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The Saints Are Told: “It is Enough” 

          In 1890, Church leaders recognized that without outside intervention, continued submission to the government oppression would have resulted in the annihilation of the Church.[1]  Some General Authorities believed that no compromises should be made and that the Church and its members should simply endure the persecution.[2]  President of Seventy, B. H. Roberts at one time reflected that such a course was preferable to a manifesto, though his feelings soon changed.[3] 

          Similarly, historical records show that a vast majority of Latter-day Saints were then entirely willing to endure further persecution as they looked to God for deliverance.  They might have sought divine assistance in the form of fire and hail raining down from the sky upon the oppressors (Ex. 9:23) or for invisible armies of “horses and chariots of fire” to fight (2 Kings 6:17).  Instead, the answer came to Church members more like a still small voice saying,[4] “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.[5] 

          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.[6]  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.”[7]  Lucy Walker Kimball believed polygamy was “a grand school” to “learn self-control, self denial.”[8]

          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.”[9]  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 – as to further plural marriages was suspended – or stopped.”[10]

Was the Manifesto a Commandment From God to Stop Polygamy?

          Through the words of the Manifesto, President Woodruff advised the Saints to stop plural marriage.  However a question arises: “Did Church leaders teach that the 1890 Manifesto was a commandment from the Lord to stop polygamy?”  The answer is, “no.”  The actions of the “one” man holding the sealing keys demonstrate that the Manifesto simply removed the commandment.  Thereafter plural marriage was still possible, but not commanded by God.  The Lord continued to permit the “one” man to seal a few new plural marriages after 1890.  However, the politics of the time required additional secrecy, which ultimately resulted in further ambiguity.

          Several historians have provided extensive documentation of the fact that the 1890 Manifesto did not stop plural marriages.[11]  It appears that Church Presidents Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith continued to secretly authorize polygamous unions to be performed up until 1904.   Most of those were performed in Mexico and Canada, but not all.  Then in 1904, Church President Joseph F. Smith issued the “Official Statement” heralding an end to future authorizations for plural marriages.

          A review of the scriptures and LDS Church history shows that polygamy may at times be commanded of the Lord’s people.  At other times it may be permitted and in many other times, it is not permitted.  Latter-day Saints believe that it is all according to how the Lord “will command His people” (Jacob 2:30) and that it is regulated through the “one” man who holds the keys (D&C 132:7-8).  Apostle Joseph F. Smith summarized 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.[12]

At Times Plural Marriage is Not Permitted 

          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.[13]  So for them in all seasons, monogamy is a lesser law given to the less faithful and bringing a lesser exaltation.  In conjunction, polygamists today 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, Isaac, the Brother of Jared or other holy men had more than one wife.[14]  The first polygamist mentioned in the Bible was Lamech, who was a murderer.[15]  It is apparent that Noah had only one wife when entering the ark.[16]

          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.

          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 –  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.[17]  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.”[18]

          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.[19]

          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.”[20]

          After Christ’s ascension, Peter held the sealing keys[21] 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.[22]  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).

          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.”[23]

          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.[24]  Hence, from that time forward, plural marriage was not permitted

At Times, Plural Marriage is Permitted 

          In contrast to times when God does not allow plural marriage, religious history suggests that seasons exist when it is permitted.[25]  In such periods, the “one” man holding the keys may solemnize plural marriages for worthy men and women who so desire to practice polygamy.  Or the Saints may live monogamously without eternal penalty. 

          Regarding marriage practices in in Old Testament times, Smith’s Bible Dictionary records: “Monogamy [was] the original law of marriage...  In the patriarchal age, polygamy prevailed...”  It appears that “the Mosaic law... [was] directed to the discouragement of polygamy...”  And, “In the post-Babylonian period monogamy appears to have become more prevalent than at any previous time: indeed we have no instance of polygamy during this period on record in the Bible, all the marriages noticed being with single wives.  The practice of polygamy, nevertheless, still existed.”[26]  Historian Jessie Embry observed: “Polygamy was historically an option, but not a requirement, in Old Testament society.”[27]

          This situation seems to have recurred in the period between 1890 and 1904.  The Latter-day Saints were taught that polygamy was no longer required in order to receive all of Father’s blessings.[28]  While 60% of General Authorities had children by plural wives during that period, the other 40% did not.[29] 

          As already noted, Church members believe that the 1890 Manifesto was not a directive to refrain from plural marriages.  Instead it is seen as a proclamation telling the Latter-day Saints that Heavenly Father had accepted their sacrifice and that plural marriage was no longer commanded.  However, the actions of Church leaders show that it was still permitted.

