which I think is normal! But nothing was really avoided in our house. My ex-husband had some serious problems, and was devastated when I left, then started to clean up his act and found his now wife. (As an aside, they’re not sealed yet, but hopefully will be.) God is not going to make me miserable. I just don’t think that sealings are exactly as we think of them in this life.

      My temple president told me that once my sealing is cancelled, and I’m sealed to someone else, my children will still be sealed to me, and separately to their Dad. That may not make sense to those who are always worried about who is sealed to who beyond the basic husband sealed to wife, children sealed to parents. My kids will be sealed to their mom and their dad, and their dad to his wife and me to someone else. I have heard from a few other single parents that recently they also changed it so that if I want to, I can cancel my sealing even without a pending sealing to someone else. I don’t know why they didn’t do it that way in the past, but it didn’t worry me. Less paperwork? Helping us to keep our minds on the importance of the sealing ordinance itself? But definitely not to try and keep us married to someone who was abusive. Someone who is abusive is no longer worthy of the sealing ordinance anyway!

      I do feel bad for those who worry about it. Obviously God loves you, and he wouldn’t want it that way. Things will work out in the end.

      • Amy

        Rachel, Your comments reminded me of something. I married a nonmember, and after we began having children, I started to worry that I had made a grievous error. I was so afraid that I had denied my children their eternal sealing to family. (It has to do with wording in my Patriarchal Blessing.) I once talked to my family doctor who is a member of the Church, a former Bishop and such. I told him of my worries, and here is what he said to me. He told me to stop worrying about what will happen after we die. He said my children qualify for a sealing because I am sealed to my parents. Then he went on to describe what my own father (his friend) would do if Christ tried to deny my son’s claim to sealing. He said, ” Can you imagine your father allowing his grandson to not be bound to him? You are bound to your father. He is a righteous Priesthood Bearer. He has a claim to your son. You cannot worry about this now, because there are no answers for you now. Know that God loves you. He loves your son. And he loves your husband. Have faith that this will work out.”

        As it turns out, less than a year later, my husband came to me telling me that he had begun reading the Book of Mormon, and wanted to join the Church–without my asking him or trying to get him to do so. 6 months ago, we were sealed in the Temple. God knows what he is doing, but Man– not so much. We are doing the best with the knowledge and experience we have to build a path back to Christ and Heavenly Father. WE do the best in our power, and HE will do the rest… That is the grace. We do what we can, and he will work out the details! and not me!!!!

    Caveat: I have not read all comments and this might have already been mentioned.
    Fact: Joseph Smith instituted and was part of polyandry(one woman and multiple men) as well as polygyny (one man on plural wives). The word polygamy refers to both. The way we use the term is wrong and possibly sexist. Even if Brother Brigham could not stomach it, Brother Joseph solemnized and then consummated rwlationships with women already married.
    Wild Conjecture: Is it possible that celestially advanced souls with bodies are polygamous both ways. I find anything beyond monogamy very hard to swallow, but I can think there might be a level of love for all of God’s children that is beyond the human need for conforming order and any jealousy or exclusiveness? All I really believe is that the celestial world will be a brain-bustin’ different place. My mormon belief is that those who are purified and enlightened to that level will experience wilder things than even omni-amourism.


  68. Ella

    My friend, the reason polygamy is not talked about is precisely because it will make some people walk away. How do you expect to get people interested in hearing what you have to say when polygamy is the first thing they think of when you tell them you’re LDS?

  69. Wayne

    Some notes on the scriptural, cultural and doctrinal issues:
    1. Polygamy was clearly part of Jewish culture and practice, and sanctioned by God according to the Old Testament. God instructed various Old Testament men, though not all, to take more than one wife.
    2. Polygamy remained a valid concept and practice in Judaism throughout the ages, and continues even today among some Jewish groups. It is administered by the lead Rabbi among any given group of Jews, but polygamous marriages are recognized by other Jewish groups as orthodox and valid. See http://www.shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/08-06.html for one of many explanations of this topic. (Note, by the way, that no one goes around saying “Golda Meir, a Jew, (a religious tradition that continues to practice polygamy) was Prime Minister of Israel”. Latter-day Saints just get a lot more flack for this topic than do Jews.)
    3. The fact of polygamy in Judaism presented a question to early Latter-day Saints. Jesus did not specifically forbid polygamy, nor did the apostles. He did not indicate that it had ended with his teaching or Atonement. So logically there was a possibility, based on the Biblical record, that God would still allow it, or that he might even request it.
    4. The Book of Mormon fortunately provided a clarification: Polygamy is allowed, under some circumstances. But the Book of Mormon also states, in the same passage (quoted in an earlier comment) that polygamy is not the general rule, and it is usually abused, so the Lord limits it and generally prohibits it.
    5. This was an important concept that allowed Latter-day Saints to link their faith to the Biblical record and allowed the seamless doctrinal integrity that was and is so important to LDS identity. Polygamy had a place, though limited in scope and bounded in time.
    6. Brigham Young and others taught that it was necessary to accept polygamy as a valid component of the Gospel. He did say that if you said polygamy was totally false, then you were out of line doctrinally. But there has never been any teaching stating that polygamy is a requirement for everyone. There is a requirement that we be willing to enter into the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage”, which does allow for polygamy within its scope, but this is not a requirement for polygamy; it is only a requirement for eternal sealings.
    7. Even among Latter-day Saints during polygamy, it was hard for most to accept polygamy. The majority (by any record) did not. It took a certain amount of resolve, and it took a unique personality, and unique perspective. Some people went “all in” and found that polygamy was rewarding, and wonderful families, and towns, resulted. Most never went “all in”. Read the diaries and journals of the day: LDS diarists will mention the polygamous families among them as exceptions to the norm, though often those mentions are also accompanied by respect for the faithfulness and leadership shown by polygamist families. Whether or not polygamy was necessary for strict demographic reasons, it seems clear that polygamist families had a strong impact on the culture, and were often centers of deep faithfulness. Polygamist families were also the source of at least a few prominently educated women who had the time and resources to master fields, like medicine, where their presence was elsewhere rare.
    8. As far as I can tell there is no indication, anywhere, that a woman or man who accepts that polygamy is valid as a general principle must also accept it within her or his marriage, here or hereafter. I believe that if any man pressured his wife to participate, he was in the wrong.

    • terrylinden

      I’m sorry, I just can’t let this go by. I did follow the link, and found this disclaimer at the bottom:
      “The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority–your local rabbi is a good place to start.”
      “Cooperating laypeople” — “consult a competent authority”– Right. Yemenite Jews may be the exception, but even there it’s only allowed if the man ALREADY had more than one wife. There is not a single mainstream denomination or group of Jews that regularly, commonly and customarily practices polygamy.

      • Wayne

        Yes, the Yemenites are now the exception; they continue to practice it in limited ways. Sephardic Jews practiced more extensively up until this century. Ashkenazi Jews abandoned the practice several hundred years ago.

        There are hundreds of sources that can provide more details on the subtleties; a simple search on Jewish Polygamy will bring them up. And yes, I have consulted orthodox rabbis on this topic, so my own knowledge is first-hand and authoritative. You’re of course welcome to do the same (helps to live in Brooklyn…).

        Without a doubt polygamy was a common practice among many Jewish groups more recently than it was common among Latter-day Saint groups, except for those groups that broke away specifically to practice it.

      • terrylinden

        One of the things we are enjoined to do is follow the laws of the country we are living in. In the United States, as in most Western countries, polygamy is no longer legal, nor the custom. And mainstream Judaism (which is centered in Europe) dropped it several centuries ago, as you note. I’m a Queens girl myself, having lived in Rego Park, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. Now I’m in LA.

      • Wayne

        I’m trying to make a point about how early Latter-day Saints approached the question of restoration. Jews at the time of Christ practiced polygamy and continued to practice it long afterward–even up to today in some cases. Neither Christ nor the apostles spoke out against it or said that new Christians had to stop the practice. So it seems clear that early Christian converts from Judaism would have practiced polygamy.

        That means that someone interested in reproducing a church as close as possible to the New Testament church might at some time be compelled to ask “what about polygamy?”

        Other Christian faiths don’t have an answer to that…at least not a simple one. They can point to Paul directing Timothy to not call polygamist men to be Bishops (if that’s the right interpretation of “husband of one wife”), but that’s hardly a prohibition.

        In contrast, Latter-day Saints have a foundational scripture in the Book of Mormon, quoted above, that says that polygamy is nearly always disallowed, but might be allowed under certain circumstances. That’s fundamental and isn’t undone by later revelations. It resolves the restorationist question and places a boundary around polygamy.

        The later revelations in the D&C establish polygamy for a time, and then remove it again, just as the earlier scripture said was possible.

        Recognizing the existence of polygamy in early Christianity helps put the early Latter-day Saints’ questions about polygamy in a clearer light, which then helps frame the relative significance of the Book of Mormon and D&C scriptures on the topic. The foundation is that polygamy is limited, all later details aside.

      • terrylinden

        Once again, Jews are enjoined to follow the laws of any country in which they live. In the Western world, South and Central America and much of Asia, that means no polygamy. Any Jew who lives in a country that permits polygamy could, I guess, be a polygamist. But I’ll bet you an entire box of matzot that if you stop any Jew in the Americas, Australia, Europe and chunks of Asia and the MIddle East (certainly in Israel) and ask if they are part of a polygamist community, or are polygamists themselves (I’m mixing my pronouns here), the answer would be a firm No.

  70. Great article Joanna. I personally found the mental gymnastics of Mormon polygamy to be too much and threw in the towel but I find these discussions to be so very interesting still. I also agree with you that Mormon polygamy NEEDS to be talked about. I think about how I used to shut myself off to the topic in order to remain Mormon and I know that there must be many Mormon women (and men?) doing the same today.

    When I was a newly-wed and the topic of polygamy came up I felt incredibly sick and jealous and scared and confused and hurt… and if I tried to talk about it with anyone I would be promptly shut down. I was told that we don’t know enough about it now and so we should just be at peace and all would be revealed in time. In other words shelve your feelings of pain/anguish, pretend they aren’t there, move on and “be happy” with your marriage even though it could quite possibly be drastically changed if the prophet/god gave the word. Aaaaaaaah. How scary and damaging for a young, newly married woman.

    So I shelved it for about 10 years. Had two kids and focused most of my energy on them instead. I mean being a mum and fulfilling church callings can keep you pretty busy, and financial struggles are also handy for keeping you distracted from ‘out there’ topics like polygamy.

    As my children grew and started becoming more self-reliant, I went back to school, entered the work-force, started reading again. Ventured out into the world. I started thinking about things other than feeding, cleaning and clothing people. I started thinking about myself and what I wanted.

    Polygamy reared it’s ugly head again and I started investigating. I went into it with the attitude that I was going to find the information that would give me peace about it. I think I expected to either discover that it was irrelevant and would never come back or that it was going to be totally optional. As most of you know, that is not what you discover when reading LDS material.

    The clincher for me was reading D&C 132:54
    54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

    I had read this scripture before but the words had never sunk in. I felt my heart break. It was very intense and painful. My realisation in that moment was that the god whom I had grown up believing in and loving like a father was actually more interested in the welfare/progress of men than of women. He did not actually care that much about me. I was a piece of property to be ‘bought/sold/traded’. I was devastated. In that moment I told my husband that I was done. I did not care about life anymore. What was the point. I had no value. I refused to go to church. I was going to just stay home and live out the rest of my life as best I could under the knowledge that I was ultimately of little significance to god. I figured I could enjoy my husband and children while I was alive and that I may as well give up trying so hard to be a good Mormon since god was going to destroy me anyway in the end. I figured I only had my 70 or so earthly years left, then I would meet god and be destroyed.

    Dark stuff hey!?

    Luckily I picked myself up and started reading more. I am so proud of that I released myself from a world view that was so self-destructive. As an ex-mo I am free to make up my own mind on every issue that I face. I don’t have to tuck away any of my fears and doubts trying to square a circle. Phew!

    However, I do have friends who can handle the mental gymnastics and choose to keep the good they find in Mormonism and are trying to find answers the the questions you have posed Joanna. I admire their persistence in trying to reason and plead with god. It is for them that these discussions must continue. At least if dialogue is welcomed and opinions and feelings are acknowledged and validated then the many women (and men) currently struggling silently over this issue can have some relief.


  71. I think the church avoids this discussion like the plague because it is so incredibly difficult to digest from a mortal/carnal/human perspective. As clearly stated both in the original post, as well as in the bulk of the comments, women and men alike are terrified of it.

    There is much talk of cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics, but I’m thinking that such things are likely the result of attempting to reason around doctrinal principles that one simply doesn’t want to face. The gospel as Joseph Smith explained it {crazy as it clearly sounds to many here} makes perfect sense to me.

    God doesn’t treat us like lab rats that he “shocks” and “prods” and “tests” for kicks and giggles. He didn’t command JS to reinstate polygamy so that he could see if his sweet daughters would be jealous or miserable, and then have a good laugh at them for being petty and short-sighted. Polygamy wasn’t some sick “test” that God inflicted on his people for His personal amusement, or any other twisted idea you may have in mind.

    God has said that His truth is one eternal round, and it makes sense to me that this includes polygamy. Abraham practiced polygamy. Many of God’s prophets throughout time practiced polygamy. All of those versus {above…quite a ways} are scripture, YES. And they denounce polygamy, YES, but they are taken out of context. God does not allow “just anyone” to practice polygamy. It has been enacted…and taken away multiple times. It is quite safe to say that in the scriptures shared, God was reprimanding those who were taking wives and concubines unlawfully, or with His divine consent.

    Because polygamy is an eternal principal, the restoration would not have been a “full restoration” had God NOT commanded JS to 1. Practice polygamy, and 2. call upon the saints to live the United Order. While early {and very human/mortal} Latter Day Saints proved to be unequal to the task of living such laws and standards to the necessary degree of righteousness in the flesh, the reinstatement of both of these principles were integral aspects of a “fully restored” Church of Christ.

    Thus far, I don’t feel that I have had to perform any mental gymnastics to come to these conclusions.

    Going a step further now.

    If, as they say, polygamy is practiced exclusively in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, in what way does this pose a threat to my happiness?

