Lifting The Veil of Polygamy


It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that modern day “Mormon” polygamy is alive and well in America today. I call it “Mormon” because these particular polygamist say they following “true” Mormon teachings though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has banned the practice. I thought this video was really interesting. In particular I thought it was fascinating to hear how polygamous groups “evangelize” mainstream Mormons and convince them to join with them. I recommend a viewing of the video.

I will be upfront that the video is made by Living Hope Ministries. At the one hour you can expect a Protestant evangelical message. That’s not really the point of my posting the video.

I’m most interested to hear how you think polygamy today is substantially different in practice than in Joseph Smith’s time. I’m sure a number of you are already typing in the words “it’s no longer commanded by God”. Let’s just concede that point and talk about how the effects and lifestyle are similar or different.

About these ads

51 thoughts on “Lifting The Veil of Polygamy

  1. These “Mormon” fundamentalists are truly short-sided. Plural Marriage is not the central doctrine taught by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young….that would be the Gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith also taught that this Church would fill the world…that we would prepare the world for the second coming of the LORD. How are we to do that if the Government put us all in jail and confiscates the property of the Church (the point the manifesto makes exactly).

    A good reading of D&C 132 will show the revelation of two distinct doctrines. It begins with a question about the ancient patriarchs having more than one wife…it then goes on for much of the Section about “Eternal Marriage” without any mention again about plural marriage until towards the end.

    I don’t see anywhere in that section that plural marriage is a requirement for exaltation…only eternal marriage. Then plural marriage is tacked on at the end as a possibility if one desires/commanded.

    Brigham Young’s statements may have been authoritative in his day but not based on this Section alone. I don’t think it backs him up.

  2. Tim
    Calling these people Mormon is like calling a Baptist a Catholic. It just isn’t so. It is fundamental that every member of the church recognize the authority of the church leadership as the only authorized version. To disagree means the member rejects membership. It isn’t open to debate and individual opinons are just that – opinions.

    Back to polygamy. It has been explained to me that “Eternal Life” means more than just living forever. It means being in an exaulted state with a lawfully married woman and your spirit progeny. Others may be living in the Celestial Kingdom too but are not partakers of this part of “Eternal Life”. Polygamy is fundamental to this state of being. It is not extant in the other degrees or elsewhere in the Celestial Kingdom.

  3. JLFuller.
    Huh. You say they’re not Mormon. They say they are. What makes you right?

    Claiming “we’re right because we’re the only one with authority” is a pretty lame trump card. They can say the same thing.

  4. Also, this kind of thing is hilarious, because here you have Mormons doing everything they can to try to define the FLDS and other split-off groups as “not Mormon” while raising hell and pitching a fit about Evangelicals trying to define Mormons as “not-Christian.” Same thing, guys. Same thing.

  5. Polygamy today is the unlawful practice of being married to more than one spouse at a time. LDS doctrine forbade the practice in 1890 because of increasing pressure from the Federal government at a time when Utah was seeking admission to the the union. There was some difficulty on the part of some church memebrs in accepting the proclamation and so they practice was carried on in secret for a while. After a period of adjustment, practitioners were ex-communicated for continuing the practice thus initiating the fundamentalist movement which eventually went off in their own direction. They rejected the authorized church leadership. They took no authority with them.

    Polygamists in my family and my wifes kept a seperate household for each of the wives and her children. They did not live together. Adherants to church teaching understand that living the gospel is an evolving process that brings people closer to God when the observe the tenents and they draw incrementally away from Him when they don’t. It really is a zero sum thing. There is no “other” place where one can be absolutley close to God while living an unGodly or worldly lifestyle as some, like homosexuals, will claim. So modern day fundamentalist polygamists can not claim to have authority and to be living closes to God. This seems to bear out in the things we see and read about this group. Living the tenents, aka commandments, makes the connection ot God more open and not doing so restricts them until at some point the connection is almost lost altogether. The value to having this open connection is that The Holy Ghost communicates with us more frequently and with greater clarity. This makes living the Godly life more assured. Clossing down these pathways to God puts back in the worldliness quagmire that we seek to extract ourselves from.

