1. Do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practice polygamy today?
No. Any person attempting to practice polygamy is excommunicated.
2. Did members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever practice polygamy?
Yes. The practice is referred to as "plural marriage." It occurs when one man is married to more than one wife (technically called "polygyny"). Joseph Smith introduced plural marriage in the 1840s. In 1852, Church leaders announced to the world that plural marriages were being allowed. In 1890 the practice was generally discontinued. However, between 1890 and 1904, around 300 plural marriages were secretly performed. Since 1904, individuals entering into polygamous unions are excommunicated. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1091-1095.)
3. How many Church members were involved?
"The exact percentage of Latter-day Saints who participated in the practice [of plural marriage] is not known, but studies suggest a maximum of from 20% to 25% of LDS adults were members of polygamous households. At its height, plural marriage probably involved only a third of the women reaching marriageable age—though among Church leadership plural marriage was the norm for a time." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1095.)
4. How can individuals who strive to follow Christ and biblical teachings believe in or practice polygamy?
"Mormonism claims to be a restoration of God's work in all previous dispensations. The Old Testament teaches that the patriarchs—those men favored of God in ancient times—had more than one wife under divine sanction. In the course of the development of the Church in the nineteenth century, it was revealed to the leader of the Church that such a practice of marriage again should be entered into." (Gordon B. Hinckley, What of the Mormons?, p.10.)
5. How many modern polygamists are there?
The press has often used numbers in the 20,000 to 30,000 range to describe the number of polygamists living in the West. This number may be too high.
The largest polygamists groups include the United Apostolic Brethren, led by Owen Allred with headquarters in south Salt Lake City valley. They carry around 6000 members on their rolls. There may be additional members in Montana and elsewhere. Estimates for the Fundamentalist LDS Church (FLDS) lead by Rulon Jeffs located in Colorado City, Utah on the Utah-Arizona border have been around 8000. A smaller group located nearby called the "First Warders" may support another thousand or so. The Kingstonites have a over a thousand. The "True and Living Church" (TLC) of Manti, Utah whose prophet is James Harmston has a few hundred.
Beyond these groups, numerous "Independents" exist around the area. They are not associated with any of the main entities. Whether there are hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands in all, it is difficult to say.
6. What are some of the other differences between Mormon Fundamentalists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
About a dozen or so complaints are repeatedly lodged against the Church by Mormon Fundamentalists. The practice of polygamy is by far the most visible. Other disagreements include:
THE LAW OF CONSECRATION
Through Joseph Smith, God revealed an economic plan called the "Law of Consecration." It retains a person’s full free agency while providing for the poor and the needy. The "Law of Consecration" is very different from communism. Members in the 1830s and again in the 1870s were given the privilege of living this inspired plan. Notwithstanding, Church members were not totally successful and God subsequently replaced it with a lesser law called "tithing."
Mormon Fundamentalists assert that the "Law of Consecration" must be lived today. They forget that to practice it, they must have divine permission and authorized leadership. This they do not possess.
MISSIONARY WORK WITHOUT PURSE OR SCRIP
Through Joseph Smith the Lord commanded that missionaries should travel without "purse or scrip." Dissenters claim that this is the only acceptable method of accomplishing missionary work. They refuse to accept prophetic guidance which came later. Through His mouthpiece on earth, God instructed that providing support to missionaries in their field of labor is acceptable and even expected.
THE PROPER METHOD OF PRIESTHOOD CONFERRAL
Dissenters claim that specific words must always be used in an exact manner whenever priesthood authority is conveyed from one man to another. They assert that improper words have been used by Church leaders in the past. As a result they claim that many brethren in the Church today think they have priesthood authority when in reality they do not.
These dissidents fail to realize that from the beginning of the Church in 1830, a variety of words have been successfully used to confer priesthood.
THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL
Modern revelations mention that there will be a gathering to "one place" prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. That "one place" has been specified as Independence, Missouri. Dissenters believe that all new converts should be "gathered" to that location, or at least to North America.
Joseph Smith plainly taught that the "gathering" was designed to bring individuals out of spiritual darkness and into the light of the gospel. This is accomplished as they accept revealed truth and participate in saving ordinances such as baptism.
MEN OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN DESCENT AND THE PRIESTHOOD
A Church policy dating back to the time of Brigham Young forbade men with African ancestry from receiving priesthood ordinations. Details as to why this policy was required have never been fully revealed.
In 1978, Church President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation which allows all worthy males to receive the priesthood. Mormon Fundamentalists reject that prophetic declaration.
THE "ONE MIGHTY AND STRONG"
In the early 1830s Church members were striving to settle the western boarders of Missouri. Members were slow to follow inspired council. Contentions, envyings, strifes and lustful and covetous desires existed among them. As a consequence, the Lord promised that an individual referred to as, "one mighty and strong" might be dispatched to accomplish two things: (1) "to set in order the house of God" and (2) "to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints" on the properties then being purchased in that area.
Mormon Fundamentalists completely ignore the second duty listed above. Then they assert that the "house of God" mentioned is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the twenty-first century with its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Consequently, they believe that some individual will eventually appear to "set in order" the Church according to their specific notions and to vindicate them. In fact, over twenty men have made the claim to be the "one mighty and strong" during the last 100 years. Most of them are now deceased.
Mormon Fundamentalists fail to realize that much of the work of the "one mighty and strong" was dependent upon the continued unrighteousness of the Church members in that area at that time. In addition, nothing exists to suggest that his responsibilities would ever expand to a time and place far beyond that implicit in the original revelation.
THE 1890 MANIFESTO
Polygamy was openly practiced between 1852 and 1890. Participation was often felt to be a demonstration of devout faith. The United States government started in 1862 passing laws designed specifically to stop the practice. In 1890, then Church President Wilford Woodruff, went to the Lord to inquire if plural marriage was still required as a manifestation of devotion and faith. He received a revelation which formed the basis for a document now referred to as the "Manifesto." It specified that polygamy was no longer a necessary practice for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon Fundamentalists reject the "Manifesto."
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