    1. What sort/type of people will be in the highest degree of heaven?
    My answer: Awesome ones.
    2. Will men be carnal, egotistical sex-addicts?
    My answer: I’m thinking…no. Those sorts will be in a different place altogether.
    3. Will jealous, insecure women be there, hoping that other “perfected” spirits will somehow magically get fat and ugly in a hurry so that their carnal, lustful {and let’s not forget, somehow magically exalted in spite of these defects} husbands are less likely to desire them?
    My answer: Again, I’m thinking no.
    4. So, who WILL be there…you know, in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom?
    My answer: Men who are kind, and good and have over-come the trials of the flesh and proven themselves worthy to be protectors and helpmeets to God’s choicest daughters. Women who are bright and beautiful, and secure in their birthright as daughters of a living God.
    5. But won’t it make you miserable if you have to SHARE you’re husband?
    My answer: I’m just guessing here, but I’m thinking the answer is no. I love women. I have amazing best friends, and when I imagine being able to spend eternity with a “house” full of women who are like some of my best friends, it just feels like it would be pretty fab. We’ve already established that there wouldn’t be back-biting and jealousy. Plus, we’ll all be gorge. So what’s the beef?

    Also, if I believe that my husband will be a God someday {given that we don’t blow it here} then I think he will be equal to the task of loving more than one woman righteously.

    I mean, we’re not all down here having a fight over who God loves more, are we? We believe in His ability to love and know all of us at once. I have felt of His love, and can safely say that it is NOT lacking. I also don’t feel angry or sad that He loves my husband, my children, my friends, and everyone else I care about equally. I want Him to love them. I want them to feel of his love. I want them to experience the joy of being loved. I don’t feel that God’s love for me is diminished in any way by His love for others. I believe that the same would go for my husband if he were to take on extra wives.

    “Not sharing” is a human thing. Not a God thing. Jealousy, and insecurity are human things. Not heavenly things.

    Also, I think that the claim that this practice somehow “diminishes women” is again, the product of mortal thinking. In our culture, we are obsessed with feminism, and YES, feminist issues are a very real issue on earth, but call me crazy, and I know I’m getting redundant, but I’m seriously doubting that there will be feminist issues among the exalted folk.

    I think the church doesn’t want to address it, because there will honestly be so little to address in the end. All of the “issues” with a man having multiple wives are either carnal or cultural. We have been raised our entire lives to stay clean and pure and prepare ourselves to enter into a covenant with one {AND ONLY ONE!!!!!} person for as long as we live. It is engrained in every fiber of our beings. It would be my suggestion that THAT is why we sometimes feel sick or scared upon attempting to process this sort of information. It is foreign and completely opposite to everything we have been raised to believe within the context of our culture. If you were to tell someone who has practiced polygamy their entire life that their marriage relationship would change drastically in the afterlife, they would feel sick about it too because we fear change and the unknown.

    However, once the physical body is perfected through resurrection, and we come to a full knowledge or remembrance of our lives before, if we have a willing heart, we will easily transition into whatever is ahead.

    So, regardless, I’m just not scared.

    God loves us. We can trust in that. He won’t promise heaven and present us with a personal form of hell in the end.

    I echo the comments reinforcing agency.
    We will always have it, and we will choose for ourselves.
    However, I think that our mortal minds tend make an enormous mountain out of something that our spiritual minds will assimilate with little to no trouble.

    • WGC

      Well put. You said what I was trying to say above (regarding the type of person in Exaltation) far more elegantly and beautifully than I was able.

      Thank you for your words.

    • DMA

      Fantastic post/perspective, Lola!

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Great testimony you shared, Lola!

      I, too, used to have the same testimony. You’re right. . . having such a testimony doesn’t require any mental gymnastics or cognitive dissonance.

      Unfortunately, when I started to read and learn the truth about exactly how Joseph and the early male Saints practiced polygamy, my intellectual disbelief started. So, then, I was living with intellectual disbelief at the same time as spiritual belief. THAT’S where you get cognitive dissonance. THAT’S where you have to perform mental gymnastics, to square up the actual truth of history, and how that seems to be at odds with your personal, spiritual testimony.

      Like Brooks’ suggested in her response to AD & AL, Todd Compton provides an extremely well-researched historical account of the sacred loneliness experienced by Joseph’s and Brigham’s wives: http://mormonstories.org/?p=65. You can also get alot of detail from the series on fMh about the Forgotten Women of Joseph Smith http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?s=Remembering+the+Forgotten+Women+of+Joseph+Smith&submit=Search+fMh.

      • Diana,

        I have read “In Sacred Loneliness” and am about to delve into “Rough Stone Rolling.” I have a friend who was VERY thoroughly “anti-ed” by an ex-mormon, and she and I have had quite a few discussions regarding the information that is out there.

        Let me say this:

        I am going to automatically grant to you that every. single. awful. nightmare-ish tidbit from early Mormon history is true. Granted.

        Let’s assume it as fact.
        Let’s start there.

        So, Joseph Smith was a sex-crazed womanizer, polygamy was a vehicle for the abuse of hundreds of women and it hurt EVERYONE.

        Every seedy, icky thing recorded /reported: True.

        We are taking it as fact.

        Kay, on the same page?

        Polygamy being practiced by the natural man?
        Just awful.
        Bad news all the way around.
        I’m not denying this.
        I’m not sugar-coating it or trying to say that it didn’t happen EXACTLY the way that even the most jaded anti-mormon has claimed it to be.

        There were excerpts from “In Sacred Loneliness” that made me physically ill. And when I try to imagine walking in the shoes of those women, I can honestly say that I likely would have walked away rather than face what they did. Polygamy in the flesh? Uck. So glad it wasn’t in my era.

        BUT, {and it’s a BIG one} those are my guttural reactions to wrongs that were committed by natural, flawed men. They are also feelings I feel when my cultural values and norms {i.e. of absolute monogamy} are being fiercely challenged.

        Since Jesus Christ is the one and only person who came to earth who has been presented to us as “perfect,” I guess I just don’t see the logic of:

        “Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect, so the LDS church cannot be true.”

        And no, I’m not saying that Joseph was “almost perfect” and that’s just good enough for me. He wasn’t close. I can acknowledge that.

        Here’s where we probably part ways, because,
        I don’t even support the logic of:

        “Joseph Smith was a womanizing pedophile who married fourteen-year-olds and women who already had husbands….AND he drop-kicked puppies into cold rivers just for FUN! …and therefore the Mormon church isn’t true.”

        Because even that doesn’t change anything.

        My testimony is not based on the inherent perfection of Joseph Smith.

        It isn’t even based on the assumption that he was a sort-of okay/moderately decent guy.

        My testimony is based on the FACT that I prayed to God when I was 8 years old to know if I should be baptized into the Mormon church, and I received a resounding yes. Like, an undeniable yes.

        And also upon the FACT that this is the only gospel that makes sense beginning to end {including and especially the doctrines of polygamy}. And the FACT that at every turn, when I have gone to my Father seeking answers, I have ALWAYS found them and had absolute peace. Always.

        There is not a chance on the planet of earth that I am going to let the seedy/messed up crap that surrounded MORTAL {so much emphasis on this word that there isn’t a font big enough to adequately capture it} polygamy turn me away from something that I literally know to be true and good at its source.

        I still don’t feel like those are mental gymnastics.
        It’s very simple.

        Men are imperfect and do really messed up, bad stuff, even when they should know and do better.

        God loves me, and His plan is perfect.It certainly doesn’t look all that great when practiced by imperfect people, but I know that it will play out perfectly in the life to come, and I also know that He, as my father has my best interest at heart.

        Now, if Christ turned out to be completely imperfect, I suppose I would have to reconsider my Christianity, because I’ve kinda bought the whole “perfect, literal Son of God” thing hook, line and sinker as part of the Christianity package.

        But Joseph Smith? There isn’t any place I can find that claims that he is or was perfect by any stretch of the imagination. And frankly, I don’t base my belief in Christ’s restored church, on the merits of one of his MORTAL, human prophets.

        I base them on Christ.

        And yes, If God said that we would have to live out MORTAL polygamy in the Celestial kingdom, that would be a deal breaker. Polygamy in a Telestial realm is decidedly awful. However, I can’t see how this would be the case since we won’t be mortal in heaven.

        Diana, I think we have mentally/emotionally gone to a lot of the same places. When you view the world, and especially your relationship to God, through the mortal {and tortured} eyes of His daughters who suffered through the reinstatement of mortal polygamy, you see it as a very different place. You come to the firm conclusion that there is no way that THAT God could care about you, or ANY woman that has ever lived, for that matter. You feel scared, and you feel like the thing that brought you the most peace, is now bringing you the most heartache. You feel deceived, and lied to, and you wonder why such information has been “kept” and “hidden” from you.

        Sounds like we’ve both run that gamut, but here’s the problem with being in “that” place. When you are feeling fear, you are NOT in God’s power, and you mistake those feelings of uneasiness for truth. And you really think you’re onto something, and you trust that dark, freaked-out feeling as evidence that something REALLY IS amiss, and you read everything you can find to feed it, and pretty soon, you feel alienated from the ONE source that can set everything straight. And you don’t look back.

        The only difference is, I DID look back.
        I looked back to my initial testimony for the strength to trust God in His all-knowing power and His infinite love for me personally.

        I couldn’t get answers OR comfort until I came to God’s table TRULY willing to listen to whatever it was that He had to tell me. When I went to the proverbial table unwilling to listen, God didn’t bother speaking. But when I came with an open heart, truly seeking to know His mind and will, the flood-gates opened, and I simply don’t have to wonder anymore.

        I know that you probably look at me with pity. You think I’m naive and sheepish or lemmingish or what not, and you find yourself hoping that someday my eyes will be opened and I’ll see that shady Mormon past and all of it’s skeletons and run away and finally be happy and free the way that you claim to be free, but I am looking at you the same way….and hoping that you can find your peace again.

        Sincerely, I am.

        The way I look at it, leaving the church and saying that I don’t believe in polygamy won’t make it go away. It either exists, or it doesn’t. But it’s not like thousands of people falling away as a result of its doctrinal status within the church will make God say “Oh yeah, that wasn’t very popular with the ladies, so we’re gonna go ahead and drop it.”OR “Man, humans failed miserably when we put that puppy into practice on Earth, so I guess it can’t possibly work on an exalted level.”

        It’s either an eternal, celestial way of being or it isn’t. And I get the rather calm, happy, comfortable feeling that it very much IS. And since God loves me {and you, very much} it’s going to be okay. {Better than okay, but I’m trying not to be too drama-queen-ish over here.}

        Best wishes, Diana.

      • DianaofThemyscira

        Hey Lola,

        Thank you so much for sharing your testimony and experience. It was very nice to read.

        You certainly have read and thought alot about this, too!

        I know you don’t know everything about me, as I don’t know everything about you, and many of the things you were assuming about me in particular aren’t true. I’m sure you are assuming those things based on the conversations you’ve had with many friends.

        I don’t pity you. I trust you. I am sure you have a good relationship with God and Jesus Christ, and I can absolutely believe that you live your life according to your conscience and testimony.

        I do too.

        I have a wonderful relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. I absolutely value my Mormon heritage (I come from Danish immigrants who survived the Willie/Martin Handcart company, and went on to practice polygamy!). But I also value my non-Mormon heritage, family that immigrated from Germany and never joined the Church in this life.

        My answer to the Book of Mormon came as powerful as yours did, a little later, though. . .when I was 19. (Awesome that you got such a strong answer at 8 years old, wow!) I had an amazing, spiritual, burning-in-my-bosom experience when reading the Book of Mormon as a college junior. Amazing. One I will never deny. One I will always hold dear.

        My mission to Germany was amazing. I had powerful, spiritual experiences that I will always hold dear. There were from God, directly to me, and I am so grateful to have had them.

        I loved my sealing to my husband in the Temple. I loved my sealing to my adopted son in the Temple. I love the peace and joy and power I feel in the Temple.

        I still practice my Mormonism. I still go to Church (almost) every Sunday. I value my church. I value my religion. I value my heritage. I can’t imagine that I would ever want to “remove my name” from the records of the church. That’s just not me. I’m not ex-Mormon. I’m not anti-Mormon.

        I believe every one of us has the right to believe a range of what we’ve been taught. If what you have been taught, and have a testimony of, helps you grow closer to God and Christ, then that is great. Also, according to what I’ve been taught, and now believe, help me to grow closer to God and Christ, well I believe that’s great too.

        My testimony is personal. There are some things I absolutely believe and others I just can’t believe. Therefore, like Brooks, I am an unorthodox Mormon believer. And I think that’s ok. I’m just living life according to my personal conscience and testimony.

        You’re right. . .it is heretical for Mormons to believe Joseph is perfect. Christians the world over CAN ONLY BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the only one who is perfect, otherwise, we wouldn’t be Christians.

        Mormon Doctrine is what it is. Joseph’s history is what it is. But we can all make our own decisions how we want to live now, according to our belief or testimonies, or lack thereof, and I believe that God loves us all no matter what.

        God will work it all out in the end. Of that I am 100% certain.

        God bless you, Lola.

      • Thanks Diana!

        I think you are DEAD ON about all of that. Couldn’t have said it better. I think sometimes I am a little defensive of the “sheep mentality” that some people {and I’m not saying that you are one of them :)} attach to Mormons, and especially to Mormon women who don’t renounce the doctrines of polygamy.

        It’s sort of like “You must be brainwashed or clueless to buy into or be submissive to such anti-feminist doctrine!” And then I get a little defensive…you know, wanting to express clearly that there is more to my discipleship as a follower of Christ than simply blind obedience.

        Nothing I shared was intended to say that others can’t feel and believe however they choose, only to express my own perspective on the issue, and to share how I came to those conclusions. In fact, I think it is crucial that everyone do exactly as you have suggested and live/believe what feels right for them personally.

        We can tend to get a little short-sighted and judge-y in Christian cultures -a pitfall to which I am clearly not immune! 🙂 – but it would do us all a great amount of good to just be loving and allow others to “come as they are.”

  72. Polygamy isn’t just a small part of the history of Mormonism, an odd but minor quirk in the past. When you really look at it, as people are starting to do here, the whole truth seems rather shocking, if seen from the point of view of modern sensibilities. Polygamy appears to be the very core of Mormonism, the actual reason for the foundation of the religion, and the essential key to the initial success that made possible everything that followed.

