SUMMARY OF MORMON POLYGAMY
Note: Joseph Smith taught polygamy.
The date in the heading of the Revelation on the Eternity of the
Marriage Covenant, Including the Plurality of Wives, notes the time
at which the revelation was committed to writing, not the time at
which the principles set forth in the revelation were first made
known to the Prophet. This is evident from the written revelation
itself which discloses the fact that Joseph Smith was already in the
relationship of plural marriage, as the following passage witnesses:
"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." There is indisputable evidence that the revelation making known
this marriage law was given to the Prophet as early as 1831. History of the Church, Introduction to Volume V, B.H. Roberts,
Note: Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.
When the Prophet Joseph organized the Relief Society at Nauvoo, on
the 17th of March, 1842, Sister Eliza R. Snow was appointed to fill
the very responsible position of secretary in that most important
organization. She was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the
Celestial Order of Marriage, which includes Plurality of Wives, June
29, 1842; being one of the early converts to that doctrine. After the
martyrdom of her husband, June 27, 1844, Sister Eliza was prostrated
with grief, and besought the Lord with all the fervency of her soul
to permit her to follow the Prophet at once, and not leave her in so
dark and wicked a world. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Volume 1, 1935. Andrew Jenson.
Note: Joseph Smith wanted to keep the doctrine of polygamy to
PLURALITY OF WIVES.-October 5, 1843. "Gave instructions to try
those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practising the
doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the
keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on
earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I
have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless
the Lord directs otherwise." Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel; Salt Lake City, Utah;
Desert News Company, 1882.
Note: Brigham Young confirmed the lust of Joseph Smith.
I asked if Joseph Smith died a true prophet. He spoke, "He died a
true prophet, Brigham Young is now the man to lead the Church. If you
will covenant with me not to reveal it to the world there shall be
things revealed to you that shall be greatly to your benefit." I then
saw in a vision the beauty and glory of plurality of wives. It said,
"Your mother and your sister, Sarah, do not believe in plurality.
Almira knows it is right. Tell them what you know and they will all
believe you." Writings of Early Latter-day Saints and their Contemporaries, Utah
Religious Studies Center, 1996. Milton Blackman and Keith Perkins,
Note: Brigham Young openly proclaimed polygamy as Mormon
In 1843 the law on celestial marriage was written, but not
published and was known only to perhaps one or two hundred persons.
It was written from the dictation of Joseph Smith, by Elder William
Clayton, his private secretary, who is now in this city. This
revelation was published in 1852, read to a general conference, and
accepted as a portion of the faith of the Church. Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, LEMB Inc., 1982. L.G.
Otten and C.M. Caldwell.
Note: Brigham Young lied that the doctrine of polygamy was
"But," say they, "what of your peculiar doctrine? What did you
come to the mountains for? What did you leave us for? We suppose it
was on account of your peculiar doctrine." I reply, "Pause! Wait a
moment! When we left the confines of what is called civilization the
doctrine of plurality of wives was not known by the world, and
was not taught by us, and was known only to a very few member of
our Church; but since we have declared this revelation we have dwelt
in peace and safety, so we were not persecuted for that, sure. We did
not leave Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, or any other State or
neighborhood within the confines of civilization for believing in the
doctrine of a plurality of wives." I say this to all who hear me. I
want our young folks to understand this, or they may perhaps grow up
with the idea that we were driven from our homes in consequence of
our belief in celestial marriage. Journal of Discourses, Volume 14, June 4, 1871.
Note: Bruce McConkie confirmed the lust of Joseph Smith.
At a still later date, temple endowments and other ordinances were
revealed -- all of which are a necessary prelude to the performance
of an eternal marriage, a marriage between one man and one woman, or
between one man and more than one women, as the case may be. After
these things the practice of celestial marriage, including plurality
of wives, was commanded. In 1843 the previously revealed doctrine of
celestial marriage (including plurality of wives) was recorded for
the first time; added truths were also stated in the revelation as
finally recorded, as for instance a reference to the fact that the
keys of sealing now had been given and also special instruction to
Emma Smith relative to plural marriage. (D. & C. 132:45-47,
51-55.) Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1966.
