Is Plural Marriage Required for Exaltation?
Today members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may ask, "Is plural marriage required for exaltation?" One year after the 1890 Manifesto, George Q. Cannon gave this answer: "I know there are a great many who feel that, this being a principle of exaltation, they may be in danger of losing their exaltation, because of their inability to obey this. I want to say to all such that the Lord judges our hearts; He looks at our motives. There were a great many men in past times who never had the privilege of obeying this doctrine, because the law was not given to them. Do you think that they are excluded from exaltation? Do you think that they will be deprived of celestial glory? I do not."
In 1901, while serving as the "one" man holding the keys of sealing (mentioned in D&C 132:7, 18, 19), Church President Lorenzo Snow taught concerning monogamy:
Some of the brethren are worrying about the matter and feel that they ought to have other wives. Brethren, do not worry; you will lose nothing. Turning to Heber, he said, "There is Brother Heber J. Grant, who is without a son and who consequently feels anxious about it." I want to say to Brother Grant that he will have sons and daughters and his posterity shall become as numerous as the sands upon the seashore or the stars in heavenCthe promise made to Abraham is his through faithfulness. Brethren, don't worry about these things, and if you don't happen to secure the means you would like, don't feel disappointed. The Lord will make you rich in due time, and if you are faithful, you will become Gods in eternity. This I know to be the truth.
Brigham Young thought similarly: "If you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained." On other occasions he instructed: "A man may embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart and not take the second wife and be justified before the Lord." "If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church." "If it is necessary to have two wives, take them. If it is right, reasonable and proper and the Lord permits a man to take half a dozen wives, take them; but if the Lord says let them alone, let them alone. How long? Until we go down to the grave, if the Lord demand it." "If we could make every man upon the earth get him a wife, live righteously and serve God, we would not be under the necessity, perhaps, of taking more than one wife. But they will not do this; the people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives." Apostle John Henry Smith recalled that "President Young once proposed that we marry but one wife."
Apostle Joseph F. Smith taught in 1878:
There is a great deal said about our plural marriage... It is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world.
It appears that at many times and places in earth's history, plural marriage is not permitted by God. LDS theology holds that during those periods, living righteously in eternal monogamous marriages brings full exaltation. Modern polygamists generally disagree, asserting that plural marriage is always required. That is, they believe that from the beginning of time, God has always expected His people to practice polygamy or suffer eternal consequences. In addition, Mormon fundamentalists usually teach that only unrighteousness will cause God to withdraw the privilege. So for them in all seasons, monogamy is a lesser law given to the less faithful and bringing a lesser exaltation.
In LDS theology, requiring all exalted men to be polygamists would necessitate at least twice as many women as men in the Celestial Kingdom. It appears that women have a greater propensity to embrace spiritual things. Brigham Young explained: "The fact is, let the pure principles of the kingdom of God be taught to men and women, and far more of the latter than the former will receive and obey them." But will the ratio be at least two women to each man? Some modern polygamists teach that men should seek more than just two wives. No priesthood leader has ever taught that righteous monogamists, such as the Nephites, will have a lesser exaltation than righteous polygamists who lived when plural marriage was permitted. In addition, believing that all exalted men are practicing polygamists generates logistical problems that are not easily resolved.
Regardless, modern polygamists insist that plural marriage has always been practiced by God's prophets even if the scriptures fail to mention it. An examination of the scriptures shows that the marriage practices of God's followers are not always divulged. For example, there is nothing in the LDS Standard Works stating whether prophets such as Adam, Noah, Enoch, the Brother of Jared or other holy men had more than one wife. The first polygamist mentioned in the Bible was Lamech, who was a murderer. It is apparent that Noah had only one wife when entering the ark.
However silence does not prove monogamy (or polygamy). Without additional information on the subject, it is impossible to know if Adam, Noah, Enoch and other godly men and women were monogamists or polygamists.
Book of Mormon Monogamy
In contrast, the Book of Mormon provides one clear example of a prophet and his family living righteously in monogamy. Lehi's son Jacob revealed that his father was personally commanded by God to be a monogamist. While counseling the Nephites decades after his father's death, Jacob referred to "the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father B that they should have save it were one wife and concubines they should have none" (Jacob 3:5; italics added).