    Polygamy is very attractive for self-serving men because it creates a social context in which the average man can greatly surpass his expected rate of success in attracting women. Joseph Smith did very well for himself as a Lothario, and presented an admirable model to men who were not endowed with exceptional physical blessings or charm. Under his system, they too could have multiple sex partners, including teenage girls, without the risk and transitory nature of rape by physical empowerment. From the beginning of Mormonism, men ruled and they could simply trade their daughters to other polygamists, so each could form his own permanent personal harem. This opportunity was the proximate cause of Mormon success; it was the magnet, the reason that Mormonism quickly attracted the critical mass of men to become an organization, a congregation, a religion.

    If you choose to take a feminist perspective about early Mormonism, what worked for the men did not seem to work for the women. Under intense indoctrination and with limited opportunities, free will and common-sense choice making weren’t always possible. Many women were treated as if they were slaves in a sex club, traded off to men they would never choose on their own. Plural wives didn’t have a fulfilling, one-on-one marriage with someone their own age. They didn’t model equality for their daughters, or set expectations for their sons about treating women as equals.

    However, where is it written that God was a feminist? Perhaps early Mormon history was the will of a God who does not share our modern values. Certainly the Bible as the inerrant word of God indicates that He is not always a champion of equality, unalterably opposed to slavery or polygamy. Perhaps God is a pragmatic shaper of the path of his preferred religion; polygamy did jump-start Mormonism. Maybe women’s challenges on earth make sense in a larger context of a much more important celestial kingdom to come. Who are we to judge? Who are we to question the word of men who tell us God anointed them as Prophets?

    If you allow any crack in the wall of Mormonism, where does it stop? If fallible Prophets got some things wrong about polygamy in the past, then apparently fallible Prophets are now continuing to refuse to acknowledge that the practice was just a human mistake and not obedience to God’s will. Don’t you then have to reconsider that maybe “Indians as the lost tribe of Israel” is the mistake that DNA seems to prove? Maybe banning anyone of African ancestry from the temple and priesthood was always a racist mistake that should finally be apologized for now. Maybe treating gay people as outcasts is not what Jesus would do and fighting against gay marriage serves no useful purpose.

    Once started, what keeps the crack from going further? Maybe the fallible Prophets have been getting God wrong altogether and he really is a unified trinity, or maybe the true form of God is Ganesh, a four-armed man with an elephant head. Maybe there aren’t any gods, and all religions are just a by-product of evolution and a developing consciousness that succeeds by working on various explanations for everything it does not yet understand. Maybe we are on our own, alone in an indifferent universe that has no purpose. Might it be better to just stuff polygamy back in Pandora’s box and not think about or discuss any of this?

  73. Kenny

    First of all, I’ve never heard of or read anything by Joanna Brooks before, but – after having read this post, browsing through a few others, and reading her bio – she seems like very intelligent, thoughtful, and reasonable person. And I respect her bringing up this issue. A couple of the things that stood out to me are:

    1) I don’t really feel like the first e-mailer’s question (by AD) was really addressed – or, at least, not fully addressed. It seems like the heart of what she was asking comes when she says, “My thoughts have been, ‘Why have I been trying to live such a good life to gain exaltation if it would be my absolute personal hell over there? I would rather be single in the Terrestrial kingdom than practice polygamy in the Celestial kingdom.'”

    I feel like that – her concern over living in a personal hell in the Celestial Kingdom – should have been addressed from a doctrinal perspective and I would have preferred it be addressed immediately.

    I feel that the answer is exaltation will not be a personal hell. For anyone. In the parable of the talents, the master (Christ) says to the faithful servant (those who will be exalted), “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt 25:21, emphasis added). Lehi teaches us that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). And even more to the point, Jacob teaches this beautiful doctrine very clearly when he states, “But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.” (2 Nephi 9:18, emphasis added)

    To me it is clear that all those who have faith in Christ and strive to live His gospel will have joy in the eternities. I hope that through all of this, AD – whoever she is – can come to the peace of knowing that, one way or another – whatever else may come – the exalted will have absolute joy in the hereafter.

    As far as the post goes, I feel like it was written from a secular/historical perspective (a perspective that certainly needs attention), but that polygamy wasn’t really addressed in the context of the gospel, or plan of happiness – which truly does promise happiness.

    2) In some ways I get what Brooks (No disrespect intended, but I don’t really know how to refer to the author – Sis. Brooks? Joanna? – so I am going with how I would respond to any paper; last name) is saying when she contends “we need to talk more about polygamy”; I agree, I don’t feel like we should pretend it didn’t happen or be hush-hush about it. It is a part of our history. It is in the Doctrine & Covenants and in the Book of Mormon and we shouldn’t run away from that.

    I feel blessed to have grown up in a family where we could talk about questions and concerns openly and honestly. I am sure there are many people who would rather the words “polygamy” and “mormons” never be uttered in the same sentence (except to say “mormons don’t practice polygamy”) and that is probably not a healthy way to look at it. I think, in that sense, we very much do need to talk about polygamy.

    But, in other ways, I really don’t know what there is to say about it. “Talking” about polygamy too often turns into speculating about polygamy – which I very much do not think we need more of. Take for instance the email that started this post. AD says, “During the last five minutes of class, the Relief Society President raised her hand to address the topic of exaltation and said, ‘Well, those of us who have righteous husbands need to be prepared in the Celestial Kingdom for him to take on other wives.'” What the RS president reportedly said, to me, reeks of speculation.

    That is what makes the topic of polygamy so tough – there are basically 2 chapters in the whole standard works that deal with the doctrine of plural marriage (Jacob 2 and Doctrine & Covenants 132); other than that, there are examples of people living it in the Old testament and in the early days of this dispensation, but not explanations of the doctrine. To chapters is just not a lot and, because of that, I don’t feel like there is a lot to say – doctrinally – about the subject; there is obviously a lot we don’t know and understand. We clearly don’t have enough revealed on the subject. And not much good comes from speculation.

    When I say “speculating”, I am talking the explanations that people come up with to justify polygamy – like the example used in the post (that perhaps there will be more women than men in the Celestial Kingdom or the need for multiple wives to produce enough spirit children (seems ridiculous to me)) – and many others that are floating out there.

    I feel like this is a prime example of the what Lord meant when He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:9). God gave a commandment and the people lived by it. Then He took the commandment away and we no longer live by it. Doctrine and Covenant 56:4, “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good”.

    From a historical standpoint, I do agree we need to not run from it, or hide from it, or even apologize for it. All Christianity must accept it as part of their heritage and history (see Abraham, Isaac, and Christ’s linage). The early saints of this dispensation were following commandments – no need to apologize for that. But from a doctrinal standpoint, I think we need to be sure that when we talk about it, it is based on doctrine – not speculation – because it is such a tough subject.

    Finally, do I understand it? No, polygamy is not something I understand. I hope it has not come across as though I think I do – or that I think people struggle with the subject are bad or weak. It is a tough and confusing subject. (BTW, There are a lot of things I don’t understand – I don’t understand the Lord commanding Nephi to kill Laban or Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac either.) I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for anyone who feels the kind of confusion and frustration that AD expressed; I hope that they can find peace even without having all the answers. I find comfort in knowing that God is a god of love and, while I don’t understand all things, I know that the gospel is true and that if I have faith in Christ and follow Him, that will be good enough.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Hi Kenny,
      What a thoughtful, spirit- and faith- filled response you gave! It would certainly be nice to hear more from AD and AL to know what they think of these responses to their questions.

      I remember first hearing Joanna Brooks on a Radio West show with Doug Fabrizio (something about Glenn Beck and his Mormonism), and I was delighted to learn she called herself (and alluded to the fact that there was a healthy dose of) Mormons who were not considered “orthodox.” Here is a great John Dehlin podcast (http://mormonstories.org/?p=738), which is a great starting off point to learn more about Brooks and her life story.

      I think it would do us well to remember that the tagline to Brooks’ Ask Mormon Girl blog is: “Unorthodox answers from an imperfect source.” Maybe that’s why you felt it was written from a “secular/historical perspective?”

      It is my opinion that we have enough of the Church’s official, correlated answers, and that Brooks’ is trying to address all the rest of the issues that simmer underneath our Mormon lives. . . issues that the church won’t, hasn’t, and doesn’t seem to want to officially address.

      I want to talk about polygamy because Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl (Helen Mar Kimball). I want to talk about polygamy because he married women already currently happily married (polyandry) and sent some of their husbands away on missions. I want to talk about polygamy because he married Emma’s best friend (Eliza R. Snow) behind her back, hid the truth from her, and then blamed her for not following God when she spoke up for herself. I want to talk about polygamy because he married 33 women from 1835-1844, yet publicly he denied that he was involved with polygamy that entire time. (If you don’t have time to read Todd Compton’s thoroughly-researched book, this podcast is a great place to start: http://mormonstories.org/?p=65).

      I want to talk about polygamy because when Joseph Smith received D&C 132, he meant for the “new and everlasting covenant” to mean plural, polygamous marriages (Journal of Discourses to understand the nuances behind this revelation). He says it was revealed to him that the “new and everlasting covenant” of practicing plural marriage was the only way a man and woman could be exalted to become Gods and Goddesses in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom (Brigham Young also supported and preached to this definition.)

      Since our church now practices the “new and everlasting covenant” as one marriage between one live man and one live woman, and as such that man and woman can become a God and Goddess in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, it would seem that there is a disconnect in our very Mormon Doctrine. Sorry, but it’s my opinion that we can’t have it both ways.

      Yet not one prophet since Joseph Smith has redefined which way God really means the “new and everlasting covenant” to mean. That’s why we need to talk about it. . . .we practice one way (monogamously) in our Temples, yet preach another way (polygamy) in our Mormon Doctrine.

      I believe that no matter which way a person intellectually understand this issue, and how each person spiritually or emotionally deals with it, all of us who lay claim to being Mormon can, and should, belong under the Mormon Umbrella. The Mormon Umbrella absolutely should be large enough for unorthodox thinkers as well as orthodox thinkers to appreciate each other’s contributions to the Mormon Story.

      • I don’t think that the church has ever {ever.} come out and renounced polygamy as an eternal principal, and I would welcome anyone to share a reference where this has been done.

        They have only said that the commandment to practice it in the mortal realm was no longer in force.

        As Joanna mentions, men can be sealed to more than one woman to this very day. This means that polygamy is obviously recognized as an eternal principle. This is illustrated in very deed. We wouldn’t allow the sealings to take place if they were contradictory to an eternal principal. The prophets don’t regularly remind us that murder is a sin. God said it once {or okay, like, a lot in biblical olden times} and He probably assumed that we would know He still meant it regardless of how many years passed…

        Polygamy was introduced as an eternal principle within the realms of Mormon doctrine. It was then officially revoked from EARTHLY practice. It has never {to my knowledge} been revoked or condemned as a spiritual practice. {As evidenced near-daily when widowed men are sealed to second wives while the sealing to their deceased first wives remains in force.}

        Therefore, a simplified, “take away” deduction might be:

        “If God has not officially revoked the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ it is probably safe to say that this commandment is still in force…even a thousand, {or bajillion} years later”

        A LESS valid deduction would go something like::

        “Since God’s latter-day prophet did not reinforce/emphasize/talk about the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,” at the most recent General Conference, It is safe to say that perhaps that particular doctrine is no longer in force.”

        But that’s not REALLY what we’re getting at here.
        These are just semantics.
        So let’s address the REAL elephant in the room.

        Church leaders don’t talk about it because it scares people. They also probably don’t talk it to death because it isn’t pertinent to our salvation. It just isn’t. Not in this life anyway.

        They also don’t talk about it because they know very well that there are a lot of women whose testimonies can’t withstand the blows of it, and that these women will suffer a lot of pain and confusion, and possibly even leave the church over something that is SUPER tough to comprehend here {on earth} yet is probably infinitely more comrehend-able {yes, I made up a word, you’re welcome} in heaven.

        Seriously, what could be worse than worrying incessantly about something that you cannot possibly understand in this life?

        Had I had the doctrines of polygamy thrust upon me in a different time in my life, when I wasn’t as prepared to assimilate the information, it could have been far more damaging than it was. I think that this is one of those doctrines where people can search out and find any information that they need. It’s there, and readily available. The only difference is, they will be doing so on their terms. When they are ready. Perhaps at a time when they can engage the spirit as a guide and a teacher, rather than an ex-mormon who has ulterior/self-serving motives in sharing said information.

        Also, to your point, I definitely think there will come a time in the not too distant future where this topic will be addressed in greater detail. I look forward to that day. For now, I think church leaders are being sensitive and compassionate in their decision NOT to force this particular doctrine into the spotlight. Rightly so. This post and all of its subsequent comments are proof enough that this is a painful and difficult topic for most women.

      • DianaofThemyscira

        Lola. . .I believe that you are exactly right.

        As far as I understand, the official stance and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that polygamy is an eternal doctrine.

        I believe that you are right that the Church has never come out and renounced polygamy as an eternal principle.

        As far as I understand, the principal of polygamy as eternal marriage was revealed to Joseph Smith as “the new and everlasting covenant,” and he taught us that one must abide its principle to achieve the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.

        As of the OD1 in 1890, it was revealed that current, practicing, active Mormons do not need to practice this principle to be considered active, practicing Mormons. The Church now seals one live man and one live woman in Temples today in “the new and everlasting covenant” and seals the blessings upon them to become Gods and Goddesses in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.

        So, I would conclude that active, practicing, current Members of the church who want to receive those blessings must believe in these orthodox principles of the Church, which includes eternal polygamy.

        But. . .what happens when you’re not an orthodox believer? What happens when your life does not go according to the Mormon Plan of Happiness?

        Oh, dear.

        I think it would all do us good to remember that Ask Mormon Girl’s blog tagline is: “Unorthodox answers from an imperfect source.” Brooks is not trying to give the company-line answer here. She does not speak as a spokesperson for the Church. Her tagline is not: “Orthodox answers from a perfect source.” For that, we can all go to lds.org and listen to General Conference, right?

        Rather, according to Brooks own honest and open life story, she is giving us her unorthodox belief in Mormon doctrine via her own spiritual connection to Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and Jesus Christ.

        I used to believe orthodox Mormon Doctrine 100%. But then my life story started to take some different twists and turns.

        And then I learned about the WAY Joseph Smith introduced what he believed to be this eternal doctrinal revelation. Marrying a 14 year old girl (Helen Mar Kimball), and other girls under age 18. Marrying Eliza R. Snow, Emma’s BEST FRIEND, behind her back. Blaming Emma for not having a testimony of polygamy. Blaming Emma for standing up for herself. Marrying already married women (polyandry) and then sending some of their husbands away on missions. Propositioning Sidney Rigdon’s daughter (Sidney at the time was the First Counselor in the First Presidency) BEHIND HIS BACK. Nancy Ridgon (Sidney’s daughter) rejected Joseph’s proposal and that started the black-listing of Sidney’s family. (Sidney was kept out of the Polygamy Secrecy Club anyway from the beginning).