Note: George Albert Smith advocated the continuance of polygamy
While we are considering this subject, we will inquire, did the
Saviour in any place that we can read of, in the course of his
mission on the earth, denounce a plurality of wives? He lived in a
nation of Jews; the law of Moses was in force, plurality of wives was
the custom, and thousands upon thousands of people, from the highest
to the lowest in the land, were polygamists. The Saviour denounced
adultery; he denounced fornication; he denounced lust; also divorce;
but is there a single sentence asserting that plurality of wives is
wrong? If so, where is it? Who can find it? Why did he not say it was
wrong? Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, George Albert Smith.
Note: Parley Pratt places the laws of the land higher than
The Old and New Testaments, the Constitution and laws (if the
United States, and the laws of Utah Territory shall be their
standard; and if in all this wide range one item of law can be found
wherein God, angels, men, prophets, apostles, the Son of God or the
Holy Spirit have made plurality of wives a crime, a transgression
of law or an immorality, then, on these conditions, we will renounce
Polygamy. But till this is done we shall hold the law of God on
the subject of matrimony, including a plurality of wives, as a most
sacred institution, binding on our own consciences, in the free
exercise of which we claim the protection so freely and fully
guaranteed by the constitution of our common country. The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, chapter 50.
Note: True Christians are not intimidated by governmental
leaders to change doctrines.
Acts 5:29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We
ought to obey God rather than men."
Note: Polygamy was banned in 1890 by a Mormon prophet with a
Section 132, recorded in 1843, authorized the practice of plural
marriage. The keys to this practice however, are vested only in the
Lord's prophet and used only with divine approbation (D&C 132:7;
Jacob 2:30; HC 6:46). Because a Prophet of God, holding these keys,
revoked the law of plural marriage in 1890 (see OD-1), the law of the
Church at the present time is the same as when section 49 was
revealed: "Wherefore, it is lawful that [a man] should have one wife"
(D&C 49:16). Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah,
Note: Utah is granted statehood after polygamy is
Repeated efforts to achieve statehood were turned aside by the
Congress, mainly because of falsehoods and misinformation circulated
against the Saints and because of the public opposition [p.616] to
the Saints' practice of plural marriage. With the issuance of the
Manifesto by Wilford Woodruff, calling an end to polygamy,
Congress was more favorable to granting statehood for Utah. This
became a reality on January 4, 1896, when the whittled-down Territory
of Utah (now only 84, 916 square miles) became the forty-fifth state
of the Union. (SLS, 413-18.) Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah,
Note: Mormon apologists are defending polygamy in our day.
I do not deny that polygamy is now abhorred in Western culture
generally and in modern Christianity particularly. What I deny is
that the source of that abhorrence is biblical. It is derived not
from the biblical heritage but the classical-the abhorrence of
polygamy comes from Greece and Rome. As orthodox a figure as Saint
Augustine knew that the prohibition of plural marriage in the church
of his day was only a matter of Roman custom: "Again, Jacob the son
of Isaac is charged with having committed a great crime because he
had four wives. But here there is no ground for a criminal
accusation: for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the
custom; and it is a crime now, because it is no longer the custom
.... The only reason of its being a crime now to do this, is
because custom and the laws forbid it." Though pagan culture
could freely tolerate multiple sexual partners, it could tolerate
only one wife. In that respect Greco-Roman culture was very similar
to contemporary Western culture. Are Mormons Christians?, Stephen E. Robinson, 1991.
Note: God did not want mankind to have plural marriages.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of
God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 5:2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and
called them Mankind in the day they were created.
Matthew 19:4-6 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not
read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and
female (not females),' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave
his father and mother and be joined to his wife (singular), and the
two (not three or more) shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no
longer two (not three or more) but one flesh. Therefore what God has
joined together, let not man separate."
