Mormonism and polygamy

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    Mormonism and polygamy

Important introductory material on plural marriage available here

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Plural marriage
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Joseph Smith era:

Post-Joseph Smith:


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This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.


Joseph Smith initiated the practice of plural marriage in the early days of the Church. Plural marriage was practiced in secret during Joseph's lifetime, and was not publicly announced until the Saints had moved to Utah. There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it. A number of questions arise regarding the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

  • Why was the practice initiated?
  • How was it practiced among Latter-day Saints?
  • Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants state that monogamy was the practice of the Church?
  • Why did the Church deny that polygamy was practiced prior to the time that it was revealed to the world?
  • Was divorce available if one was not happy in a plural marriage?
  • What effect did the Manifesto have on the practice of plural marriage?

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


"Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah," Gospel Topics, (2013)

In accordance with a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage—the marriage of one man to two or more women—was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s. Thereafter, for more than half a century, plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints. Only the Church President held the keys authorizing the performance of new plural marriages. In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church. In this statement, known as the Manifesto, President Woodruff declared his intention to abide by U.S. law forbidding plural marriage and to use his influence to convince members of the Church to do likewise.

After the Manifesto, monogamy was advocated in the Church both over the pulpit and through the press. On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years. In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages. Today, any person who practices plural marriage cannot become or remain a member of the Church.
(Click here for full article)


Valerie Hudson"A Reconciliation of Polygamy," Proceedings of the 2011 FAIR Conference (August 2011)

During the period of time when the restored Church was commanded by the Lord to practice polygamy, some practiced it without any discernible hardship and still others with great pain. Contemporary Church members may look back upon that period with acceptance, or indifference, or discomfort, and I would like to say at the outset that I don’t see that diversity of feelings is harmful that people differ in their reactions to polygamy I don’t think is the issue. Rather, since the New and everlasting covenant of marriage is at the heart of the work of eternal life and godhood; confusion about the nature and form of lawful marriage ordained by God is harmful.
(Click here for full article)


Polygamy in Latter-day Saint scripture

  • 1835 Doctrine and Covenants denies polygamy (D&C 101)
    Brief Summary: The 1835 edition of the D&C contained a statement of marriage which denied the practice of polygamy. Since this was published during Joseph Smith's lifetime, why might the prophet have allowed it to be published if he was actually practicing polygamy at that time? (Click here for full article)
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  • Book of Mormon condemns the practice
    Brief Summary: Critics of Mormonism use the Book of Jacob to show that the Book of Mormon condemns the practice of polygamy. Critics go on to claim that Joseph Smith ignored this restriction by introducing the doctrine of plural marriage. (Click here for full article)
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Polygamy in the 19th Century

Polygamy in the 20th Century

  • Relationship to the modern Church
    Brief Summary: Critics or ill-informed commentators often try to make it appear as if modern polygamist groups continue to have Church connections. Some often call upon the Church to "stop" the polygamist activities of such groups. (Click here for full article)
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Polygamy as practiced anciently

  • Early Christians on plural marriage
    Brief Summary: There is extensive, unequivocal evidence that polygamous relationships were condoned under various circumstances by biblical prophets, despite how uncomfortable this might make a modern Christian. Elder Orson Pratt was widely viewed as the victor in a three-day debate on this very point with Reverend John P. Newman, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in 1870. (Click here for full article)
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Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical, and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph's carnal desires to marry young women. Of particular interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry). (Click here for full article)

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