Sunday, November 6, 2011

Plural Marriage, An Abrahamic Sacrifice, and God's Ram in the Thicket

When I was doing my undergrad at BYU-Idaho, my husband (then my fiance) and I decided to take a ballroom dance class together while we were dating. On the first day of class, we realized that there were quite a few more ladies than men in the room. Our dance instructor, also a female, explained to everyone that the women would rotate who got to have a turn dancing with the men, since there were more of us then there were men. When she heard the women groan, our instructor smiled and said, “you better get used to it ladies. This is how it’s going to be in the Celestial kingdom after all.”

I remember feeling my stomach twist in an unpleasant way when she said that. I turned to my then fiancĂ© and said, “If she’s right that polygamy is mandatory in heaven, you can go ahead and enjoy that, but I’ll be voluntarily moving down a level in heaven to hang out with the angels.” He laughed, because I was kind of joking . . . but I was also pretty serious. Specifically, an afterlife that required me to share my husband with other women sounded like the exact opposite of heaven to me. Although the LDS church does not currently practice polygamy in mortal life and has not since 1890, polygamy is a very real issue for the afterlife that members of the church have to face every time a husband’s first wife passes away, and he is then sealed to more than one wife, or for any woman who wonders about the general status of marriage in the Celestial kingdom.

In addition, this is an issue that has existed throughout Christianity, and did not just originate with Joseph Smith. For example, the first recorded instance of polygamy (technically polygyny) in the Bible was of Lamech, who “took two wives.” Genesis 4:19.  We also know that Abraham , Jacob, Esau, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Elkanah, Ashur, Abijah and Jehoiada participated in plural marriage. Some interpretations also suggest Moses had a second wife.

Though I’ve spent a lot of time studying and pondering about polygamy, I don’t pretend to be an expert on this topic. However, the most thorough and comforting resource I’ve ever read on this topic is “Polygamy by V.H. Cassler. I recommend that everyone read the article in its entirety, but in the mean time I’ll highlight a few of my favorite passages for you.

First, Cassler quotes lots of scriptures and passages from prophets that make clear that marriage between one man and one woman is the eternal default principle, or the general rule. For instance, in Jacob’s sermon on marriage in the Book of Mormon, Jacob says, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (Jacob 2:27). The Millenial Start also said in 1933, “Celestial marriage--that is, marriage for time and eternity-- and polygamous or plural marriage are not synonymous terms. Monogamous marriages for time and eternity, solemnized in our temples in accordance with the word of the Lord and the laws of the Church, are celestial marriages.” Millennial Star, September, 1933; 95:588. Doctrine and Covenants 49:16 “Wherefore, it is lawful that he [man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.”  Cassler also points out that “In the beginning, when the earth was empty and sorely needed replenishing, God gave Adam but one wife, Eve, that the pattern of his law of marriage might be set from the dawn of time in the very first human marriage on earth (see also Moses 5:3).”

Thus, polygamy is a limited exception to the general practice of monogamous marriage, and polygamy is only lawful when God has commanded it through a living prophet. This principle is supported by Joseph Smith, who said, “I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 323.  Similarly Bruce R. McConkie said “According to the Lord’s law of marriage, it is lawful that a man have only one wife at a time, unless by revelation the Lord commands plurality of wives.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 577. Thus, as Cassler points out, “God is not indifferent concerning how his children marry.  He actively and severely restricts the practice of polygamy, while leaving monogamy unrestricted.”

Cassler compares the exception of polygamy to the Abrahamic sacrifice, where God will always eventually end the sacrifice and provide a ram in the thicket. For Abraham, God commanded an exception to the general commandment of “thou shalt not kill.” Cassler explains, “An Abrahamic sacrifice involves at least three elements found in the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac: 1) God makes plain to Abraham a law (“thou shalt not kill” [D&C 132:36]); 2) God then requires Abraham, an innocent and righteous man, to depart from that law (“sacrifice Isaac”), and the choice to depart therefrom would seem to erase the joy that naturally follows from the law; and 3) God provides a means of escape from the departure from the law (the angel sent to stay his hand and the ram in the thicket; Genesis 22:11-13), which allows renewed joy from being able to live under the law once more. . . . The first Abrahamic sacrifice is brought to an end by the Lord, who relieves Abraham from the exceptional commandment which has caused him suffering.  The paradoxical joy is replaced by the fuller natural joy.  By offering to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham regains Isaac forever.  This is a very important element of any Abrahamic sacrifice: it is always eventually brought to an end by God.”

“Why does the Lord bring this relief?  We can only reiterate that it is because God is not indifferent between a state of sacrifice and a state of relief, and that all other things being equal, he actively prefers eventual relief to perpetual sacrifice for his innocent children.”

The fact that polygamy is analogous to an Abrahamic sacrifice is supported by the Doctrine and Covenants. In D&C 132:50, where God discusses eternal marriage and polygamous marriage, He said to Joseph, “I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you.  Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.” Cassler points out that “all of the surrounding verses are speaking of polygamy, and the only other mention of Isaac in the revelation is in the context of polygamy.  The escape is not in reference to escape from enemies or poverty or other travails, because the last phrase about Isaac reiterates that it is an escape from a command the Lord gives that is being discussed.  The whole of which verse 50 is a part begins with verse 36, because these are the only two verses in which Isaac is mentioned . . . It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that God is speaking of polygamy in verse 50.  The Lord is expressing sympathy for the hardships and sorrow imposed on Joseph by this exceptional commandment to depart from the law of marriage. He is promising to count Joseph’s obedience for righteousness, as Abraham’s sacrifice was counted.  And, very significantly, he is promising that at some future point Joseph will have an escape from this exceptional commandment to depart from the law of marriage and that the sacrifice and suffering that attended his obedience would come to an end . . . one day there would be a ram in the thicket for Joseph Smith concerning polygamy, and he would feel the relief and natural joy that attends such an escape.”

I sincerely hope that this interpretation of D&C 132 is correct, because if it is there are some very positive implications for LDS women.