Some fundamentalist authors have suggested that Lehi and his families were in fact polygamists, but after arriving in America, iniquity and whoredoms arose causing the Lord to withdraw the privilege. However, this theory appears to directly contradict Jacob's teachings. The abominations of the Nephites occurred during the reign of the second Nephite king (Jacob 1:15), well after Lehi's death (2 Ne. 4:12). Lehi was given the commandment to have one wife many years before his descendants would experiment with polygamy.
When Lehi's posterity transgressed by taking plural wives, Jacob called the perpetrators to repentance (Jacob 2:23-30). In their defense they sought to excuse themselves, not because the Lord had permitted their recent ancestors (like Lehi) to practice polygamy, but "because of the things which were written concerning David and Solomon his son" (Jacob 2:23). In response, Jacob repeated God's commandment given many years previously to Lehi: "For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife and concubines he shall have none" (Jacob 2:27).
Accordingly, if righteousness is the sole criteria for the opportunity to practice plural marriage, then it appears that Lehi and Nephi should have qualified. This episode suggests to Latter-day Saints that there are times when God will not permit polygamy, despite the fact that His chosen people are willing and worthy to practice it. It also appears that monogamy was the marriage law throughout the remainder of the Book of Mormon, a record that contains the "fulness of the gospel" (D&C 20:9). As a Counselor in the First Presidency, George Q. Cannon taught: "The Nephites, according to all that has come down to us, were monogamists. This law was not given to them, as far as we have any account. Yet they were a great and a mighty people before the Lord. They had Prophets and mighty men among them."
New Testament - Monogamy?
Similarly in the New Testament, Christ's teachings on divorce may have precluded the practice of plural marriage among His followers: "[Jesus] saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery..." (Matt. 19:8-9; italics added.) One interpretation is that if a divorce occurs for the wrong reason, the man is not really divorced and if he subsequently marries again, he enters into an adulterous relationship. However, if polygamy was permitted in such circumstances, the second marriage (or third or fourth) would not necessarily be influenced by the status of the first.
Indications are that plural marriage was not permitted among the early Christian Church as well. Paul taught that bishops were to be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). New Testament scholar George W. Knight III writes: "It has been suggested that [these verses] require that a bishop (1) be married, (2) have only one wife his entire life, (3) be monogamous, or (4) be faithful in marital and sexual realm..." He also adds: "Polygamy, which existed among Jews of the New Testament age... is certainly ruled out by the sense of the phrase."
After Christ's ascension, Peter held the sealing keys so eternal marriages could apparently be solemnized and there were attempts to live some of the higher principles such as the law of consecration (Acts 4:32). Nevertheless, there is no mention of plural marriage, which might have been noted in secular histories at least if it were practiced among the early Christians. For example, the Jewish historian Josephus [37-100 A.D.] specifically mentioned that polygamy existed among the Jews of that era. Plural marriage among the Christians would have been a novelty to be explored by those who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21).
Early 1830s - Latter-day Saint Monogamy
A review of Church history shows that during the early 1830s a similar situation occurred. Joseph Smith learned at that time that polygamy was acceptable to God, but that it was not then permitted. In 1832 "Joseph told individuals, then in the Church that he had inquired of the Lord concerning the principles of plurality of wives, and he received for answer that the principle of taking more wives than one is a true principle, but the time had not yet come for it to be practiced."
Latter-day Saints believe that this same marital directive applies to them today. They hold that in 1904, God withdrew the privilege to practice plural marriage through President Joseph F. Smith, the "one" man then holding the keys of sealing. Hence, from that time forward, plural marriage was not permitted.
The 1890 Manifesto - God Removes the Commandment to Practice Plural Marriage
Between 1852 and 1890, Latter-day Saints were taught the plural marriage was a commandment. Obedience to that commandment during those years required sacrifice and those sacrifices brought blessings. However, in 1890, God accepted the sacrifice of Church members, telling them, "It is enough." First Counselor George Q. Cannon explained that God had accepted the sacrifice of the Saints and removed the mandate:
I know myself that it was the will of God that the Manifesto should be given. I know it was the will of God that the word should go to the Latter-day Saints that plural marriage should cease and that we should conform to the requirements of the law...