        Joseph proposed to William Law’s WIFE (William was the 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency). Law then left his position as 2nd Counselor and left the church. He wrote the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper to expose what had happened to him and his wife. Joseph destroyed the Nauvoo Expositor building by having it set on fire, and that is what led to his martyrdom. (Todd Compton thoroughly researched the history. http://mormonstories.org/?p=65).


        Now, when I was an orthodox believer, these details did not bother me. I put them on a shelf. I trusted God would work it out. I was an apologist, and defended Joseph’s behavior, and always believed that the Church was still 100% true.

        There are many good, intelligent, spiritual people who do that same thing, and that is fine. It is OK to do that and still believe in the truth of the Church.

        But sometimes it’s not OK for people to continue to live with this intellectual disbelief while holding on to spiritual belief.

        For me, the emotional cost became too great to maintain that intellectual disbelief while maintaining my spiritual belief. I did not have peace. I did not have joy. I was angry. I was unsettled.

        Finally, in a moment of epiphany, I had the Holy Ghost whisper to me that I didn’t have to believe it all, and at that moment, a wave of PEACE and JOY washed over me. I still have that peace and joy to this day.

        I still go to Church, and my family practices Mormonism. I’m not yet “out of the closet” to my extended family yet. I have friends and family who have resigned completely; each person makes different choices according to their level of comfort and belief.

        The peace I have in believing that polygamy is not an eternal doctrine is immeasurable. The peace I have in believing that the LDS Church is not the only true church is immeasurable.

        I am an unorthodox Mormon believer and I still have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I have more peace now than ever before.

      • SteveS

        Thanks for this, DianaofThemyscira. I had a very similar experience in coming to the same conclusion. I try to draw upon it whenever I’m discouraged by my lack of spiritual nourishment at Church (I too have remained active and participating in my membership, and have not shared my disaffection with my extended family).

      • I actually totally support that, Diana.

        People should feel free to take what they want, and leave what they want. Gotta to do what you’ve gotta do.

        I think that “putting polygamy on a shelf” would be to set it there, walk away, and not look at it anymore, trusting that God’s love/plan is perfect, and we will all be happy in the end.

        I don’t feel that that is what I am doing.

        I’ve taken a long hard look at polygamy, and YES, mortal polygamy was ugly. A hot, HOT mess, if you will, BUT, I still don’t see how we can then make a blanket statement such as:

        “Mortal polygamy was an absolute train wreck, so Celestial polygamy will be a nightmare as well.”

        That doesn’t add up for me.

        That’s like saying: “Some people who have babies don’t know how to parent, and therefore, the children suffer much abuse and neglect as a result. So, since some people are really bad at it, no one should do it.”

        You shared the following paragraph, and I wanted to share how I reconcile such things in my own mind:

        “And then I learned about the WAY Joseph Smith introduced what he believed to be this eternal doctrinal revelation. Marrying a 14 year old girl (Helen Mar Kimball), and other girls under age 18.

        {Actions of a mortal and imperfect man. Not actions of Jesus Christ, and not the actions of God. Oh, and also, I feel that everyone who makes a huge case about the “under 18” issue sort of fails to recognize that we have only held such age standards within our culture for the past 75 or so years. The church was restored over 150 years ago. Many people have grandmothers who were married at 15 and 16 and that was only in the 1950s. So yes, 14 is still on the low end of that spectrum, but it’s a little bit dramatic to call this pedophilia { btw, not that you did, Diana, but a few others have}. It was a completely different time period with completely different cultural norms, but it seems that many tend to forget this fact.}

        Marrying Eliza R. Snow, Emma’s BEST FRIEND, behind her back. Blaming Emma for not having a testimony of polygamy. Blaming Emma for standing up for herself.

        {Actions of a mortal and imperfect man. Not actions of Jesus Christ, and not the actions of God.}

        Marrying already married women (polyandry) and then sending some of their husbands away on missions. Propositioning Sidney Rigdon’s daughter (Sidney at the time was the First Counselor in the First Presidency) BEHIND HIS BACK. Nancy Ridgon (Sidney’s daughter) rejected Joseph’s proposal and that started the black-listing of Sidney’s family. (Sidney was kept out of the Polygamy Secrecy Club anyway from the beginning).

        {Actions of a mortal and imperfect man. Not actions of Jesus Christ, and not the actions of God.}

        As I said in my earlier comment, it’s not that I am ignorant of the early history of the church, it’s that I don’t see how said history can be used as a practical/convincing/reliable/logical determinant as to whether or not the church is true.

        I don’t let the actions of any human {Mormon prophet, or otherwise} determine whether or not I believe the teachings of the church. My spirit knows that it is true…and to be quite honest, it all makes a TON of sense from a logical perspective as well. {Well, a logical perspective that allows for the belief that there is a magical man in the sky who hears and answers all of our prayers at the same time…you know, which some might argue is the furthest thing from logical to begin with! 😉 But…}

        That being said, I don’t think this should be a deal-breaker where people think they need to leave the church. I think your choice to refuse some doctrine, but proceed to remain fully active is a brilliant one. All of these doctrines aside, if a person were to simply live the fundamental Mormon basics, {Focus on family and nurture relationships, stay away from alcohol and other harmful/damaging substances, pray together, be healthy, be kind, put others first, serving others…} they would have a lot of happiness in this life.

        I sincerely think it’s fantastic that you and Joanna and many of the people commenting here have come to your own conclusions about, well, all of it! I think everyone should 🙂

      • DianaofThemyscira

        One final thought that’s been nagging my brain. . .

        It totally makes sense to me that God uses imperfect people to do His work. Since that’s all He’s got to work with, well, He doesn’t really have any other options. (On that same note, I absolutely honor the work Martin Luther King Jr did, in spite of the fact that he had multiple affairs. I honor the work JFK did as President, in spite of the fact that he had multiple affairs. I honor the balanced budget and surplus of Clinton’s presidency, in spite of the fact that he had multiple affairs.)

        So. . . the fact that historical documents give us details about Joseph Smith practicing polygamy in a very messy and questionable way? That’s probably to be expected from a man who was juggling so much on his plate, and who wasn’t given explicit instructions from God about exactly how to institute this doctrine, and in fact was violently threatened by God to practice this doctrine (vision of angel with sword), therefore all he had as example was God’s own example of violence, to also then threaten Emma and his potential wives with eternal damnation if they didn’t obey.

        Really, Joseph Smith was a spiritual prophetic genius. How can we expect anything close to ‘perfection’ from a genius – in my opinion, the human mind really can’t handle that level of spirituality/intelligence/creativity/passion, etc. and not go a little bit nutty.

        It makes sense to me that beautiful things (our Church, restored Priesthood, restored doctrine, Temples) can come out of flawed, imperfect men. We have much to learn from their journeys toward salvation, as we work out our own journeys toward salvation now. But let’s work out those journeys with full knowledge. . .in full honesty about how it all happened.

        It does not make sense to me that our Church represents Joseph as a prophet who could not do sin at this level. I have a problem that the Church, in official responses, deifies Joseph and how he instituted this practice. It does not make sense to me that now our Church holds its members to such high standards of strict sexual purity, when it does not acknowledge that this very wonderful, yet imperfect man, did not keep those same set of high strict sexual standards.

        That’s a huge disconnect for me, and the Church needs to be more transparent in its handling of this issue, and be honest in the history as it actually was, and not how we wish it would have been in order to serve our purposes today.

        I also think that we run into this problem of Church truth authenticity *because* Joseph claimed that the Church he was starting is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30) If that is indeed the case, then we automatically assume that everything that the Church does is true. . .that means, nothing it would do would ever be wrong. Ever. It is all true. All the time. Even if it is run by imperfect men, the doctrines are still all true.

        But. . .we can see by this very discussion on this thread that the doctrines (as we understand them, and how they were revealed, and how we are trying to live them) are not black and white. So there is room for question. There is room for individual testimony. There is room for unorthodox views.

        We each have to find that testimony and peace for ourselves. No matter if it aligns with Joseph or not.

  74. Jamie

    Wow, it’s been quite epic to read through all your responses and the original questions. Thanks for sharing, all of you. I would like to offer my synthesis of what I have read:

    —Responses have ranged from livid to angry to upset to mildly bothered to okay to accepting to welcoming. That is an incredible range! It is good to discuss things with the hope that someone can spark something that will help you figure it out. I fully applaud people questioning things, researching things, and trying to make sense of it all, with the goal of coming to at least some sort of resolution or even an interim resolution if all the facts cannot be had.
    —It is hard to trust historical facts, since we are out of that time and hence its context, but it is equally hard to discount the records we have.
    —We all would like to know what God thinks about the subject, to know what is truth and how polygamy will affect us, if at all.
    —We all would like to be happy and we believe that God wants us to be happy.

    Some resources that have helped me:

    1. How to triangulate Mormon doctrine: read “Getting at the Truth” by Robert A. Millet. I found it very helpful.
    2. Read “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis. Ask yourself if you are one of those Ghosts who likes the question more than an answer. Would you be happy with an answer if you got one?
    ***3. Read Bruce C. Hafen’s “On Dealing with Uncertainty.” http://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/08/on-dealing-with-uncertainty?lang=eng
    4. Jacob Chapter 2, versus 28-30. This has been my lifeline.
    5. I found it particularly interesting that the chapter break at the end of Jacob 2 is rather unfortunate, because the beginning of Chapter 3 can be seen as a resolution (even if an interim resolution) to the sorrows and frustrations we’ve had over this topic:

    “But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause . . .”

    After reading the comments, I seems to me (not that I’m judging you eternally or anything) that you folks are pure-hearted. Not perfect, nobody is, but you’re trying to understand and you’re trying to do what is right and you are wanting to keep God’s commandments. God may not give you as direct an answer as you wish right now (but keep searching!)—but know that he will plead your cause.

  75. do mormons believe in it or do they just practice it – I think there is a difference. I think we practice it (marriage sealing) but I don’t get the impression that many members believe or have any concept of what that means for this life or the eternities. I also think there are some that have an understanding as to why it might be required but again, still no belief or “testimony” in it.

  76. Ryan

    Joanna, your column left me wanting! I can’t help but wonder WHO should be talking about polygamy, and WHERE? The online LDS forums are rife with conversation on the subject, so I am assuming you mean the leadership should be talking about it….am I correct? On one hand polygamy is still practiced in the temple. On the other hand, President Hinckley told Larry King that it was not doctrinal. What? Did he mean it isn’t, wasn’t or is not currently doctrinal? I suspect your plea that “we” need to have a conversation about polygamy is a nice way of saying the leadership needs to clearly declare the doctrine, align it’s temple policies accordingly, and put the issue to bed. On that, I wholeheartedly agree!

  77. Mommy2Bof3

    I was born and raised LDS, and still am. This particular subject was a huge struggle for me, especially as I started preparing for my own eternal marriage. I grew up reading a lot of church history. The Work and the Glory series provided me with a thirst for knowledge of church history. When I read about polygamy, it shook my faith at the tender age of 12 or 13. I turned to church leaders, parents, the scriptures, and the Lord for an explanation as to WHY something like that could possibly be okay. I received several possible answers, and I’d like to share them.

    First, I believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I believe that he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the grove, and that he was commanded to restore Christ’s true gospel to the earth. I also believe that David from the Old Testament was chosen by God to be a prophet and king. Both men were hand picked by God. Both men were MEN. Both men were imperfect. I think that people romanticize our prophets, deeming them to be “more perfect” than others. Whether or not it was a commandment of God to engage in polygamous relationships doesn’t change what Joseph saw, just like David’s sin with Bathsheba doesn’t change that God chose him to slay Goliath and eventually become king. The church is still true. If they were capable of perfection, they wouldn’t need to come to Earth in the first place.
    Second, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Abraham had children with multiple women. In fact, when we read about Abraham, we learn that it was pretty much him, his wife, and their servants. How was he supposed to father a nation with a barren wife? God didn’t smite him down for taking on another wife. In fact, Abraham was given even more promises and blessings after he did. Jacob also had more than one wife. As did Solomon. If it was okay back then with God, why not now?

    Third, I did some other research and found that the LDS church was NOT the only one practicing polygamy at the time. There were other Christian sects, Native American tribes, and a few other little pockets here and there that participated in polygamous relationships. The LDS church was the only one to teach it as a religious practice, and they were the only ones sought out. I’m not saying it “makes it okay”, just that the LDS weren’t the first nor the last to practice polygamy. We are just the most “well known”.
    Fourth, in the Book of Mormon there is a scripture that often gets tossed into the polygamy argument because it pretty much denounces polygamy. If you read it out of context. It can be found here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/jacob/2?lang=eng
    Jacob 2:27-30. Read all the way through verse 30. The Lord puts a disclaimer. He says unless He commands otherwise, we are to have monogamous relationships. UNLESS HE COMMANDS OTHERWISE. There is no contradiction in the scriptures when you read them with real intent and in context.

    The only rock-solid answer that I received was through the Spirit. I remember sitting there thinking to myself. “I know the Book of Mormon is true, I know Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer, and I know I feel the Spirit when I go to church…but how could the true church allow this sort of stuff (meaning everything in the church’s “shady” past) to go on?” Immediately I got this: “If the Book of Mormon is true, if Jesus Christ is your Savior, and if you feel the Spirit testify of the truthfulness of the gospel when you attend church, what does it matter what happened over 100 years ago? Were you there? Will you ever know what REALLY happened? Probably not, so focus on what you DO know to be true instead of worrying over things that can never be proven accurately in this life.”

      • mrsgroovus

        Very well put! and if we drive ourselves crazy about what will happen in the afterlife it will do just that. Drive us crazy. Focus on having a good life here on earth, judgement will come on what you did during this time. Not what your ancestors did or didn’t do. God is a God of choice and Love.

  78. Katrina

    There is one error in this. Men can only marry another woman ie second wife it the first is deceased. My Grandparents could not marry in the temple until my grandfather had a temple divorce from my other grandmother. This only happened a few years ago. They told them then that rule had changed less than 10 years ago.