1. My ballroom dance instructor was very likely wrong in her “uncritical assumption that polygamous marriage is ubiquitous in the celestial kingdom, and that even if we are not commanded to practice polygamy here, we may be required to practice polygamy there.” Cassler also points out that polygamy is likely not necessary in heaven for demographic reasons. For instance, “Approximately 106 male babies are born on earth for every 100 female babies born. More males have existed on earth than females.  Yet by age five, the sex ratio is about 1:1, for male babies are more susceptible to genetic disorders.  Therefore, a large number of males die before the age of accountability and are automatically saved in the celestial kingdom.  Also, male deaths through such mechanisms as the wholesale killing of male children by an enemy power (e.g., in Moses’ time and in Jesus’ time), or males laying down their lives in righteous defense of family and homeland also increases the pool of males eligible for the celestial kingdom.  Using established demographic procedures, several  BYU sociologists declare in perhaps only a partially tongue-in-cheek essay that they can demonstrate there will be more males in the celestial kingdom than females.”[1]

2. “[T]hose women and men who feel pain at the thought of polygamy are all right in God’s eyes  God would not think it odd if they did feel pain.  God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy in the new and everlasting covenant because he, too, views polygamy as an Abrahamic sacrifice which will cause suffering, but also (for the righteous) paradoxical joy and a closer relationship with him. . . When Abraham also was asked to make a sacrifice not justified under the law, his heart mourned and we do not think less of him for it--and neither did God.” I think this second point is especially important, because I’ve often heard people in the church respond to women’s sincere concerns about polygamy quite dismissively and with callousness. For instance, in one of my seminary classes, a student said, “I just can’t believe that God would require me to share my husband,” and the teacher said, “well, then you have a hole in your testimony.” I appreciated much more the response of one of my religion teachers at BYU-Idaho who said, “Sisters, it’s natural for you to feel concern over this confusing principle because you love your husbands, and of course your righteous desire is to cleave to him as one flesh and not share him as others. I don’t have all the answers for polygamy, but I know that God does not condemn you for your worries.” Thus, while some women may not be troubled by the thought of polygamy, that does not mean that women who are troubled by the idea are less righteous.

So what exactly is the ram in the thicket? Here we can only speculate, as this moves beyond the realm of scripture and Prophetic counsel and into the mysteries of the hearafter. However, I feel confident that whatever this ram in the thicket is, it will be something that makes the Celestial kingdom a place that good people would want to strive to attain, and not a realm of eternal sacrifice. As Christ rhetorically observed, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).” Through the principle of sealing transferability, a polygamous marriage may just create a proxy whereby a woman received a sealing ordinance, but will be given another worthy spouse in the eternities. To me, this seems particularly likely for all the women who sealed themselves to Joseph Smith after he died, and without ever necessarily knowing him, just so that they could be sealed to a spouse. Cassler also points out that “Wilford Woodruff had over 400 of his dead female ancestors sealed to him as wives.  These practices seem to indicate that the parties involved understood that the man in question was more of a stand-in or proxy so that the woman could receive the marriage ordinance and thus her exaltation, than an understanding that these women were married in some meaningful sense to these particular men for all eternity.”

The ram in the thicket principle also seems consistent to me for individuals who never had the chance to marry in this life, or who struggled with their sexual orientation. Knowing that God is a just and merciful God, I believe that he will be able to make up for each individual’s sacrifice in the next life.

I’ll conclude with my favorite quote from the Cassler article: 

“For those who weep at the mistaken thought they may be commanded to practice polygamy in Heaven, God does not condemn your feelings.  On the contrary, God will not command you to practice polygamy in the next life, and if he commands you to practice it in this life, you can rest assured of two things: 1) he will make it up to you: you will have a ram in the thicket, even if it be in the next life; and 2) God will lift the exceptional commandment of polygamy just as soon as his loving purposes in commanding it have been fulfilled simply because he feels compassion for those who make an Abrahamic sacrifice in polygamy in similitude of the Atonement. . . If cultural misinterpretations cause the women and men of the Church to mourn over polygamy, either because they mistakenly believe that God is indifferent between sacrifice and nonsacrifice and so no escape from this sacrifice will be provided by God or because they are led to feel that they are selfish and not righteous if they feel pain at the thought of polygamy, then these cultural misinterpretations are actively harming our people.  We then have a duty to root out these cultural misinterpretations from our midst, lest they cause great spiritual mischief (Moroni 8:6).”

What are your thoughts? Do you think this is a correct interpretation of D&C 132? What are some insights you have gained that have given you more understanding about plural marriage?

[1] For more in depth statistics about how there will be more males in heaven than women, See Tim Heaton, et al., “In the Heavens Are Parents Single?: Report No. 1,” Dialogue 17, no. 1, (Spring 1984): 84-86; and also It’s Raining Men: Celestial Demographics (again), by Steve P.


kels said...

Best and most accurate insights on polygamy I've ever read; I love Cassler's article. The fact that it was so clear in scripture, all along, is almost ironic right?

Okay, so to me the ram in the thicket is very likely the fact that those who practiced polygamy didn't very often achieve celestial marriages (at least I've never heard of one). To have our marriages sealed by the spirit of promise, we need to have true celestial partnership. In these cases, there is very often jealousy, backbiting, despair, sadness, loneliness etc (I always think of that OT story where the wives fight over who will sleep with husband by who has the most fruit they gathered, or something like that. Terrible!). These are not the emotions and experiences of one who is partnered in a celestial marriage. I remember growing up, secretly rooting for Emma, ya know? I thought: "I hope he ends up with Emma!" (and it's pretty clear that's what he hoped too ;).

And yet, I felt bad about that because how would that be fair to the other women Joseph was sealed to? They were obedient, and suffered a great deal as a result. It would only be because his marriage with Emma was of celestial quality (speculation, but very likely I'd say), whereas the others were very likely not (again speculation, but given the attachment he had to Emma, it's likely to be accurate). Enter the principle of transference that you described; if obedient, the ram in the thicket will be provided, or in other words you will be provided the opportunity to have your sealing transferred to a celestial, monogamous marriage that is consistent with the eternal marriage truths we have always been taught. You were obedient, you made the Abrahamic sacrifice, the marriage isn't celestial but now you get to have one that is.

I hope I explained that well....

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

I love what a friend of mine said about polygamy when I asked for his insight to help a friend who was struggling with it. He simply said, "We should be a little uncomfortable with it, because our law is monogamy." And I think Cassler's scriptural analysis is good, and reflects the notion that monogamy is the rule. (I did feel some of her conclusions and assertions felt forced, though.)