  6. Of course anybody can claim anthythng they choose but in membership of a lawfully recognized organization is up to the organization, in this case the church. Christianity, on the other hand is a movement. It is not a recognized organization such as a church. It is a desription the loose confederation of claimants find in common. Mormons, on the otherhand, acknowledge that Christianity is relaly not one entity but is composed of multiple versions with a traditonal componant as well as non-traditional. Mormons do not claim to be traditional Christians but do claim to follow the basic belief system with some differences. But all agree Christianity is not one-size-fits-all where the Church makes no such distinction when it comes to those who deny the churchs authority and live a civally illegal lifestyle. Traditional Christianity states some commonly held beliefs found inthe Nicean Creed but Mormons have a slightly different, and entirely defendable, interpretation. Fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the state’s authority to regulate their practices where the Church complies. That makes the difference.

  7. One other thing. The church says to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Lartter Day Saints you have to abide by certain things. Those who don’t cannot claim to be a member in good standing. The church says the term Mormon is not the name of the church but a short hand version or traditional term used to identify us. Because of the confusion we were advised a few years back to drop usage of the term. I suppose we should use LDS instead in our shorthand communications. It is less confusing. Kullervo is correct in that sense.

  8. You were not advised to drop the use of the term. I remember the General Conference Talk pretty clearly. The term is not supposed to be used to refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (i.e. no calling it “the Mormon Church”), but it is still appropriate to refer to members of the Church as “Mormons.”

    Setting aside the fact that that kind of speech control is really lame, that’s the official stance as I remember it.

    Anyway, who’s to say that Mormonism is an organization and not a movement? The schisms that followed Joseph Smith’s death make it look a lot more like a movement, if you’re going to call Christianity a movement.

    The fundamentalists say that the mainstream Mormon church lost its authority when it apostatized from the true doctrine with the Manifesto on Polygamy. It’s pretty much your definitions against theirs, and I see nothing that makes you more credible than them. Especially when you (as a Mormon) make similar claims about mainstream Christianity’s authority.

  9. So JLFuller, am I correct in discerning that you think today’s polygamy is different because it violates the law and because they don’t maintain separate households?

    As I recall, polygamy was against the law in Illinois where it was established. I think there’s also plenty of evidence that Brigham Young kept multiple wives in the same household.

  10. I took a tour of the “Beehive House” right off Temple Square in the 1980s. It was a large house Brigham Young built and housed quite a few of his wives under the same roof. Even the tour guides were clear on this point.

  11. It was a large house Brigham Young built and housed quite a few of his wives under the same roof. Even the tour guides were clear on this point.

    I’ve head tour guides actually make up stories about how he was hosting a lot of parties at the Beehive House and deny that multiple wives lived there.

  12. Tim
    I said it was how these people did things. Whether everyone did is another thing altogether. Are you sure there a law against polygamy in the 1840′s?

  13. Tim
    You asked “I’m most interested to hear how you think polygamy today is substantially different in practice than in Joseph Smith’s time.” My post was in response as it concerned my family.

  14. I said it was how these people did things. Whether everyone did is another thing altogether. Are you sure there a law against polygamy in the 1840’s?

    absolutely. look it up.

    Also, I’ve had to delete exactly 2 post on this blog. One was a link to details on the temple endowment ceremony. The other was yours. Don’t make personal comments about others who comment.

  15. Tim
    I tried looking up the Illinois criminal code but it cites everything as being from 1961. Where did you find it?

  16. Tim
    Good point. I had second thoughts after I submitted it. I could have still made my point by generalizing. Some blogs allow editing after posting but I can’t find that feature here. Is there a way to do that?

  17. Tim
    Thanks for the referal. But I don’t see the relevance to anything of susbstance. There are a good many things we don’t understand that can only be described as distractions. Brigham Young’s notions on race and priesthood, polygamy, Jospeh’s multiple wives and others are thjought provoking but have no bearing on anything today. I have heard from some detractors say that prophets are not allowed to have a sinful nature, but God doesn’t share that view. I have heard others claim that the sinful nature of Joseph (in thier eyes) was enough for him to be considered a fallen prophet and lead them to deny the faith. Again, it is merely interesting but not definitive. We agree that the only perfect man was Christ. So the imperfections in people have no bearing on the work they do. Is there any perfect man you know of? I suggest not. Given I am certain you agree, is the work he does not meaningful? Is the work any of the Apostles in Cchrist’s time meaningless given thier sinful nature?