          Anthony Ivins performed more polygamous marriages after the 1890 Manifesto than any other man, including solemnizing a plural marriage of his own daughter.  He was positioned to understand the eternal significance of plural marriage, yet he remained a monogamist.  He also made certain that plural marriages permitted between 1890 and 1904 were authorized by the “one” man.  In 1923 he wrote to fundamentalist Price Johnson:  

         The Lord made known to Joseph Smith that all bonds, covenants, contracts, obligations, oaths, vows or performances whatsoever, which men enter into in mortality, are void, and of no effect in the life to come, unless they are sealed by the holy spirit of promise, (the power of the priesthood) they are of no effect after men are dead.  He also makes it plain that there is but one person on the earth at the same time, who is authorized to exercise the sealing power, as it applies to this ordinance.  It is also made plain that under certain circumstances a man may be justified in marrying more than one wife, provided she is given to him by one holding authority, or one to whom he has delegated this right.  Every member of the Church who is worthy and who takes a wife in a temple, being sealed to him by proper authority will be entitled to claim her in the life to come with the children who may be born to the.  When a worthy man can have more sealed to him it will be the same way, it will be done by proper authority, otherwise he will have neither one wife nor more in the life to come.  Plural marriage was practiced in the Church and was approved by the Lord when these conditions were adhered to....

          There is no man in the world today authorized to give you, or any other man, a plural wife, and there can be no such man until the Lord shall speak through his prophet, as he did to Joseph Smith.[30]  

At Times, Plural Marriage is Commanded 

          Religious history shows that there are times when plural marriage has been commanded by God.  While the Old Testament states that Abraham took Hagar to wife at Sarah’s bidding (Gen. 16:1-3), the Doctrine and Covenants says: “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife” (D&C 132:34).  It is usually assumed that the two sentences “God commanded Abraham” and “Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife” are directly related to each other, meaning: “God commanded Abraham to take Hagar as a plural wife.”  If this interpretation is correct, then this would be only recorded instance in the scriptures of a man being commanded by God to enter plural marriage.

          In Nauvoo Joseph Smith taught certain Church leaders that they were commanded to enter into polygamy, including Brigham Young who recalled his response: “When I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I was not in the coffin, knowing the toil and labor that my body would have to undergo.”[31]

          For Latter-day Saints, a third example where plural marriage is commanded is found between 1852 and 1890.  President Young announced the doctrine of polygamy to the world in 1852.  For the next thirty-eight years various priesthood leaders would on occasion teach the Saints that plural marriage was commanded by God: 

          In 1862 President Brigham Young explained: “Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith.”[32]

 

          Apostle George Q. Cannon observed in 1869: “It has required the revelation of God, our heavenly Father, to enable His people to receive this principle [of plural marriage] and carry it out...  If there were no record of its practice to be found, and if the Bible, Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants were totally silent in respect to this doctrine, it would nevertheless be binding upon us as a people, God Himself having given a revelation for us to practice it at the present time.  This should be understood by us as a people.”[33]

 

          President John Taylor taught in 1879: “Now then, did we seek this principle? No, we did not. Did we ask God that we might have plurality of wives? No, we did not. Was it a matter of our choice? No. The same God that revealed to Joseph Smith the first principles of the Gospel also revealed unto him the doctrine of plural marriage; it was presented to us as a doctrine to be believed in and be governed by. Could we help it? What had we to do with it? It is a command of God.”[34]

 

          Apostle Wilford Woodruff instructed in 1883: “I desire to testify as an individual and as a Latter-day Saint that I know that God has revealed this law unto this people. I know that if we had not obeyed that law we should have been damned; the judgments of God would have rested upon us; the kingdom of God would have stopped right where we were when God revealed that law unto us.”[35]

 

          Apostle Lorenzo Snow stated in 1886: “To ‘multiply,’ was the first commandment given to our first parents. Purity in matrimonial intercourse, I always believed, should accompany that command, and I have always endeavored to observe faithfully its practice. I married because it was commanded of God, and commenced in plural marriage.”[36] 

          Clearly between 1852 and 1890, Church members were taught by their priesthood leaders that they needed to be polygamists if they wished to comply with God’s commandments.[37]  It was a special commandment to the Saints of that era with blessings attached. 

