Mormonism and polygamy/Did early Church leaders speak of plural marriage difficulties
Joseph Smith era:
|FAIR Wiki Topical Guide|
|FAIR web site|
|FARMS web site|
- Critics claim that early Church leaders "admitted" that there were many difficulties with plural marriage that caused "problems" and "great sorrow."
- "The fact that plural marriage brought great sorrow to many of the women involved can hardly be denied. Heber C. Kimball once stated: 'There is a great deal of quarelling in the houses, and contending for power and authority; and the second wife is against the first wife, perhaps, in some instances'" (Tanners/Abanes)
Plural marriage was a social institution with unique difficulties and challenges. Critics often do not fairly represent the experience of 19th century members. Texts and the experiences they represent should be presented honestly and accurately.
In an attempt to make it appear that families practicing plural marriage were experiencing "great sorrow," critics quote early Church leaders. For example, Heber C. Kimball is quoted as saying:
- There is a great deal of quarrelling in the houses, and contending for power and authority; and the second wife is against the first wife, perhaps, in some instances.
- See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 4:178 to see how this quote was mined.
A quote from Brigham Young appears to confirm these concerns:
- A few years ago one of my wives, when talking about wives leaving their husbands said, 'I wish my husband's wives would leave him, every soul of them except myself.
- See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 9:195 to see how this quote was mined.
This is a case, however, of removing quotes from their context in order to make it appear that they are saying something other than that which the speaker intended. Looking at Heber C. Kimball's quote in context, we see:
- Why do I keep talking these things over? Because I want you to understand them and get the Spirit of God and let its peaceable influence be upon you; then you will know the spirit of men and things. Read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and every other good book, and keep busy at some good thing or other, and stop your quarrelling. There is a great deal of quarrelling in the houses, and contending for power and authority; and the second wife is against the first wife, perhaps, in some instances. But that is done away in my family, and there is none of it in brother Brigham's, nor in brother Wells', nor in any family where they have common sense.
Elder Kimball was talking about the need to avoid quarrelling in the home by allowing the Spirit of God to provide a positive influence. His mention of plural marriage was not the main focus of his comments, but an example to illustrate his point. He certainly was not relating any sort of experience within his own family, nor was he commenting on the "sorrows" of plural marriage.
Brigham Young's quote was taken from a discourse regarding respecting women.
- I will now pass to my third text. I can say with confidence, that there is no people on the face of this earth that pay more respect to females than do this people. I know of no community where females enjoy the privileges they do here. If any one of them is old and withered and so dried up that you have to put weights on her skirts to keep her from blowing away, she is so privileged that she is in everybody's dish or platter—her nose is everywhere present—and still she will go home and tell her husband that she is slighted. Here we see the marked effect of the curse that was in the beginning placed upon woman, their desire is to their husbands all the time. It is also written, "and he shall rule over you." Now put the two together. Nobody else must be spoken to, no other body must be danced with, no other lady must sit at the head of the table with her husband.
- A few years ago one of my wives, when talking about wives leaving their husbands said, "I wish my husband's wives would leave him, every soul of them except myself." That is the way they all feel, more or less, at times, both old and young. The ladies of seventy, seventy-five, eighty, and eighty-five years of age are greeted here with the same cheerfulness as are the rest. All are greeted with kindness, respect, and gentleness, no matter whether they wear linsey or silks and satin, they are all alike respected and beloved according to their behaviour; at least they are so far as I am concerned.
Again, this sermon hardly qualifies as a discourse regarding the "problems" and "sorrows" of plural marriage.
- [note] Heber C. Kimball, "THE BODY OF CHRIST—PARABLE OF THE VINE—A WILD ENTHUSIASTIC SPIRIT NOT OF GOD—THE SAINTS SHOULD NOT UNWISELY EXPOSE EACH OTHERS' FOLLIES," (January 11, 1857) Journal of Discourses 4:178.
- [note] Brigham Young, "ROBBING THE DEAD—DANCING, NOT A PART OF THE SAINTS' RELIGION—KINDNESS IN GOVERNMENT—MORE TELEGRAPHIC WIRES," (February 9, 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:195.