Polygamy and Mormonism

In defiance of Deuteronomy 17:17, Matthew 19:4-6, and other Biblical passages, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, endorsed the practice of polygamy. However, the largest Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), later outlawed the practice. This presents a problem for LDS theology.

In verses 61-63 of Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith reveals a “revelation” about polygamy supposedly given to him by God. The verses teach that a man “cannot commit adultery” — even if “he have ten virgins given unto him by this law” of polygamy — as long as his women are “vowed to no other man”.

So, polygamy was allowed in the first 46 years after Joseph Smith’s death. But in 1890, due to Official Declaration 1 — which is “authoritative and binding” — polygamy was banned by the LDS church.

While the Declaration says that the church never “inculcate[d] or encourage[d]” the practice, it at least never claims that it did not allow or officiate it.

In the “Excerpts” section at the bottom of the online Declaration, it quotes LDS President Wilford Woodruff as saying that it would have been unwise “to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage,” because “adherence to this principle” of polygamy resulted in “suffering” for the church’s members, due to strong U.S. federal laws against it. Woodruff bluntly said that it was time to “cease the practice and submit to the law”.

All of this, taken together, shows that the church did accept polygamy, and it only backed down on the issue so that it could continue to exist and thrive. Basically, it changed its religious teachings to suit the secular laws of the government, which would obviously go against Biblical teachings, because God’s laws are not subject to the State. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), one verse reads: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What makes this all even more interesting is that even the Book of Mormon seems to oppose polygamy. Jacob 2:27 reads: “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..

This all leads to the big question: Do you think that an organization could be so wishy-washy with its teachings if it were really “The Church of Jesus Christ”? I do not think so, and I must therefore conclude that this Mormon magisterium (teaching authority) is invalid.

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Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism.

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About Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a college student in the Diocese of Little Rock. He was raised in multiple Protestant denominations before eventually converting to Catholicism on 7 April 2012. His primary interests are theology, Church history, and ecumenism. He is privately discerning the possibility of God calling him to the priesthood. He has a blog, Answering Protestants. He also has a Twitter account, @crucifixwearer.

5 responses to “Polygamy and Mormonism”

  1. Peter Northcott says :

    As you know, Martin Luther also had no problems with polygamy, and his arguments were that the Bible, according to his reading, simply didn’t condemn it.
    In the same way, the ‘dogmas’ of my Protestant friends morph as soon as they get uncomfortable…homosexual acts being one of the more recent.

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