Note: The Holy Bible warns against associating with those given
Proverbs 24:21-22 My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not
associate with those given to change; For their calamity will
rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin those two can bring?
Brigham Young with some of his wives was
a career criminal due to Abraham Lincoln signing the Morrill Act in 1862.
Polygamy hurt 19th century Mormon wives' evolutionary fitness
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Polygamy practiced by some 19th century
Mormon men had the curious effect of suppressing the overall offspring numbers
of Mormon women in plural marriages, say scientists from Indiana University
Bloomington and three other institutions in the March 2011 issue of Evolution
and Human Behavior.
Simply put, the more sister-wives a Mormon woman had, the
fewer children she was likely to produce.
"Although it's great in terms of number of children for
successful males to have harems, the data show that for every new woman added to
a male's household, the number each wife produced goes down by one child or so,"
said IU Bloomington evolutionary biologist Michael Wade, whose theoretical work
guided the study. "This regression is known as a 'Bateman gradient,' named after
the geneticist who first observed a similar phenomenon in fruit flies."
The paper's coauthors were Jeffrey Moorad (Duke University,
Indiana University Ph.D. 2005), Daniel Promislow (University of Georgia), and
Ken Smith (University of Utah).
The researchers' survey of birth, marriage and death records
from the Utah Population Database covers nearly 186,000 Utah adults and their
630,000 children who lived or died between 1830 and 1894. This period marked an
important transition for the nascent Mormon Church, as polygamy began to be
phased out in deference to U.S. laws banning the practice but also via internal
pressure from the Mormons themselves.
The scientists' study confirmed their expectation that a
moratorium on Mormon polygamy would have the effect of decreasing the intensity
of sexual selection among males and ultimately bringing the strength of
reproductive selection on men closer to that acting on women. With fewer
polygamous marriages, more males had access to wives, which led to a decrease in
the variation in Mormon males' mating and reproductive success. The scientists
estimate that ending polygamy reduced the strength of sexual selection on males
by 58 percent.
"This study was very exciting
for us, in large part because you just don't get to see the demographic effects
of dramatically changing a mating system within a single population -- in any
organism," Wade said. "It's an added bonus that this change from polygamy to
monogamy just happened to involve people who kept such thorough records of the
marriages, births and deaths at that time."
Wade, who specializes in the
evolutionary biology of mating systems, says much of his work has elucidated and
expanded on the ideas of Angus Bateman. Bateman, a prolific theorist, was unable
to empirically test all his theories about mating and mating fitness before he
died in 1996. Last year Wade and Northern Arizona University biologist Stephen
Shuster co-wrote a retrospective on a classic paper Bateman wrote for the
journal Heredity in 1948. Wade and Shuster extolled Bateman's vision, in
particular the way in which Bateman thought sexual selection should be
quantified. Bateman's critics thought his reductions of biology were too
simplistic, yet Wade says Bateman's simple formulas are often dead-on.
"Bateman's ideas still are
very much alive, the present study included," Wade said. "It was also his idea
that selection could be stronger on males than on females, that what can be an
advantage to males can be a disadvantage to females of the same species. And the
advantage isn't just in having more mates. You may simply produce more
offspring, than the average, if you're a male successful in reproductive
competition against other males."
Which isn't to say systems of
polygamy in humans or elsewhere in nature are necessarily good for all the males
involved. Indeed, Wade says, polygamy is a bad thing for most males of a
"When the ratio of sexes is
about equal, for every male that has three mates, there must be two males that
have none," Wade said. "If a male has even more mates, then the disparity among
male 'reproductive' haves and have-nots can become quite great."
So if polygamy (or the female
equivalent, polyandry) is disadvantageous to most of the sequestered sex and
most of the mate-sequestering sex, why should such systems survive?