PLURAL MARRIAGE

TIME PERIOD

Commanded

  • Latter-day Saints 1852-1890

  • Abraham

  • Selected Church Leaders in Nauvoo

Permitted

  • Latter-day Saints 1890-1904

  • Old Testament

Not Permitted

  • Latter-day Saints after 1904

  • Book of Mormon - Lehi

  • Joseph Smith - early 1830s

  • New Testament (?)

Is Plural Marriage a Requirement for Exaltation?

           Today members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may ask, “Is plural marriage a requirement 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.”[38]

          While serving as the “one” man in 1901, 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 heaven—the 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.[39] 

          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.”[40]  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.”[41]   “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.”[42]  “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.”[43]  “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.”[44]  Apostle John Henry Smith recalled that “President Young once proposed that we marry but one wife.”[45]

          Church members generally do not profess to understand why God sometimes commands His people, as He did between 1852 and 1890, to practice plural marriage.  Historian D. Michael Quinn observed: “Mormon leaders gave many rationales for practicing polygamy (including its role in producing a larger number of righteous children), but always subordinated those explanations to the affirmation that revelations of God required the Latter-day Saints to live this ‘Holy Principle.’”[46]  Apostle John A. Widstoe stated simply: “We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage.”[47]

          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.”[48]  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.[49]  Believing that all exalted men are practicing polygamists generates logistical problems that are not easily resolved.[50] 

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.[51]  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 – 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...”[52]  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 and receive full blessings.[53]  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.[54]  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.[55]  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. 

Question

     God’s Answer

              Scope of Answer

What about Tobacco Use?

Word of Wisdom

(D&C 89)

A general health code that addresses tobacco use, but is not limited strictly to it

What about Polygamy?

The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage

(D&C 132)

God’s law of Eternal Marriage that includes plural marriage but is not limited strictly to it

 Suspending Plural Marriage - A Change in the Ordinances?

          Joseph Smith taught: “Where there is no change of priesthood, there is no change of ordinances.”[56]  Modern polygamists sometimes assert that Church leaders changed the ordinance of plural marriage by discontinuing it’s practice in 1904 and therefore they also changed the priesthood.[57]  Such allegations prompt important questions for Latter-day Saints: “Is plural marriage an ordinance?  Are there ‘keys to plural marriage’ as some fundamentalists have claimed?”[58]

          Throughout the scriptures and the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Church leaders, there are apparently no references to keys of plural marriage or an ordinance of plural marriage.  Similarly, the First Presidency explained in 1908, “There is no marriage rite or ceremony performed in the Church under the name of ‘celestial marriage’.”[59] 

          In LDS theology, however, there are keys of sealing and the ordinance of sealing allowing a man and a woman to be married eternally.  As President John Taylor testified in 1884, there is “no distinction” between the authority used to seal a monogamist marriage verses a polygamist marriage.[60]  Accordingly, plural marriage itself is not an ordinance.  It is the repetition of an ordinance, the ordinance of sealing.

          On several occasions since the Manifesto of 1890, Church Presidents have declared that no man on the earth has authority to seal a plural marriage, creating confusion in the minds of some listeners.  In 1911, President Joseph F. Smith instructed: “Plural marriages have ceased in the Church.  There isn’t a man today in this Church or anywhere else outside of it who has authority to solemnize a plural marriage, not one.”[61]  President Heber J. Grant declared similarly in 1921: “No man upon the face of the earth has any right or any authority to perform a plural marriage, and there are no plural marriages today in the Church of Christ.”[62]

          Mormon fundamentalist writers would later suggest that these Church Presidents were saying that they had lost the authority to seal plural marriages, believing that somehow the priesthood keys used to solemnize a polygamous union had left the Church.  This is problematic because Church leaders have consistently taught that the same keys are used to seal either a monogamist or polygamist marriages.  Church members observe that the sealing keys have been continually exercised by Church Presidents from 1841 to the present day in ceremonies that seal a man and a woman in eternal marriage.  Prior to 1904, the man involved in a new sealing may have been previously sealed to other living women, but the ceremony itself would not have revealed that fact.[63]  Currently, the sealing authority is used only for marriages where the man has no living spouse. 

          Latter-day Saints assert that the ordinance of eternal sealing has not been changed in any way, though its application has been limited to monogamous unions by the Lord through the medium of the “one” holding the keys.  In contrast, Mormon fundamentalists believe polygamous marriages must continue to be performed or the authority to solemnize them will be lost.


[1]   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).

[2]   John W. Taylor’s firm position was for telling the truth and taking the consequences.  See Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 369.

