Mormonism and polygamy/Brigham Young said that the only men who become gods are those that practice polygamy
Joseph Smith era:
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Since Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Journal of Discourses 11:269), does this mean plural marriage is required for exaltation?
Instructions to LDS seminary teachers:
- Note: Avoid sensationalism and speculation when talking about plural marriage. Sometimes teachers speculate that plural marriage will be a requirement for all who enter the celestial kingdom. We have no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation.
- — Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Seminary Teacher Resource Manual (Intellectual Reserve, 2001, [updated 2005]).
This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. Unsurprisingly, they do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by the critics):
- We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them. (emphasis added)
It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:
- The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
- To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
- It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
- Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.
Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis here for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as we now do not.
There are other remarks by Brigham Young that express the same concept:
- I attended the school of the prophets. Brother John Holeman made a long speech upon the subject of Poligamy. He Contended that no person Could have a Celestial glory unless He had a plurality of wives. Speeches were made By L. E. Harrington O Pratt Erastus Snow, D Evans J. F. Smith Lorenzo Young. Presidet Young said there would be men saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God with one wife with Many wives & with No wife at all.
- Then Presidt Young spoke 58 Minuts. He said a Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife & be justified before the Lord.
- [note] Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269.
- [note] Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:527 (journal entry dated 12 February 1870). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
- [note] Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:31 (journal entry dated 24 September 1871). ISBN 0941214133.(emphasis added)
Best articles to read next
The best article(s) to read next on this topic is/are:
- Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 74. ISBN 0252026810.