I do simply love how she engages D&C 132 head-on, with faith that it is scripture and can give us answers, rather than taking the approach I've seen many take, which is to dismiss polgyamy and D&C 132 as mistakes.

I think you sum up perfectly the truth regarding any sacrifice or pain, and what it means to face pain with faith: "Knowing that God is a just and merciful God, I believe that he will be able to make up for each individual’s sacrifice in the next life." It's that simple principle that makes polygamy (or other hard situations like those who deal with homosexuality) ok for me.

The thing that's hard, imo, is that when it comes to our own personal sacrifices, whatever they may be, it's one thing to say that, it's another thing to do as Abraham did and actually take action, take that leap of faith *not knowing* what the ram might be. He only received the ram *after* he took the leap. That sobers me. My leaps may not be related to polygamy, but I sure as anything fight against other pain I'm asked to accept in my life. But when I'm willing to accept it and try to engage it with faith, against it, I always, eventually, find God and find out more about how amazing His grace really is.

Shauni said...

I think it’s important to view Mormon polygamy from a historical perspective, rather than focusing simply on its doctrinal implications. In my own research on the topic, I’ve learned that Joseph Smith was quite a bit more colorful than my Seminary and Institute teachers cared to admit (which, some might argue, is understandable since they are paid to be faith builders, not history teachers).

Just a few historical insights:
1) Joseph Smith’s first plural wife, Fanny Alger, was a teenage servant girl living in his house. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Church, at least in part, for calling their relationship “a dirty, nasty, filthy affair.”

2) Eleven of Joseph Smith’s thirty wives were already married to other men when they were sealed to Joseph Smith, and yes, evidence suggests that he had sexual relations even with the women who were married to other men (For more info on Joseph Smith's wives, see

3) Joseph Smith never admitted publicly to practicing plural marriage, and denied the practice until his death. In 1844, he declared, "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one" (History of the Church, Vol. 6).

Here ( is a helpful timeline of Mormon polygamy, with links to other sources.

Joseph Smith may have been a prophet, but he certainly was not perfect. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I can’t help but view polygamy as a product of his (and Brigham Young’s) weakness. However, I do love the modern-day fruits of the doctrine of eternal marriage, and think it is important for LDS women to discuss the doctrinal implications of polygamy, as you have done here. I may not like the idea of polygamy, temporal or celestial, but I do love the fruit of eternal (monogamous) marriage that stemmed from the original doctrine and practice of "celestial" marriage.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...


I think it is important not to get too hung up on the "historical facts" surrounding joseph and polygamy. Much of what has been written and said was writren and said by enemies or apostates of the church, the truth is that the best measure of understanding polygamy is to look at it from a scriptural and doctrinal base. If you believe tat Joseph lead a colorful life, it would make it impossible for him to be a prophet too. You have to look at he doctrine and not rely on historical accounts which are often not founded in truth, taken out of context or which we dont have enough knowledge to understand what exactly happened.

Also, I think that one of the most beautiful things about this explanation of polygamy is

Just like Abraham is a symbol of our Heavenly Father, Sarah is also a symbol of our Heavenly Mother. In their stories we see that Gods and Goddesses must often do hard things. In Abrahams case he had to sacrafice his son, a thing which heavenly father had to do when he gave Jesus. Sarah was asked to share her husband, something our Heavenly Mother had to do when she allowed her husband to father a son through Mary. Abraham and Sarah's story teach us that Abrahamic sacrafices are part of what it means to be a god. Yet I dont think that it meas that in heaven polygamy will be the norm. In the temple we are promised we will be come queens, and there can only be ONE queen in a kingdom. Yet it doesnt mean that we, like sarah and our heavenly mother, wont have to make excruciating hard sacrafices in order to save our
children. Yet the beautiful thing about abrahamic sacrafices is that they bring more joy in the end, and I think hat is te key to remember about polygamy, no one is going to be unhappy in the celestial kingdom. The "law of sarah" as polygamy is called in sect 132 is a choice, and will never be forced on anyone, but just lke in our mother in heavens case it may sometime be necessary to bring your children back to you.

kels said...

I appreciate the sentiment behind your comment Heather, but I don't believe we can assume this:

"Sarah was asked to share her husband, something our Heavenly Mother had to do when she allowed her husband to father a son through Mary"

It's just as likely that Mary could have carried the son of both our Heavenly Parents, nurtured in a mortal body and born into mortality as a mortal, as opposed to being "spiritually procreated" between Mary and Heavenly Father (not sure what to call it). I think we definitely enter into the realm of speculation in this case, and it's not really fruitful for us to make major assumptions about Jesus not having any physical connections to Heavenly Mother, or that Heavenly Father has any kind of intimate connection with Mary outside of his marriage to our Mother. Especially considering that Mary is His daughter. One thing I am sure of, is that in Jesus' creation there was absolutely no form of infidelity, which probably lends itself more to the first speculation I offered (which again, is still solid because it's all speculation, but I do believe it offers a more doctrinally sound assumption).

So I don't think it's fruitful for us to speculate that should we ever become like our Mother, we'll be required to share our husband with our daughters. It just doesn't ring true to me and there's no clear evidence of it.

kels said...

*not solid, excuse me

kels said...

Okay, now I'm that obnoxious person that keeps commenting on their own comment ;). But I keep thinking about a couple things...

First, back on the subject of speculation, I think another reason that we can't assume that Heavenly Mother "shares" our Father with her daughter is that we already have a model for how Their eternal children become mortal: Adam and Eve. Their physical children, yet they become mortal by some means (we don't know the specifics), which indicates that a similar pattern was probably followed for Jesus, meaning he was the son of God (God in the Elohim sense, including Mother and Father) born of a mortal mother, which then allowed his eternal body to become mortal in a sense. Though his capacity to endure the atonement indicates some eternal strengths that probably stem from his immortal heritage, we know he was mortal.

So, that's what makes the most sense to me. And it's the most consistent with doctrinal precedents and the way we understand celestial marriage and fidelity as well.