[3]   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.)

[4]  See 1 Kings 19:12.

[5]   Deseret News Weekly, 17 November 1891, 6.  Italics added.

[6]   See James, “Women on the Underground,” 49-61; Mehr, “Women's Response to Plural Marriage,” 84-98.

[7]   Horne, Mrs. Joseph. “Migration and Settlement of the Latter-day Saints.” Typescript, 1884, 22.  In George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Roots,” 22-23.

[8]   Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, Autobiographical Statement, 6-7.  In George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Roots,” 23.

[9]   Letter written 15 December 1891 to Elder Warren M. Johnson, (father of Leroy and Price Johnson).  In Lyman, Political Deliverance, 142.

[10]  Letter to the Honorable A. Saxey, Provo, Utah from Joseph F. Smith, 9 January 1897. 

[11]   Kenneth L. Cannon, II, “Mormon Polygamy 1890-1906,” 1983, 27-35.  Hardy, Solemn Covenant, complete.  See also Collier, “Polygamy in Mexico 1895-1905,” complete;  Quinn, “New Plural Marriages,” 9-105.    D. Michael Quinn explained in 2003: “It is true that I’ve given encouragement to Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, but not because I’m interested in joining them, nor to embarrass the monogamous Church, nor to ignore the fact that there are unhappy polygamist wives and children.  I’ve spoken and written favorably about current polygamists because I support the efforts of all people to maintain loving families in whatever way they choose – without coercion and without fear” (“Apologia Pro Mea Via,” 26.).

[12]   JD 20:26; italics added.

[13]  See Musser, Celestial or Plural Marriage, 23.

[14]  “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.)

[15]   Gen. 4:19, 23; Moses 5:47-56.

[16]   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).

[17]   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.”  Messenger Volume 1, 132-139.

[18]   Collected Discourses 2:294.  See also Orson Pratt JD 6:351, 13:192; H. W. Naisbitt, JD 26:115.

[19]  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.

[20]  Knight, Pastoral Epistles, 157-58.

[21]  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.”

[22]  Josephus, Antiquities, 17.1.2; Wars, 1.24.2.  (Knight list the Josephus references as “Ant. 17.14; B.J. 1.477.)

[23]    JD 13:193.

[24]  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.)

[25]   See Alexander, “Wilford Woodruff and the Manifesto,” 203.

[26]  William Smith, Bible Dictionary, 376.

[27]   Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families, 4.

[28]   See George Q. Cannon in CD 2:294.  Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 11 July 1901.  Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 300-01. 

[29]   Kenneth L. Cannon II, “Polygamous Cohabitation,” 30-31.

[30]   Letter reprinted in Mark J.Baird, and Rhea A. Kunz Baird. Reminiscences 2:91-95 (appendix A); italics added.

[31]   JD 3:266.

[32]   JD 9:323.

[33]   JD 13:198.

[34]   JD 20:352-53.

[35]   JD 24:244.

[36]   JD 26:365.

[37]   See also Joseph F. Smith, 7 July 1878, JD 20:28-29.

[38]    Collected Discourses 2:294.

[39]   Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 11 July 1901.  Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 300-01.

[40]   JD 11:268-69.

[41]   Wilford Woodruff Journals, 24 September 1871.

[42]   JD 11:268. 

[43]   JD 14:160-61.

[44]   JD 16:166.

[45]   Anthon H. Lund, Diary, 10 Jan. 1900, CHD.  In Quinn, “New Plural Marriages,” 26.

[46].  Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 8-9. 

[47]    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.)

[48]   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.)

[49]  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.  ("Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser," 21; Items From a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, 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.)

[50]   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.)

[51]   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).

[52]  D&C 132:3-4.

[53]   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.

[54]   See Elden J. Watson, “John Taylor’s 1886 Revelation.”

[55]   See JD 12:157-58.

[56]   Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308.

[57]   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.)  See also the discussion in Messenger Volume 1, 33-35, 54-57.

[58]   Ogden Kraut wrote:  “one thing is certain – those who oppose plural marriage do not hold the keys to plural marriage.”  (Holy Priesthood, 6:243; italics added.)

[59]   Letter from the President Joseph F. Smith and the First Presidency to Judge Alfred Budge dated 6 February 1908. 

[60]   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.

[61]   Gospel Doctrine, 280-81.  (Stated in April General Conference, 1911.)

[62]   Conference Report April, 1921, 202.  Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, 159. 

[63]    .  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.