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Chapter 3

The Practice of Modern Polygamy -  Neither Commanded Nor Authorized 

During the twentieth century many individuals have felt inclined to engage in polygamous marriage relationships even though such relationships are not sanctioned by the President and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their actions have resulted in their estrangement from the Church. We may wonder: "Why do men and women today defy Church authority and pursue polygamous unions? What arguments are so compelling to thousands of people that they would place their eternal salvation in jeopardy by even considering the practice of modern polygamy?" Fundamentalist literature is full of explanations and reasons which attempt to explain their present position.

1. It has been commanded at specific times in the past: They observe that prior to 1852 certain individuals, such as Joseph Smith and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve, were commanded to participate. Between 1852 and 1890, the general Church membership were at times taught likewise.

2. They claim the Manifesto was man-made: They attempt to discredit the Manifesto of 1890 by claiming it was man-made and that did not completely stop plural marriage by Church leaders.

It is also interesting to note that some Fundamentalists suggest that terms such as "Fulness of the Gospel", the "Law" (as mentioned in D&C 132), the "New and Everlasting Covenant" and "Celestial Marriage" are all referring strictly to plural marriage.


Through the Prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon, the Lord instructed His children regarding the principle of plural marriage:

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.

Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Host, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people, otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:27, 29-30.)

Here the Lord outlines a reason for plural marriage: to "raise up seed unto me." The Lord also directs that He will command His people concerning the times and the places that plural marriage will be permitted. We know that God commanded some of His ancient Saints to practice plural marriage including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.(1)

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord began the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21) which was prophesied. Plural marriage was restored and the authority to seal eternal marriages was bestowed. Subsequently, the Prophet and other Church leaders were commanded to enter into the practice.(2)

... Joseph Smith would not have introduced [plural marriage] when he did except for the conviction that God required it then. Several close confidants later said that he proceeded with plural marriage in Nauvoo only after both internal struggle and divine warning. Lorenzo Snow later remembered vividly a conversation in 1843 in which the Prophet described the battle he waged "in overcoming the repugnance of his feelings" regarding plural marriage.

He knew the voice of God--he knew the commandment of the Almighty to him was to go forward--to set the example, and establish Celestial plural marriage. He knew that he had not only his own prejudices and pre-possessions to combat and to overcome, but those of the whole Christian world . . . ; but God . . . had given the commandment. (The Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, Salt Lake City, 1884, pp. 69-70.)

Even so, Snow and other confidants agreed that Joseph Smith proceeded in Nauvoo only after an angel declared that he must or his calling would be given to another... (Danel Bachman and Ronald K. Esplin in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 3:1093.)

Though he was commanded to participate, Brigham Young recounted his difficult struggle in accepting the doctrine of plural marriage and the mandate to comply:

So far as I am concerned as an individual, I did not ask for it; I never desired it; and if I ever had a trial of my faith in the world, it was when Joseph Smith revealed that doctrine to me; and I had to pray incessantly and exercise faith before the Lord until He revealed to me the truth, and I was satisfied. (JD 11:127-128.)

Only a very limited number of Church leaders were commanded to participate in plural marriage prior to the public announcement by Brigham Young in 1852.

During the period between 1852 and 1890, the Saints were at times taught the necessity of living the principle:

Brigham Young:

Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it. "And is that religion popular in heaven?" It is the only popular religion there, for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise. (July 6, 1862, JD 9:322-323.)

John Taylor:

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; (Nov. 30, 1879, JD 20:352-353.)

Wilford Woodruff:

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. (July 20, 1883, JD 24:246.)

Lorenzo Snow:

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. (January 10, 1886, JD 26:365.)

By repeatedly quoting texts such as these just listed, Fundamentalist authors are able to bolster their position. However, two problems become readily apparent. First, their quotes come from the time period 1852-1890. Continuous revelation permits the Lord to modify His directives to His children. He has every right to command and to revoke (D&C 56:4).

A second concern is identified as we investigate a wider sampling of teachings concerning exaltation and plural marriage even from the same period. We might easily be deceived if we were to narrow our focus to a selected group of discourses and quotations. For example, in 1866 Brigham Young taught:

I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us. It may be hard for many, and especially for the ladies, yet it is no harder for them than it is for the gentlemen. It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that 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. This is as true as that God lives. (August 19, 1866, JD 11:268-269.)

Wilford Woodruff recorded the following instruction from Brigham Young in 1871:

Pres. Young spoke 58 minutes. He said a man may embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart and not take the second wife and be justified before the Lord. (Wilford Woodruff Journals, Sept. 24, 1871, CHD.)

John Taylor is praised by Fundamentalists as having been uncompromising on the subject of plural marriage. Yet his actions show a spirit of compromise. Over one-third of the new General Authorities called during his presidency were monogamists. He also declined to allow several prominent Church members to enter polygamous unions, probably to prevent them from being subjected to the laws against polygamy enacted by the United States Government.