  79. Kim

    Hopefully I’m not repeating someone in the comments here, but I recently read some really interesting research on child mortality throughout the ages. Under LDS doctrine, anyone who dies under the age of 8 gets a free pass. Statistically, more males are conceived than females. So, the righteousness (or lack thereof) of either sex is neither here nor there, because practicing members are only going to be a fraction of the number of people who make it into the Celestial Kingdom – the majority will be children who died before the age of accountability (and there will be billions of them). There won’t be a huge surplus of women. So, if you think about it scientifically, the “righteous women outnumber the men” argument doesn’t hold any water.

  80. Bear

    I like this post a lot. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the eternal nature of polygamy. I’m sure it has some place because it’s a practice the church continues officially. I’d much not like to marry more than one wife…well, ever.

    As far as early church history goes, many members (20 – 30 percent) were involved in plural marriages. However, the practice was one that was not supposed to be widely endorsed but only upon commandment (which is where those smaller percentages come in). I suspect the cultural acceptance of it was a flaw of the human condition. I have always accepted that imperfect men have to run the kingdom of God, so mistakes can be made.

    Ultimately, whether or not polygamy is a part of our eternal destiny, I will hopefully bow to my Heavenly Father’s will when that time comes. As of now, I will thank my Father in Heaven that I don’t have to practice it here in this life.

    I believe we should definitely not hide from the hard questions that can be asked of members. If the gospel is true, from what are we hiding?

    Thanks Mormon Girl. 🙂

  81. Rob

    Wow! I loved your reply on polygamy. I came here after seeing CNN’s piece on you. I’m thoroughly impressed. I’d consider myself to be about as close to a conservative, orthodox member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they come and I totally agree that the Church and its members should be more open in discussing its theology. Polygamy is, and has ever been a thorny issue for the Church, and I too don’t think we should be afraid to talk about it. I applaud your efforts to answer these questions to the best of your ability and to share your clear faith in doing so. I count you to be a shining example of Elder Ballard’s call to “join the conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the New Media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration”. You have an amazing facility with words and I could clearly see evidence of both your faith and your inquisitive spirit in your writing. Keep up the great work! I’m adding you to my RSS feed and look forward to reading for years to come.

  82. mrsgroovus

    I think that no matter what we have a Heavenly Father who gives us choices. None of us can really know what will happen in the afterlife. If we try to figure it all out we will go crazy. Polygamy is a definite sore spot for many whether they are LDS or not. I agree that we should talk about it. But with the understanding we really don’t know. We live our life the best we can, keep the commandments the best we can, utilize the atonement of Christ because no one is perfect. We are fundamentally taught that God is a God of choice. He doesn’t force anyone to do anything. So if you don’t believe in it and choose not to do that he won’t love you any less.

  83. Hi all! Add one more voice. I’m a progressive (left of liberal for those who don’t know) active LDS member but somewhat critical of the “Mormon culture” that many church members live in and think is part of the gospel.

    I believe in polygamy as described in the D&C. I also believe in walking on water. I don’t anticipate attempting either in this life. My reading and study hasn’t found any evidence that men are required to have plural wives for exaltation, either now or in the life to come: it’s any option but not a requirement. That makes it largely extraneous to me. I have enough work learning to love, respect and coexist with my (singular) wife to worry about “what ifs”.

    Meanwhile, I’ll worry about the second wife after I get the whole water walking thing worked out.

  84. Barbara

    This item brought back a memory of visiting a sister who was responsible for the ward newsletter. She wrote an article for the newsletter about the newest policy that women were now allowed to be sealed to all husbands that they were civilly married to. This was back in the early 80’s. Has this changed?

  85. GregB

    I am a bit confused here. Polygamy was part of the LDS history, yes, but outside of the temple and some of the special situations that you have pointed out, polygamy is NOT practiced today among “living” LDS members. Counting temple sealings to people that are no longer alive is a pretty big stretch that is very misleading, please explain. Polygamy is NOT practiced today (for all practical purposes), and polygamous are not permitted to even enter a temple.

    • Kathleen Jones

      Greg, maybe you can explain to us how a Mormon man, civilly divorced, is allowed to marry and be sealed to another wife? Both women living? How is that not “polygamy”?

      • RachelJL

        I am no longer married to my ex-husband. Even if the “sealing” is in affect, legally I’m not his wife. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told at church that the Lord is not going to make us stay with someone that we don’t want to be sealed to. The God I believe in is just, and I know he wouldn’t do that. Church records are imperfect and someday it will all be sorted out. I was told recently that I can have my cancellation sealed, if I want to, but I just don’t see the need to worry about it until I the time that I may get married again.

      • Kathleen Jones

        Do you mean have your “sealing cancelled” Rachel? That makes more sense? It’s up to you what you want to do. Just don’t pretend it isn’t Polygamy, is all I’m saying. Technically under Mormonism 101, you are in a Polygamist relationship with your husband and his second wife right this very minute, if you died, in the Eternities. Whether God does or doesn’t decide how it works out, isn’t my point. My point it is…you still practice it.

      • RachelJL

        Also, I’ve been led to believe that a “sealing” is a much broader term than a marriage. I’m also sealed to my children. Of course I will want to be sealed to a different man, but as for my kids, no change needs to be made there. If for some reason I turn into a terrible person (hopefully I’m not one now) then my kids will still be sealed to other family members. A sealing is not like gathering wives. It’s an ordinance that pertains to families.

  86. Adam, and Eves

    Remember the garden story is not a strict history of Adam, it is a spiritual representation of the hierarchy of creation. The Garden wasn’t destroyed after the fall, just guarded. It quite possibly could have been the nursery of man other ur-parents. It need not to have been the exclusive nursery either. The story is the dramatized biography of the first patriarch but not the whole of humanity. This is the place where Man and God first made covenants but it would strange if it were exclusive. Typical unanswered questions on the garden: Who baptized Adam? Who were the witnesses? Did Adam never get a priesthood blessing? If Adam and Eve were sealed, who did the ordinance?

    I think the answer is plain, there were other people around, they just weren’t people of the covenant until married into the patriarchal family..

    It is similar to the predicament in First Nephi. Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi traveled back to Jerusalem to get wives. They guided away the family of Ishmael and Zoram, the servant of Laban. We’ll assume that there were four marriageable daughter in Ishmael’s family, so who married Zoram who is known to have descendants. Ishmael also had sons and Nephi sisters. Did the numbers just work out to exactly one female for every male? It’s possible that the brothers would do such a thing but we don’t know. What a Jacob, born in the wilderness after the band was cut off from Jerusalem? Was he left with only nieces and sisters to marry?

    The scriptural stories are rarely self contained and complete. Women are rarely mentioned and most of the characters in the stories are close relatives. It’s just the way the story is told.

    • terrylinden

      Adam was baptized? Is there, to anyone’s knowledge, any other religion that believes that Adam (and, one presumes, Eve) was/were baptized? Certainly not Judaism.

      • The Pearl of Great Price contains an account of Adam’s (and many assume Eve’s) baptism. It was performed by the Holy Spirit.

      • Sally whitaker

        Hi I know little about Judism but saw an ancient baptismal don’t in an old sumogage basement. It was a surviving jewish temple it church in Germany that was not destroyed because it had been used as a warehouse got a decade or so when the Jewish congregation had built a new one. Of course, the new one was destroyed by the S S. So they did have baptism anciently.

      • Sally Whitaker

        Sorry, I used my smart (dumb) phone which changed a lot of words. like “font”. I hope it amkes sense about Jewish baptism in older times.

  87. Reason

    It sounds to me as if many of you do not wholly believe what the founders of the church said to be true. It sounds like you are picking and choosing and thus creating your own version of LDS doctrine to suit your own needs/wants/beliefs. By doing so you are no different than any FLDS offshoot that stayed true to the doctrine of polygamy. The church must either be as Joseph Smith set it up or it must be something that you have tweaked and crafted into what you want.

    • Carl Reese

      Reason. Would you rather people that disagreed with polygamy simply left the church? Perhaps you would and indeed that is exactly what I did. For whatever reason Joanna and others are trying to stay and doing their best to make the church as moral as they can. I think it’s a losing battle but I wish her luck.

      As I see it, there are two moral ways to address polygamy. 1. tweak the doctrine like Joanna has done and believe something wholly different than LDS doctrine. It’s moral because polygamy is a steaming pile of dog vomit. 2. Leave the church knowing that the church won’t change, that the founders of the church have never been prophets, and that some of what they taught has always been a steaming pile of dog vomit.

      By the way, I don’t think the way polygamy is practiced today by the LDS is immoral. Allowing a spouse to remarry another after the death of their first spouse is polygamy in the eyes of anybody that believes temple marriages are eternal. Yet in my mind, it’s pragmatic. I would seek to remarry if my wife died.

      The church teaches some good and unique things but their good teachings aren’t unique and their unique teachings aren’t good. Polygamy is a unique concept with no value. Joanna and I don’t agree on some things but we seem to agree that polygamy is immoral. My hat is off to Joanna for having the guts to take the moral high ground. In doing so she faces hordes of Mormons that call her apostate and they do so thinking Apostate is a bad word. I am proud of my Mormon heritage and don’t apologize for it. There are worse things than having polygamist ancestors.

      It’s not such a bad word though.

    • RachelJL

      You are misunderstanding our belief in continuing revelation, and in a living prophet. We believe Abraham and Moses were prophets, and yet we’re not still wandering in the desert or offering up animal sacrifices.

      • Reason

        Revelation as it is given throughout time from God is not something that would be in direct oppostion to any other revelation previously given. To proclaim that blacks are unworthy and should not have the priesthood and then have a revelation say “oh now they are worthy” is a kick to the groin for all blacks who lived before the revelation.
        To say polygamy is a new and everlasting covenant written into the doctrine and covenants to then be repealed within a generation. If God truly came to BY and told him it was everlasting why would he then change the everlasting just a short time later?
        You can continue to believe in continuing revelation but revelation must be in line with and agree with previous revelation not be totally opposite. With that line of thought, the current president of the church could reverse the manifesto and claim polygamy is again necessary. It might be against the US law but it was against the US law when it was introduced. A changing doctrine is no doctrine at all.
        As a mormon you can keep your head in the sand and not look at all the facts and common sense. But the truth is Joseph Smith made up the religion. If indeed God truly gave him the book of mormon and it was the most accurate book why would it need over 4000 documented changes? Why would Joseph need 9 different first vision accounts? How could you ever be good enough to get to heaven?
        The question shouldn’t be will polygamy be practiced in heaven. The question should be do you know for sure and without a doubt you are even going to heaven?
        Only one book can answer that question. It is the Bible. I hear from LDS that you cant trust it. But not yet has any LDS member presented a Bible translation that could be trusted.

  88. mjm

    I am very active and “orthodox”…and I agree with you, Joanna, that practicing polygamy is not required for exaltation. What IS required keeping the covenants we make with Heavenly Father, from baptism to our temple covenants. We do not make a covenant to practice polygamy. It is not a saving ordinance. Will people who have righteously practiced polygamy be given exaltation? Yes, from the Biblical prophets to Joseph Smith and the early saints. But will people who do not practice polygamy be given exaltation? I believe yes. If we have remained faithful to the holy covenants we have made, only in and through our Savior Jesus Christ.

    Another principle that comforts me regarding polygamy is that of agency. We are never forced to make a covenant or live a principle unless we believe it and have the desire to do so. I stopped fearing polygamy once I realized that I am the one who chooses my actions, both now and in eternity. If for some reason I did choose to practice polygamy in heaven, it would be because I understood it in a different way than I do now and because I CHOSE to do so.

    • M

      I agree with this, mjm. This is very similar to how I feel about polygamy in the eternities as an active Mormon.

      On an unrelated note, I’m kind of shocked and a little saddened by how many people apparently didn’t know about Joseph Smith (and other early saints) practicing polygamy. I learned about this in my teens (maybe earlier?) and hear it and polygamy in general discussed (hotly, which is always interesting) in Sunday school fairly regularly… a handful of times a year, maybe. Maybe these people are fairly new members? I find it hard to believe that the wards I’ve been to are that different from everyone else’s.

    • Sally Whitaker

      You’re right the “new and everlasting covenant” is defined as marriage or in another place as gospel living. It doesn’t say you have to be in a polygamist union even if it was sanctified.

  89. Mark

    I’m a descendant of Nymphas and Esther Murdock and of Thomas and Tabitha Ricks, they and a couple others of my ancestors were polygamists. The majority of my Mormon ancestors from that period, like most of the rest of the Church, did not practice polygamy. They were amazing people. I’m very proud of their dedication and faith. The last emotion I would ever feel towards them is shame. I won’t say I fully understand polygamy, because I don’t think I do. I’m not sure anybody does, even them. I don’t know if I could practice polygamy, nor do I wish to try. I do know that my ancestors have thousands of descendants who are faithful in the Gospel in a large part because of them. I thank God for them.

  90. Whether or not we will need to have plural wives (men) to be/become Gods, I don’t know. Isaac’s apparent example of one wife (in this life, at least that we know of—and I kinduv think if there had been another, she would have been mentioned (but I don’t believe any were), may be very strong evidence that all will not have to practice this principle.

    But I don’t know why we worry that much about it. I strive to know and understand. I have many challenges of my own, as does most everyone i know. Keeping the commandments we are now required to keep are very ample indeed already!

    I find this one paragraph from D&C 132 to be most enlightening—

    37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob — did none other things than that which they were commanded—; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods. —D&C 132:37

    Consider that! They are GODS, because they did none other things than that which they were commanded!

    Today, we are not only commanded not to have plural wives, but we will be cut off (from the Church) and damned (stopped in eternal progress) if we do so! So, why worry? I could give you a short list of things you might well be more worried about than this, from the scriptures! This is like a person staying up night and day, so concerned with all the evil in the world, while his/her health, wealth and life, due to this, go to hell in a hand basket!

    And, if so many are concerned and fret and wring their hands that their husband may be required to take other wives, then consider. Is God not just? I am a father of seven daughters (and two sons). I don’t love, cherish or esteem any one of my daughters any less than my sons. But, I also see that we each and all have certain roles to play. If we eschew our God-given roles, how show we fit into his creation?

    Do I believe women should not think? Au contrare! I wish they would think well and more (and I have some very intelligent daughters)! But we all like to fight against the ‘natural’ order of things, or what might best be called the order of God’s nature. Men want to be women. And women want to do what men do. And the babies and children (the few most have, if they have any) suffer—both in numbers, and in adequate attention paid to them—while all the adults are out ‘self-actualizing’ themselves.