God gave the command, and it required the command of God to cause us to change our attitude. President Woodruff holds the same authority that the man did through whom the revelation came to the Church. It required the same authority to say to us, "It is enough." God has accepted of your sacrifice. He has looked down upon you and seen what you have passed through, and how determined you were to keep His commandments, and now He says, "It is enough." It is the same authority that gave us the principle. It is not the word of man. Now, it is for us to obey the Law.
In retrospect, it appears that Church members living between 1852 and 1890 were to have trials (and benefits) derived in part from the practice of polygamy. Mary Hales Horne believed it to be a "great trial" saying quite frankly, "no one can ever feel the full weight of the curse till she enters into polygamy." Lucy Walker Kimball believed polygamy was "a grand school" to "learn self-control, self denial."
Then in 1890, Church leaders explained that the Lord said, "It is enough." Similar to Abraham when he was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac upon the alter, God had accepted the offering. Isaac's life was not required, but a ram was found in the thicket (Gen. 22:1-13). Accordingly, the temples would not need to be sacrificed with men incarcerated and missionary work compromised. The sacrifices and sufferings of the Saints were apparently sufficient.
An 1831 revelation acknowledged: "I, the Lord, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (D&C 63:26). "Caesar" or the U. S. Government had declared that polygamy must stop. The Lord could have destroyed the government and its armies, but in this instance, He chose to once again render to Caeser those things Caeser sought to forcefully regulate. In December 1891, Counselor Joseph F. Smith explained: "What the Lord requires is that we shall not bring upon ourselves the destruction intended by our enemies, by persisting in a course in opposition to the law." Six years later he elaborated: "The doctrine is not repealed, the truth is not annulled, the law is right and just now as ever, but the observance of it is stopped... The Manifesto stopped further plural marriages in time... The operation of the law B as to further plural marriages was suspended B or stopped."
Section 132: An Answer to Joseph Smith's Question About Polygamy
To support the idea that plural marriage is always required for full exaltation, proponents sometimes quote discourses given by Church leaders during the years 1852 to 1890. In addition they may recite verses from section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, pointing out that it was given to Joseph Smith when he asked the Lord specifically about polygamy. Verses one and two state: "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines B Behold, and low, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter."
Modern polygamists sometimes assume that everything that follows Joseph's question (in verse one) deals strictly with polygamy, including the statement: "all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same... if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned... However, an examination of the remaining section shows that plural marriage itself is not mentioned until verse thirty-four.
Church members assert that the intervening verses actually discuss something much broader than polygamy, specifically they introduce the Law of Eternal Marriage or the Law of Celestial Marriage and the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (which encompass the principle of plural marriage but is not limited to it). LDS theology holds that whenever this Law and Covenant are restored to earth and made available to a person, it must be accepted or damnation will result because there will be no second chances in the Spirit World to comply. Verses nineteen and twenty explain that compliance occurs whenever "a man" marries "a wife" by proper authority and they live worthily. To that couple, the blessings of godhood are offered. And there is no mention of polygamy.
Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith's specific question about plural marriage brought forth a much more comprehensive answer that dealt, not only with polygamy, but with the general laws and covenants governing marriages in eternity. In 1833 Joseph Smith received the same kind of answer to a different question. He prayed to know if tobacco use was appropriate during Church meetings. In response, he was given section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains a general health code for all Church members and is commonly referred to as the "Word of Wisdom." Joseph's specific prayer about tobacco elicited a broad answer regarding many health issues including tobacco use.
 Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses 2:294.
 Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 11 July 1901. Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 300-01.
 JD 11:268-69.
 Wilford Woodruff Journals, 24 September 1871.
 JD 16:166.
 Anthon H. Lund, Diary, 10 Jan. 1900, CHD. In Quinn, "New Plural Marriages," 26.
. Quinn, "Plural Marriage," 1998, 8-9.