  18. Kullervo, 4: “…Mormons [trying] to define the FLDS and other split-off groups as “not Mormon” while raising hell … about Evangelicals trying to define Mormons as “not-Christian.” Same thing, guys. Same thing.”

    Well, you said it, so I didn’t have to.

    Tim: the biggest difference I see is in the fraction of members practicing polygamy, but I admit that I’m just assuming that everyone in a present-day polygamist group is polygamist.

  19. How many member do you think were practicing polygamy before the manifesto? Everything I’ve read indicates it was quite a bit over half.

    JL,
    I’m just asking the question. Was it similar or dissimilar to today’s practice?

  20. Tim
    My understanding is that some were called to it and apparently some just did it on their own. The numbers were all very small though as the total church membership was very modest in the 1890′s. I don’t there were but about 100K or so in the whole Church. Someone else will have to put a finer point on that though. It was well into the 20th century (maybe the mid 1950′s) before there was a total church membership of 1 million.

    About that Christian thing that so many are focused on. The LDS Church gets to say who is a Mormon because we have the naming rights. Traditional Christianity has no such claim. There are very tight requiremnts to be a legitimate member of the LDS Church. Not so with traditional Christianity. It is a loose confederacy as evidenced by 1200 or so different denominations and about two dozen different versions of the bible. It is intersting that all claim to be authoritive. Only two can claim legitimate authority passed from one man to another as it was done in Christ’s time. They are the LDS Church and the Catholics. All the rest can make no such claim. For the protestants to claim authority would require that the Catholic church authorize the protestors to leave and gave them their blessing to set up another denomination. To my understanding I don’t think that ever happened. Any protestant claims to authority are based on men taking the authority on themselves. It was never passed to them in the only authorized manner.

  21. JL,

    I don’t think Protestants really care about Priesthood lineage one way or another. Telling them that they don’t have a direct line to Peter is unlikely to make much of an impression.

  22. The numbers were all very small though as the total church membership was very modest in the 1890’s.

    So are you making a point of similarity? The number of active polygamist is also relatively small. Less than 100,000 for sure.

    You’re argument about authority and naming rights made me laugh. I’m glad you’re hear. I think there’s a great deal about Protestantism that you you’re going to learn. You should go back at least a month and read forward. At least go to July 23rd and read forward.

  23. Tim, I have to be honest with you. Not that I would not have been other wise, but I have zero interest in discovering anything about protestantism. You have little I am intersted in learning. I am not being mean spirited but I fundamentally, down to my sox, beleive you guys got it wrong. So why go there? I would spend too much time filtering the wheat from the chaff. I am intersted in clearing up misconceptions and distortions about my theology so we can offer a little bit different message to those who want to hear it. That is my sole reason for being here. If we can solve a few disputes I am always open to that. I expect you feel much the same way. So maybe we can eliminate some barriers but , for me, I will never be interested in learning anything about protestantism. At 60 years of age, it just isn’t going to happen.

  24. Good point. I had second thoughts after I submitted it. I could have still made my point by generalizing.

    Oh, great, more generalizing. That would have made your point beautifully, I think.

    I read the post- you accused me of being filled with hate, and that is complete crap. What you’re doing is trying to minimize anything I have to say by poisoning the well. You provoke me to anger and then criticize me for getting angry. Cute.

    Once again, you level distorted accusations in order to justify not listening to a voice that you don’t want to hear.

  25. JL, I have to be honest with you. This may not be the place for you. If you’re not willing to listen, then you’re not really having a conversation. The point of this blog is to learn a little bit more about each other.

    I was literally flabbergasted that you said you were 60. I have been under the mistaken assumption that you were 16. I’m not joking or being mean. I really thought you were in high school.

    You’re welcome to read and comment, but your last 24 hours of comments have shown that you’re missing the point on a number of different levels.

  26. Tim, I have to be honest with you. Not that I would not have been other wise, but I have zero interest in discovering anything about protestantism. You have little I am intersted in learning. I am not being mean spirited but I fundamentally, down to my sox, beleive you guys got it wrong. So why go there? I would spend too much time filtering the wheat from the chaff. I am intersted in clearing up misconceptions and distortions about my theology so we can offer a little bit different message to those who want to hear it. That is my sole reason for being here. If we can solve a few disputes I am always open to that. I expect you feel much the same way. So maybe we can eliminate some barriers but , for me, I will never be interested in learning anything about protestantism. At 60 years of age, it just isn’t going to happen.