    My mother and father had six girls and two boys. I was the younger of the two boys, and four of our sisters were older than us. But the lessons I learned from this wonderful, only high school educated (formally) woman, but a woman who acquired a self-taught (but not institutionally acknowledged, other than by her own children) ‘doctorate’ in things spiritual, scriptural, and of things in the earth above, and beneath the earth, etc. And she taught these things to her children, and taught them exceptionally well.

    Last Sunday, I gave a lesson my mother gave me when I was fairly young, to my High Priests’ Group, and I could tell it was all new and news to them! She taught me this stuff nearly 50 years ago! And yet she taught it so well, I can teach men, most of whom have been in the Church their whole lives, but didn’t know or understand what this spitfire of a woman taught me as just a boy!

    Most of have gone astray, IMO, on polygamy, have started practicing it without authorization. The bishop who interviewed me for baptism, and he lost his first wife and children, after going into it. A number of other men in the ward I grew up in, and the son of a bishop of our ward when I was five, went into it. We were occasional chums, he and I, in high school. His parents, attending my mom’s viewing back in the mid-90’s, told of how earlier that same year, while he was camping with his wives and children in the Uintah (Mountains) was struck by lightning and killed (him only). They seemed to imply it was divine justice (though I knew they loved him), and sorrowed for his loss.

    One of my ancestor’s, a 2nd wife, left her husband and the Church, because, I suppose, she wanted a more ‘normal’ marriage and relationship with a husband. “The Principle” was not for the faint hearted.

    And, to me, it is encouraging to read of the strife between wives, like the sisters, Leah and Rachel, who seemed to feud by having children, or having their concubines have children, in a duel for their husband’s affections. And yet, one supposes, they are goddesses now!

    If we condemn Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the rest, don’t we have to also condemn ancient patriarchs too? And, obviously, practicing “the principle” is fraught with pitfalls. Look at David’s fall due to Bathsheba! Look at ‘wise’ Solomon foolishly not just taking on too many wives (700), and 300 concubines to boot! But acquiring those wives outside the faith, many for alliances, yes, but at what cost? His soul! This underscores Jesus’ question nearly a millennia later, “What shall it profit a man if he gain (or retain?) the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.

    Today, this same question confronts us. Whether its money, pornography, infidelity, honesty, envy, etc, THESE, among others, are probably more the demons we need rid ourselves of, from our families, from our homes, from our lives of. Polygamy is a problem, if not authorized by God. And, apparently, even IF and WHEN authorized, it is at least a huge challenge, if not a difficult lifestyle to live.

    But, today, now, it is not my problem. I have enough other problems staring me in the face I need to wrestle against and prevail with!

  91. Marinda

    I whole heartedly agree that we need to be more open about our church’s history… but would like to follow up the discussion with WHY? Why was polygamy a commandment?
    I understand the purpose of polygamy during the church’s infancy. God has sanctioned its practice during certain periods throughout history (i.e. Abraham). In these latter-days it was NECESSARY to bring up a righteous seed. The members of the church are small in number as it is, just 2% of the US population. Think if there had been no polygamy, how much smaller of a group we would be. I served a full-time mission, and had my heart broken time and again as people who embraced the teachings of the gospel could just not make the lifestyle changes necessary to qualify for baptism. I thought over and over about how blessed I was to be RAISED in the church and taught the principles and doctrines from my YOUTH. This is thanks to polygamy. I am a descendant of polygamists and am proud of that fact. If it had not been a commandment, I would not have been raised in the church.
    As far as the eternities are concerned, God gives us agency, I don’t think we’ll be punished for not practicing it. And it if is practiced it will have a PURPOSE just like it always has had.

  92. diane

    I feel we, LDS members, have a real problem here and it is going to continue to grow bigger and bigger unless we get some truth about historical facts concerning polygamy and the early church and it’s early Prophets and leaders. For the past several years I have sat in leadership meeting after meeting on “what to do about our falling away youth” and our “depressed Sisters” in our church. The youth of today are not kept from knowing the true facts about Joseph Smith’s deceitful sealings behind Emma’s back, it is all over the internet about the insane remarks that came out of Brigham Young’s mouth in the Journal of Discourses….the once not talked about history is now plastered and taken out of context for all the world to see. How are people supposed to believe these were God’s prophets if they were lying and being deceitful as they lead the Church? OK, yes, they were just human men and they can make mistakes….BUT, do you not think that on issues of saving doctrinal instructions…IF they were the Lord’s mouthpiece, GOD would NOT let them preach falsehoods to His church? Is that to mean we are NOT to EVER believe ANYTHING a Prophet ever said because he COULD be WRONG, he’s only human! WHAT??? This is NOT supposed to be a gospel of confusion.
    I feel we desperately need to hear from Pres. Monson, our Prophet and Seer for the Church, to address us and clear up the issue of whether or not we will be practicing polygamy or not in the Celestial Kingdom. If the doctrine of plural marriage was only given for olden times, and then for a very short period back in the 1800’s and isn’t doctrine anymore, THEN SAY SO.!!!! Bro. McConkie, a modern day Apostle, says it WILL be practiced in the eternities. Gee, sure wish someone had TOLD me this BEFORE I went to the Temple and made covenants about something I was not told the truth about. I believe our Prophet today owes us(since we Do pay honest tithes and consecrate our time and talents) explainations about all the facts that have come to light, not continue to give talk after talk about little old ladies at the nursing home, I mean, sorry, those stories are sweet and inspiring, but the Church is having some REAL ISSUES here with YM, YW and YSA and converts leaving in droves after they are baptized because they soon learn of all the Joseph Smith and Brigham Young deceptions. We need to be told the truth about polygamy and exactly where the Church stands on this doctrine on earth and the hereafter. We need to be told if Joseph Smith was or was not sealing himself to teens and other men’s wives, we need to know exactly WHAT is meant by Brigham Young in all his rantings in the Journal of Discourses about blood atonement and etc….we need to know WHY it was taught that we would be damned if we didn’t enter into polygamy…women were forced against their will…WHY???? I have always been taught AGENCY was such a huge doctrine in the Gospel. The LDS Church NEEDS to address these issues, stop keeping us in the dark, stop saying we “need to move ahead, leave it in the past” no we don’t, we need to know what our true doctrine is so we can pray about it for our own selves….well, this is what I always thought the true gospel was all about.

    • DianaofThemyscira


      I agree completely with your statement that the Church needs for the Brethren to clear these doctrinal issues up, once and for all.

      whymormonsleave.com has documented the top reasons why the 3,000 people who took the survey are finding dissatisfaction with the Church. . .the top 4 responses have all to do with doctrine and theology (and not because they want to sin or were offended by someone – those were the bottom 2 answers!)

      The last General Conference announced the Church recording church membership numbers at 14 million. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, baptized members of the Church constitute less than one-half of one percent of the entire world’s population!!!! If you factor in the believing, practicing members only. . .well, that number is estimated to be about 5 million.

      So. . .only 5 million people out of the 7 billion people on this planet are practicing, active, believing members of the Church.

      Obviously, the message as it is being presented is NOT reaching very many homes and hearts.

      Something needs to change.

      It’s ridiculous to think that only 5 million people are expected to keep such ridiculous high standards of moral, spiritual, and s#xual purity to get into the Celestial Kingdom, and the rest of humanity can just have their ordinances performed after they die, and still get into the same kingdome and have the same reward.

      Doesn’t that make practicing, active, believing members a little bit confused? Why work so hard when someone else is going to get the same reward without having to work as hard as you did in this life?

      There are too many disconnects, and the Brethren really need to clear up the doctrine if they want people to continue to join and remain active, practicing members their entire lives.

  93. Whether or not we will need to have plural wives (men) to be/become Gods, I don’t know. Isaac’s apparent example of one wife (in this life, at least that we know of—and I kinduv think if there had been another, she would have been mentioned—but I don’t believe any were), may be very strong evidence that all will not have to practice this principle.
    But I don’t know why we worry that much about it. I strive to know and understand. I have many challenges of my own, as does most everyone I know. Keeping the commandments we are now required to keep are very ample indeed already!
    I find this one paragraph from D&C 132 to be most enlightening—
    37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, BECAUSE THEY were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob — DID NONE OTHER THINGS THAN THAT WHICH THEY WERE COMMANDED—; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods. —D&C 132:37
    Consider that! They are GODS, because they did none other things than that which they were commanded!
    Today, we are not only commanded NOT to have plural wives, but we will be cut off (from the Church) and damned (stopped in eternal progress) if we do so! So, why worry? I could give you a short list of things you might well be more worried about than this, from the scriptures! This is like a person staying up night and day, so concerned with all the evil in the world, while his/her health, wealth and life, due to this, go to hell in a hand basket!
    And, if so many are concerned and fret and wring their hands that their husband may be required to take other wives, then consider. Is God not just? I am a father of seven daughters (and two sons). I don’t love, cherish or esteem any one of my daughters any less than my sons. But, I also see that we each and all have certain roles to play. If we eschew our God-given roles, how should we fit into his creation?
    Do I believe women should not think? Au contrare! I wish they all would think well and more (and I have some very intelligent daughters)! But we all like to fight against the ‘natural’ order of things, or what might best be called the order of God’s nature. Men want to be women. And women want to do what men do. And the babies and children (the few most have, if they have any) suffer—both in numbers, and in adequate attention paid to them—while all the adults are out ‘self-actualizing’ themselves.
    My mother and father had six girls and two boys. I was the younger of the two boys, and four of our sisters were older than us. But the lessons I learned from this wonderful, only high school educated (formally) woman, but a woman who acquired a self-taught (but not institutionally acknowledged, other than by her own children) ‘doctorate’ in things spiritual, scriptural, and of things in the earth above, and beneath the earth, etc. And she taught these things to her children, and taught them exceptionally well.
    Last Sunday, I gave a lesson my mother gave me when I was fairly young, to my High Priests’ Group, and I could tell it was all new and news to them! She taught me this stuff nearly 50 years ago! And yet she taught it so well, I can teach men, most of whom have been in the Church their whole lives, but didn’t know or understand what this spitfire of a woman taught me as just a boy!
    Most of have gone astray, IMO, on polygamy, have started practicing it without authorization. The bishop who interviewed me for baptism, later on, went into polygamy. And he lost his first wife and children, after going into it. A number of other men in the ward I grew up in, and the son of a bishop of our ward, “Kenny” when I was five, went into it. We were occasional chums, Kenny and I, in high school. His parents, attending my mom’s viewing back in the mid-90′s, told of how earlier that same year, while he was camping with his wives and children in the Uintah (Mountains) was struck by lightning and killed (him only) while they all slept. They viewed his singular death as the result of divine justice (though I knew they loved him), and sorrowed for his loss.
    One of my ancestor’s, a 2nd wife, left her husband and the Church, because, I suppose, she wanted a more ‘normal’ marriage and relationship with a husband. “The Principle” was not for the faint hearted.
    And, to me, it is encouraging to read of the strife between wives, like the sisters, Leah and Rachel, who seemed to feud by having children, or having their concubines have children, in a duel for their husband’s affections. And yet, one supposes, they are both goddesses now!
    If we condemn Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the rest, don’t we have to also condemn ancient patriarchs too? And, obviously, practicing “the principle” is fraught with pitfalls. Look at David’s fall due to Bathsheba! Look at ‘wise’ Solomon foolishly not just taking on too many wives (700), and 300 concubines to boot! But acquiring those wives outside the faith, many for alliances, yes, but at what cost? His soul! This underscores Jesus’ question nearly a millennia later, “What shall it profit a man if he gain (or retain?, through alliances) the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.
    Today, this same question confronts us. Whether its money, pornography, infidelity, honesty, envy, etc, THESE, among others, are probably more the demons we need rid ourselves of, from our families, from our homes, from our lives of. Polygamy is a problem, if not authorized by God. And, apparently, even IF and WHEN authorized, it is at least a huge challenge, if not a difficult lifestyle to live.
    But, today, now, it is not my problem. I have enough other problems staring me in the face I need to wrestle with and prevail against!

  94. S Whitaker

    In the 1800’s the world was a different place. In the old bible days too. what god asked was a “higher law”. Anyway, my Great grandmother was a second wife. The great-aunts I have told me about thouse times. It was more about living the gospel and working together. I think the Lord knew the pioneers would have to adjust to the law change, because if they didn’t they would have been killed off by the armies who were killing the Indians of the day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints doesn’t practice polygomy since Fall 1890. Any polymomy today consitutes excommunication. Mormons belive in modern prophecy through the prophet called of God and in the Holy Priesthood. Actually the whole point of the restoration of the gospet to Joseph Smith Jr.

  95. Crystal S.

    I believe there’s something not being said here. I scrolled through most of the comments and don’t believe I saw it brought up at all, but I could be wrong.
    First, let me tell you, my Grandpa remarried several years ago. He was sealed to his first wife, then his second also. He’s a good man, but he didn’t put my Grandma’s happiness first when he was married to her, and there were other issues (but not serious issues), like lack of respect. His second wife he treats very sweetly and you can see the difference in the two relationships.
    It’s been brought up by a few members in my extended family (all Mormon) that there’s a quote they read by a leader in the church that warns men that they should be good to their wives because in the next life, regardless of sealings, the woman can choose if she wants to stay with him or not. Of course I don’t know who the quote is from, but I’m sure it could be easily found.
    My Great-great-great Grandfather (Parley P. Pratt) was polygamist, as well as his son that I descended from. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s kind of amusing to me to tell friend that my Grandma remembers having multiple “Grandmothers.” And from what she told us of what she remembers of the function of their lives together it was a very good life for them, and they were happy and okay with the set up of their multiple marriages.

    Personally, I don’t want to think about sharing my husband. EVER. The idea makes me sick. But – I’ve come to peace about the idea by knowing that God wants me to be happy. Also, by knowing that I barely see a fiber of a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up God’s entire plan for me and every person that was or ever will be. We don’t see the entire picture yet. We don’t need to. That’s what faith is for. God wants us to be happy, and has prepared ways for that to happen. Here on earth and in the next life.