On another note, I think it is possible that Joseph may have had some "colorful" experiences; we have many examples in the scriptures and modern days of "colorful" prophet experiences. Prophets are by no means perfect, and there are countless examples where they have said or done things that were not consistent with their mantle (innumerable sexist and racist comments made by early church leaders, to name a few). But that doesn't have to distract from them being a prophet-- as long as we distinguish between which prophetic comments that are doctrinal counsel and those comments made by the man, we have no need to be confused. Here's a great resource for achieving that:

And a great commentary on that publication from the Church:

So, in this case, I guess I could accept either polygamy scenario: it being a legitimate, God-directed Abrahamic sacrifice, or a misguided aberration in the early church. In either circumstance, it is a) in the past and it is clear that we will not be asked to practice it today and b) we can have perfect confidence everyone's sacrifices will be made up to them, and any wrongs and errors will be righted.

Shauni said...

Heather, I appreciate your insights, too, but have a few points to make in response.

1) "If you believe that Joseph lead a colorful life, it would make it impossible for him to be a prophet too." This is an ultimatum I'm not willing to accept. We have been taught that Jesus Christ was the only perfect person to live on the earth. I invite you to do as I have done, by researching Joseph Smith's (rather colorful) life for yourself.

2) It's not only anti-Mormons looking at Joseph Smith's life from a historical perspective. The insights I mentioned above can be found in Richard Bushman's book Rough Stone Rolling, the most widely accepted biography of Joseph Smith. Not only is Richard Bushman an active member of the church, but he is a former bishop and stake president, and currently serves as a stake patriarch. As I said before, you don't have to believe that Joseph Smith was perfect to believe that he was a prophet.

Here's a relevant quote from Rough Stone Rolling on polygamy: "Plural marriage was practiced secretly in 1843, and would be until well after Joseph's death. The doctrine was not publicly announced until 1852. In Joseph's journal, Willard Richards recorded Joseph's marriages in code...To safeguard the burdensome secret, Joseph publicly and repeatedly denied he was advocating polygamy. In his mind, he wasn't. He distinguished between authorized celestial marriage and the illegal practice of bigamy or the radical ideology of spiritual wives. By denying his involvement, Joseph was trying to wall off John C. Bennett's lascivious schemes for enticing women into illicit relations from the carefully regulated performance of priesthood marriages." [Bennett had been caught in adulterous relations with women in Nauvoo, and termed these relations "spiritual wifery." It's no wonder Joseph wanted to distance himself from him!]

3) Ignoring historical facts and rewriting history, as the Church has sadly done more than once, sets people up for faith crises when they learn the truth.

And kels, I think you're absolutely right. We have no reason to assume that Mary had an intimate connection with Heavenly Father. Even we lowly humans have found ways to reproduce that don't involve intercourse (e.g. in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination).

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

You are right what I was saying is speculation, and I'd NEVER venture it to be anything but that. They are just ideas. There is a lot God hasn't revealed and He has His reasons. I wasn't trying to imply that there was any intimacy between Mary and God OR that Mary would have been married to God. God calls her a virgin even after she had conceived and so she must have been. God is all powerful and can do anything, yet no matter how she got pregnant (something like invitro or whatever) it was God's son she carried. So in some small sort of way it still required our Mother in Heaven to "share" her husband. Jesus was not mortal (like Adam and Eve) and so his conception would have been something different altogether, but understanding that really isn't important to our eternal salvation ;)

I guess what I was just trying to point out is that we know that Abraham's sacrifice of Issac was symbolic of the type of sacrifice our Father and Mother in Heaven made by sacrificing Jesus. So I think it is interesting to think that if you put polygamy on he same level as Abraham's sacrifice that polygamy also might be symbolic of the type of sacrifices our parents in heaven make.

I believe that monogamy is the law-- here on earth and in heaven-- but that there may always be exceptions to that law. Yet, I don't think women should have to worry about having to share their husbands in the Celestial Kingdom because I DO NOT think that it will be required. Yet, I do think that they should be prepared to make Abrahamic sacrifices if they were ever asked to, because the scriptures teach us time after time that Gods and Goddesses have to do really hard things. But that in the end your joy and your glory increases beyond what you could imagine. I think our early Later-day Saint sisters understood this and so that is why they could go forward with faith like they did, even in really hard circumstances. They had an eternal perspective.

Sorry, this is getting long:) Just one last thought on Joseph Smith. I just wanted to clarify that what I meant is that-- no matter where the information comes from-- it is important to turn to the scriptures first for understanding. No matter what has been said about Joseph and his polygamous relationships (which I am not denying happened) is that He ALWAYS acted in accordance with what God directed him. If he had misused his power in anyway or entered into any type of relationship that wasn't ordained and commanded by God then he would have lost his salvation and position as a prophet. He may have made human mistakes (he was a man after all and not perfect) but if he had misused the doctrine of polygamy he would have lost his position in heaven and with God. This is what happened to David and to Solomon-- both who were unable to correctly handle the revelation God gave them about polygamy. They entered into relationships that weren't correct (with married women and non-married women) and so they lost their standing in Heaven. We know that Joseph never lost his standing with God and so even if we discover that he married married women or that he married a 14 year-old we don't need to worry over the details of what happened because we can know that he was acting in accordance with God's will. If we have a testimony of Joseph and the Book of Mormon we needn't let historical facts shake our testimony.

kels said...


"It was God's son she carried. So in some small sort of way it still required our Mother in Heaven to 'share' her husband."

Like I've expressed, I'm of the mindset (again, speculation ;) that God's son implies the son of our Heavenly Parents together, but I guess in even in case some might consider it sharing in the sense that she allowed another woman to carry your child. Anyway, it is interesting to speculate about, and I'm glad we agree it's not ultimately important ;).

Great points/perspective also, in your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs! As for your last one, I'll have to think about that more. I struggle with the idea that a prophet would be removed from his place if he ever lead us astray, because... well I'm not sure I've seen evidence of that. This is just one of my personal struggles. Those are good points about David and Solomon, though there's still a part of me that thinks things could have gotten off track a bit... so I appreciate those thoughts you shared and I'm going to have to give them some more consideration. Anyway, thanks for the response Heather! :)

kels said...

Doh! *I guess even in that case some might consider it sharing in the sense that She allowed another woman to carry Her child.*

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

I don't have time tonight to read all the comments before posting mine so hopefully nothing has been repeated.