    So in other words, your only interest in this blog is to use it as a tool to convert people to Mormonism? You’re apparently keen on talking, but not interested in listening (no surprise; you’ve demonstrated that already). The only way you want to solve disputes is to have people join the Mormon church?

  27. After 60 years of listening to the kind of stuff I have been listening to for years, I have little patience left. I didn’t come here to convert anybody. People do not convert people. The genuinely serious are converted by the Holy Ghost not somebody like me. And about my age. I am too old to play silly games. I tell it like I see it. I am sorry if you are offended. When you get you old will find that patience is a virtue you admire in someone else. And as Kullervo has observed so correctly, I listen as a means to correct not learn. You have nothing to teach me that I am interested in. I listen and engage to enlarge the discussion for the benefit of others. I attempt to push away the misinformation and disinformation. I don’t write for you, I write for the honest in heart – the true seeker who may not post. I harbor no illusions about converting anyone, especially the angry. But you serve a purpose. And so far you have fulfilled it well.

  28. JL… what about how the Church teaches that there is good in other churches? And how education and learning–about all things–should be a lifelong pursuit?

    Does that not apply here? Do you really not find any value in learning more about other religions, other faiths, other belief systems?

  29. Wow, JLFuller, could you possibly be more puffed-up and arrogant?

    I like how you constantly imply that people like me must not be “honest in heart” and “true seekers.” As if the only way someone could conclude that Mormonism isn’t true is if they’re dishonest or have an agenda. It’s insulting and hurtful. And it’s complete nonsense.

    Think about it- you’re saying that everyone in the world who hears the message of Mormonism and rejects it does so because they have a lying heart and aren’t really seeking the truth. That’s a hefty allegation, with virtually nothing to back it up other than your a priori assumption that Mormonism is true.

    And furthermore, when you say things like “you serve a purpose,” you are being condescending and patronizing. And it’s obvious to everyone. Hey, if you’re hoping that people would hear the message and decide they want to learn more, you might actually have more success at it by not saying anything more. I think you’re actually hurting your cause by being arrogant and ignorant about it in public.

    Oh, and by the way,

    “Only two can claim legitimate authority passed from one man to another as it was done in Christ’s time. They are the LDS Church and the Catholics.”

    …is complete crap. You’ve left out the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Coptic Churches, the Anglican Communion (hey look! a Protestant denomination that legitimately claims apostolic succession), the Old Catholics, all the other Orthodox churches that aren’t autocephaloous with the Greek Patriarch, and plenty of others. Not to mention the FLDS church and every other LDS split-off that has priesthood authority “man-to-man,” the way you say is so necessary.

    Also, you are claiming that in order for the man-to-man authority to be passed on and remain valid and legitimate, it would need the blessing of an organization. There’s no scriptural basis for that, and not even any solid LDS doctrine to back that up.

    Not only do you not appear to know anything about history or Christian theology, you don’t even have a very solid, mature grasp of Mormonism.

  30. I have a question for Tim. Tim, if you could give me your opinion on this, I would really appreciate it. The scenario is this: You have a group of Christian missionaries who come to a community of non Christian people. These people are receptive to the gospel. However, this happens to be a community where polygamy is practiced. Many of the households consist of a man, two or three wives, and their children. Upon acceptance of Jesus, would you have all these men divorce all but one of their wives and disown their children? How would these women and children then live?

  31. great question Lisa.

    Best case scenario, the local church accepts responsibility for the families and cares for them (the wives and children would never be disowned by a righteous father, but he would stop having sex with anyone but his first wife). The next best thing would be for polygamy to end with that generation.

    I can’t make an argument from the Bible that polygamy is sinful. BUT I can make a strong argument that polygamy is never God’s best and it ALWAYS leaves families in a terrible situation. I think I can also make a good argument that it’s not commanded by God when it is practiced in the Old Testament.

    I think my response is similar to the New Testament example of how to handle slavery.

  32. Tim,

    I would love to see you make a strong argument that polygamy “ALWAYS leaves families in a terrible situation.” Although that may often be the case, that seems like a bit of a strech to me.