"The complete answer is still
forthcoming," Wade said. "One thing we know now, based on rigorous studies in
many species, particularly the fruit fly, is that selection can be so strong on
males that it can drag the entire species off of a naturally selected viability
Wade points to a familiar
"Take the peacock," Wade
said. "Its tail is magnificent for attracting females and bad for attracting
predators. It is believed that in some situations there is a "predator hard cap"
on the fitness of sexual characteristics. But there's also research suggesting
even the predator hard cap can be overpowered if sexual selection on males is
strong enough. That is, males trade high risks to their lives in order to gain
large numbers of mates and thereby offspring."
This research was funded by
grants from the National Science Foundation (DEB-0717234 and DEB-0614086) and
the National Institutes of Health (RO1GM065414-06 and P30-AG013283). The
coauthors also thank the Pedigree and Population Resource, funded by the
Huntsman Cancer Foundation, for helping to maintain the Utah Population
Database. "Mating system change reduces the strength of sexual selection in an
American frontier population of the 19th century," Evolution & Human Behavior,
vol. 32, iss. 2, pp. 79-156 (March 2011)
Polygamous judge may lose job in Utah
State Supreme Court will hear case today on jurist
who has three wives and has held a seat on local bench for 25 years.
The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
SALT LAKE CITY – For 25 years,
Walter Steed has served the tiny southern Utah border town of Hildale as a
Justice Court judge, handing down rulings on drunken driving and domestic
violence charges. Now, after acknowledging that as part of his religion he is
living in a plural marriage with three wives, he's facing an order to give up
The Utah Supreme Court will hear
arguments in the case today at Brigham Young University in Provo.
Utah's Judicial Conduct
Commission issued an order seeking Steed's removal from the bench in February,
after a 14-month investigation determined Steed is a polygamist and as such had
violated Utah's bigamy law.
The initial complaint against
Steed was filed with the commission in November 2003 by Tapestry Against
Polygamy, an advocacy group founded by ex-polygamous women who organized to help
others leave the handful of secretive religious colonies that practice the
"If you are taking the
constitutional oath office to uphold the law, you should not be breaking the
law," Winchester said. "So, it's 25 years that when knowing he's violating the
bigamy law, he's taking the oath of office ... holding himself out as a public
authority. You can't have it both ways."
Steed's attorney, Rod Parker,
contends Utah's bigamy statute is being unfairly applied and that at stake are
constitutional issues of privacy, liberty and freedom of conscience and
"The problem with the statute is
that it isn't enforced, except in rare cases," said Parker, noting that when
applied to people outside fundamentalist religious groups, there are
identifiable victims, people who have been duped into marrying a person who
already has a spouse.
That didn't happen in Steed's
case, Parker said. Steed legally married his first wife in 1965. The second and
third wives were married - or "sealed" as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints refers to it - to him in religious ceremonies in
1975 and 1985. All three women are biological sisters, and no one in the family
was expecting that the second and third marriages would be civilly recognized.
"I think it's an equal protection
problem," Parker said.
Both Utah's attorney general and
the Washington County prosecutor have declined to prosecute Steed for bigamy,
Parker said. And the state Supreme Court's chief justice, Christine Durham,
opted not to place Steed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Parker also questions the motive
behind the Tapestry complaint.
"There is no allegation that it's
affecting his performance on the bench," Parker said. "It really is truly only
about his private conduct."
Winchester agrees there's no
question about Steed's performance but contends the point is moot.
"My view is that judges are held
to a higher standard," he said, adding that neither federal nor state courts
have yet found that bigamy - even as part of religious practice - is protected
by the Constitution.
Justice Court judges are
appointed to four-year terms by city councils or county commissions to handle
class B and C misdemeanor infractions, charges with penalties that don't exceed
up to six months in jail or $1,000 in fines.
Judges are not required to have
any legal education or training before appointment, Winchester said. A truck
driver by trade, Steed was first appointed to the bench in 1980. He is paid a
few hundred dollars monthly for serving in the part-time position, Parker said.