 Evidences and Reconciliations, 393. Elder Widstoe went on to say: "Some have suggested that it was a means of trying and refining the people through the persecution that followed. Certainly, one must have had faith in the divine origin of the Church to enter it. Another suggested explanation is based upon the doctrine of pre-existence. In the spirit world are countless numbers of spirits waiting for their descent into mortality, to secure earth bodies as a means of further progress. These unborn spirits desired the best possible parentage. Those assuming plural marriage almost invariably were the finest types in the community Only men who were most worthy in their lives were permitted to take plural wives; and usually only women of great faith and pure lives were willing to become members of a plural household." More recently Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: "In this dispensation, the promulgation of the law of plural marriage had an effect similar to the presentation of the doctrine of the Bread of Life in the meridian dispensation. Opposition from without the Church increased, while some unstable members of the kingdom itself found themselves unable to accept the fulness of the revealed program of the Lord. There were many important reasons why the Lord revealed the doctrine of plurality of wives. But if plural marriage had served no other purpose than to sift the chaff from the wheat, than to keep the unstable and semi-faithful people from the fulness of gospel blessings, it would have been more than justified. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:361-62.)
 JD 18:249. Janet Bennion observed: "Past studies of gender dynamics in religion have consistently shown that females tend to be more religious than males." (Desert Patriarchy, 174.)
 Lorin Woolley taught: "To be the head of a Dispensation, 7 wives necessary. [The head of] the Patriarchal Order must have 5 wives. President of the Church - 3 wives. (BOR 21; Items 16). See also Moroni Jessop, "Testimony of Moroni Jessop," 2. Among the LeBarons "A small percentage of the leaders of the sect have between five and nine wives, adhering to the sect's code of building up a 'quorum.' Three are needed for a rudimentary quorum, five wives are adequate for a medium quorum, but seven and sometimes twelve wives are required for the highest quorum of all." (Bennion, Desert Patriarchy, 135.) The idea that more wives create a greater exaltation for the individuals involved is a fundamentalist tradition that has grown since 1933. It appears that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and other Church presidents never taught such a doctrine.
 Eugene England observed that there are 104 males born for every 100 females and that more male children die before the age of eight than female children. Accordingly, if we take into account the children dying before reaching the age of accountability and assume they will all be exalted, then we actually have an abundance of men in the celestial kingdom. ("Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage," 118.)
 The revelation to Joseph Smith, D&C 130:15, states: "if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter." Rulon Allred and other fundamentalists have taught that the issuing of the Manifesto was fulfillment of this scripture (Truth 3:78-79).
 John W. Taylor's firm position was for telling the truth and taking the consequences. See Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 369.
 B. H. Roberts wrote, "we should have held to the principle even though it cost the very annihilation of the Church." Slowly his feelings changed: "this matter [of the 1890 Manifesto] continued a trial to me through the year 1891, and plagued me much, but I said but little about it; and by and by I began to remember the flash of light that came to me when first I heard of it, and at last my feelings became reconciled to it. Perhaps I had transgressed in pushing from me the first testimony I received in relation to it, and allowing my own prejudices, and my own short-sighted, human reason to stand against the inspiration of God and the testimony it bore that the Manifesto was alright. When this fact began to dawn on my mind I repented of my wrong and courted most earnestly the spirit of God for a testimony and gradually it came. I did not understand the purposes for which the Manifesto was issued (I do not to this day, Feb 10 1893) but sure I am that it is all right; that God has a purpose in it I feel assured, and in due time it will be manifest." (Sillito, Diaries of B. H. Roberts, 226-27; Walker, "Roberts and the Manifesto," 365.)
 See 1 Kings 19:12.
 Deseret News Weekly, 17 November 1891, 6. Italics added.
 See James, "Women on the Underground," 49-61; Mehr, "Women's Response to Plural Marriage," 84-98.
 Horne, Mrs. Joseph. "Migration and Settlement of the Latter-day Saints." Typescript, 1884, 22. In George D. Smith, "Nauvoo Roots," 22-23.
 Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, Autobiographical Statement, 6-7. In George D. Smith, "Nauvoo Roots," 23.
 Letter written 15 December 1891 to Elder Warren M. Johnson, (father of Leroy and Price Johnson). In Lyman, Political Deliverance, 142.
 Letter to the Honorable A. Saxey, Provo, Utah from Joseph F. Smith, 9 January 1897.
 JD 20:26; italics added.