Despite his feelings prior to the manifesto, Lorenzo Snow, while serving as President of the Church taught the following to Apostle Brigham Young, Jr.:

In city, talk with Pres. Snow on plural marriage. He said there cannot be a plural marriage solemnized in this church without my consent and I have never given consent for this to be done since I became President of the Church. God has removed this privilege from the people and until He restores it, I shall not consent to any man taking a plural wife. It is just as fair for one as it is for all to go without; the business is taken out from our hands and we cannot fight [the] United States. It is [for] them and God to settle this question. We are not in it. There is no such thing as men taking plural wives and keeping it secret. It cannot be done. Has any one of the apostles a right to seal plural wives to men by reason of former concessions made to them by the Presidency? No sir. Such right must come from me and no man shall be authorized by me to break the law of the Land. (Brigham Young, Jr., Journal, March 13, 1901. CHD.)

We might also observe that Joseph Smith never taught that the practice of plural marriage was required for exaltation. Even his teachings on "calling and election" wherein a man was "sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God" (TPJS pp. 298-299) failed to mention any need of plural marriage. If the doctrine were required for exaltation as Fundamentalists claim, we ask why Joseph never indicated so.

The Church's Viewpoint

Concerning the teachings which regarded plural marriage as a commandment, Elder John A. Widstoe, former member of the Council of the Twelve, has written:

We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage. 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. (Evidences and Reconciliations, Salt Lake City: Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 391-392.)

And Elder McConkie has explained:

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, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1965, 1:361-62.)


At this point, we might consider two pertinent questions:

1. Must a man or woman participate in plural marriage during this life in order to receive a full exaltation in the next?

2. Once plural marriage has been commanded of a people, can the Lord subsequently suspend the practice?

It seems obvious from the teachings of Brigham Young and others quoted earlier that the actual practice of plural marriage cannot possibly be requisite for exaltation.

"Abide the Law Or... Be Damned"

Sometimes, to bolster their position, some Fundamentalists will quote the following verses from section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God. (D&C 132:3-6.)

By interpreting "this law" and the "new and everlasting covenant" mentioned as meaning strictly plural marriage, Fundamentalists imply that the verses demand the practice of plural marriage. However, a review of all 29 references to the "law" as found in D&C 132, as well as references to a "new and everlasting covenant" shows that neither can possibly be strictly plural marriage. The Lord was in fact referring to the entire covenant of eternal marriage which includes the plurality of wives, but is not limited to it.

"If 'a' Man Marries 'a' Woman"

It is very apparent from the language used in the verses quoted above, that once the Lord restores the knowledge of and authority for eternal marriages, those who are so privileged to understand must participate or "be damned." Had the Lord actually meant that when He reveals the principle of plural marriage to someone, they must obey it or be damned, it is strange He didn't simply say so. The Lord may, at certain times and places, command His children to participate in the principle of plural marriage. But teaching that such participation is required of all of God's children at all times and in all places for exaltation is scripturally unfounded.

To support their assertions, Fundamentalists observe that the entire section 132 was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he was inquiring of the Lord concerning plural marriage. 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.

Fundamentalists then conclude that the Lord would not refer to anything but plural marriage in the verses that follow. This is incorrect. To demonstrate that this is so, we might consider the another section of the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89 - Word of Wisdom. On February 27, 1833, Joseph Smith asked the Lord concerning the use of tobacco during church meetings (see JD 12:157-158). In response, the Lord not only addressed the question of the use of tobacco, but gave to the Saints a general health code we now call the "Word of Wisdom" (D&C 89). When Joseph Smith asked about Old Testament polygamy, the Lord responded by giving him an understanding of the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage which included the plurality of wives but His response was no more limited to plural marriage than the Word of Wisdom is limited to tobacco use.

The most impressive evidence that plural marriage is not required for exaltation is found in D&C 132:19-20 where the Lord states:

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them --- Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths -- then shall it be written in the Lamb's Book of Life... and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in al things, as hath been sealed upon their heads which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end. (D&C 132:19-20.)

Exaltation is having a "continuation of seeds forever and ever." This is promised if "a man marry a wife" through proper authority. There is no demand for plural marriage. It is no surprise that this verse is seldom discussed in Fundamentalist literature.

We have observed that the Lord has, on occasion, commanded some of His children to participate in plural marriage. However, it is useful to understand His own instruction concerning a man's request to take additional wives:

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood--if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. (D&C 132:61.)

The preference of the man and consent of the first wife are plainly required. There is no hint of condemnation for a man who does not desire to espouse another virgin and therefore enjoys his monogamous eternal marriage. Were the sacrifices associated with observance of the principle of plural marriage required for exaltation, the Lord might have instructed the Saints concerning it. He has clearly indicated that the principles associated with eternal marriage are necessary, but the portion of the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage specifying plural marriage is never demanded in the scriptures.

D&C 132 - A Revelation on Eternal Marriage,

Not Exclusively Plural Marriage

In 1882 Apostle Franklin D. Richards, a practicing polygamist, wrote a comprehensive reference on the gospel. Note his treatment of the subject: A Plurality of Wives:

The Lord gave Joseph Smith a very important revelation on this subject. It is contained in Sec. 132, Doc. & Cov. It is entitled Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, Including the Plurality of wives.

