D&C 132 and Plural Marriage

D&C 132

Is Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants strictly about polygamy?

 Modern polygamists often assert that all of section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants refers to plural marriage 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…” (D&C 132:3-4).   This interpretation is problematic.  It is true that section 132 was given to Joseph Smith when he asked the Lord specifically about polygamy.  Verses one and two state:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines – Behold, and low, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

Polygamists today sometimes assume that everything that follows Joseph’s question (in verse one) deals strictly with polygamy, however, an examination of the remaining section shows that plural marriage itself is not mentioned until verse thirty-four.

The intervening verses, however, 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 are not limited to it).  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.  Verses nineteen and twenty explain that compliance occurs whenever “a man” marries “a wife” by proper authority and they live worthily.  To that couple, the blessings of godhood are offered and there is no mention of polygamy.

Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith’s specific question about plural marriage brought forth a much more comprehensive answer that dealt, not only with polygamy, but with the general laws and covenants governing marriages in eternity.  In 1833 Joseph Smith received the same kind of answer to a different question.  He prayed to know if tobacco use was appropriate during Church meetings.[1]  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

[1] See Brigham Young, February 8, 1868, Journal of Discourses, 12:157-58.