Books of the Mormons: What Mormons base beliefs on
Mormons believe their church is the one and only true church
established by Jesus Christ in New Testament times.
That church, however, was hopelessly corrupted soon after
Jesus ascended into heaven, which led to what Mormons call the Great Apostasy
that resulted in the misinterpretation and misteaching of many scriptures.
Mormons believe that the true church had to be restored,
through the priesthood, a term which refers to male believers who have the
authority to act in the name of God.
Here's a short, admittedly incomplete, history of the Mormon
In 1823, 17-year-old Joseph Smith Jr., a young man who
practiced so-called "black magic" to find buried treasures in his hometown of
Palmyra, N.Y., was visited by the angel Moroni, who told him of a sacred text
written on solid-gold plates buried on a nearby hill.
Eventually, Joseph was able to uncover and transcribe these
plates, which became the Book of Mormon, the history of how an ancient Hebrew
tribe left Jerusalem 600 years before the birth of Christ and traveled to North
This tribe eventually split into two rival groups, the
Nephites, the fair-skinned good guys, and the Lamanites, who were not favored by
According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus, after his
resurrection, visited North America to share his gospel with the two clans, who
then quit fighting for a while, but eventually started up again.
The dark-skinned Lamanites eventually slaughtered all the
Nephites, and became the ancestors of modern American Indians.
Mormon was a wise leader of the doomed Nephites, and his son
was Moroni, who would eventually return as an angel to reveal to Joseph Smith
that the church he would found would lead to the salvation of mankind.
But the greatest promise of the Mormon religion was that each
follower would have an extraordinarily intimate relationship with God. Divine
revelation, starting with Joseph Smith, was a bedrock of the new religion he
founded in 1830.
Mormons believe God has not always been the supreme being of
the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent
effort. They believe God the Father has a "body of flesh and bones as tangible
Mormon leaders also have taught that Jesus' incarnation was
the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. They
believe Jesus is a God, but that any human can also become a god.
While there are far too many differences with Christianity to
list here, for most Christians, Mormonism is seen as a false religion. Mormons,
in turn, believe present-day Christians follow hopelessly corrupted doctrines
and teachings and that as Latter-Day Saints, they are the true sons and
daughters of Israel.
Another sacred text for Mormons is the revelation to Smith
known as the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132 of this text has become the
rallying cry for polygamous fundamentalists. In it, the prophet described plural
marriage as part of "the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man
After being arrested, Joseph Smith was murdered in Illinois
in 1844 by a mob.
Brigham Young, who also had multiple wives, later became
leader of Smith's church, and led the Saints to the Great Basin of Utah.
The issue of polygamy became a national scandal, pitting the
federal government against the LDS church, and kept Utah from gaining statehood.
In 1890, LDS leaders gave up polygamy.
The church, cleaned up of this nefarious practice, moved from
being considered a wild-eyed sect of crackpots into its present standing as a
pro-family, conservative, entirely sensible American faith.
The church today excommunicates any member either practicing
or openly advocating the practice of polygamy and believes that it is improper
to call any of these splinter polygamous groups "Mormon."
But after the LDS church forsook polygamy, various splinter
groups left to continue the practice, which persists today in Utah and
neighboring states. Polygamist churches of Mormon origin are called Mormon
Mormon fundamentalists believe the church sold them out to
gain acceptance. Modern-day polygamists believe that the LDS church, in
forsaking Section 132, has lost its way.
Fundamentalists also cite another part of the Doctrine and
Covenants, Section 85, in which it was revealed to Joseph Smith that "one mighty
and strong" will be sent to Earth to restore the Mormon church to its rightful
place, which they say would include Joseph Smith's "most holy and important
doctrine" of polygamy.
Both FLDS and mainstream Mormons believe that Smith was a
prophet on the order of Moses, and believe in the same "scriptures" that Smith
said were revealed to him.
There are between 30,000 and 40,000 FLDS polygamists living
in the American West, Canada and Mexico — less than 1 percent of the LDS
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