 See Musser, Celestial or Plural Marriage, 23.
 "Monogamy is implicit in the story of Adam and Eve, since God created only one wife for Adam. Yet polygamy is adopted from the time of Lamech (Gen. 4:19) and is not forbidden in Scripture." (New Bible Dictionary,742.)
 Genesis 4:19, 23; Moses 5:47-56.
 Noah took one wife onto the ark (Gen. 7:7, 8:16, 18; 1 Pet. 3:20, compare JST Gen. 8:34, 37, 9:1, 3).
 Musser, Celestial or Plural Marriage, 22. See also the editorial published April 1938, in Truth 3:177-83 (also 15:297), entitled, "The Book of Mormon and Polygamy." Joseph Musser was generally an astute writer and researcher, but it appears that his analysis of circumstances surrounding Nephite monogamy was shallow, inaccurate, and self-serving.
 Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses 2:294. See also Orson Pratt JD 6:351, 13:192; H. W. Naisbitt, JD 26:115.
 Another interpretation argues that an improper divorce would make the man (or woman) unworthy for any new marriages, though precisely why the sin would be considered to be "adultery" is unclear.
 Knight, Pastoral Epistles, 157-58.
 Matthew 16:19 reads: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
 Josephus, Antiquities, 17.1.2; Wars, 1.24.2. (Knight list the Josephus references as "Ant. 17.14; B.J. 1.477.)
 JD 13:193.
 As Historian Carmon Hardy observed: "the 1904 declaration constituted a genuine dividing line, resulting in a definite reduction, if not cessation, of approved polygamous marriages within the church." (Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 261.)
 Vance Allred, "Manifesto of 1890," 39-40. Gilbert Fulton, author of The Most Holy Principle, believed that section 132 deals exclusively with plural marriage: "It is not a revelation solely on the matter of the sealing of marriages for time and all eternity. It is a revelation on celestial plural marriage. There is a tendency to slide over the real issue of that revelation" (4:135).
 D&C 132:3-4.
 Similarly if the opportunity is presented, the ordinance of baptism must be accepted in mortality, because there are no "second chances" for baptism after death.
 See Elden J. Watson, "John Taylor's 1886 Revelation."
 See JD 12:157-58.
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308.
 Fundamentalist author Gilbert Fulton shared an opinion commonly held by polygamists today: "If the keys for perpetuating plural marriage are Church-held but have been suspended, how do you suspend keys without losing them? When a generation passes without an ordinance being perpetuated, how, then, can it be perpetuated? Who has lived the law? Can you hold the keys and perpetuate an ordinance you, yourself, have never received?... If the keys were taken from earth or were suspended and no one is living the principle, the keys are lost in the impossibility of perpetuating an ordinance no one has received." (Most Holy Principle, 4:141-42.)
 Ogden Kraut wrote: "one thing is certain B those who oppose plural marriage do not hold the keys to plural marriage." (Holy Priesthood, 6:243; italics added.)
 Letter from the President Joseph F. Smith and the First Presidency to Judge Alfred Budge dated 6 February 1908.
 Testimony given at the trial of Rudger Clawson. Deseret Evening News, 18 October 1884. Gilbert Fulton, The Most Holy Principle, 3:224. See also Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 52-53, en. 98; Truth 10 (March 1945) 254-63. See also Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 5 January 1904. Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 694.
 Gospel Doctrine, 280-81. (Stated in April General Conference, 1911.)
 Conference Report April, 1921, 202. Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, 159
 At times, a plural wife may be involved with the ceremony by symbolically giving her husband to a new wife under what is called the "Law of Sarah" (see D&C 132:65). Kimball Young provided this description of the plural wife's participation: "If you [approve of this new marriage], you will manifest it by placing her [the bride's] right hand within the right hand of your husband" (Isn't One Wife Enough?, 45). See also Carolyn Campbell, "Inside Polygamy in the '90s," 56; Bancroft, History of Utah, 353-354; Orson Pratt, The Seer, 41. Regardless, the participation of plural wives is not a part of the actual sealing ordinance nor is it mandatory (see D&C 132:51-53). For a description of Mormon fundamentalist marriage ceremonies, see Altman and Ginat, Polygamous Families, 134-36.