Here are some quotes that were provided in our D&C Seminary Teacher manuals when we covered polygamy in section 132 The first was just a directive to teachers personally:

“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.”

This quote was provided to help explain why some commandments are given but then God asks for people to ‘supposedly’ break the first commandment:

“Share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.

“God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire” ( History of the Church, 5:135).”

And then to help explain why plural marriage was practiced early in this dispensation:

“Share the following statement by President John Taylor:

“In and through [the] various dispensations, certain principles, powers, privileges and priesthoods have been developed. But in the dispensation of the fulness of times a combination or a fulness, a completeness of all those dispensations was to be introduced among the human family. If there was anything pertaining to the Adamic . . . dispensation, it would be made manifest in the last days. If there was anything associated with Enoch and his city, and the gathering together of his people, . . . it would be manifested in the last days. If there was anything associated with the Melchizedek priesthood in all its forms, powers, privileges and blessings at any time or in any part of the earth, it would be restored in the last days. . . . For this is the dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other times, all principles, all powers, all manifestations, all priesthoods and the powers thereof that have existed in any age, in any part of the world” ( The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [1943], 101–2).

The discussion in the manual then leads to teaching who received revelation to practice plural marriage and who received revelation to discontinue the practice. To stress to the youth that both were prophets who held the proper priesthood keys.

And finally this quote is in the student seminary manual:

“Elder BruceR. McConkie explained: “Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman. ( D.&C. 132:1–28 .) Thereafter he added the principles relative to plurality of wives with the express stipulation that any such marriages would be valid only if authorized by the President of the Church. ( D.&C. 132:7, 29–66 .)

“ All who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day, when the one holding the keys has withdrawn the power by which they are performed, are guilty of gross wickedness ” ( Mormon Doctrine, 578–79; italics in original).

I've always said (my own personal insight) if plural marriage was to be the law in heaven then it would have been from the very beginning - Adam & Eve & Genevive. BUT it wasn't. It was only Adam & Eve. And they had to populate a whole earth - well start it anyway. :)

Stephanie said...

@Michelle, I think you make a good point that an Abrahamic covenant requires a huge leap of faith. I especially loved this quote from you: “when I'm willing to accept it and try to engage it with faith, against it, I always, eventually, find God and find out more about how amazing His grace really is.” That’s something I often have to work on, and I appreciate the reminder.

@Shauni, Heather, and Kels, I’ve really appreciated the dialogue you’ve had about whether or not it is helpful to acknowledge the “colorful” aspects of polygamy. I agree that prophets are not perfect, and I also agree that there are some very troubling historical accounts surrounding this doctrine. However, I think, as Heather points out, it’s hard to reconcile a Prophet of God acting the same way that King David did in the Old Testament without losing his calling. So while Joseph, Brigham, and other prophets may not have administered polygamy perfectly, I don’t think I can say that Joseph could be a Prophet of God and still create a polygamous system that was entirely the result of his own promiscuous desires.

I guess more than anything, I wish the Church would provide more material for seminary and Sunday school teachers to address these concerns about historical accounts of polygamy. I totally agree with your point, Shauni, that ignoring these historical accounts just sets people up for a faith crisis later when they’re confronted with more information.

For instance, I remember Sunday school/seminary teachers saying that we needed polygamy early in the church because there were a lot of women without husbands who needed to be taken care of. This CLEARLY was not the only reason for polygamy. Although historical accounts surrounding Joseph Smith are fairly murky, the historical facts surrounding Brigham Young are much less debatable. From my understanding (someone correct me if my history is off), Brigham was sealed to 55 wives, 21 who had never been married before, almost half of which were married at the age of 30 or younger, 4 were married at the age of 16 or younger, and 6 had living husbands when they were married to Brigham Young.

Now why would a woman need to get married to be taken care of if she was 16 and had all the chances in the world to find marriage, or if she was already married to another man? I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I think that sweeping them under the rug only causes pain and confusion for LDS individuals who feel like they got a watered down version of history in their seminary class.

Also, it bothers me when the Church portrays a very rosy historical picture of polygamy. It’s true that some women claimed to be very happy in their polygamous lifestyle, and the new Daughters in My Kingdom book has some testimonials from some of these women, like Eliza R. Snow. I don’t deny that these testimonials are true, and I think it's great that some of these women were able to find joy in their circumstances. But what is also true is that of Brigham Young’s 55 wives, 10 of them divorced him, and at least one wife (Ann Eliza Young) sued for neglect, cruel treatment, and desertion. So there is clearly another more unpleasant side to polygamy that we often try to gloss over.

I just wish that we’d be more up front about the fact that while there are scriptural and doctrinal bases for polygamy, it was not a perfect system. I think the best tactic would be to address these historical ambiguities head on and just admit that we don’t know everything about what went on, and that that’s okay, and then focus on the doctrine of eternal marriage and polygamy as a lawful and limited exception.

@Cocoa, thanks for sharing those helpful quotes. Also, I laughed out loud about Adam, Eve, and Genevive. Great insight.

kels said...

Good points Steph... I thought I'd pitch in my personal anecdote-- I come from "polygamy stock," if you will... my great-grandmother (maybe 2 greats? I'd have to check) was the "second wife" to her husband, and after some serious emotional abuse and neglect, she was ultimately kicked out of the family home (during a storm no less), while pregnant, and left to fend for herself. So I agree that although there are certainly those that had more positive polygamous experiences, painting a perfectly rosy picture is only to our detriment. It's straight up dishonest. Especially when many of us are not only familiar with the more troubling histories, but may in fact be descendants of those who truly suffered as a result of the institution of polygamy.

Stephanie said...

I don't know if I have any strong feelings about plural marriage either way. I know I'm descended from it, as the second wife of at least 3 or 4, and I know before the second wife was married, the 1st wife had to give permission. (I don't know if this was always the practice, but I think it's a great idea.) Wife 1 had a conversation with my great great grandfather that he could take another wife as long as it wasn't a certain woman in town. He married my great great grandmother, who had been the teenage housekeeper/babysitter for the family, so the children of the first wife loved her.

I also know that Brigham Young had at least one of his wives leave him because she hated life either with Brigham or as a plural wife. Brigham Young said no wife of his would ever have to ask him twice for a divorce. While he didn't advocate divorce and would council couples to stay together if possible, he also knew that if someone didn't understand the commandment and blessing of marriage (plural or otherwise) he was going to respect their agency and not force them to stay in a relationship they didn't want to be in.