  96. Here are some really helpful articles with primary sources/scripture used to explore polygamy historically and in the eternities:

    Also, specific to Joanna’s point about it being ridiculous that there are more men than women in the Celestial Kingdom:
    “Approximately 106 male babies are born on earth for every 100 female babies born. More males have existed on earth than females. Yet by age five, the sex ratio is about 1:1, for male babies are more susceptible to genetic disorders. Therefore, a large number of males die before the age of accountability and are automatically saved in the celestial kingdom. Also, male deaths through such mechanisms as the wholesale killing of male children by an enemy power (e.g., in Moses’ time and in Jesus’ time), or males laying down their lives in righteous defense of family and homeland also increases the pool of males eligible for the celestial kingdom. Using established demographic procedures, several BYU sociologists declare in perhaps only a partially tongue-in-cheek essay that they can demonstrate there will be more males in the celestial kingdom than females.”

    Source: Tim Heaton, et al., “In the Heavens Are Parents Single?: Report No. 1,” Dialogue 17, no. 1, (Spring 1984): 84-86; and also It’s Raining Men: Celestial Demographics (again), by Steve P.

  97. Patti Walker Rusk

    Maybe I’m just a simpleton, but no one knows the answer to any of this, really. Do we? Do they? Unless I missed it on CNN or Pat Robertson or an address during General Conference, no one has come back from the dead to report on the status of plural marriage in the afterlife. This is all speculation. If the idea that plural marriage will be practiced only in the highest level/s of the Celestial Kingdom, it doesn’t affect me. I’ll never be there. As I understand it, those folks are going to be so righteous they will not be subject to the inability and unwillingness to “share” that is one of my shortcomings.

    This is a really interesting discussion, but honestly, does it matter? It’s out of anyone’s control. We can Scripture Chase this bad boy from Point of the Mountain to Key West in both directions and the point is what?

    From a purely current and political perspective, however, it will be very interesting to watch as same-sex unions become legal across the country. I predict that polygamy will and should be included. If polygamy becomes legal then maybe, just maybe, the men who prey upon under-aged girls for the purpose of sexual molestation and/or incest in the name of God will more likely spend some time as the girlfriend of a large and angry cell mate.

    (Great Blog, by the way.)

  98. Steven

    I didn’t have time to read through all the comments. My only gripe is that the original post continues to misquote temple sealing policies. Everyone quotes the standard policy that allows living men to be sealed to more than one woman. I can give examples where, prior to 1998, living women were also allowed to be sealed to more than one man. At any rate, we do allow all deceased women to be sealed to all husbands they had in mortality. So, on the face of policy and procedure, women are just as polygamous as men. That has been the sealing policy since 1998. Why do we keep harping on polygamy as it existed in the late 1800’s? We’ll never be able to understand it or reconcile it completely. What we should be discussing is what our doctrine is today. According to the handbook, no one will have to “choose” among the many spouses to whom he or she might be sealed. So, presuming all are righteous and merit the Celestial Kingdom, it appears women will have plural husbands, and men will have plural wives. Funny how women who are “repulsed” by the thought of their husband having plural wives in the CK sing a different tune once they’re widowed and remarry. Suddenly, having more than one spouse in the eternities makes perfect sense!

  99. DenHigh

    Truman Madsen has a great video about polygamy in the early church. You can find it on YouTube. I have come to equate the principle with a level of consecration that is evolved into. I at one time also had the same struggle, but understanding polygamy as an act of consecration takes the whole subject to a higher level.

  100. Sue Dess

    Since I am now sixty-five years old and haven’t been in an LDS church since I turned eighteen, I can’t contribute much to the intellectual discussion here. What I do know is that the practice of polygamy continued in my Mormon family until 1940 when my grandmother, a first wife, died. My grandfather had taken my grandmother’s half-sister (polygamy made strange bedfellows!) as a second wife. She was younger and prettier and was clearly the wife he loved. He would travel from Idaho, where he lived with his second wife, to Utah to impregnate his first wife but neglected to provide any financial support to her and her nine children. My mother was the child of this dreadful situation and it affected our family greatly. She struggled to believe but was clearly a damaged woman and a very flawed mother. In addition to considering the intellectual and scriptural aspects of polygamy, I suggest that the often devastating emotional and physical consequences of the practice warrant discussion as well.

  101. Dear AD,

    Let not your heart be troubled! Polygamy is the exception to God’s law. God’s law for marriage is normally monogamy, and the principle of celestial marriage is based on a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. Monogamy is the ideal, and thus, I believe everyone in the next life will have the opportunity to practice monogamy, because in the celestial kingdom everything will be perfect and ideal.

    According to BYU scholar Valerie Hudson, who addressed this topic directly at a Mormon apologetics conference last summer, the key to reconciling polygamy is found in verse 36 of section 132. In this verse, the Lord makes an analogy between the commandment of plural marriage and the Lord’s commandment to Abraham that he sacrifice his son Isaac. “Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.”

    Hudson points out that in God’s eyes, monogamy is not a sacrifice, but a blessing. However, polygamy is a sacrifice. “When God does command polygamy, he understands it is a sacrifice of the joy that would be there for his children if they could live the higher law . . . the Lord desires all of his children to have the natural joy that comes from living the law of marriage: monogamy . . . . those who desire to practice polygamy in times when God has not commanded it are in spiritual chaos. That desire would be analogous to Abraham, after hearing the message of the angel and seeing the ram in the thicket, proceeding to sacrifice Isaac anyway . . . such an act would constitute anything but a testimony of faithfulness.”

    I think Hudson gives a very satisfying answer based on canonized scriptures, and I feel very at peace about everything. For an article about her presentation, paste this link:


    After reading this, I hope you sleep better tonight! Don’t worry! Everything will be just fine–in fact, the next life will probably turn out to be better than anything you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams.

  102. Matt Brooks

    I don’t need to cite a source to share a truth: no one is forced to live eternity with someone. Or anyone at all.
    I appreciate, Joanna, that you titled the reasons given for ‘celestial polygamy’ (is that a real phrase?) as being unofficial. That’s just it. There are no church-sponsored, curriculum-approved reasons for polygamy in this life or in the next.
    Therefore, I find that much offense given and taken on polygamy is based on our suppositions as to why polygamy was ever and in heavenly will be (presumably) practiced.

  103. terrylinden said back on
    January 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    He or She said—

    “Jesus said there would be no marriage. Did he also mean no sex? No pleasures equal to or greater than sex?”

    Mark Twain said, “Of the delights of this world man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.”

    In Mormonism, for those who achieve the highest degree in the highest (Celestial) Kingdom, fulfilling the commandment Jesus gave his disciples becomes possible. Jesus said—

    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. —(Matthew 5:48)

    — Mormons or “Saints” can, if they live worthily to inherit the promises made possible by God’s grace can become like their Father in Heaven, fully mature, in the race of gods (of which humans are a part, for, as even the first book in the Bible points out, “man” was/is made in the image and likeness of God, and that, “both male AND FEMALE”! —Genesis 5:2. They must be married in this life, and be sealed by God’s priesthood for “…all eternity” as husband and wife, though, for as the Bible correctly teaches, later, it is not something that can be done at “the last minute”—

    For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
    31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
    32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

    —(New Testament | Matthew 22:30 – 32)

    Regarding what Jesus said of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we have learned by modern revelation more fully the meaning of what Jesus said then—

    “…and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods. —(Doctrine and Covenants | Section 132:37)

    These men were “living” because they were obedient to God. Jehovah (whom Mormons believe was/is Jesus Christ) had told Abraham essentially what he had told his disciples during his mortal ministry—

    1 AND when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
    2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. —(Genesis 17:1 – 2)

    When Abraham was obedient to God in offering his only begotten son (by Sarah) as commanded, an angel appeared, who spoke in the first person of Jehovah, declaring—

    16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
    17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore
    (Old Testament | Genesis 22:16 – 17)

    We believe that this promise of posterity numbering as many as the sands upon the seashore for number, or as the stars in the heavens for number, would BOTH extend in this life and world, but well beyond too, into the eternities!

    In the Book of Mormon, when the resurrected Jesus Christ visited the remnant of people who escaped massive (and literal) “acts of God” that killed off the more wicked people (volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc), and thus were among the ‘more righteous’, he said to them likewise—

    Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. —(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 12:48)

    Here, he points out implicitly that he had achieved the “perfection” he spoke to his disciples in the ‘Old World’ about. So, that “perfection” includes gaining a resurrected body, and fully becoming a perfected god.

    Jesus Christ was the ‘firstfruits’ of them that slept (died). He was the first to be resurrected and to become as God the Father, having a glorified celestial body of flesh, bones and spirit (no blood, for it is not needed, and also, it is corruptible), never to die again.

    As the narrative in the gospel alludes to, Jesus reserved his first post-resurrectional hug for his Heavenly Father, and the next, I am sure, for his Heavenly Mother—

    17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. —(John 20:17)

    Most appropriately, it was a prophetess, Eliza R. Snow, who revealed the truth first implied in Genesis, in her poem, become hymn lyrics, in which she reveals—

    “In the heavens, are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare. Truth is reason, truth eternal, tells me I’ve a mother there!”

    Thus, also explaining more fully in the eternal sense, what this declaration by the apostle Paul signifies—

    “…Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” —(1 Corinthians 11:11)

    Latter-day Scripture received from God and uttered by the Prophet Joseph Smith makes it even more plain—

    19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; ….it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
    — (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 132:19)

    Will things be good? Verily, they indeed shall be—

    9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. — (1 Corinthians 2:9)

  104. Amy

    Alright, this is my first time reading this blog and I figured I would just troll for a moment and then get up and get ready for church but I feel like this is a topic I need to comment on. I am a 22 year old Latter Day Saint (Mormon) woman, I have been married for almost two years and I like to view myself as well educated. I make informed choices and like to know all the nitty-gritty details.

    Polygamy has always been a subject of interest for me. Not in a “hey, let’s talk about sister wives” kind of way but more about the history and doctorine of it. I would talk to my father for hours about it when I was younger because it plagued me as a worry since my mother and father were divorced and my father remarried. All in the temple of course. So how would my family stay together? Would my mom be the awkward third wheel in heaven? Won’t that suck for her? My dad always talked with me but the only conclusion could be to not worry about it, wait until we can know in the next life. I love the way my mom (now a free spirit that leans more toward Buddhism in her beliefs) would ease my mind. “It doesn’t matter because I don’t believe it” which is all I have ever needed to hear. Our Heavenly Father is a knowing and caring being. I honestly believe that he would never force anything upon is, including polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom.

  105. Steven

    I’m late to the post, but here are my thoughts. Start from the outside and work your way in. What will all those people do who’ve died before attaining age 8, or who’ve died singly, or who married but had an unrighteous spouse? They will be given the opportunity to find a spouse in the Spirit World. That means there will be a whole lot of relationship building (dating) that will eventually lead to sealings performed during the Millennium. Now, what are deceased spouses doing in the Spirit World? Are they sitting around twiddling their thumbs? If widows and widowers feel they are “free” to move on and remarry in mortality, what makes them think predeceased spouses don’t feel the same way in the Spirit World? Why would anyone believe that marriages are only made in mortality? In light of all that dating going on in the Spirit World, you don’t think those predeceased spouses aren’t also attending single activities? Why would we be serially monogamous in mortality but plural in the eternities? I know we have people who’ve remarried who say they can’t imagine the CK without ALL the spouses to whom they’ve been married. I say actions speak louder than words. Remarriage after being sealed is the equivalent of saying “I want, or at least am willing to consider, to spend eternity with someone other than, or in addition to, my first, deceased spouse.” You either love your spouse enough to “wait” till you’re reunited again, or you don’t. I’m not making a judgment call as the decision would be deeply personal. But I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it, too. And of course, sealing policy does allow for the sealing of a deceased woman to all the husbands she’s had in mortality, so that eventually, at least on the records of the temple rolls, we have polygny as well as polyandry. But what if, just like mortality, we will simply have to choose among spouses, the same way we had to choose among boyfriends or girlfriends in mortality? It’s easy to say you can’t imagine the CK without those several earthly spouses. But I have the distinct impression that when a sealed, widowed person remarries, the predeceased spouse “moves on” in the Spirit World, too. I don’t think there will be any heartache or pain associated with those choices. I think we’ll be happy with whoever it is we end up with. But I think we’ll be monogamous, that there will some one for everyone. If we will be plural, then again, there’s no reason to believe our predeceased spouses aren’t entering into other “relationships” in the Spirit World. The person who’s remarried might be suprised upon finally arriving in the Spirit World to find their husband or wife has 100 more spouses! So, to me, it’s either an all (everyone is plural) or nothing (everyone will be monogamous) issue. I just wish the Prophet would settle the issue once and for all. As it stands now, and in light of sealing policies that result in men and women eventually being sealed to all their earthly spouses, there’s no reason or incentive not to be married as much of your adult life as possible. I know life isn’t fair, but it makes no sense that Bryant Hinckley (Gordon B. Hinckley’s father) managed to serially marry 4 women but Gordon B. Hinckley only managed to marry one. Why would Bryant Hinckley have 4 wives, but his wives would only have one husband? There is zero logic to that. If you open the door to plural marriage, then open it all the way and allow men and women to have an infinite number of spouses. Or, just like we do in mortality, require us to exercise our agency and then account for that choice.

    • Sally W.

      I really like your inquiry. I think about this a lot. My husband died young and it was a couple of months after we went to the temple. I was told he would be busy doing missionary work on the other side. (I know he would be a great influence on certain types of people.) When I think about getting remarried, I know it would have to be somewhat how I think my past husband would feel about it. Maybe I’m delusional but I think, when we are are in a “force field” where unity and connectedness are high priorities, we will worry less about who we sleep with and more about how we are able to love. This involves high levels of spiritual maturity. I have to reflect back on how love feels but I know it exsists. I beleve in high levels of friendship like when you really connect and have a lot in common with someone. Maybe this will never happen again, but I am content with the love I got and the respect it gave me; it gave my life dignity.

  106. Brooke

    Here is what we know:

    1) Polygamy was ok by the Lord in the Old Testament when he “gave” wives to Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.

    2) The gospel was “restored in its fullness” to Joseph Smith. In its “fullness” means everything, even the parts that are hard for mankind to follow, such as polygamy, law of consecration — which was soon after taken back for the time being (same with blacks getting the priesthood, but that’s another discussion). So if we are to believe the gospel was restored in its fullness, it would include polygamy when the Lord decreed it.

    3) Joseph Smith was sealed while he was living to multiple women. One of those women was Eliza R. Snow. When Joseph Smith died, Eliza was sealed to Brigham Young, clearly indicating that it was ok for a woman to be sealed to more than one man while she was still living. Eliza is not the only example of this, but is the only I will include now.