It commences by stating that the prophet Joseph Smith, Jun., inquired of the Lord how it was that his servants anciently were justified in having many wives and concubines. The Lord did not answer his question at once, but tells him, in the third verse, to prepare his heart to receive and obey the instructions he was about to give him.

In the fourth verse the Lord said to him, "I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant." We find the general principle involved in that covenant, directly stated in the seventh, thirteenth and fourteenth verses. [These verses are then quoted.]

In verse 40, the Lord says to Joseph, the Seer: "I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment to restore all thing." And from the tenor of the revelation, "all things" must include plurality of wives and the eternity of the marriage covenant.(3)

From the above writing it is apparent that Elder Franklin D. Richards recognized plural marriage as being an extension of the general law of marriage for time and eternity. The Lord gave this general law in the first 28 verses of the revelation (during which He gives great emphasis to sealing marriage with proper authority) to prepare the structure to which plural marriage could append. Hence, the section is entitled: "A Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, Including a Plurality of Wives." It was this general law to which Apostle Richards referred that "no one can reject," "or he shall be damned" (D&C 132:4, 6). "Damned" in this sense means stopped from having an eternal increase. It is as stated by the Lord: "that is the end of his kingdom, he cannot have an increase" (D&C 131:4).

The "new and everlasting covenant of marriage referred to here was in contra-distinction to "old secular" ceremonies which ended with "until death do you part." On this point the Prophet said on May 16, 1843:

Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory. (HC 5:391.)

Parley P. Pratt told of some discussions with the Prophet on this subject:

It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.

It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City, Utah:Deseret Book, 1985, p. 260.)

Joseph Smith taught that celestial society is patriarchal in nature. Eternal marriage is, therefore, sometimes referred to as "patriarchal marriage" or the "patriarchal order of marriage." Any marriage, whether first or plural, when bound by the sealing power of the priesthood is patriarchal and will admit of eternal increase for ever and ever as stated above.

Fundamentalists may suggest that Orson Pratt believed that "patriarchal marriage" and "plural marriage were synonymous terms in 1853 when he entitled the revelation in question "A Revelation on the Patriarchal Order of Matrimony, or Plurality of Wives."(4) This title suggests that the entire revelation (D&C 132) was discussing exclusively the "plurality of wives" which is what Fundamentalists assert today. However, prior to adding the revelation to the Doctrine and Covenant in 1876, Brigham Young instructed Orson Pratt to change the title to the more accurate: "Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, including Plurality of Wives." Undoubtedly President Young understood the Lord's intent in giving us the revelation.

President Joseph F. Smith gave the following authoritative explanation of this distinction:

Concerning the use of the terms "Celestial Marriage" and "Patriarchal Marriage." There is no use made of these terms in the "Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, Including a Plurality of Wives," nor in any of the books recognized authoritative scriptures of the Church; therefore, there is no marriage rite or ceremony performed in the Church under the name of "Celestial Marriage"...

Elder Orson Pratt in The Seer, published in Washington [D.C.] in 1852, wrote a series of articles under the title "Celestial Marriage," with this as a sub-title: "A Revelation on the Patriarchal Order of Matrimony or Plurality of Wives," and then throughout the articles, judging by the spirit of them, speaks of "Celestial Marriage" and "Patriarchal Marriage" as synonymous with "Plural Marriage." However, Orson Pratt's The Seer, was expressly and formally repudiated by the Church Authorities over the signature of the First Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles; Elder Orson Pratt himself sanctioning the repudiation.(5)

Monogamy - The Basic Law

The basic law of eternal marriage is and always has been that of monogamy. As discussed above, the Nephites were plainly monogamists (see Jacob 3:5). Likewise, Joseph Smith taught: "I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise" (HC 6:46).

The law permitting a plurality of wives has not always been in force as we have seen in the case of the Nephites. The principle had been so badly abused among the Jews it was withdrawn by the Lord from among the Nephites. The Lord explained by revelation to the prophet Jacob:

But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. (Jacob 2:23-26.)

In our day when the fulness of this law was restored the Lord justified David and Solomon to this extent:

David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. (D&C 132:38.)

In other words, the Lord placed certain restrictions upon the practice of plural marriage, restrictions which David, Solomon and a host of others did not obey. Apparently they assumed that polygamy was indiscriminately righteous; they therefore married women who had not been given them by the Lord. It is plain from the standard works and Church history that polygamy in and of itself is not a holy principle -- it must in every case be plural marriage as authorized by the Lord through the "one man" who holds the sealing authority (D&C 132: 7, 18, 19), irrespective of any previous authorizations.

Noah - Patriarchal Monogamy

There have been many periods in history when social conditions were not conducive to the free practice of a plurality of wives. During the period of wickedness and social unrest at the time of Noah apparently the practice was not permitted. Noah, who according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, stands next to Adam in the priesthood,(6) and his three righteous sons,(7)

Ham, Shem and Japheth were all monogamists at the time of the great flood. In Genesis we are told:

And Noah [was] six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. (Genesis 7:6-7; see also 8:16, 18.)