I like the agency take on this. The wives have agency to approve of their husband taking another wife of not, and have the agency to leave if they are not happy in such a relationship. Since Heavenly Father never forces us, He gives commandments that can bless our lives but does not force us to live up to them, and blesses us for any and every sacrifice we make to keep the commandments if we choose to live them, I don't see how the commandment of plural marriage (which was a commandment at certain times for certain people) would be any different. He loves us regardless of how we choose to react to certain commandments, and will help us receive the maximum blessings for those commandments that we do keep.

I have no idea if any of that made sense or was helpful.

kels said...

As I've understood it, there's always that little disclaimer though that if you didn't accept it when you were commanded to, you were essentially damning yourself in a big way. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong). So I think that intensive consequence led a lot of women to accept/put up with terrible, painful experiences that they did not want to do, and felt forced to do. Agency is a funny thing. Anyway I'm sure someone else has better info than me, pitch in if you do! ;)

Stephanie said...

I don't know if I believe that if you don't accept a commandment right away that you are damned. Then there would be no room for repentance. What about people who can't accept and live the law of tithing right away? Or those who take time to overcome an addiction? Or any other commandment that we take time to gain a personal testimony of? Plenty of people gain a testimony that the church is true and still take a lot longer to start paying tithing or live the word of wisdom or the law of chastity. Doesn't mean they don't have a testimony. Doesn't mean they are eternally damned because they have time to repent. The same can be said of any commandment. Some people struggled with polygamy. Some people struggle with other things.

Polygamy wasn't a commandment for everyone. Only 30% of the church was living it, though if this is because only 30% were commanded to or if only 30% chose to accept the call I don't know. I do know that those who wanted to live it for purely sexual reasons usually weren't permitted or called to it.

kels said...

Okay, I decided to go look up Section 132, and here's where I'm getting that "damning" stuff:

52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, areceive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.

53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been afaithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and acleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be bdestroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

So that's the crux-- for women asked to obey the law of polygamy, there was this revelation hanging over them that God will "destroy [them]".... pretty good cause to feel fear and a great deal of pressure to do something against your will. Not sure I really believe that God would destroy someone for not obeying it, and I certainly agree that if you don't accept a general commandment right away you are not damned. But regardless, that was the kind of language that was used to "persuade" people who were commanded to practice polygamy, so even if there was repentance if you didn't accept, they might very well just accepted it out of fear of condemnation.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...


I've always understood verse 54 to be just as it says

1) Emma is given the commandment to cleave unto her husband and none else

2) If she does not abide that commandment she will be destroyed.

Maybe I'm being to simplistic but that's how I read that.

Shauni said...

I come from polygamy stock too. My 4th great-grandfather, Parley P. Pratt, was murdered by the legal husband of one of his plural wives. This is a deeply personal issue to me, and obviously one that I struggle with.

Just a few more historical tidbits: The revelation we know as D&C 132 was not released to the public or published until 1852 (8 years after the death of Joseph Smith). Emma claimed not to have ever seen it until it was published in Orson Pratt's book The Seer, and firmly denied that her husband had ever participated in plural marriage. Brigham Young, on the other hand, claimed that Emma had burned the original revelation. :)

On June 7, 1844, in its first and only issue, the Nauvoo Expositor published several signed and notarized affidavits from eyewitnesses about this revelation. The affidavit by William Law, a member of the First Presidency, stated, "Hyrum Smith [read] a revelation from God, he said that he was with Joseph when it was received. ... The revelation (so called) authorized certain men to have more wives than one at a time."

On June 10, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, along with the Nauvoo City Council, voted to declare the Nauvoo Expositor a public nuisance and to have its printing press destroyed, claiming that that "said Revelation was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days, and had no reference to the present time." The town marshal carried out the order to destroy the printing press that evening.

As you can imagine, this created quite a stir. Joseph and Hyrum were charged with treason against the state of Illinois for declaring martial law in Nauvoo, and on June 27, 1844 were murdered by a mob while in prison. One could argue that their deaths were a direct (or at least indirect) result of the polygamy issue.

Anyway, thanks for starting this discussion, Steph! I, for one, have benefited from hearing a diverse range of perspectives on this controversial topic!

kels said...

CMC, I obviously like that interpretation much better! I think it's totally sound. Unfortunately, I think that verse is typically interpreted in the way I first indicated; I know at least that's how it was explained to me in seminary, church classes etc. That's why these conversations are so fruitful! We can learn from each other and begin to dispel misleading interpretations and instead teach in a way that is more accurate :)

Stephanie said...

Part 1

@Shauni, I appreciate you providing those other historical facts. I’ve struggled a lot with this issue as well, and while I don’t claim to be an expert historian/scriptorian, here are some thoughts about how those facts can be interpreted in a more positive light.

I think you’re probably right that Joseph Smith was publicly denying the fact that he was actually practicing polygamy. I think the historical accounts of who knew about polygamy and why it was a secret are pretty murky, but one justification I’ve read is that Joseph explained to that Joseph was trying to keep polygamy from becoming public knowledge for fear of the church’s enemies.
Considering mob’s reaction to the Expositor’s discussion of his polygamous relations, this seems reasonable to me. This isn’t the first time that a prophet has publicly lied about his marital status in order to protect himself and/or others. For instance, in Genesis chapters 12 and 20, Abraham lies and tells others that his wife Sarah is his sister in order to protect himself.