    4) Later, the church stopped the practice of allowing a woman to be sealed to more than one man for a time, just like it stopped the practice of the law of consecration and stopped blacks from receiving the priesthood for a time. In 1987 the First Presidency issued a letter stating that all deceased women may be sealed to all the men they were ever married to. As any experienced LDS genealogist knows, sealing deceased women is standard procedure.

    5) Doc & Cov 132:46 states “Whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven and whatsovver you bind on earth , in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens. The LDS Church mantra is “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

    6) There is no doctrine that indicates that temple sealings will be canceled or “divorced” in heaven. Though common Mormon rhetoric of old is that the woman “will have to choose which husband to be sealed to,” that flies in complete contradiction to church mantra and DC 132:46.

    7) The law of polygamy in the eternies allows couples who experience the death of a spouse and then remarry, with or with out children, to not be separated throughout eternity from either of their spouses and children.

    8) Can’t wait until the Church finally decides to allow the sealing of women to all their husbands to occur while the woman is still alive. Where is the logic that she should have to wait until she is dead?

    • NoName

      When you mention the things that had to be taken back temporarily and you mention the “blacks” getting priesthood….I interpret that as you meaning that for the time being blacks can be included but that is just a concession (like denouncing polygamy in earthly life) that has been made by the church in order to go with the cultural thinking.

      Is that correct?

      Is it your belief that someday people of African descent will no longer be aloud to have the priesthood?

      • To clarify, it is my belief that the priesthood ban was a racist mistake and never reflected the will of God. It’s gone for good.

      • Sally W.

        The important thing to remember about “the church” is that it is lead by Jesus Christ and nothing is done eleswise through inspiration via the power of the priesthood and the Holy ghost. the priesthood is God’s power to act in His name on the earth. It is governed by adherence to the principles of the gospel. the Lord directs His church through appointed prophets who hold the keys of administering His will upon the earth. If Heavenly Father makes decisions or if earthly appeals to god are communicated from man to Heaven, the priesthood is the vehicle it is done by. A prophet is important and is God’s way of governing the affairs of Heaven and earth. Our earthly experience is for our benefit to learn and grow. But, God never ceases to be God. The Book of Revelations speaks of blasphemies which will incite the Lord’s anger. We see some of this now. It’s important to listen to the spirit and to try to understand God’s will and His love for us.

      • NoName

        TY AMG and Sally. I agree that it seems to be a racist mistake that is gone for good but NoName’s comment sure makes it sound like her/his opinion is that blacks will eventually NOT be allowed and that to allow in the first place was wrong. I was wanting him/her to clarify for sure because it was a theory I had not heard before.

  107. Anonymous

    I am anti-polygamy for myself. I feel like it was necessary for a short time on the earth among the Saints. Obviously it is an eternal principle of the mormon faith though. When I was sealed (married in the LDS temple) I wasn’t informed about living a polygamous lifestyle in heaven. I feel like this is a personal choice, I decided to marry my husband and have him for my family. Some women are ok with it, and that is fine, but I feel like I am allowed to have my own view. Maybe I will see the whole picture, the “eternal perspective”, but what if I don’t will I be cast out of the celestial kingdom for not participating in polygamy? This might be wrong to think, but I always thought, how would the men in our faith stomach having another male as part of their eternal marriage? Do I just take this too personally?

    • Noel E. Gutierrez

      Dear Anonymous Mormon Girl: I am not a member of the Mormon Faith, but I have studied it very well and I do understand their point of view that it was absolutely necessary for the Mormon Community to practice Polygamy then when they were persecuted everywhere and that’s part of their primitive onthological practice. I have had up to five official girlfriends in my life and I don’t think I would be marred to all of them, even though I like all of my ex-girlfriends. You need to be devouted to ony one person for the rest of your Earthly life. The idea of being married for eternity is not valid because once you lose your physical body, you are free to carry on with your existence in the Cosmos. I believe we reincarnate several times before we present ourselves in font of God. This is ony my personal belief,

      I will be thinking about you and I shall pray that you attain DISCERNMENT.

      I love you!!


  108. I agree. The LDS church is still practicing polygamy by allowing men to have more than one marriage in the temple after the first wife passes on etc. Elder Oaks is remarried and he now has two wives (the first is dead). Why is it, that if polygamy is supposed to have the consent of the first wife (not sure how true that ever was i.e. think Emma Smith’s tragic tale), that Mormon polygamy today disregards this and men, such as Elder Oaks, are allowed to become polygamists? If our lives are about agency, then his first wife just got her eternity decided without her consent. This does not seem fair.

    People ask me if we still practice polygamy. I always say no. But if I do that, I’m just as bad as the church and I’m airbrushing history. Is it right to stay silent? I’m not going to keep up the lie any more. I’m going to tell the truth.

    Today the church always says it doesn’t practice polygamy. I feel in saying this, the church is trying to show that it is distancing itself from plural marriage. However, people never ask why the church gave up the practice? The church didn’t give up practicing polygamy because of moral reasons. I think that’s a very important point for non-members to know.

    If there are any historians out there, please can you help clarify something for me. When the church was practicing polygamy (having more than one wife at a time while alive), was it illegal in the US or did it only become illegal because the Mormons were practicing it? If there was no law allowing it, does it make it right to practice it? If there was already a law disallowing it, then all those Mormon polygamists were criminals. How does this fit in with the articles of faith which say we ‘obey, honour and sustain the law’?

    I hate polygamy. In my D&C, in the margin, I have the phrase ‘false doctrine’ written in. That’s how I see it. No matter what religion, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, etc, it’s wrong.

  109. Angela

    Judging from the comments, Mormons are okay with polygamy if they thought God were to command it…scary stuff.

  110. El Mexicano

    Hi MG and MG readers,

    I have been a member my whole life and I am very grateful for that. I was born and raised in Mexico. From my Dad’s side I am fourth generation Mormon and from my Mom’s I am third generation..

    What I do know is that not every point has to be logical and make sense. Some things our little human mind does not comprehend, like for example, how big is the universe? We do not know and frankly I do not think anyone understand it either. I mean it is “INFINITE” without end, what does that look like or feel like or smell like.

    So, in regards to poligamy. We know it was practiced in the early days of the Church and Old Testament days. And God commanded it.

    A couple of scriptures comes to mind and leave with peace as I have studied it in my mind, ponder it and especially feeling it in my heart by a peaceful feeling usually known as the Holy Ghost or spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

    The scriptures are:

    “And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him

    And therefore, he that will harden his hear, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

    And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)

    6 Do not amurmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

    7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

    8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

    9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.(D & C 9:6-9)

    Perhaps, it is a mystery from God to understand it, and those that are dead and lived polygamy, they may have received that mystery but most importantly the understanding of why and where it came from because like the scripture says [They] “heed and diligence which they give unto him’

    So, in conclusion like Pres. Kimball said personal motto was ‘Do It!’, and most recently from Pres. Monson: ‘when God speaks and a man ( the word man here applies to all humans: men and women) obeys, that man will always be right’

    • Angela

      But if God is the source of all truth, then he cannot contradict himself. So it does not logically follow that he could decree polygamy an act that glorifies him at one time in history and then not allow it in another…truth can’t be contradicted.

      • Sally whitaker

        It seems to me that there are different levels and different requirements based on our spiritual advancement and promises to keep God’s commandments

    • Noel Gutierrez

      I believe Mormonism is a good philosophy to live by.  Now, there are  some communities that still practice polygamy in remote areas of America. Those groups are small but they are still practicing what Joseph Smith practiced in the 1830’s.  Maybe it should be accepted and respected by modern society.  Personally, I wish one woman to be with all of my life.   God bless you!!!   Noel


  111. Tim

    As a Mormon-American male, I have always felt pressured into saying I think polygamy is seemingly immoral and objectionable, as I think all men have to, without really having the opportunity to give it any thought. Could a man really say “Why is polygamy so bad?” and not instantly be seen as a pervert, an anti-feminist and sexist pig? In all honesty, why is polygamy so bad? I think the issue has more to do with sex than it does anything else. The jokes, the media, the HBO shows based on polygamy, all talk about it or deal with it, in the context of sex. Sex with multiple wives is what everyone thinks and cares about, when they hear polygamy.
    Example, is artificial insemination, one man’s sperm impregnating hundreds of women, as controversial as polygamy. No. Why? Because sex is not involved. We don’t “need to talk about polygamy.” We need to talk about sexuality and mormons, because that’s what makes polygamy controversial. I’m not addicted to porn, or a sex fiend. I’m a mormon with a strong testimony of the gospel, but question the larger American-anglo protestant-christian view of sexuality. Is polygamy wrong because sex is the “most” intimate one can be with another, and that should only be shared by one other person? Why is that? Why can’t that be shared with multiple people? Is it because it is men and not women that get to share? What stops us, I guess all americans, from accepting polygamy? Why is it bad?

  112. Davidsharette

    Joanna, why must you spew your hatred of polygamists? You think polygamy is not an eternal principle? How hateful and non-loving of you. Why do you get to be sealed to the person you love but I can’t be sealed to the people I love? Homosexual sealings you believe are eternal, but not polygamous sealings?

  113. Lill Wallace

    I was also a Mormon girl once. However once Reed Benson, my religion teacher at BYU, told me that I could look forward to being a plural wife in heaven, and I started to investigate this notion further, everything started to unravel for me. Without a question the nonsense Joseph Smith told married women and teenage girls (underage rape by today’s laws of the land,) about an “angel with a flaming sword” threatening him unless he “married them” was about sex. The way Reed Benson leered at pretty girls is his class and yammered on about plural marriage in heaven — for himself it seemed — was about sexual fantasies the man was having.

    The racist garbage about dark skin turning lighter that the church taught in the 1960s and 1970s sickened me.(Mormons love to deny this was taught. It was. I regularly taped lectures and fireside talks from GAs, and I have the evidence.) At my graduation, Reed Benson introduced me to his father, Ezra Taft Benson who at the time was an apostle. The man said truly terrible things about African Americans. It was the same racist dogma Christian slave holders spewed to justify enslaving blacks. Absolute nonsense about blacks having been “fence sitters” as spirit children of God, and therefore they had been “cursed” with dark skins. Since this struck me as flat out wrong, and no one could answer my questions on this topic, I fasted and prayed about it. While I prayed for answers to my questions, something we were taught to do, I was clearly told that these were false teachings. When I asked my Bishop about the answer I was given, he got angry with me and said the devil was inspring me since I had no right to go against the Priesthood!

    Yeah right. I fasted and prayed for an answer to sincere concerns about the church, but not God, Satan himself was telling me that racism and misogynist doctrines were bad ideas! Except I knew that it was not the Devil telling me. The racism and misogynist teachings in the Mormon church were and are not only wrong, but they have led to many evil acts against women, girls, Native Americans and African Americans. Today this may be no longer true, (as in the RLDS church,) but the very foundation of the LDS church with its polygamist doctrine of plural marriage — currently still taught that this is ongoing in the afterlife — and righteous blacks being allowed into heaven as “servants” (as taught in the 1970s) are not only false doctrines, but from the thousands and thousands of ex-Mormons, or partial attendance Mormons who agree, it tells me the church has been built on feet of clay. ( I and many others do not accept such teachings to be true in the Bible or any other human attempts to interpret God. They are flawed ideas put in writing by flawed men trying to justify bad tribal practices and or to understand what is difficult to understand.)

    • guy

      I think your issues with the church can stem to what doctrine is actually canonnized. I have no doubt that the things you said were taught in the 60’s and 70s, but they were never made part of scriptural canon and are not scripture. Further, what you said Benson said about Blacks is not accurate of their eternal potential, and I have little doubt that it was said. Benson will learn that he was wrong when he sees blacks as non-slaves.

      All I can say about that Joseph Smith angel sword quote is that it is not historically accurate. This is hard to prove since history has created to Joseph Smiths, two apparently completely different people that have no reconsialiable similarities.

      However, polygamy is a part of Mormon doctrine and history and should no be ignored. And from my experience it is not ignored, it is just not a big deal for most people I know, most of whom agree with it. I personally have no problem with it. My mom is the 2nd wife to her husband, who’s first wife died of cancer, and my Mom speaks with joy of meeting the other wife and how well they will get along. It bugs my wife a little, but not much. She understands, and agrees with, my Mom’s experience.

  114. jeff

    I am LDS and to put it bluntly we still be beleave in polygamy but the Unconstitutional actions of the US Government In violation of the 1st AMENDMENT of the US Constitution “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”…. and The “ex post facto” provision U.S. Constitution’s Article 1 Section 9, C.3 states: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed”… Meaning you can’t pass a law and apply it retroactively. The LDS church 1st started polygamy in 1841. The Federal government did not pass the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act until March 23, 1882 over 40 years after the LDS started practicing it. The US government in other words Unconstitutionally forced there laws on the church and for self pressurization the church the end of the practice but not the belief. The Practice will return again but in the millennium when the in no more US Government. I think it Ironic and sich the the same US Government & US Supreme court that forced the LDS church to stop the practice of polygamy, is getting set to sanction the sick practice of same sex marriage.

    • spcold

      The Edmunds Tucker Act was a Free Mason conspiracy to shut down the Church because they belived that Joseph Smith stole their rights and secret rituals and had deciminated them to the mormon people including the women (which at that time was exceptional heracy for the Free Masons above just stealing their rights and rituals). The senators who championed the act were Free Masons. Now here is the rub, they championed the act in the name of women’s rights. Because they were sooo concerned that polygamy would keep women oppressed! Total BS! If they were so concerned about the rights of women, then why didn’t they chamption women’s right to vote, or the right of women to work in male jobs, or the right of women to own property? Obviously they didn’t do any of these things. And women’s rights any of these things wouldn’t be recognized for another 40 years. The intersting thing abouit the Edmunds Tucker act was that the reason why the Federal government didn’t succeed in abolishing the church was that it ran out of money. In the 1880’s there was a financial crisis because the government didn’t have any gold to back their acts or promisses. And they had to borrow 40 million in gold from JP Morgan just to keep things going. And thus all the church leaders had to do was buy the church property back and promise to not practice polygamy again and they would be a recognized religion.

  115. William Jones

    the guy who has 5 wives has 5 mothers-in-law. He’s got more problems than I or any government entity would ever burden him with. I say we leave him alone.

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