    Also, I am curious as to what you’re reading that has indicated in the pre-manifesto years, the number of individuals practicing polygamy “was quite a bit over half”? I’ve never seen number that high, except in small case studies of towns like Orderville, UT (generally regarded as the highest % of membership practicing polygamy at roughly 65%).

  33. Oh, I’m so glad the conversation got back to the actual topic!

    Tim, to answer your #21, in my #20 I was thinking that the practice varied by Mormon community in the 1800′s, with some communities having a very low percentage of polygamists, the overall number for the church being around 30% of all marriages (at its peak). Also, of polygamist husbands, those with more than two wives were in the minority.

    Contrast that with my (very uninformed) impression of present-day polygamists, where it seems that most husbands have several wives.

  34. In Response to Tim’s post #33

    As a person who grew up in a polygamist family, I am here to tell you that your statement
    “BUT I can make a strong argument that polygamy ALWAYS leaves families in a terrible situation.”
    is completely and utterly false, and no you cant make a “strong argument” about it.
    Here is an article that you can read that talks about people who live polygamy and yet still live good lifestyles. http://meandpolygamy.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/centennial-park-polygamy/ ( I can personally vouch for it because I live there)

    Living Polygamy absolutely does not always leave families in terrible situations. And I feel quite comfortable making that bold statement due to the fact that I have lived and associated with polygamist families all my life, not only in the United States but also in Canada and Mexico.

  35. One does have to realize that polygamy and Mormonism are two seperate issues.
    Yes, Mormons practice polygyny, but Israel and the patriarchs did long before that.
    The difference is no other religion teaches this as a salvational issue. And it’s not, it’s merely a choice.

  36. Just a brief comment on the film. I love how most of the “quotes” shown highlighted from D&C 132 are from the section heading not the revelation itself. :)

  37. I believe that it’s been said that chapter and section headings are scripture, too.

  38. I certainly don’t hold chapter and section headings in the same regard as the scriptures themselves; but that being said, my comment was directed at the honesty, or lack thereof, in the treatment of the issues by Living Hope Ministries. Then again, honest examination of Mormonism has never been a strength of Living Hope Ministries.

    I also like how they showed the one woman talking about how in the FLDS tradition they didn’t celebrate Christmas, but instead celebrated Joseph Smith’s birthday, and then showed footage of the LDS church’s celebration of Joseph Smith’s 200th birthday at the Conference Center: leaving the wonderful impression that the LDS church must also consider Joseph Smith’s birth much more important than Jesus’ birth (ignoring that every year the church holds a First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center, and the celebration of Joseph’s 200th birthday was a once in a century type thing).

    Anyway, this thread has been interesting to say the least.

  39. Well Tim,

    I believe that says something significant of your veiws on the infallability of prophets. We probably don’t jive on this issue, but it wouldn’t be the first.

    BTW, the phrasing may have been crass, but I by no means hold the veiw that somehow he was a fallen prophet, or anything like that. It’s just that not everything that ever came forth from his mouth was the word of God, and some far from it. But this is really no different from prophets of old, don’t you think? One key difference is that the record is much more recent with BY, leaving him open to a higher level of scrutiny than Biblical prophets, and inevitably this humanizes him (with significant flaws and all) to a degree that I think we don’t see with biblical prophets.

  40. Yeah, but BY said tons of stuff like that. Find a copy of the Journal of Discourses and flip through it.

  41. True enough. But, and this is not meant as a defense of BY (I believe he really did teach or say many of the things he is purported to have), I’m sure you would agree that by academic standards, the JD is hardly a reliable account. I am not going to venture into where it is or isn’t accurate, I really have no idea.

    Though, at the very least, it gives us great insight into the minds of early church leaders and their evolving theology.

    I think I just hijacked the thread…woops! ;)

  42. Pingback: Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2 | Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog

  43. In all Religion, there is no right or wrong, we all have something to believe in, but we can’t defined that, our is the best, there is so many people who believe each of Religion, we can’t put it down, by saying, this religion isn’t the best or something like that, but there is something you won’t agree with in every Religion. but to be honest, there is so many things i didn’t like about Polygamy, but there is reason, why not…i am not judging it, but it’s in my opinion, wht the best behave women’s, they didn’t have freedom or they weren’t treated like a women, or they leave them, because they feel like it and so on. how is that fear, when a man can have as much he want, but not a women? this not fear at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s