In regard to the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, Elder Oaks wrote a really fascinating legal article about this topic before becoming an apostle. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” 9 Utah Law Review 874 (1965). I really wish that we had more articles like this discussing polygamy. Rather than sweep this confusing issue under the Rug, Elder Oaks faces the challenge head on and provides a serious legal analysis of the event that portrays Joseph in a much more positive light. Here are some of the highlights from the article:

To start with, the Expositor was published almost exclusively by men who had just recently been excommunicated from the Church and who were bent on seeking revenge against Joseph. The material in the publication was “more sensational than distinguished” and almost exclusively contained material aimed at attacking the Prophet in language that historians have termed as “lame grammar and turgid rhetoric.” The paper made arguments calling tithing a “humbug practiced upon the Saints by Joseph,” argued that Joseph and Hyrum were “heretical and damnable in their influence,” and said of Joseph that he was “one of the blackest and basest scoundrels that has appeared upon the stage of human existence . . . support not a man who is spreading death, devastation and ruin throughout your happy country like a tornado.” They also called him a “base seducer, liar, and perjured representative.” They also made accusations about Joseph’s involvement in politics, incorrect doctrines, and immorality. “Many of the most dark and damnable crimes that have ever darkened human character . . . are now reduced to indisputable facts. . . Our blood boils while we refer to these blood thirsty and murdering propensities of men, or rather demons in human shape, who, not satisfied with practicing their dupes upon a credulous and superstitious people, must wreak their vengeance upon any who may dare to come in contact with them.” The preamble of the publication said, “We are anxiously seeking to explode the viscious principles of Joseph Smith, and those who practice the same abomination and whoredoms. It is absurd for men to assert that all is well, while wicked and corrupt men are seeking our destruction.” The Expositor also promised to publish many more issues featuring similar information.

Stephanie said...

Part 2

After this publication, the Nauvoo City Council deliberated for two days to determine what to do about the Expositor. They studied Blackstone, an English scholar that had written famous commentaries on the common law. Blackstone said that certain nuisances may be abated by the aggrieved party without notice to the person who committed them. A nuisance was defined by the common law as any unreasonable, unwarranted, improper, indecent, or unlawful use of property that could materially annoy, discomfort, or injure others. Blackstone also declared that a libelous press may be considered a nuisance, which Joseph Smith reminded Governor Ford of in a letter. And the city charter, given to Nauvoo by the legislature of the state of Illinois, gave city officers to power to remove nuisances. Joseph explained to the governor that he thought they had been acting in accordance with the law, since the city as a council and in their “corporate capacity” had determined that this was a nuisance, and then ordered the marshal to carry out the act of removing the nuisance. Destroying a controversial press was actually fairly common in that time period, as one historian noted that there were 16 instances of violence against presses between 1832 and 1867 in Illinois, and at least seven recorded instances elsewhere in the country in the 1830’s and 40’s. Nauvoo itself had declared a liquor shop a nuisance and abated it before Joseph even became the mayor.

The leading case at the time interpreting this topic of nuisance law was a New York case that allowed a municipality to declare a structure in the harbor a nuisance and have it destroyed. That court reasoned, “the dejection of every nuisance . . . is a right necessary to the good order of society, and the reason why the law allows this private and summary method of doing one’s self justice is because injuries of this kind, which obstruct or annoy . . . require and immediate remedy and cannot wait for the slow progress of the ordinary forms of justice . . . nothing is clearer or better settled than the right to exercise this right.” Hart v. Mayor of Albany, 9 Wend. 571 (NY Ct. Err. 1832). Other state courts had cases classifying as nuisances obscene books and prints; scandalous, profane, and obscene language in public, disorderly houses; and other immoral or indecent public acts. Oaks also cites later cases passing similar ordinances to the one at issue in Nauvoo (see footnotes 196, 205). Needless to say, freedom of speech wasn’t quite the same then as it is now.

The leading New York case cited Blackstone for its conclusion, and the very page the court cited is the page the Nauvoo council studied prior to passing its abatement of nuisance ordinance aimed at the Expositor.

The most common theme in Nauvoo council minutes was a fear that if allowed to continue, the Expositor would destroy city by bringing down the wrath of surrounding mobs upon them. They referenced Hauns Mill with 17 dead and 13 wounded, and their fear that this would occur again. When you read the sensational language of the Expositor’s publication, it’s no wonder that had sincere fears about mob retaliatory violence.

Thus, after reading from the Constitution about the freedom of press, the council said, “we are willing that they should publish the truth, but it is unlawful to publish libels. The Expositor is a nuisance.” A synopsis of the council meetings was then published.

Stephanie said...

Part 3

I think it’s interesting that the Marshall, and not a mob, was ordered to destroy the press in an orderly fashion. I also think it’s interesting that the council took so long to decide what to do, rather than immediately and angrily burning the press to the ground without deliberating democratically. At both of Joseph’s initial trials regarding this event, witnesses testified that this was transaction was accomplished quietly and without noise or tumult. Check out this link for a helpful timeline of events.

Joseph Smith was originally tried by a Nauvoo court, but then subsequently agreed to be tried by a non-Mormon Judge to make sure the trial was impartial. In both instances, Joseph and all other Nauvoo city officers were acquitted of all charges. Despite this fact, Joseph and other men were then charged with treason and incarcerated in Carthage while awaiting another trial (which Joseph argued violated the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy). And there, Joseph was murdered by an angry mob despite the Governor’s empty promise that he would be protected.

Stephanie said...

P.S. Sorry my comments are so long and hard to read. I just ended up writing a new post about it to try and make things more clear.

Michelle said...

"So that's the crux-- for women asked to obey the law of polygamy, there was this revelation hanging over them that God will "destroy [them]"

I think it's essential, though, to think about what could have destroyed the men in this system, too. I think polygamy is often painted as only being hard for women, but honestly, think about how pure a man would really have to be to engage this law without unrighteous dominion, selfish purposes, etc.

RGG said...

Thank you for this enlightening and educational post. I love it. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. when I investigated the church 4 years ago,I was asked to write down questions to ask the Missionaries. One question, I considered important to me was "Did the church still practice polygamy?" To me it was a valid question that would have determined if I would continue to investigate the Church or not.I don't know a lot about the Church's history concerning polygamy,so I can't comment on that. However I have watched a few progams concerning "Modern Polygamy"? Is it really modern, or just a new spin? One show in particular concerns a family called "The Browns". There are 4 "sister wives" and at least 18-19 children.
I have no judgement against these people, but what I have come away with is that there appears to be an underlying "unhappiness" with regards to the wives, and the children appear to be suffering in many ways because of the choices their parents have made. Some of the older children have voiced that they will not choose that lifestyle, much to their parents dismay. I don't think the younger children fully comprehend it.
The husband states that he was formerly a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he served a mission, and after he returned home his parents left the church, and he left shortly.

I am curious as to why polygamy has "surfaced" so to speak. I know that in the news, certain fringe leaders have been imprisioned.
Is there a "spot light" on this practice now because there is a problem with it? Why is there an attempt to make it "main stream"
Just saying......

Emily said...

I'm kind of surprised I totally missed this discussion! Considering I already blogged about the article (because I'd heard about it from you) and you gals had already commented on it, I figured I had nothing more to say! When I saw this post, there were probably 2 comments! 27 now!

I, too, wish there'd be more "official" light shed on the topic, and maybe there will be someday. It's so hard to know what historical "facts" are truthful and which are influenced by those who hated Joseph Smith. I think I've kind of lost interest in it because I can't find solid answers. We just don't know, so I guess I've given up for the time being. I haven't read Rough Stone Rolling, but I've heard different reviews on it.

In response to RGG's question of why the topic of polygamy has surfaced again, I'd guess it's because there's just a weird fascination with it; within the church, we want to understand how our ancestors dealt with it, we also want some hard facts on what really happened. I'm not sure if the topic has resurfaced, I think it's been a hot topic all along -- we all just hit it at different points. I don't think anyone wants it to become mainstream in society. That would be gross. I can't think of any LDS women who'd ever want to practice it.

Have you guys read the Joseph the Rake article (audio?) on the FAIR blog? Obviously that's an apologetic site, but the content was insightful. Also, there's Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Plural Marriage but were afraid to ask:; then there's one on the genetics behind if the people who claimed to be Joseph's direct polygamous descendants actually were. All the content was really interesting, but I'm having a hard time finding it to link to. Now I'm wishing I would have documented it on my blog!!!

Anyway, I appreciate the discussion.

Stephanie said...

RGG, I appreciate your kind feedback and your thoughtful question. I thought that Emily had a really good answer. I think questions about polygamy have always existed, and sometimes people struggle to find satisfactory doctrinal answers. That's why I posted about this article. NOT because I want polygamy to become mainstream, but because it helped answer a lot of my lingering issues about the issue, and I hoped it would for other women as well.

As for why polygamy is being talked about more now in the news/media, I'm not sure. Maybe because we have two Mormons running for president, a provocative musical about Mormonism on Broadway, and a tv show about polygamy, so more national attention than ever before is being directed at our religion. But who knows. Thanks though for asking. It's a good question, and I hope we hear more from you in the future!

Lynette said...

I have struggled with this topic for a long time now. I've spent hours on my knees trying to understand how God could ask some of his children to do this. I've read books, articles, journal accounts; brought it up with my bishop and members of my family; and finally was forced to conclude that as this has nothing to do with me RIGHT NOW, I shouldn't worry about it. Nevertheless, I've still been troubled by it and restless. Thank you so much for your post! It literally brought peace to my heart and cleared up so many doubts and confusion I had. Thank you.I don't understand entirely God's purpose, but I understand enough.

Jenelle said...

I appreciate the gravity and import of this discussion and have enjoyed everyone's comments... But I just want to say- was I the only one who laughed out loud when I read that Emma had (accusedly) burned the original manuscript of the revelation regarding plural marriage!? :)

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of comments to make on this subject. First of all, I think that possibly the Lord instituted polygamy among the saints so that they would be driven to the Rocky Mountains where the Church could develop in a relatively isolated situation for about ten years, which would allow it to be strong enough to withstand the persecution it received once the federal government came on the scene in Utah in the late 1850's. In my estimation, few things other than perhaps being anti-slavery in a slave state (as they had been in Missouri) would have incited such hatred of the Mormons in the surrounding populace. All of this, however, is strictly conjecture on my part.

As to my second comment, about four years ago, Sister Julie B. Beck came to Pittsburgh where I live to address a duel Stake Meeting of Relief Society Sisters. This meeting was essentially a guestion and answer session. During the meeting, a lovely young sister asked Sister Beck a question about polygamy -- asking if she would be forced to be part of a polygamous relationship in the eternities as she felt this would be extremely difficult for her to do. (This sister was extremely emotional when she asked this question -- indeed, she was in tears as she spoke. Sister Beck kindly answered that she felt that if this Sister really didn't want to participate in a polygamous relationship in the eternities, she wouldn't be forced to, but that she wanted to give her (and us) something to think about. She then reminded all of us that she had previously talked about the death of her Mother when she was a little child and of her Father's remarriage to a wonderful women who then became her mother, and whom she loved. She then said that because she remembered her biological Mother -- whom she had loved -- but that she also loved her second Mother, that she didn't want to have to choose between the two of them. (Sister Beck was also in tears by this time.) Believe me, there wasn't a dry eye in the room when she was finished speaking about this, and we all had a different view of the principal of polygamous marriage (at least for some) in the eternities.

Ellen said...

Thank you for sharing this story about Sister Beck! My sister passed away at age 25 leaving behind a wonderful husband and my sweet niece. My brother-in-law has married a wonderful women, and we are so grateful that my niece now has a second mom who loves her as her own. For situations like this, I am so grateful to know that the Lord loves my sister, my brother-in-law, his new wife, and my niece all equally. I do not know what the final situation will be in the Celestial Kingdom for their family, but I know that the Lord will make everything right. I believe the deep love for our family members that we develop in this life is a fruit or gift of the Spirit. Even in the aftermath of tragic earthly circumstances and the consequences of personal agency, somehow Heavenly Father will reward us and comfort us and bless us for developing this deep love for one another. He understands the deep fears and sorrows that come if a relationship were to be cut off or taken away. God will not give us stones of sorrow, regret, and loneliness when we plead in righteousness for the bread of deep, abiding, lasting familial love. I don't know how, but somehow all will be made right. The righteous will experience true, sweet joy and will be rewarded for their faithfulness.

Anonymous said...

It is not polygamy in church history that concerns me, but rather the idea that it may exist after this life that has been my concern. This article and the Cassler article has given me incredible peace on this subject. I have a brain tumor and never before has my own mortality and fragility been as obvious to me as it is now. Also, the idea of polygamy in the afterlife has never been on my mind as frequently as it is now. I have two very young children. On one hand if I die I want my husband to feel that he can re-marry if that is the right choice for him and our children. On the other hand the idea of sharing my husband for all eternity scares me and sounds nothing like the heaven I envision. It gives me great peace to know that my Heavenly Father wants my happiness and that I can trust Him to do whatever will bring me and my family that eternal happiness.

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