Mormonism and polygamy/Did early Church leaders speak of plural marriage difficulties

Early Church leaders comments about the difficulties of plural marriage

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Gospel Topics: "It is therefore difficult to accurately generalize about the experience of all plural marriages"

"Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013):

The passage of time shaped the experience of life within plural marriage. Virtually all of those practicing it in the earliest years had to overcome their own prejudice against plural marriage and adjust to life in polygamous families. The task of pioneering a semiarid land during the middle decades of the 19th century added to the challenges of families who were learning to practice the principle of plural marriage. Where the family lived—whether in Salt Lake City, with its multiple social and cultural opportunities, or the rural hinterlands, where such opportunities were fewer in number—made a difference in how plural marriage was experienced. It is therefore difficult to accurately generalize about the experience of all plural marriages.[1]


Question: Did early Church leaders "admit" that there were many difficulties with plural marriage that caused "problems" and "great sorrow"?

Plural marriage was a social institution with unique difficulties and challenges

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.[2]

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.[3]

Elder Kimball was talking about the need to avoid quarreling in the home by allowing the Spirit of God to provide a positive influence

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 quarreling 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.


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

Notes

  1. "Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims