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A 2002 Mormonad in the New Era magazine showed an ice cream sundae with a cockroach in the ice cream. The caption read, “It’s great, except for . . . the bad parts.” [1] Although a commentary on questionable media, I also saw it as a commentary on the gospel because the beautiful ice cream sundae of the Plan of Happiness held for me one depressing, cockroach-like thought: polygamy was part of God’s eternal plan.

When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 at age 17, I knew nothing of its teachings on polygamy or, as the Church called it, “plural marriage.” Later as a BYU student I was told that this concept—completely foreign to me at the time—had been a way for men to financially care for widows in the early Church. That left me confused, but the rude awakening came after I was married and understood the eternal implications of this doctrine. [2] Today, as a grandmother, I still have not outgrown my aversion to these teachings and, with more historical details available on the Internet, I do not expect to. While raising my children, I never burdened them with my concern, but now my daughters question this concept and I worry about how my eight young granddaughters will feel when this eternal prospect confronts them someday.

Over the years I have tried to avoid the topic of polygamy by “putting it on a shelf” as priesthood leaders often advise. Unfortunately this advice was never very useful. The topic would jump off the shelf when it was brought up in occasional Church meetings, in my readings, or as I attended the temple. I was reminded that plural marriage was part of my faith and that I should believe this principle somehow fit into God’s plan. Recent changes in the temple ceremonies might lessen that reminder, but my underlying concern remains: plural marriage is still part of my faith.

Despite my frustrations, I have found comfort in a few writings by Church members that also questioned this doctrine. When I was a young mother, I was given Eugene England’s paper, Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage. [3] It seemed logical and I hoped it was true. Several years ago, I read Valerie Hudson Cassler’s explanation of polygamy in her book, Women in Eternity, Women in Zion. [4] Although Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants was still painful and it troubled me that this belief had played out in the early Church, Cassler provided clear reasoning to refute that plural marriage would be eternal. Yet it left me questioning why the temple and our Church leaders were not providing that same assurance. Then, reading Carol Lynn Pearson’s book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy, [5] confirmed something I had long suspected: this practice had been damaging to many women and this confusing teaching continues to be emotionally damaging to many women today. [6] It fueled my doubt that God ever endorsed it.

The good news of the Savior, as taught in the Church, is my comfort and hope and I will not throw the baby (my faith in the Church) out with the polygamy bathwater. Throughout my years of faithful membership, whenever plural marriage was defended—whether through a Church-sanctioned explanation or through a member-invented speculation—I never felt convinced. This paper, with supportive notes from mainly Church sites, is mostly my response to the defense of this doctrine. There are women who appear to be at peace with this principle; unfortunately, I am not one of them, nor would I presume to speak for them. So my thoughts alone are expressed, along with my interpretation of the insights of others.


1. Are Men Superior and Women Inferior?

In her book Eve and the Choice Made in the Garden of Eden, Beverly Campbell asserts that the source for men being considered superior to women comes from the negative characterizations of the first woman, Eve. [7] Contrary to the world’s view of Eve, our unique understanding of her noble choice in the garden teaches we are not inferior to men. [8] Unfortunately though, our teachings on plural marriage obliterate the progress that Eve’s daughters make with their collective self-esteem and, instead, men’s superiority and women’s inferiority is multiplied.

Polygamy is a statement of inequality. The message from men to women is: I am to be the unique object of your affection, but you are to be one of many objects of my affection; you are selfish if you are not willing to share me with other women. You are to be intimate and loyal to me only, whereas my desire to have multiple partners is righteous and will be my reward in the eternities.

Good men would never use this belief to feel superior or to rule over women; nevertheless, the principle invites this very thought. Our beliefs link to our attitudes and actions and with these teachings, confused men have justified their affairs and pornography habits while evil men have debased and harmed women and young girls. [9] To rub salt in the wound, it is usually men—the gender saddled with negative male stereotypes that are further perpetuated by sanctioning polygamy—who provide the explanation for and defense of this principle. [10]

While it is implied that men and women in the highest kingdom will have different roles throughout eternity, we are taught that those who dwell in God’s presence will be made equal in power, might, and dominion (D&C 76:95). In other words, we may not be the same, but we will rule as equals. [11] In contrast, D&C 132, the current temple sealing policies, and the actual plural marriage practiced by the early Saints reveal women are considered peripheral beings helping a man (who is central) to build up His kingdoms. With eternal, plural marriage requiring more females to equal a male, women are not equal in power, might, and dominion—the numbers do not add up.


2. Does God Want His Name Associated With this Seldom-Discussed Teaching?

I resent that we do our best to hide the concept of polygamy from unsuspecting investigators. After all, I was one of them. The Church’s plural marriage history is more openly covered today on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and in supplemental materials, but the eternal nature of plural marriage is not covered and neither perspective—the historical nor the eternal—is part of the missionary lessons or discussed in Church meetings, which is reasonable because members come to Church to be inspired. For many, this is not an inspiring topic.

When my husband and I were teaching the Gospel Principles class in our ward, a recently baptized young man raised his hand and began quoting word for word some scriptures he had discovered and apparently memorized in the Doctrine and Covenants. [12] He then asked if men in the Church are justified, as this scripture stated, in having many wives. This young man seemed pleased with his new discovery. Still, it often comes as an unpleasant shock when a Church member stumbles across D&C 132 or learns of the current temple sealing practice allowing a living man, but not a living woman, to be sealed to multiple partners.

Rather than hide this teaching and practice, perhaps we should ask if God wants His name associated with it at all. Dennis Prager, a Jewish scholar and talk show host, has a logical view of the third commandment found in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Of the Ten Commandments, only this one carries the severe penalty that whoever breaks it will not be held blameless. Prager clarifies that rather than just slipping up with a swear word, taking God’s name in vain refers to doing evil in His name, something God finds especially reprehensible because it turns others away from Him. [13]

In his book The Rationale Bible: Exodus, Prager explains slavery based on kidnapping was banned in the Torah, but other forms such as slavery based on indentured servitude was tolerated even though it was not an ideal lifestyle. Similarly, he says, “While the Torah allowed polygamy, its ideal is monogamy, which is why every instance of polygamy described in the Torah is described in a negative way. And the Torah narrative is as important a source of values as is Torah law.” [14]

It seems God patiently tolerated some ancient cultural norms, including polygamy and slavery; however, His toleration does not mean approval and does not make these practices part of His eternal plan. If both polygamy and slavery were tolerated anciently but are not approved today, will God hold the perpetrators of either guiltless? Is it acceptable that today we claim one of these practices, which turns some of His children away from Him, as doctrine associated with His name?


3. Would an Agency-Denying Principle Be Restored?

For women, these twin relics of an ancient culture—polygamy and slavery—seemed to go hand in hand. [15] While women in Old Testament times were not alone in being slaves, their role as property uniquely included sometimes being given or taken as plural wives such as in the case of Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid. The scripture in Genesis 16:1-3 tells us that Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham to wife. [16] This makes sense in the context of the Old Testament: Hagar was a woman, she was property, and her freedom to choose was irrelevant—that is how things were in those days.

The related scripture recorded in D&C 132:34 says, “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.” From this version of the story the same thing happened: Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife, but now God commanded it and it fulfilled promises. Missing from this scripture is any explanation of Hagar’s opinion on becoming a second wife, which was understandably unimportant in Old Testament times, but what about in Doctrine and Covenant times?

Unlike the Old Testament version of Hagar’s story, the Doctrine and Covenants version was being told in the United States when polygamy and slavery (at least for white women) were not part of the culture. Now this story becomes an example for today’s Restored Church, which has a central teaching of God-given agency—a gift that is extended to women.

Abraham’s relationship with Hagar is viewed by some Christian and Jewish faiths as Sarah’s idea and not in accord with God’s moral law. On the other hand, our version claims God restored and commanded this disruption to family life (without giving instructions on how it should be implemented), but continues to leave Hagar’s agency out of the restored, modern-day polygamy equation. [17] Why does this Hagar example, which became the basis for latter-day plural marriage, involve a slave with no right to express her opinion?

We are often reminded the strong, early Church-history-women chose plural marriage. They did, and they lived at a time when they had more privileges than Hagar. But they still did not have the nearly equal status women enjoy today. Also, they were under ecclesiastical and social pressure to support this principle, fearing a God who commanded polygamy and fearing His punishment if they opposed it. [18] So, like Hagar, were these women really allowed the freedom to choose? Did the example of Hagar, who had little say in this matter, apply to these latter-day women also?

While this is not the Church’s message today, D&C 132:34, recorded in latter-day scripture for our day, suggests God commands that women be given as wives, treated like property, and their freedom to choose is insignificant. In fact, some fundamentalist sects justify this exact treatment of women using this verse and others from D&C 132. [19] I believe in restored truths, but I am not supportive of a restored agency-denying principle—not the biblical practice of plural marriage any more than I would be of the biblical practice of slavery.


4. The Husband-Wife-God Relationship Suffers

My husband does his best to make me feel special and unique in his eyes, something every woman wants. [20] In the hope of eternal marriage, we covenant in the temple with God and our spouse, yet sadly, this eternal hope involves something that takes away a woman’s dream of being her husband’s unique and only companion. Although the early Saints may not have always had the luxury of romantic love, the universal desire for a woman to be the only wife to a husband could not be put aside. [21]

Reading D&C 132 is a painful experience because poor Emma (along with wives and concubines in general) seems to be less than human, more like property and certainly not special in her husband’s eye. To make matters worse, she is threatened with destruction if she does not accept her role as property and sacrifice her monogamous relationship with her husband. [22] This not only can harm a woman’s relationship with her husband, but also her relationship with God.

It is disturbing to think of the pressure that would compel older women to give up their monogamous relationships with their husbands as they watched them marry younger women who were at the beginning of their childbearing years. It is especially uncomfortable to think of the persuasion required to cause naive young girls, who have the possibility of marriage still ahead, to forego their prospects of monogamy in order to live polygamy. [23]


5. Women’s Identities and Destinies are Muddled

Among the concepts found in D&C 132 that challenge my female self-esteem, the instructions involving the first wife having a say in becoming part of a polygamous relationship are at the top of the list. The section says, “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent . . . then he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him . . . ” Considering the previously mentioned pressures on the early Saints to live this principle, was the first wife freely giving consent or rather pressed into doing so? Could one who is subordinate, without legally independent status, give true consent? In reality, these questions are insignificant. Although it may have been polite to ask the first wife’s permission, her consent is of no consequence because later in the same section it states if she does not accept this law and give her consent, she will be destroyed and her husband will be able to take another wife anyway. [24]

Thankfully, we are not told by today’s prophets to live this principle. However, based on our teachings and with an eternal point of view, we are living it. It is practiced in our day by the men who remarry and are sealed for eternity to additional wives after the death or divorce of their first wife (something a living wife cannot do upon the death or divorce of her husband). In the case of death, there is no need to obtain the consent of the first wife before the husband is sealed to additional wives. The first wife’s agency is irrelevant. Since seeking the first wife’s consent could get messy, perhaps it is better that she not be asked. After all, can you imagine a husband asking his dying wife if she will allow him to be sealed eternally to another wife after she passes? Fortunately, something that hurtful is not likely to happen.

What is more likely is for couples who know of this teaching to have a conversation prior to or early in their marriage, and for the wife to ask that her husband never be sealed to a second wife. This conversation can go two ways: the husband might assure his wife he will follow her wishes and never take a second wife, or perhaps (feeling he must be honest) he will say he can’t be certain, because it might be required of him to take additional wives. My husband chose the former option, which in my opinion, is the wiser choice because it keeps the wife happy. He knows that if I die first, he would be free to remarry, but that I do not want him to be sealed to another woman. He has agreed to this despite D&C 132, which states my permission is not required. Even though I might be viewed as selfish because of my demand, I prefer my children not be burdened by thoughts of eternal plural wives for their father.

Before a divorced man is sealed to another wife, he is usually required to obtain the consent of the first wife (and also the permission of the First Presidency). However, my daughter’s consent was not requested before her ex-husband was sealed to a second wife. She had been sealed in the temple, and then abandoned by her husband a year later, with divorce papers arriving the next day. Even though he left her, she was left to cancel the sealing—something she needed for her peace of mind and would also need if she ever wanted to be sealed in the temple again.

Despite the strong objections of her stake president, she insisted on the cancellation of the sealing. This long, arduous procedure required her ex-husband’s permission, which did not come quickly. During the process she learned that shortly after their divorce was final, he had been sealed in the temple to another wife. In effect, my daughter had not only remained sealed to her ex-husband for some time after their divorce, but without her knowledge or consent, she had also been sealed to his new wife.

All of this causes me to wonder why God’s plan would place this added stress on a couple: create an unequal voice in their relationship, teach them that loyalty in their marriage will be one-sided, and cause them to have conversations about additional wives in the hereafter. I wonder why His plan would place this added stress on the woman in particular: that is, demonstrate that her freedom to choose in this matter is meaningless, imply she is selfish for desiring that a spouse be loyal to only her, and allow her to imagine that the highest heavenly home will be, for her, less heavenly.

Elder Tad Callister said, “If one does not correctly understand his divine identity, then he will never correctly understand his divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners.” [25] This muddled principle of plural marriage, that cannot be adequately explained, touches on both a woman’s identity and her destiny, resulting in a less than ideal understanding of either.


6. The Church Separates Itself from Other Churches Obeying D&C 132

While many parts of the gospel’s restoration (such as scriptures other than the Bible) separated the early Saints from their surrounding communities, the defense often given for their polygamous lifestyle is that it “helped create and strengthen a sense of cohesion and group identification among Latter-day Saints. Church members came to see themselves as a ‘peculiar people,’ covenant-bound to carry out the commands of God despite outside opposition.” [26] The goal was accomplished and the early Saints saw themselves and were seen by others as a “peculiar people,” and when the Church is linked to this lifestyle today, we are also seen as peculiar.

More than just peculiar, this practice—that likely seemed immoral and cruel to women by the majority of the Saints’ neighbors—would have been abhorrent in the 19th century. There could never be a justification for violence against the early Saints, but we can understand members of a community wanting to separate themselves from those living this practice because clearly, the Church in our day does just that. Unlike the recent changes allowing children of LGBT parents to be baptized with an understanding of the doctrine that will be taught, children of polygamist families cannot receive Church ordinances until they are 18 and disavow polygamy. [27] Our Church makes a concerted effort to separate itself from present-day polygamist sects, many of which share our early history and scriptures, but have continued obeying the marriage commandment described in D&C 132. [28]


7. Is This Abominable Whoredom Occasionally Commanded?

As an early-morning seminary teacher, I was taught that the context and content of the scriptures will help us discover gospel truths. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon teaches and clarifies many of the truths that were distorted or removed from the Bible and I believe Jacob 2 is no exception. In that Book of Mormon chapter, Jacob tells the brethren the Lord is unhappy because of their sins—the sin of pride and the even grosser sin of having more than one wife. He tells them they are trying to excuse their whoredoms, based on the things written concerning David and Solomon who had many wives and concubines, which was abominable to the Lord. [29]

In fact, it was so abominable that in verse 25, the Lord says He “ . . . led this people out of Jerusalem so that he could raise up a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.” The Lord warns these people not to “do like unto them of old . . . for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.” Jacob continues to explain that the Lord requires this people to keep His commandments or the land will be cursed and, in verse 30, Jacob reports, “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

As a woman, I have wrestled with the explanation that “raising up seed unto [the Lord]” refers to His occasionally authorizing plural marriage, [30] which, although seldom stated, will ultimately be eternal plural marriage. [31] However, considering the context of Jacob 2:23–35 where Jacob describes the pain this practice has brought to families (the Lord’s condemnation of it in no uncertain terms and that one wife is His commandment) this interpretation means verse 30 clearly contradicts its surrounding verses.

Could this verse mean the opposite of what has been taught? To be consistent, how could “raise up a righteous branch” in verse 25 be interpreted as a commandment to refrain from this abominable crime of polygamy that was practiced in Jerusalem, whereas, “raise up seed unto the Lord” in verse 30 is interpreted as a commandment to embrace this abominable crime? How could the Lord then say in verses 31 and 32 that He has “seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning” of His daughters in Jerusalem because of their husband’s wicked actions and He “will not suffer” their cries against them, and then state that He will occasionally command His people to live what causes the sorrow, mourning, and suffering of His daughters?

Using the context and content of these scriptures, it makes more sense that in the first part of verse 30 the Lord is repeating what He said in the preceding verses: if He is going to “raise up seed . . . [He] will command [His] people” (and in other words, expect husbands to follow what He is commanding through his prophet Jacob) to have one wife only. Then, in the latter part of verse 30, the Lord is next introducing what He will say in subsequent verses: if the people are not His seed, or choose not to be of His seed, the men will “hearken unto these things”—they will hearken to David and Solomon’s ideas or the polygamous ways of old that will lead to their cursing and cause heartache for their wives and children.

Thus, raising up seed unto the Lord (verse 30) and raising up a righteous branch (verse 25) both refer to following God’s command to refrain from committing the whoredom of practicing polygamy, an interpretation which allows verse 30 to validate the context and content of the surrounding verses. [32]


8. The Church has Yet to Fully Disavow Polygamy

As a missionary in Panama in the 70s, I taught and baptized Panamanians of African descent and saw firsthand the struggle these members faced thinking they were somehow less valiant in the premortal life, and therefore not qualified for temple and priesthood blessings. These restrictions have been lifted and the confusing doctrine and speculations that were previously given have been disavowed. [33] Women troubled with the doctrine of plural marriage do not have the same good fortune—at least not yet. While we are advised by the Church to say we no longer practice plural marriage, our temple sealing practices and D&C 132 cause some women to worry it foreshadows what might be eternal.


9. The Justifying Speculations are Found Wanting

Increasing the number of children born in the gospel covenant is given as one reason for God to command members of the Church to practice polygamy and polygamous men in the early Church did have more than the average number of children. [34] However, women in plural marriages gave birth to fewer children, so did it accomplish its purpose? [35] Regardless, plural marriage likely resulted in lower Church membership by repelling countless potential converts and, despite distancing itself from this principle, it remains the Church’s largest public affairs problem. [36]

Polygamy is similar to a Ponzi scheme—the first investors are paid with money invested by later investors. The first men investing in polygamy take multiple wives, including those much younger than themselves, but the generations of later investors have already contributed their potential wives, so the multiple wives scheme is doomed to collapse. To keep this Ponzi-like scheme afloat today, a large proportion of boys must be kicked out of religious sects who use D&C 132 as the basis for their faith. [37]

With females as the funds, this principle may function like a Ponzi scheme on earth, but what about in the eternities? Among the more common speculations to justify eternal polygamy is that women are more righteous and will outnumber men in the highest kingdom, thus plural marriage will be necessary. But we are counseled against making final judgments about anyone’s ultimate eternal destination, which I would assume includes the overall eternal destination of most women as compared to most men. [38] Even more troubling is that these presumed, lopsided, celestial numbers suggest that an all-powerful, all-knowing God miscalculated the male to female ratio for His highest kingdom. Hence, plural marriage is necessary to solve His mistake.


10. Part of Our History, Our Eternities, and Perhaps Our Lives Again

My devoted husband, our children, and now our grandchildren, are among my greatest blessings. They are an earthly family, allowing me to imagine a heavenly family. Nevertheless, the cockroach in the sundae reminds me that the family unit we enjoy in this life might bear little resemblance to what we could experience in the eternities with polygamy.

When we talk about the eternities and the highest kingdom in the afterlife, we often use the following phrases: worlds without number, immensity of space, eternal lives. Since we use words like multiple and plural to describe wives, would men’s wives be unending also? This seems to be what the early prophets, particularly Brigham Young, had in mind. Eternities aside, it is hard to forget the early Church families who lived this principle, to forget the pain of Emma and other plural wives whose true feelings cannot be accurately documented because the practice was “lived out mostly behind closed doors and unseen inside human souls.” [39]

D&C 132:3 says, “ . . . all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” Yet today Church members striving to obey what is commanded in this scripture are excommunicated. Plural marriage ended because statehood was denied to Utah, but with same-sex marriage now the law of this land, polygamy’s legalization may not be far behind. [40] As a result of its foreseeable legalization and this mandate recorded in the scriptures, would Church members, like the early Saints, be asked to comply with D&C 132 and live this law? A 2011 SquareTwo post discussing this question concluded the Church’s answer would be no, but conceded that the membership is conflicted. [41]

“It is the doctrinal issues surrounding polygamy that stir the LDS soul. For example, when the state of Utah passed its own law defining marriage as heterosexual, there was actually considerable debate about whether to define marriage as between ‘one man and one woman,’ or as ‘a man and a woman,’ so the Lord would not be in violation of Utah law if the practice of polygamy was once again commanded. It says something about the LDS mindset that the second formulation was the one ultimately adopted—it says the mindset is deeply conflicted.”


11. God is Not the Author of Injustice

While I cannot know the mind and will of God, the plural marriage principle goes contrary to what I have been taught about loving Heavenly Parents and their plan for their children. Because of the valuable gift of free agency, God permits injustice in the world that results from His children’s choices, but God is not the author of injustice and injustice is not part of His plan of happiness. [42] Yet with plural marriage as part of the gospel, it appears God is the author not only of an injustice, but also of an eternal injustice, which is the opposite of all other gospel principles that testify of His fairness and love.

As I have tried to reconcile my understanding of a just God with this principle, I am left with additional questions. Here are a few:

If a woman expresses her concern about this teaching today, she is often assured not everyone will be required to live plural marriage in the highest kingdom, implying she personally will not. Yet this also implies others will. In other words, a woman can be relieved this polygamy misfortune will not befall her, but will instead befall her sister-neighbor—a less-than-Christian perspective that does not engender faith in the justice of God’s eternal plan.


12. Do These Teachings Bring Members Closer to God?

The good news is the Church is more open about its plural marriage history (although not its eternal nature). The bad news is that those of us troubled by this issue have to encounter it more often. The early Saints made significant contributions and were driven by faith in God, but since I think the plural marriage they practiced was morally misguided, I do better staying away from Church sites that teach it was inspired. My relationship with God is stronger when I believe it was not.

The Savior warns against declaring more or less and establishing it for His doctrine when it is not built upon His rock. So was this doctrine built upon His rock? [47] From its beginning, I believe it has not met the promise described in the scriptures: it has not proven to be a good seed, it has not produced good fruit, nor has it been light that discernibly shows goodness. [48] Some justify their faith in an eternal principle of plural marriage with scriptures that state we cannot comprehend what God comprehends. I use those same scriptures to justify my hope God does not approve of this teaching or practice (and thus does not consider it a doctrine/principle), but allowed it to infiltrate His Church because He honors agency or for other reasons I cannot comprehend. [49]

I have invested most of my life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, as a result, my life has been blessed. Even so, I cannot accept that this part of our beliefs—which tears at my heart, testimony, and relationship with God—was of Him or that He wants me to turn off my brain and conscience to trust that it was. I have obviously spent too many years and too much time considering this topic, but throughout that time I have gained confidence in my common sense (or perhaps the Lord’s spirit) that has whispered to me that something is wrong with this polygamy picture.


Conclusion

My faith in the Atonement provides hope that if I am misunderstanding this concept—one that was not presented when I joined this Church and has not been adequately explained since—my misunderstanding will be covered by our Savior’s sacrifice. On the other hand, if this teaching is not of God, His justice and mercy will be needed for those who ignorantly perpetrated polygamy and for those who suffered as a result.

Although this issue will eventually be resolved through the Atonement, resolving it now would end unnecessary confusion and stress. As a young missionary working with those of African descent who were denied priesthood and temple blessings, I never carefully considered their emotional and spiritual discomfort—it was not my problem. In a similar way, I suspect priesthood leaders, who hold the authority to resolve this part of an otherwise beautiful gospel, are not properly cognizant of the discomfort of many female members who contemplate and/or believe in this plural marriage doctrine.

For this reason, I have shared my struggle with my bishop and stake president and thankfully, both have made a sincere effort to understand my perspective. My hope is that someday soon these men in authority, along with other priesthood leaders of higher authority, will remember conversations with women and men with similar concerns, and provide either clarity or final repudiation of this teaching. Then, for me, the cockroach in the sundae will be exterminated and my granddaughters will not be forced to confront this eternal prospect.



NOTES:

[1] Photography by John Luke, “New Era Poster,” New Era, https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/new-era/2002/02/new-era-poster?lang=eng (Feb., 2002) [Back to manuscript].


[2] Brigham Young and other early Church leaders referred to plural marriage as a doctrine, but I will use various descriptions since to my knowledge, there is nothing definitive today about how plural marriage should be described. (Elder Bednar, in his book Increase in Learning, said: A gospel doctrine is "a truth of salvation revealed by a loving Heavenly Father. Gospel doctrines are eternal, do not change, and pertain to the progression and exaltation of Heavenly Father's sons and daughters.” A gospel principle is "a doctrinally-based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency.") [Back to manuscript].


[3] Eugene England, “Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20, no.4 (Winter 1987), 138–54. http://www.eugeneengland.org/on-fidelity-polygamy-and-celestial-marriage (2011) [Back to manuscript].


[4] Valerie Hudson Cassler and Alma Don Sorensen, Women in Eternity, Women in Zion, Cassler and Sorensen, Springville: Cedar Fort Inc., 2004. [Back to manuscript].


[5] Carolyn Pearson, Ghost of Eternal Polygamy, Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2016. [Back to manuscript].


[6] Pearson, Ghost of Eternal Polygamy. Pearson says polygamy also damages men, but the focus of my paper is the damage to women. [Back to manuscript].


[7] Beverly Campbell, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, “The perusal of just a few topical sources gives us a glimpse into the general tenor of society, for much of literature and most histories referring to women have an undercurrent of apology, as though there is something not quite right about being female. In looking for the source of this unease, I came to recognize that it could be traced to accounts of the Creation and to the ever-prevalent and negative characterizations of the first woman who dressed the garden in Eden, Mother Eve.” (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 2003), 2. [Back to manuscript].


[8] Beverly Campbell. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Eve, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly affirms that in partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Eve along with Adam acted in a manner pleasing to God and in accord with his ordained plan.” (Provo, UT: BYU Harold B. Lee Library, 1992). https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Eve (2017) [Back to manuscript].


[9] The Joseph Smith Papers, Nauvoo Journals, December 1841–April 1843, “More definitive echoes of plural marriage are apparent in several journal entries that refer to men attempting to seduce women by telling them that Joseph Smith sanctioned extramarital affairs.” http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/doc/introduction-to-journals-volume-2 Times and Seasons Vol 3, Mormon Publications: 19th and 20th Centuries, BYU Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections. http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9891 --- [Back to manuscript].


[10] Eric Anderson Ph.D., “The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating,” Psychology Today. [Back to manuscript].


[11] Valerie Hudson Cassler and Alma Don Sorensen, Women in Eternity, Women in Zion, “ . . . in other scriptures talking about ‘ruling over many,’ the Lord is referring to the exalted man and woman, side by side as equals, ruling together over many things: worlds and kingdoms and numberless posterity . . . All of the righteous, both men and women, are of the Church of the First born (D&C 93:22) and thus inherit the fullness of the father (D&C 76:94), and stand as joint heirs and equals with Christ (D&C 76:95; 88:107) . . . and they rule over many things together as a result (D&C 52:13).” (Springville: Cedar Fort Inc., 2004), 218. [Back to manuscript].


[12] D&C 132:61–62

61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.”

[Back to manuscript].


[13] Dennis Prager, Do Not Misuse God’s Name, https://www.prageru.com/video/do-not-misuse-gods-name/ --- [Back to manuscript].


[14] Dennis Prager, The Rationale Bible: Exodus, Regnery Faith, 2018, p. 279–282. [Back to manuscript].


[15] From a website created and hosted by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, “Republican, Philadelphia Convention of 1856: The delegates got right down to business the first day by adopting a platform. The key plank was firm opposition to the extension of slavery. ‘It is the duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.’ The polygamy reference was aimed at the Mormon settlement in Utah territory.” http://www.ushistory.org/gop/convention_1856.htm (2015)
[Back to manuscript].


[16] Genesis 16:1¬–3

1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”
[Back to manuscript].


[17] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, “Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment.” [Back to manuscript].


[18] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, June 30th, 1867. Vol. 12, p 97–98

“I do not wish to say much upon this subject, but I say, woe to you Eves if you proclaim or entertain feelings against this doctrine! Woe to every female in this Church who says, ‘I will not submit to the doctrine that God has revealed.’ You will wake up by and by and say, ‘I have lost the crown and exaltation I might have gained had I only been faithful to my covenants and the revelations which God gave. I might have been crowned as well as you, but now I must go to another kingdom.’ Be careful, O, ye mothers in Israel, and do not teach your daughters in future, as many of them have been taught, to marry out of Israel. Woe to you who do it; you will lose your crowns as sure as God lives. Be careful! ‘Well,’ but say you, ‘these men, these elders of Israel, have it all their own way.’ That is not so, and we are not going to have it all our own way, unless our way is to do just right. And the man and woman, who set up their will against the providence of God, will be found wanting when accounts are squared. They will have to say, ‘the summer is past, the harvest is ended, and we have not received our crowns.’ Will you think of this, sisters, you who are not married as well as you who are? I have a good many daughters, but it would be better for every one of my daughters, and for every female in this Church, to marry men who have proved themselves to be men of God, no matter how many wives they have, than to take these miserable characters who are running around here.”
[Back to manuscript].


[19] Fox News, Feb. 2018, Former child bride who helped take down cult leader Warren Jeffs speaks out in new documentary, “I was now the property of my cousin. And no matter how resistant I was to him, his job was to get me into submission as quickly as possible . . .” https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/former-child-bride-who-helped-take-down-cult-leader-warren-jeffs-speaks-out-in-new-documentary --- [Back to manuscript].


[20] Carol Lynn Pearson, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy, “There is something in a woman that needs to feel loved, feel distinctive and extraordinary . . . she needs to feel neither first, nor subsequent but singular.” p. 152.
[Back to manuscript].


[21] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, “Accounts left by men and women who practiced plural marriage attest to the challenges and difficulties they experienced, such as financial difficulty, interpersonal strife, and some wives’ longing for the sustained companionship of their husbands.” Topics: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng
--- [Back to manuscript].


[22] Doctrine & Covenants 132:52-54

52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive 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 faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.”
[Back to manuscript].


[23] Kahlile Mehr, “A second point at which I vary from Embry is the significance she gives to the social and ecclesiastical pressures placed on both men and women to live the principle. What Embry tamely calls ‘encouragement’ to enter polygamy was much more than that. I think we have little comprehension of the fervent sacrament meeting orations that made many think polygamy was mandatory to reach celestial glory. Nor do I think we appreciate how social expectations swayed impressionable young girls into unions with married men many years senior in age.” Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle, Jessie L. Embry, (BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 28 : Iss. 3 , Article 13), http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol28/iss3/13 (1988).
[Back to manuscript].


[24] Doctrine and Covenants 132: 61–65

61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.”
[Back to manuscript].


[25] Elder Tad R. Callister, “Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children,” Ensign, Nov. 2014
[Back to manuscript].


[26] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints?lang=eng --- [Back to manuscript].


[27] Ted Walch, Elder Christofferson explains updated LDS Church policies on same-sex marriage and children, Desert News, Nov. 6, 2015. “Children of polygamist families cannot receive church ordinances until they are 18 and disavow polygamy.” https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865640934/Elder-Christofferson-explains-updated-LDS-Church-policies-on-same-sex-marriage-and-children.html --- [Back to manuscript].


[28] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, “It violated both cultural and legal norms, leading to persecution and revilement.” Topics: Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Back to manuscript].


[29] Jacob 2: 23¬–35

23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any aman among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.”
[Back to manuscript].


[30] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, “The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to ‘raise up seed unto [the Lord]’ (Jacob 2:30).” https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng --- [Back to manuscript].


[31] D&C 132: 63¬–65

63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.”
[Back to manuscript].


[32] Steve Reed, “A Proposed Reinterpretation of Jacob 2:30,” Jan. 5, 2017, http://oneclimbs.com/2017/01/05/a-proposed-reinterpretation-of-jacob-230/ --- [Back to manuscript].


[33] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Race and the Priesthood, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng
--- [Back to manuscript].


[34] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, “The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to ‘raise up seed unto [the Lord]’ (Jacob 2:30).” https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng --- [Back to manuscript].


[35] Michael Wade, Polygamy hurt 19th century Mormon wives' evolutionary fitness, Indiana University Media Relations, Feb 2011, http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news-archive/16939.html --- [Back to manuscript].


[36] Frank Newport, “Americans’ Views of the Mormon Religion: Most frequent top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy,” Gallup News Service, http://www.gallup.com/poll/26758/americans-views-mormon-religion.aspx (Mar. 2, 2007) [Back to manuscript].


[37] BBC, Zaria Gorvett, The Polygamous Town Facing Genetic Disaster, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170726-the-polygamous-town-facing-genetic-disaster, “ . . . if some men take multiple wives, others can’t have any. In the FLDS, a large proportion of men must be kicked out as teenagers, shrinking the gene pool even further. ‘They are driven to the highway by their mothers in the middle of the night and dumped by the side of the road,’ says Amos Guiora, a legal expert at the University of Utah who has written a book about religious extremism. Some estimate that there may be up to a thousand so-called ‘lost boys’.” [Back to manuscript].


[38] Elder Dallin Oaks, Judge Not and Judging, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dallin-h-oaks_judge-judging/
--- [Back to manuscript].


[39] Mehr, "Mormon Polygamous Families, (BYU Studies Quarterly), http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol28/iss3/13 --- [Back to manuscript].


[40] Pres. Wilford Woodruff, Official Declaration I, “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” https://www.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/1?lang=eng --- [Back to manuscript].


[41] Valerie M. Hudson , Readers' Puzzle for Fall 2011: When Kody Brown’s Lawsuit Reaches the US Supreme Court, Will the LDS Church Take a Stand—and What Will it Be? And What Happens if Brown Wins? (Summer 2011) http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersPuzzlePolygamy.html --- [Back to manuscript].


[42] Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Play and the Plan, satellite broadcast, 7 May 1995. “Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, He permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven.” [Back to manuscript].


[43] Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” [Back to manuscript].


[44] Mosiah 3:19 “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” [Back to manuscript].


[45] ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Topics: Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, “But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings.” [Back to manuscript].


[46] Joseph Smith, "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers," LDS History of the Church, 6:411, May 26, 1844 [Back to manuscript].


[47] 3 Nephi 11:39–40

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.”
[Back to manuscript].


[48] Alma 32:32 “Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.” Alma 32:35 “O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?” 3 Nephi 14:17 “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” [Back to manuscript].


[49] Mosiah 4:9 “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” [Back to manuscript].



Full Citation for this Article: Bence, Kathy (2019) "One Woman's Thoughts on Plural Marriage," SquareTwo, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 2019), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleBencePluralMarriage.html, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 18 Comments

I. Sara C.

Thank you so much for your article. I too have struggled with the church’s history on polygamy ever since I learned about it in high school. It never made sense to me. I’ve often heard people justify polygamy by saying, “polygamy is the exception, not the rule.” If so, then it makes sense that polygamy would have only been allowed for a limited time on Earth, and not in the eternities. I asked my husband to promise me he would never be sealed to another woman. I too read the book by Valerie Hudson and it was a relief to read about the “stand-in” idea. I currently do not believe in polygamy because I don’t believe a loving God would do that to his daughters. I too hope the church will stop allowing men to be sealed to more than one woman. I feel like it’s an act of betrayal if a man does that, and it’s awful that the first wife doesn’t get a say. I loved your essay and you stated things so clearly and helped me make more sense of this issue. Thank you!

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a. Kathy Bence

As Valerie said in Women in Eternity, Women in Zion: “…no woman who has ever felt pain about polygamy is satisfied until her concerns about the hereafter are at least addressed. No woman who has felt pain about polygamy can honestly strive for a place in the celestial kingdom unless she feels that that kingdom is a place in which she would actually want to live.” I’m glad you have the solution Sara: you don’t believe it!

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II. Patricia H. Chiu

One of my seven daughters believes that no one should have more than one spouse, ever. She is slightly disappointed that President Oaks and President Nelson remarried after becoming widowers. She is sad that three of her sisters remarried after divorce. I feel that she is a bit extreme. As for me, I am relatively neutral on the subject of polygamy. Five of my female progenitors were plural wives as practiced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before the Manifesto. As a student of anthropology I learned that polygamy has been widely practiced through human history. According to the Ethnographic Atlas (1998), of 1,231 societies noted, 588 had frequent polygyny, 453 had occasional polygyny, 186 were monogamous and 4 had polyandry.' This means that monogamy is the peculiar practice from the perspective of history. My grandmother, great grandmothers and great great grandmothers were peculiarly blessed to live in homes where polygamy was not the burden it has so often been. Knowing how they lived has helped me understand that righteousness is the first requirement of successfully living such a demanding practice. I do not anticipate anything about the eternal existence of our souls or the rules that will apply after we die. But I do understand that God's will will be done no matter how many footnotes we assemble to support our hopes.

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a. Kathy Bence

While I don’t know the numbers, I know that slavery, like polygamy, has been widely practiced throughout human history, which was the message of my 3rd point: “Would an Agency-denying Principle be Restored?” Of course, just because something is common throughout history does not make it part of God’s plan. As our example, God created a monogamous couple: Adam and Eve.

Unlike, your daughter I’m not disappointed that Pres. Oaks and Nelson are re-married, but I am disappointed that they are sealed for eternity to plural wives.

I, of course, agree that no footnotes will alter God’s will. On the other hand, God does expect us to study, ponder and attempt to discern truth. This article resulted from my attempts to discern truth, something I will continue to pursue.

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III. Jerrod Guddat

I am sincerely grateful for Kathy Bence's thought-provoking article on plural marriage. This too, is a "shelfer" for me as I detest the thought that plural marriage is part of our church culture now or in the eternities. I am a convert to the church (also at the age of 17.) in my 22+ years in the church, plural marriage has always been a struggle for me to understand and Kathy's article articulates several points I had not previously considered including her interpretation of Jacob 2:30 that I have now added to the notes section of my Gospel Library app.
:-)

I do not pretend to understand a woman's perspective on this troubling principle, but I can at least state that I share the confusion and heart-breaking feelings this subject provokes. I am most frustrated by local leadership explanations of the practice and what it means in the eternities. One exchange through email and in person I had with a local leader over several days emphasizes my frustration as he stated, in response to my comment that the handbook allows for a woman to be sealed to more than one man (albeit after death), that based on comments from a "friend at Church Correlation" the deceased woman in that scenario will ultimately have to choose which man she will be with in heaven even though she was sealed to more than one man after death, on the earth, solemnized in a holy temple, by one who holds the sealing keys! To suggest that we are simply playing with sealing keys just to comfort the family members of deceased parents, but that in fact, the sealing only really works for one husband is beyond irritating and patriarchal.

While not completely comforting, an article written by Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy published in the December 2015 issue of the Ensign on the new and everlasting covenant is helpful. https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2015/12/the-new-and-everlasting-covenant.p20?lang=eng In part he states: "Some people, including some Church members, inaccurately read Doctrine and Covenants 132:4 to mean that plural marriage is necessary for exaltation, leading them to believe that plural marriage is a necessary prerequisite for exaltation in the eternal realm. This, however, is not supported in the revelation." After additional clarification Elder Nash goes on to write: "The Church does not teach that participation in plural marriage is necessary for exaltation." I am grateful Elder Nash clarifies definitively that participation in plural marriage is NOT requisite for exaltation, but in so doing, I also become uneasy with the fact that he also tacitly acknowledges that plural marriage will exist in the eternities. A very troubling prospect and I pray my heartfelt faith in Jesus Christ will overcome what my mind cannot currently endure.

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a. Kathy Bence

Thank you for your empathy and for sharing an article that provides more than the usual explanation of this principle. As you guessed, I don’t find it very comforting. I’ll look for a comforting, future Ensign article that addresses all my questions ;)

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IV. Meg Stout

Ms. Bence cites the MormonAd with a cockroach, suggesting a nasty bit invalidates a doctrine.

As I have studied the history of plural marriage relative to members of the Church since 1800, I have come to the conclusion that the functional purpose is to ensure every child throughout the history of the world can be sealed into the family of mankind. Ms. Bence, in my opinion, is willing to allow the damnation of billions of children of subsequent wives to retain a hope that no woman need share a husband in eternity.

I do not find that this is an acceptable trade off. Luckily, doctrine is not determined by articles in magazines.

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a. Kathy Bence

The cockroach does not invalidate doctrine, but it does serve as a description of my personal feelings on this subject. My faith tells me that our loving, all-knowing God will have a perfect plan for all of His children.

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V. Beth Hansen

When I read essays such as this I always wonder what the author thinks is going to happen to those of us that never had the chance for a temple marriage. As I understand the statistics, over half the women in Relief Society are single. There are simply not enough men for everyone to have their own husband. As a never married woman I would rather share a man and have children then be alone for eternity. The attitude of many LDS married women seems to be one of disregard for their single sisters.

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a. Kathy Bence

I’m sad, Beth, that you think your only option in the eternities is as a plural wife…further mischief this doctrine creates! My third footnote links to Eugene England’s article, which speculates (speculating is what you and I are also doing) that there will be a surplus of males in the next life. In Women in Eternity Women in Zion, Valerie also speculates. Here’s what she wrote:

“For those who feel polygamy is ubiquitous in the celestial kingdom, this belief demands that, at a minimum, twice as many women make it to the celestial kingdom as men. But human demographics argues against such a conclusion. Approximately 106 male babies are born on earth for every 100 female babies born. [20] 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! [21]

All the foregoing serves to make the point that it is by no means clear that females will outnumber males in the celestial kingdom. There is absolutely no scriptural or empirical basis upon which to assert the sex ratio of the celestial kingdom. If we cannot confidently assume that there will be more exalted women than exalted men, then one cannot conclude that polygamy must then follow.”

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VI. Meg Stout

Ms. Bence writes, “My faith tells me that our loving, all-knowing God will have a perfect plan for all of His children.”

Hyrum Smith spoke of Mary Fielding’s ideas on the subject of being the “plural wife” in eternity. Mary didn’t have a problem with it, given that the alternative would either sever her from Hyrum or sever Hyrum from Jerusha.

By all means refuse for yourself the possibility of marriage to a widower. By all means refuse to marry a man who won’t promise to remain unmarried should you predecease him. But don’t deny others hope of union with the eternal family.

Primarily, I hope you haven’t convinced anyone they can ignore ordinances for ancestral wives and children that don’t fit you monogamous eternal ideal.

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a. V.H. Cassler

How sorrowful that heaven is envisioned as a place where women will make terrifying choices. No wonder polygyny continues to burn as a fire amongst our people.

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VII. Lanny Landrith

Nearly all – and, perhaps, all – of what disturbs Kathy Bence about plural marriage can understandingly disturb us mortals with our insecurities, our jealousies, and our knowledge of the frequent misuse of plural marriage in the past and even in today’s world.

But exalted beings – who love perfectly, who commit no sin not even in the mind but are pure in heart, who do NOT experience any of the jealousies and insecurities that we mortals experience, who have PERFECT spouses (NO EXCEPTIONS) – these exalted beings without exception (WITHOUT EXCEPTION) will not be disturbed by what disturbs Kathy Bence and the rest of us here in mortality. Exalted beings will simply delight in spending eternity with another exalted being.

For example, in the case of Kathy Bence’s daughter and the daughter’s ex-husband and his second wife, if he did wrong – and it sounds like he did – he will need to repent. If he does not repent, then he will not be exalted, and there’s no issue. Both he and his 2nd wife will have to be worthy of exaltation, and if they are, and if Kathy Bence’s daughter is also worthy of exaltation, then the worldly problems will no longer bother them. Why won’t the worldly problems bother them if they are exalted? The worldly problems will no longer bother them because they will be exalted, perfected beings – who love perfectly, who commit no sin not even in the mind but are pure in heart, who do NOT experience any of the jealousies and insecurities that we mortals experience, who have PERFECT spouses (NO EXCEPTIONS). Regardless of whom these 3 people (Kathy Bence’s daughter, her ex-husband, and his wife) are married to, if they spend eternity with an exalted being, they will be happy and won’t have worldly worries and insecurities.

I am a man but do NOT, NOT, NOT desire to have plural wives. I am quite content with my wife. I have a joke about plural wives. My joke about plural marriage is that it must be inspired because no sane man would want more than one wife. My joke, I admit, however, is not funny in the context of how plural marriage has been misused and abused often in the past and today.

A few other clarifications are needed.

Kathy Bence also says that the idea of plural wives implies that women are inferior to men. And she’s right about the world wrongly inferring that the idea of plural wives implies that women are inferior to men.

But if plural wives exist in the Lord’s plan, women definitely, doctrinally are NOT inferior to men. In any case, women in the Lord’s plan are NOT inferior to men.

I do NOT know how many men will be exalted, how many women will be exalted, and if the number of exalted men is the same as the number of exalted women. As Valerie Hudson says, we have no doctrinal statement on that. We have no doctrinal statement that there are plural wives in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. The fact that a man was sealed to more than one woman, simply means that the 2nd wife also has all of the rights and powers of the sealing ordinance. THAT’S WHY THE CHURCH DOES NOT INVALIDATE A DIVORCED WOMAN’S SEALING ORDINANCE UNTIL SHE IS GOING TO GET MARRIED AGAIN; THE CHURCH DOES NOT WANT A DIVORCED WOMAN TO LOSE ALL OF THE RIGHTS AND POWERS OF THE SEALING ORDINANCE, which continue to exist even after a divorce. It could be that a 2nd sealed wife will after death be married to another man other than her husband, who is sealed to his first wife. I don’t know. This is a problem easily – EASILY – handled by exalted people. The problem may be difficult for us mortals to handle. But it is an easy problem for exalted people to handle. After all, if you spend eternity with an exalted person, what more could you ask for, regardless of who the exalted person is. Here in mortality single people wonder about a blind date, wonder about what the blind date is like. If you were told that the blind date was an exalted being, would you be satisfied? If not, you’re NOT going to be exalted. As long as we are with an exalted being for eternity, who cares about the mortal worries, jealousies, and insecurities?

We don’t know if there are plural wives in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. Even if plural wives do exist in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, it exists NOT, NOT BECAUSE MEN ARE SUPERIOR TO WOMEN, BUT BECAUSE MEN AS A WHOLE ARE INFERIOR TO WOMEN. If plural wives are in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, then that means that there are more exalted women than exalted men. The math is that simple. If the number of exalted men and the number of exalted women are the same, then there’s no need for plural wives. My experience in this world is that there are more righteous women than righteous men. I do know men who are as excellent as any woman, but those men are outnumbered by the excellent women I have known. I also know women who are as stupid as any man, but those women are outnumbered by the stupid men.

In short, UNlike in the world’s plan (which considers women inferior), IF – IF – plural wives are in the Lord’s plan, this means that there are more righteous women than righteous men. In any case, whether or not there are plural wives in the celestial kingdom, as long as we are with an exalted being for eternity, who cares about the mortal worries, jealousies, and insecurities?

Kathy Bence is concerned about how the Church differs from other churches about marriage.

I thank God that our Church differs from other churches about marriage. Other churches teach that marriage ends at death, that righteous families do not exist as families after death. Some churches (e.g. the Catholic Church) even teach that for many people it’s better not to marry – e.g. nuns, priests. I remember when my father died. My father was not a member of the Church or any other church, but had a friend who was a Baptist minister. My father had told my mother (who also was not a member of the Church) that when he died, he wanted the Baptist minister to conduct his funeral service. I phoned the Baptist minister and asked him to include in his funeral talk, ideas about the eternal nature of the individual family. All the Baptist minister would say – and he said it repeatedly – was that we all in the world were in one big family of God’s. Although what he said was true, he failed completely to understand the eternal nature of the individual family. When I spoke at my father’s funeral service, I spoke of the eternal nature of the individual family. After the funeral service, a lady whom I knew well, who had been a friend of my parents, and who was NOT a member of the Church, came up to me and said, “I can just picture my dad [who was dead] playing cards with loved ones.” I didn’t have the heart to correct the “card playing”; I figured that she was close enough to the truth – a truth that she understood much better than the indoctrinated Baptist minister. John Adams – the 2nd U.S. President and founding father – said that he could not imagine strong family bonds ending at death (as the churches taught). When John Adams’ great wife Abigail Adams died, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams that he (John Adams) would one day be with his wife again. Thus part of the non-LDS world understands the eternal nature of the individual family better than the other churches do.

Also other churches diminish the power of the Savior’s atonement by saying that God’s plan does NOT include the perfecting of His children, does NOT include a Heavenly Mother as well as not including the eternal nature of the individual family. Other churches have often criticized our church for having such doctrines. How can other churches criticize the idea of plural wives when they claim to worship Jesus as He described Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (two of whom had plural wives)?

Kathy Bence quotes in the Book of Mormon, Jacob’s wonderful, true, accurate, and inspired statement about the terrible misuse of plural wives by the Nephites. Jacob’s inspired statement does NOT refer to plural wives in general but refers to the terrible misuse of plural wives by the Nephites. How do we know this? In Jacob’s inspired statement Jacob correctly compares the Nephites to King David and King Solomon because David and Solomon were terrible abusers of the principle of polygamy. Although initially righteous, King David later committed adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah before adding Bathsheba to his collection of wives. Although initially righteous, King Solomon later married many pagan wives who helped introduce and expand paganism in Israel. Notice that Nephi’s brother Jacob does not refer to Abraham and Abraham’s grandson Jacob, both of whom had plural wives, both of whom are exalted according to D & C 132, and both of whom are referred to in the Lord’s statement that He is the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord does not say that He is the god of David and Solomon.

I repeat that what disturbs Kathy Bence about plural marriage can understandingly disturb us mortals with our insecurities, our jealousies, and our knowledge of the frequent misuse of plural marriage in the past and even in today’s world.

But exalted beings – who love perfectly, who commit no sin not even in the mind but are pure in heart, who do NOT experience any of the jealousies and insecurities that we mortals experience, who have PERFECT spouses (NO EXCEPTIONS) – these exalted beings without exception (WITHOUT EXCEPTION) will not be disturbed by what disturbs Kathy Bence and the rest of us here in mortality. Exalted beings will simply delight in spending eternity with another exalted being. It’s that simple.

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a. V.H. Cassler

But Lanny, the issue is whether polygyny is the Lord’s plan for all of us in the hereafter. As you yourself say, “IF—IF plural wives are the Lord’s plan;” that “IF” is the crux of it all. I have been in the company of an apostle who said very plainly that we have no idea if polygyny is the Lord’s plan in the hereafter. I think what Bence is suggesting is that perhaps it is time, in the spirit of further light and knowledge, for the Church to sort that out.

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b. Kathy Bence

Lanny, thank you for recognizing that this concept is disturbing for mortals. I’m familiar with your reasoning that justifies it in the eternities because I’ve heard these explanations (and speculations) much of my church life, and usually from men (which is just an observation and does not diminish your right to defend this principle).

Unfortunately though, I think anyone reading my article and reading your response would have to agree that this doctrine continues to be the cause of much confusion…and not just confusion over a small matter, but confusion over the very heart of what our Church is about--families. This is why I would second Valerie’s response to you: perhaps it is time, in the spirit of further light and knowledge, for the Church to sort this out.

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c. Matthew O.

Lanny, I read Kathy’s article with a much different outcome. Where you see a jealous, selfish woman bemoaning her eternity through mortal eyes, I see a logical examination of our Church’s doctrine (and its concerning inconsistencies) and a thorough scrutiny of harmful misconceptions and confusing speculations. My first response to you would simply be, please go back and re-read this article again…with more “exalted” eyes and a more compassionate heart.

It may not apply to you, but if tables were turned and I was forced to consider the real possibility that I would be eternally sharing my wife with other men, it would provide little comfort that we will all be exalted, perfect, passionless beings. This life foreshadows what is to come and my relationship with one woman in an equal partnership where we are committed to each other exclusively, I believe, sets the stage for the eternities, and certainly a more heavenly eternity.

Like you, I would like to revisit Jacob 2 and D&C 132, simultaneously. It makes sense to do so as D&C 132 is the only chapter of scripture in our cannon to condone polygamy, whatsoever. However, I am unable to embrace D&C 132 as divinely inspired because it stands in open contradiction to the chapter that you referred to as “wonderful, true, accurate, and inspired:” Jacob 2. D&C 132, verse 39 reads, as follows: “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me … and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife (D&C 132:39).” So, according to both 132 and you, Bathsheba was David’s only mistake. Yet verse 24 of Jacob 2, states otherwise: “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord (Jacob 2:24).”

So which is it? Was it abominable for David to have many wives, altogether, or just the killing of Bathsheba part? I side with Kathy and with Jacob 2, yet you—like many members—appear to be torn between these two chapters. I, on the other hand, am not torn. On the contrary, D&C 132 is what is torn … right out of my scriptures. I physically removed it, because it doesn’t belong there. I hope to never speak to my wife or daughters in the manner that Emma is spoken to in this section—imperfect husband and father that I am. I will not accept the words in 132 as inspired by a perfect, loving Father in Heaven.

Returning to Jacob 2, I agree with Kathy’s analysis that “using the context and content of these scriptures, it makes more sense that in the first part of verse 30 the Lord is repeating what He said in the preceding verses: if He is going to ‘raise up seed . . . [He] will command [His] people’ (and in other words, expect husbands to follow what He is commanding through his prophet Jacob) to have one wife only.”

Perhaps if Mormon, who abridged Jacob’s original words, had realized the latter-day need for more clarification, he might have included more examples, like the following: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people [—just as I commanded Sarah, Abraham’s wife, to conceive in her old age] otherwise they shall hearken unto these things."

It is particularly enlightening to re-read the account of Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. You will notice that it was Sarai’s and Abram’s idea to marry and conceive through Hagar. But when God decides to raise up seed and establish his people, he chooses to do so through Abraham’s, first wife, Sarai — in spite of her being barren, and past her fertile years. For if God will, raise up seed, he will command. Otherwise, don’t worry about raising up seed—if you’re barren, it’s my will—just hearken unto these things: the monogamy things.

I have only touched on a fraction of what Kathy has covered in her thorough article. It is worth many re-reads. Perhaps you might place yourself in her shoes and imagine being one of many husbands. Perhaps you should think of the children in this equation. All of the people of this Earth are the children of one Father in heaven. And he is quite enough for us all. I look forward to one day meeting my one and only Mother in Heaven, and Eve, the one and only mother of all living, hand in hand with my one and only wife, as her one and only husband as the only parents forever to our children.

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VIII. Patricia Chiu

I would be surprised if many of those who regard polygamy with revulsion would openly confess a similar distaste for same sex marriage or transgenders. These changes to what American society accepts as normal have the weight of popular opinion behind them. Polygamy, however, is still regarded with fear and loathing, so much so that otherwise faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seem willing to question the integrity of Joseph Smith and even those modern prophets and others who have been sealed to more than one wife.

In a reply to my previous comment Kathy Bence compares polygamy to the practice of slavery. Could Eurocentrism be a source of the revulsion many feel? Europe and the British Isles are the primary centers of monogamous societies and have been for several thousand years. Does this mean these regions of the world have been more virtuous in regard to how women were treated? I would reference the ‘baby farms’ of England. Polygyny is regarded as normal in Africa and Asia, particularly Islamic countries, in other words, the non-white regions of the world. I am not an advocate for polygyny, but I question the extreme reaction to the practice.

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a. V.H. Cassler

Among Church members, I suspect the antipathy towards polygyny is matched by antipathy towards other practices, such as same-sex marriage, which are embraced by the current culture. However, it remains the fact that the Church will not baptize those who practice polygyny, even in countries where that practice is legal, and we are told that a lawful marriage in the Church is only a monogamous marriage unless the Lord commands otherwise. Perhaps, then, the antipathy is heaven-centric, and not Eurocentric? I also recommend to you the book “The Evils of Polygyny” by social scientist Rose McDermott, who shows clearly that polygyny is associated with worse outcomes for all concerned—men, women, and children—where it is practiced.

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IX. Tara O.

I always appreciate when people tackle this hard topic. For years when I believed the Church’s narrative that plural marriage was of God, I felt hopeless. Despite prayer and constant study on the topic (including reading Section 132 repeatedly), peace never came, only a deep depression. Peace only came when I rejected this teaching. This article adds to my hope and helps me feel loved by God.

If God was behind the early Saints’ practice of plural marriage (a practice that, for example, permitted Joseph to take wives behind Emma’s back) and if God is behind today’s policy of not telling investigators and members of this eternal doctrine (a policy that, for example, doesn’t deal with troubling parts of Section D&C 132 in Church materials and seems to cover up the eternal side of plural marriage), then we portray a God who is not trustworthy. Unfortunately, this was the only conclusion I could come to when I believed in this practice. That was the hardest time in my life.

The author points out problems in our Old Testament polygamy example of Abraham and Hagar. She says, “While this is not the Church’s message today, D&C 132:34, recorded in latter-day scripture for our day, suggests God commands that women be given as wives, treated like property, and their freedom to choose is insignificant.”

The example involves a women (Hagar), who had no choice and was used strictly for her ability to get pregnant (reminiscent of breeding cattle), and was then kicked out of the home when they were done with her. Sure, it’s an example of polygamy but nothing about it seems Godly. Unfortunately, Emma and Joseph’s example is even more tragic. To add to the tragedy, both stories imply that the majority of plural wives are ruled over by the “first-wives” and their husbands.

Coincidentally, I was recently visiting some good friends who are Jewish. They expressed distaste for polygamy and asked me about our church’s connection to it. I turned the question back to them and asked for their explanation of Abraham and Hagar in their scripture. Their response was, “We learn from our mistakes, we don’t repeat them.”

As I let this topic go, I no longer have to make uncomfortable excuses and compromises. I can trust God. I am better able to enjoy my marriage and I now have hope instead of dread when thinking of my eternal life. My relationship with God is strengthened and the “plain and precious” feeling of the gospel is restored to my faith.

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