In 1 Peter 3:18-20 we learn that only eight people were saved on the ark:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (See also 2 Peter 2:5.)

Some may argue that the Bible does not contain the who truth because many "plain and precious parts" (1 Ne. 13:26, 32) were taken from it and therefore it would not in fact contain the record of possible plural marriages of Noah and his righteous sons. However, it should be noted that Joseph Smith made extensive changes in this part of Genesis when he was revising the Bible by inspiration and re-confirmed this fact of monogamy in the same positive terms:

In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them into the ark... (JST Genesis 8:37.)

According to the inspired revision of the bible, Noah's sons were born of the same mother:

And Noah was four hundred and fifty years old, and begat Japheth, and forty-two years afterwards, he begat Shem, of her who was the mother of Japheth, and when he was five hundred years old, he begat Ham. (JST Genesis 7:85.)

At the time of the flood this would make Shem 150 years old, Japheth 108 and Ham 100 years of age. If they later became polygamists they would necessarily have married each other's children. The record goes on to show, however, that Shem had six male children (Gen. 10:22.), Japheth seven male children (Gne. 10:6), and Ham four male children (Gen. 10:6). It would hardly seem necessary to attribute this small number of male children to a plurality of wives after the flood, especially considering the great ages to which they lived.

According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Noah is the Elias who appeared in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys of "the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed," he being the head of that dispensation (Moses 8:19). John Taylor taught that Noah possessed the "everlasting gospel," the "same gospel that Abraham had" yet we know he was a monogamist:

[T]he dispensation of the fullness of times has got to be restored to introduce all that has been spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world was. The Apostle John, when banished to the Isle of Patmos says that he saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people. What do you mean? The same Gospel that Adam had, the same Gospel that Seth had, the same Gospel that Enoch had, the same Gospel that Noah had, the same Gospel that Abraham had, the same Gospel that Jesus had; the Gospel that brings life and immortality to light, and that places men in communion with their Heavenly Father--the everlasting Gospel. (JD 21:251-253.)

Surely if polygamy was a mandatory gospel requirement, Noah would have been commanded to comply.

It might also be noted that Shem, the father of six male children, is identified by John Taylor as Melchizedek (Times and Seasons 5:746), the great High Priest to whom the polygamist Abraham paid tithes (Alma 13:15). Melchizedek was such a great High Priest that the very priesthood itself was called after his name (D&C 107:1-4). If a High Priest of this stature, as a monogamist, could inherit a fulness of glory, why not anyone in our day when the practice was not in force?

The Origin of Plural Marriage

In ancient Israel the family and its continuance was all important. In order to ensure the perpetuation of a man's name through progeny two requirements were mandated by law. First, if a man died, his brother was required to take his widow to wife and raise up seed to the deceased brother's name. Moses stated:

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.

And it shall be, [that] the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother [which is] dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6.)

However, this was the law long before the Mosaic law was instituted:

And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.(8) (Genesis 38:7, 8.)

Second: If a Man's wife was unable to bear children she was required to give her husband a virile wife that could raise up children in the sterile wife's stead that a man not be without progeny. The case of Abraham and Sarah is a good example of the application of this law:

Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name [was] Hagar.

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.(9) (Genesis 16: 1-3.)

The Lord had great purpose to fulfill in Abraham because of his integrity and his faithfulness in abiding the Lord's commandments:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:1-8.)

In order to fulfill the promises the Lord permitted Abraham's descendants to raise up seed to him through plural marriage. This practice was continued with the approbation of the Lord as a mans of raising up a righteous people who would serve him and fulfill his purposes. When Joseph Smith was translating the Bible through inspiration he came across this information and wondered concerning it. This formed the basis for the modern revelation on plural marriage:

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, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines--

Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

The blessings of Abraham were declared to descend upon Joseph Smith and his posterity (D&C 124:57, 58; 132:30-33) and eventually upon all worthy members of the Church. In order to fulfill this covenant the Lord at times required the righteous of this chosen posterity to increase more rapidly through a plurality of wives. Brigham Young once explained why a plurality of wives was necessary:

They say, "This is rather a hard business; I don't like my husband to take a plurality of wives in the flesh." Just a few words upon this. We would believe this doctrine entirely different from what it is presented to us, if we could do so. 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. (JD 16:166.)

The Lord in the early days of the restoration was anxious to "raise up (a righteous) see unto (Himself)" so the principle was restored and the Saints virtually commanded to enter the practice. Through this means the Lord's purposes were accelerated until extreme social pressures forced the termination of this practice. Having accomplished its purpose as far as permissible the basic law of monogamy again became the rule.

The question arises: When monogamy is the rule may anyone with propriety enter the principle of plurality of wives and be justified? (We have reviewed this same concept in connection with the law of consecration and found the answer to be no.) The Lord has answered this question for us in the very revelation under discussion:

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God. (D&C 132:18.)

The "one man" (D&C 132:7) through whom the revelation and authority must come to enter plural marriage is and always has been the senior apostle and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(10). Those who have entered the plural marriage relation without this direction and authority will not be received in the celestial glory as they desire and expect "because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass."

From the discussion above it should be obvious that in answer to our first question, "Must a man or woman participate in plural marriage during this life in order to receive a full exaltation in the next?" is absolutely no. Now lets discuss the discontinuation of the practice.


Fundamentalists will claim that teachings given to the Latter-day Saints between 1852 and 1890 which required them to live the principle of plural marriage could never be revised through continuous revelation. Thus, the most common Fundamentalist approach to the Manifesto of 1890 is to simply state it was a man-made article, hence uninspired and incapable of revealing the Lord's will to the Saints. The Manifesto itself states:

To Whom It May Concern:

Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy--

I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.

One case has been reported in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.

In as much as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.


President of the Church

of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Manifesto was formed from a 510 word document presented to some of the Brethren on September 24, 1890, by President Wilford Woodruff after he had been "struggling all night with the Lord."(11) The 356 word Manifesto was then produced from President Woodruff's document and then presented to the press and later to a conference of the Church.

Lorin Woolley, an alleged Fundamentalist prophet, and others have fabricated elaborate histories of the Manifesto which state that it was written by non-Mormons and was submitted to a committee of anti-Mormons for their approval prior to being released etc.(12) These stories have served to foment the disagreement between Fundamentalists and the Church. The popularity of such fictional narratives is unfortunate because many unsuspecting Fundamentalists accept them as truth without giving them even the slightest study or examination. Even a brief examination of contemporary evidence shows Woolley's recollections to be completely unsubstantiated.

Attempts to excuse the 1890 Manifesto as a "man-made" document will support Fundamentalist theology, however, they are not supported by the historical accounts associated with its publication. For example, President George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency taught:

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.(13)

Also, during the months following the 1890 Manifesto, President Woodruff instructed the Saints concerning its importance and origin. In one discourse, he was particularly plain. While it is rather lengthy, the authors wish to reproduce a large portion of it here:

The Latter-day Saints should not get the idea that the Lord has forsaken his people, or that he does not reveal his mind and will; because such an idea is not true. The Lord is with us, and has been with us from the beginning. This Church has never been led a day except by revelation. And he will never leave it... It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it all. The Lord will not fail in these last days, and He will fulfil all that he has promised through his prophets and apostles, until Zion arises in its glory, and the Bride, the Lamb's wife, is prepared for the coming of the great Bridegroom.

I made some remarks last Sunday at Brigham City upon this same principle--revelation. Read the life of Brigham Young and you can hardly find a revelation that he had wherein he said, "Thus saith the Lord;" but the Holy Ghost was with him; he taught by inspiration and by revelation. But with one exception he did not give those revelations in the form that Joseph did; for they were not written and given as revelations and commandments to the church in the words and name of the Savior. Joseph said, "Thus saith the Lord" almost every day of his life in laying the foundation of this work. But those who followed him have not deemed it always necessary to say "Thus saith the Lord"; yet they have led the people by the power of the Holy Ghost; and if you want to know what that is, read the first six verses of the 68th section of the book of Doctrine and Covenants, where the Lord told Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson, Lyman Johnson and William E. McLellin to go out and preach the gospel to the people as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost:

"And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall he the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation."

It is by that power that we have led Israel. By that power President Young presided over and led the Church. By the same power President John Taylor presided over and led the Church. And that is the way I have acted, according to the best of my ability, in that capacity. I do not want the Latter-day Saints to understand that the Lord is not with us, and that he is not giving revelation to us; for he is giving us revelation, and will give us revelation until this scene is wound up.

I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of that manifesto, and also because of the testimony of the Presidency of this Church and the apostles before the master in chancery. Since I received that revelation I have heard of many who are tried in these things, though I had not heard of any before that particularly. Now, the Lord has commanded me to do one thing, and I fulfilled that commandment at the conference at Brigham City last Sunday, and I will do the same here today. The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and he also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.

The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue--to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the prophets, apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the gospel, both for the living and the dead?

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or for any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our prophets and apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed? A large number have already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.

I know there are a good many men, and probably some leading men, in this Church who have been tried and felt as though President Woodruff had lost the Spirit of God and was about to apostatize. Now, I want you to understand that he has not lost the Spirit, nor is he about to apostatize. The Lord is with him, and with this people. He has told me exactly what to do, and what the result would be if we did not do it. I have been called upon by friends outside of the Church and urged to take some steps with regard to this matter. They knew the course which the government was determined to take. This feeling has also been manifested more or less by members of the Church. I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. I laid it before my brethren--such strong men as Brother George Q. Cannon, Brother Joseph F. Smith, and the Twelve Apostles. I might as well undertake to turn an army with banners out of its course as to turn them out of a course that they considered to be right. These men agreed with me, and ten thousand Latter-day Saints also agreed with me. Why? Because they were moved upon by the Spirit of God and by the revelations of Jesus Christ to do it.

I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. He is doing things here that you do not comprehend.--(MS 53:794-796 (1891). Discourses of Wilford Woodruff p. 213.)

President Woodruff also instructed:

I feel disposed to say something with regard to the Manifesto. To begin with, I will say this work was like a mountain upon me. I saw by the inspiration of Almighty God what lay before this people, and I knew that something had to be done to ward off the blow that I saw impending. But I should have let come to pass what God showed me by revelation and vision; I should have lived in the flesh and permitted these things to come to pass; I should have let this temple go into the hands of our enemies; I should have let every temple be confiscated by the hands of the wicked; I should have permitted all Church property to have been confiscated by our enemies; I should have seen these people--prophets and apostles--driven by our enemies, and our wives and children scattered to the four winds of heaven. I should have seen all this had not Almighty God commanded me to do what I did.

Did any of you ever know Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or John Taylor? Did you know of what material they were made? Was there a man on God's footstool that could have moved them to the right or to the left from anything they felt inspired to do? No. Here are George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith and these Twelve Apostles. I want to ask you if Wilford Woodruff could have done anything that these men would not have accepted, in performing the work that was done that pained the hearts of all Israel, except by the spirit and power of God. No. I would just as soon have thought of moving the foundations of this world as to have taken any course to move these men, only by the revelations of God. When that Manifesto was given they accepted it. Why? Because they had the Spirit of God for themselves; they knew for themselves it was right. It was passed, also, before ten thousand Latter-day Saints, and there was not a solitary hand raised against that edict. They, also, had the spirit of revelation for themselves. Now I will tell you what was manifested to me and what the Son of God performed in this thing. The Lord has never yet taken from Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, his agency. He still holds it and will hold it until he is bound with the keys of death and hell. The Devil still has power; and the Son of God knew full well if something was not done in order to check this, all these things I have referred to would have come to pass. Yes, I saw by vision and revelation this Temple in the hands of the wicked. I saw our city in the hands of the wicked. I saw every temple in these valleys in the hands of the wicked. I saw great destruction among the people. All these things would have come to pass, as God Almighty lives, had not that Manifesto been given. Therefore, the Son of God felt disposed to have that thing presented to the Church and to the world for purposes in his own mind. The Lord had decreed the establishment of Zion. He had decreed the finishing of this temple. He had decreed that the salvation of the living and the dead should be given in these valleys of the mountains. And Almighty God decreed that the Devil should not thwart it. If you can understand that, that is a key to it. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff p. 217)

In these two discourses, President Woodruff plainly referred to the manifesto as a revelation. He also stated:

He [God] has told me exactly what to do...

[T]he God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do...

I wrote what the Lord told me to write.

Almighty God commanded me to do what I did.

[T]he Son of God felt disposed to have [the Manifesto] presented to the Church...

In light of these clear statements, it is difficult for anyone to truthfully assert that someone other than God authored the Manifesto which removed any command to practice plural marriage.

Many Fundamentalists today believe that the Manifesto of 1890 ended plural marriages within the Church, but that an organization, entitled the Priesthood, also lead by President Woodruff, existed external to the Church and was authorized to ignore the Manifesto:

For while [President Woodruff] issued a Manifesto stopping plural marriage within the Church - doing so as President of the Church - yet, in his Priesthood capacity, he appointed men and set them apart [to continue plural marriages]. (A Priesthood Issue, p. 25 Bold in original.)

Joseph Musser was the first person to ever suggest that Priesthood holders could function outside of the Church or could exist as a free-standing entity called simply the Priesthood. The idea that any such Priesthood organization could possibly exist exterior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been examined in the authors' The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, An LDS Perspective. Suffice it to say that the doctrine of a purported external Priesthood organization completely disintegrates when simply studied in light of the scriptures and prophetic teachings. Additionally, while a few plural marriages were permitted after the 1890 Manifesto,(14) the authorization did not come from any Priesthood organization, for there was none in existence. This is plainly obvious from studying the lives and teachings of the men involved with those marriages. In short, the doctrine of a purported independent Priesthood organization is extremely problematic, just as its authority claims are quite dubious.

The Alleged 1886 Revelation

One source of support for continued plural marriage which is repeated over and over in Fundamentalist literature involves an alleged 1886 revelation.(15) The topic has been dealt with in other publications by the authors, but a brief history is helpful. Fundamentalists assert that on September 27, 1886, John Taylor received a revelation which stated the following:

My son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people.

Thus saith the Lord All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant

For I the Lord am everlasting and my covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; but they stand forever.

Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject?

Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandment, and yet have I borne with them these many years and this because of their weakness because of the perilous times. And furthermore it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters.

Nevertheless I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not.

And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph all those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law

And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham's seed and would enter into my glory they must do the works of Abraham.

I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so Amen.(16)

This purported revelation to John Taylor was allegedly received by him and then became lost among his personal papers to be found by his son, John W. Taylor, after President Taylor's death which occurred almost ten months later on July 25, 1887. Even by Fundamentalist accounts, John Taylor did not feel inspired to share this alleged revelation with anyone, even his own son, prior to his death. John W. Taylor claimed to have discovered it and then shared it with some of the General Authorities. Nevertheless, it was never presented to the Church or priesthood leaders or approved using the law of common consent (D&C 26:2). This is important because Joseph Smith taught the proper procedure that must be followed when a prophet receives revelations for the Church. We recall the acceptance of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants in 1834:

A general assembly of the Church of Latter-day Saints was held at Kirtland on the 17th of August, 1835, to take into consideration the labors of a committee appointed by a general assembly of the Church on the 24th of September, 1834, for the purpose of arranging the items of the doctrine of Jesus Christ for the government of the Church. The names of the committee were: Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams, who, having finished said book according to the instructions given them, deem it necessary to call a general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church: that it may, if approved, become a law and a rule of faith and practice to the Church. Wherefore, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon, members of the First Presidency, (Presidents Joseph Smith, Jun., and Frederick G. Williams being absent on a visit to the Saints in Michigan,) appointed Thomas Burdick. Warren Parrish, and Sylvester Smith clerks, and proceeded to organize the whole assembly as follows:

President Cowdery arose and introduced the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter-day Saints," in behalf of the committee. He was followed by President Rigdon, who explained the manner by which they intended to obtain the voice of the assembly for or against said book.

According to said arrangement, W. W. Phelps bore record that the book presented to the assembly was true. President John Whitmer, also, rose and testified that it was true...

The venerable assistant president, Thomas Gates, then bore record of the truth of the book, and with his five silver-haired assistants, and whole congregation, accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote. (HC 2:243-244.)

The alleged 1886 revelation never underwent any such process, even though this is precisely the pattern given by Joseph Smith for revelations given through the Lord's prophet that are deemed to be sufficiently important. Under the direction of John Taylor in October, 1880 The Pearl of Great Price underwent a similar sustaining vote. Notwithstanding, Fundamentalists repeatedly claim that "a revelation is a revelation" and readily cast aside the Prophet's instructions on the matter. Undoubtedly President Taylor would have presented the alleged revelation for approval utilizing the principle of common consent if it were authentic and if it constituted a revelation to the general Church membership. At best, the alleged 1886 revelation is a personal revelation to John Taylor, at worst, it is completely unauthentic.

The reason that the alleged revelation is so popular among Fundamentalists lies in the statement:

I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof...

By defining the "law" mentioned as strictly plural marriage, Fundamentalists are able to claim the Lord could never discontinue the practice of plural marriage (which He did through the 1890 Manifesto). As we have already discussed, the "law" is plainly the law of eternal marriage which encompasses and all eternal marriages including plural marriages and will never be "revoked." It is incorrect, however, to teach that the "law" is strictly plural marriage.

Concerning the "conditions" of the law, the Lord specified the conditions of the law mentioned in D&C 132 in verse 7 of that section:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred) are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

The conditions of this law involve proper authority when sealing an eternal marriage. There is no mention of the plurality of wives as a "condition." If the alleged 1886 revelation were authentic, only a mis-interpretation of it could be used to support the continuation of plural marriage today or the teaching that the practice of plural marriage could not be suspended. The alleged revelation actually emphasizes the great importance of performing eternal marriages with proper authority.

Polygamy in the Book of Mormon?

There are no Book of Mormon Prophets who appear to have been polygamists. Men such as Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, Mormon, Moroni etc. were clearly monogamists. (See Jacob 3:5, 2:27-30.) In light of their great ministries, it is difficult to assert that they will be eternally compromised because of their lack of polygamist activities here in mortality. Some Fundamentalists suggest that they were indeed polygamists but that we are not told about it or that the details are found in the "sealed portion" of the Book of Mormon (see 2 Ne. 27:7-10).

Joseph Musser used a variety of scriptural interpretations to convince his readers that even though the practice of plural marriage was condemned prior to 421 B.C. (Jacob 2:27), that by B.C. 82, it had been restored and that Amulek was a polygamist:

It was over 400 years later (82 B.C.) that Amulek proclaimed how the Lord had blessed his "women:" (wives). He said:

For behold, He hath blessed mine house, He hath blessed me, and MY WOMEN, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath He blessed, and the blessing of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which He spake. (Alma 10:11)

Amulek not only had children and other sacred possessions, but "women" also. He evidently was living in the plural relationship, and the Lord blessed him in it. Doubtless the Lord had again commanded His people - those who were worthy - and they embraced the principle of Celestial or plural marriage and began again to "raise up seed unto Him." (Celestial or Plural Marriage, p. 2. Emphasis and bold in original.)

Musser's suggestion that the Lord could "again" command His people also supports the true teaching that the Lord will command and remove the command to practice polygamy. Were Musser correct in his assumption, he would be supporting the action brought about by the 1890 Manifesto when the Lord withdrew any command to practice plural marriage. Unfortunately for Musser, it is quite doubtful that Amulek was practicing the principle of plural marriage. Such a practice would have required the sealing authority which Amulek plainly did not have access to. By Amulek's own account, he was not as righteous as he should have been prior to meeting Alma:

Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power... I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart... (Alma 10:5-6)

This doesn't sound like a man who might have been trusted with the eternal marriage covenants. In fact, when Amulek joined with Alma the Younger in preaching, he was rejected by his "friends and also by his father and his kindred" (Alma 15:16) which strongly suggests that Amulek's religious beliefs before meeting Alma were quite different from his views after joining with him.

Plural Marriages between 1890 and 1904

The authors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism have observed that some plural marriages continued after the 1890 Manifesto:

Earlier polygamous families continued to exist well into the twentieth century, causing further political problems for the Church, and new plural marriages did not entirely cease in 1890. After having lived the principle at some sacrifice for half a century, many devout Latter-day Saints found ending plural marriage a challenge almost as complex as was its beginnings in the 1840s. Some new plural marriages were contracted in the 1890s in LDS settlements in Canada and northern Mexico and a few elsewhere... (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1095.)

Fundamentalists are very aggressive in showing that plural marriages continued after the 1890 Manifesto. Then by showing that some were allowed afterwards, they suggest that their plural marriages today are somehow connected. Nevertheless the two are completely unrelated. Plural marriages entered into between 1890 and 1904 were performed using the authority held by the President of the Church. They were completely discontinued in 1904 by President Joseph F. Smith. In contrast, Fundamentalist marriages ostensibly using the sealing authority claimed by Lorin Woolley (or other unauthorized individuals) did not occur until later.


It is true that the Lord has commanded the practice of plural marriage in the past. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: "Plural marriage is practiced under certain circumstances and at designated times."(17) However, through His mouthpiece, President Wilford Woodruff, our all-powerful Father in Heaven removed any such command by issuing the 1890 Manifesto. Likewise, there is no universal gospel requirement demanding that God's children participate in plural marriage in order to gain their exaltation. This is undoubtedly the reason Brigham Young taught in 1871 that "a man may embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart and not take the second wife and be justified before the Lord."

Despite signs of genuine sincerity, individuals attempting to practice plural marriage today make sacrifices which actually bring condemnation. President Spencer W. Kimball related:

I have in mind one man who came to talk with me about the united order. He had a long dissertation and many arguments why the Church had gone astray because it wasn't living the united order. Then I asked him, "Do you pay your tithes?" And he squirmed uneasily. He did not pay his tithes, but he wanted the Church to live the united order. Again, he wanted us to live the plural marriage law and he had much to say about it, but he did not attend his meetings--he did not even live the Word of Wisdom. But he had entered into the so-called plural marriage and had three or four women, who, he claimed, were wives and were, of course, with him in adultery. ... (Teaching of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 532.)




1. Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed:

From such fragmentary scriptural records as are now available, we learn that the Lord did command some of his ancient saints to practice plural marriage. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--among others (D. & C. 132)--conformed to this ennobling and exalting principle; the whole history of ancient Israel was one in which plurality of wives was a divinely accepted and approved order of matrimony. Those who entered this order at the Lord's command, and who kept the laws and conditions appertaining to it, have gained for themselves eternal exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. (Mormon Doctrine, p. 577.)

2. Elder McConkie continues:

In the early days of this dispensation, as part of the promised restitution of all things, the Lord revealed the principle of plural marriage to the Prophet. Later the Prophet and leading brethren were commanded to enter into the practice, which they did in all virtue and purity of heart despite the consequent animosity and prejudices of worldly people. (Ibid.)

3. Richards and Little, A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, 1882, pp. 131-133. This is precisely the interpretation of D&C 132 offered by Apostle Melvin J. Ballard in the Ballard-Jenson Correspondence published in 1935 which Fundamentalists have rejected claiming it was not an accurate interpretation of the early Apostles of this dispensation. See also Musser, Celestial Marriage or Plural Marriage, pp. 6-9.

4. Orson Pratt, The Seer, Vol. 1 (January, 1853) 1:7.

5. See Deseret News Weekly, August 23, 1865.

6. TPJS p. 157.

7. In Moses 8:27 we find: "And thus Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; for Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and he walked with God, as did also his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth."

8. The story of Ruth is based on this law as is an account in the New Testament. See Matt. 22:23-30.

9. The Lord confirmed the reason through modern revelation: "God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because it was the law." (D&C 132:34; also Abraham 2:8-11.)

10. See, The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy - An LDS Perspective.

11. Encyclopedia of Mormonism p. 853.

12. Most Holy Principle 4:67-68; Truth 1:20[8]; Items p. 7.

13. Deseret New Weekly, November 17, 1891, p. 6.

14. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1095.

15. It is highlighted in The Four Hidden Revelations, a pamphlet which has probably been reprinted more than any other Fundamentalist tract.

16. Polygamy Story, Fiction and Fact, pp. 63-64.

17. Millennial Messiah, 3:293.