Mormonism and polygamy

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    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:


Post-Manifesto–present

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

QUESTIONS


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

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS RESPONDS TO THESE QUESTIONS

"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)


PERSPECTIVES

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)


TOPICS


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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List of Joseph's plural wives, with links to critical claims related to specific plural wives of Joseph Smith, Jr. (Click here for full article)







  • Works of Abraham
    Brief Summary: D&C 132 tells Joseph and others to "do the works of Abraham." What are the "works of Abraham?" (Click here for full article)
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  • Is polygamy not Biblical?
    Brief Summary: The criticism that polygamy is irreligious appeals to western sensibilities which favor monogamy, and argues that polygamy is inconsistent with biblical Christianity or (ironically) the Book of Mormon itself. (Click here for full article)
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  • Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?
    Brief Summary: Critics use the Book of Jacob to show that the Book of Mormon condemns the practice of polygamy, and 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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  • 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.[1] (Click here for full article)
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  • Claims that polygamists are allowed to go beyond normal "bounds"
    Brief Summary: Is it true that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young admitted that the practice of polygamy meant they were "free to go beyond the normal 'bounds'" and "the normal rules governing social interaction had not applied to" Joseph? (Click here for full article)
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  • Hiding the truth about polygamy
    Brief Summary: It is true that Joseph did not always tell others about plural marriage. He did, however, make some attempt to teach the doctrine to the Saints. It is thus important to realize that the public preaching of polygamy—or announcing it to the general Church membership, thereby informing the public by proxy—was simply not a feasible plan. Critics of Joseph's choice want their audience to ignore the danger to him and the Saints. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hiding the truth about polygamy from Emma
    Brief Summary: Joseph Smith did not always disclose his plural marriages to his first wife, Emma. How might we understand his decision? (Click here for full article)
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  • Illegal to practice polygamy?
    Brief Summary: Polygamy was certainly declared illegal during the Utah-era anti-polygamy crusade, and was arguably illegal under the Illinois anti-bigamy statutes. This is hardly new information, and Church members and their critics knew it. Modern members of the Church generally miss the significance of this fact, however: the practice of polygamy was a clear case of civil disobedience. (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Joseph write secret "love letters" to any of his polygamous wives?
    Brief Summary: Is it true that on 18 August 1842 Joseph Smith wrote a “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney requesting a secret rendezvous or "tryst?" Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks prior to this time. What does this letter actually say? (Click here for full article)
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  • Why was Joseph sealed to young women?
    Brief Summary: Critics argue that Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women are evidence that he was immoral, perhaps even a pedophile. (Click here for full article)
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  • Fanny Alger and William McLellin
    Brief Summary: With a lone exception, there is no account after Joseph’s death of Emma admitting Joseph’s plural marriages in any source. The reported exception is recorded in a newspaper article and two letters written by excommunicated Latter-day Saint apostle William E. McLellin. The former apostle claimed to have visited Emma in 1847 and to have discussed Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger. McLellin also reported a tale he had heard about Joseph and Fanny Alger in which they were allegedly observed by Emma together in the barn. (Click here for full article)
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  • Women locked in a room
    Brief Summary: Were women locked in a room while Joseph attempted to persuade them? (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Joseph Smith coerce women to marry him?
    Brief Summary: Some have claimed that Joseph applied significant pressure on women to be married to him. (Click here for full article)
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  • Did women turn Joseph down?
    Brief Summary: Some have claimed that significant pressure was put on women to practice plural marriage in Nauvoo. Did any of these women resist or refuse? What were the consequences of doing so? (Click here for full article)
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Joseph Smith was sealed to women who were married to men who were still living. Some of these men were even active members of the Church. (Click here for full article)



Critics contend that Emma Hale Smith either did not approve of the Prophet Joseph Smith having plural wives or know of the revelation concerning celestial marriage(s). (Click here for full article)

  • Eliza R. Snow and the stairs
    Brief Summary: Some charge that Eliza R. Snow, one of Joseph's plural wives, was pregnant by Joseph. According to the claim, a furious Emma pushed Eliza down the stairs, resulting in a miscarriage. (Click here for full article)
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  • Hiding the truth about polygamy from Emma
    Brief Summary: Joseph Smith did not always disclose his plural marriages to his first wife, Emma. How might we understand his decision? (Click here for full article)
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  • Emma to be annihilated
    Brief Summary: In the revelation D&C 132 Emma was promised annihilation if she failed to 'abide this commandment.' (Click here for full article)
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  • Sealing of Emma to Joseph
    Brief Summary: Critics contend that although Emma Hale Smith was Joseph's first wife, that Joseph was sealed to other wives before being sealed to Emma. The assumption follows that Emma was not in a position to consent to Joseph's other marriages, since she was not longer the "first wife." (Click here for full article)
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Is it possible that Joseph Smith fathered children with some of his plural wives, and that he covered up the evidence of pregnancies? Did Joseph Smith have intimate relations with other men’s wives to whom he had been sealed, and did any children result from these unions? DNA testing has so far proven these allegations to be false. (Click here for full article)


Other issues related to the practice of polygamy

  • Sealing brother and sister together
    Brief Summary: Critics announce that Joseph "sealed" brothers and sisters together, perhaps hoping that readers will conclude that brothers and sisters were thus married and engaging in incestuous relationships. (Click here for full article)
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  • Divorce in the 19th century
    Brief Summary: Some members of the Church remarried without obtaining a formal legal divorce. Critics of the Church try to make this seem dishonest and adulterous, when it was in fact the norm for the period, especially on the frontier and among the poor. Critics are not honest about the legal realities faced by nineteenth century Americans. (Click here for full article)
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  • Remarrying without civil divorce
    Brief Summary: Some critics like to emphasize that some LDS members did not receive civil divorces before remarrying—either monogamously or polygamously. They either state or imply that this shows the Saints' cavalier attitude toward the law. (Click here for full article)
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  • Illegal marriages in Ohio?
    Brief Summary: Critics charge that Joseph Smith performed monogamous marriages for time of already-married members, violating Ohio law in Kirtland. Such claims are false and represent a misunderstanding about the marriage and divorce law of the day. (Click here for full article)
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