Letter to a Mormon About Polygamy
Below is a letter about polygamy to a friend who is Mormon. Members of the Mormon Church today do not currently practice polygamy; however, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, was polygamous. His supposed revelation recorded in Mormon scripture Doctrine & Covenants 132 teaches that polygamy is an eternal principle that will be practiced in the next life, at least by some faithful Mormons. Today in Mormon temples an active worthy Mormon priesthood holder (male) can be sealed/married to a second wife after his first wife dies. Therefore, he is sealed/married to more than one wife for the next life and is expected to have them both.
Dear Joe (not his real name),
The last four years have taken us in difference directions, but I hope we are still friends. Over 30 years ago I was looking for a relationship with Christ and thought I had found Him in a religion (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). To God this was only a micro second of time. He was drawing me to Him in his own unique way and time (John 6:44). There was a purpose for me being Mormon for 30 years. I learned Mormon doctrine and came to love the people. Now after 30 years I have found the true Christ (Hebrews 13:8-9), my Redeemer and Savior from the Bible. On my journey, to my surprise, Christ is not found in a religion nor can a religion save you. He is found in the Word (John 1:1-17) and through a personal relationship with Him, but not through membership in any church (e.g., Southern Baptist, Methodist, etc. or even the Mormon Church). There is nothing wrong with being a member of a particular church to find fellowship and love with the people, but if a church (religion) states it has the power to save and bring you to God by its membership, it errs in the Word. For no religious organization can save, but only Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the bridegroom and the church (believers) is the bride (Rev 21:9).
One problem (I will speak of other problems later) with the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Church is that it states it is “…the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth…” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30) with Joseph Smith being the founder. With the foundation of the LDS Church being restored by Joseph Smith there must not be any cracks in it or the building will fall. Let’s take a look at just one revelation received by Joseph Smith concerning polygamy.
The Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt stated: “If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them…” (JOD, Vol. 17, p. 224-225). Now let’s put this polygamy revelation to the test.
You asked in your email to Lynn a question rooted in polygamy, “How could Joseph be a prophet and have done this?” Your answer from God was, “Worry not, I have taken care of it.” I truly believe that God did answer your prayer; the problem is how you interpreted the answer. God took care of the problem of polygamy in the Old and New Testament. Polygamy was never justified in the Old Testament by Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob as per Mormon doctrine or in the New Testament. Here are a few verses to read for clarification: Gen 2:22-24; Deut 17:17; Matt 19:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Ephesians 5:28-33.
I cannot state what you feel is right or wrong or what you believe, but I do know what the LDS Church teaches on polygamy and it does not align with Christian doctrine. In fact it does not align with the Book of Mormon (BOM). The BOM and Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) conflict regarding the doctrine of polygamy. Let us read Jacob 1:15 in the BOM “… and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.” And Jacob 2:24 “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” It now has been verified in the BOM the act of David and Solomon having many wives and concubines was abominable before the Lord. But if we read in D&C 132:1 “…wherein I, the Lord, JUSTIFIED my servants…David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—.” Now D&C 132:1 is saying David and Solomon were justified in having many wives and concubines, but Jacob 2:24 says it was abominable before the Lord. The LDS church cannot have it both ways; one has to be right and the other wrong. Please do not give me the verse in the BOM Jacob 2:30, because it is not applicable in this case. For your information many years ago, back when General Authorities (GA) still answered questions about doctrine, Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards stated, “I am afraid I can’t adequately reconcile these two statements.” (Letter dated July 14, 1966). Joe, can you tell me which one is correct—the BOM or D&C 132?
If, through Joseph Smith (JS): “the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it [BOM], as delivered by the Savior" (JS - History 1:34) why does the BOM not justify the practice of polygamy for any group of people in its history from 600 B.C thru 421 A.D? This also includes the period of time with the Jaredites. No people were given the authorization by God to practice polygamy in the BOM. The BOM condemns the plurality of wives as being a practice exceedingly abominable before God. Please read Jacob 1, 2, & 3; Mosiah 11:2; and Ether 10:5. Actually the statement “…raise up seed unto me…” (Jacob 2:30) does not refer to the direct practice of polygamy as many LDS think. If you read where Lehi’s sons take wives “…they might raise up seed unto the Lord…” (1 Nephi 7:1) and also “…that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife” (1 Nephi 16:7) the instructions to Lehi’s sons for raising up seed was done only by one man married to one wife, therefore polygamy does not have to be practiced to raise up seed unto the Lord.
Did God give the commandment to practice polygamy in the Old Testament? The LDS Church says yes as per instructions in D&C 132. How this question is answered will either verify or destroy the teaching of Joseph Smith on polygamy and as a prophet. Since we have seen a problem on this topic between the BOM and D&C, let’s see what doctrine is found in the Bible. The Bible is written in two modes. The first is descriptive which tells a story and is not doctrine. The second is prescriptive which describes doctrine and the law at that point of time in the Bible.
Just because the Old Testament talks about polygamy with Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon does not justify these men’s action as following the practice of polygamy. This part of the Old Testament was descriptive and not a commandment from God. Let’s read what the Bible says.
The first indication of marriage is found in Genesis 2:23-24 where a man “shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Note the verse did not state “wives.” The Genesis verse is also confirmed by the words of Christ in Matthew 19:4-6 and “…they twain shall be one flesh” where the word “twain” means only “two.” Also note in the New Testament that church leaders, as stated in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6, should be “the husband of one wife.”
The first to practice polygamy in the Bible was Lamech, who was a descendant of Cain, when he acted on his own and took two wives, see Genesis 4:19, but was not commanded by God to do so. Man started the practice of polygamy, not God. Polygamy flourished in the pre Noah time “…and they took them WIVES of all which they chose.” Genesis 6:1-2. And God saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” Genesis 6:5. All this was done before the flood. In Genesis 7:13 it states the only people on the ark saved during the flood were Noah and his wife, Shem and his wife, Ham and his wife, and Japheth and his wife. If polygamy was to be the law of God would this have been a good time to start with Noah and his three sons? The Bible is very clear that Noah and the three sons only had one wife each. This is also supported by other early historical documents that support the Bible.
Now let’s take a look at the life of Abraham. Abram was promised seed in Genesis 15:5. It was Abram’s faith in the Lord; that was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Abram was given a second wife by Sarai see Genesis 16: 1-4, because Sarai bore no children for Abram. She became impatient and took matters into her own hands to fulfill God’s word in 15:6. God never told Sarai to give Hagar (Sarai’s bondwoman) to be Abram’s wife. Abram also erred when he hearkened to the voice of Sarai (Genesis16:3). In Genesis 16:4 Hagar conceived and 16:5 Sarai realized that what she did was wrong and she complained unto Abram. Abram in Genesis 16:6 stated, “Thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee.” Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar. This procedure was not the order of God. Abram’s marriage to Hagar was not ordained by God. Due to pressure from Sarai (16:6), Hagar did flee into the wilderness, but an angel (16:7) told Hagar to “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands” (16:9). Notice that the angel said to submit unto Sarai not Abram; for Hagar was not under the authority of Abram since God did not recognize Hagar as Abram’s wife, but only as a bondwoman to Sarai.
Abram and Sarai were impatient to bring forth seed; therefore they followed the law of man which was polygamy at that time in history and not God’s plan as seen in Genesis 17. In Chapter 17 you see God’s covenant with Abraham (name changed). God called Sarah, Abraham’s wife, (17:15-16) to bare a son. The name of the son shall be Isaac 17:19 “and I will establish my covenant with him…” not with Ishmael (Gal 4:21-23 …of the bondwoman was born after the flesh). The above scriptures clearly demonstrate a contradiction with D&C 132:34 & 65 where “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham.”
In D&C 132:37 it states, “Abraham received concubines and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him.” This statement is in error because:
- God counted righteousness unto Abraham because of his faith not because he received concubines and wives (Genesis 15:6). This righteousness was counted unto Abraham when he only had one wife, even Sarah.
- God did not give Abraham concubines, but only one wife Sarah who bore a son named Isaac. The Bible states in Genesis 22:2 where God said “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.” God even repeats in Genesis 22:12 “…Thine only son from me.” This was stated by God after Hagar had given birth to Ishmael. In the eyes of God he only recognized one son, even Isaac.
In D&C 132:65 it states “…I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife”. If this is true where is the second witness in the Bible? There is none. Nowhere in the Bible (OT or NT) does God tell any man to take another wife (practice polygamy) while he is currently married. If D&C 132:65 is true then why was the covenant (Gen 17:19) and promise (Gal 4:21-23) not given to Ishmael instead of Isaac? In Genesis 21:10 Sarah stated, “Cast out this bondwoman (Hagar) and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” God stated to Abraham in Gen 21:12 “in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice.” God never referred to Hagar as the wife of Abraham but only a “bondwoman.” Why would God command Abraham to marry Hagar and have a son, only to later cast them out and never acknowledge the son, even Ishmael? Abraham only remarried after the death of Sarah (23:1), that is when he married Keturah (25:1). Abraham only had one wife at a time after he received the covenant from God in Genesis 17.
The LDS Church states about D&C 132 that “Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident …this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.” How can you have in the first edition of the D&C printed in 1835 “Section CI Marriage” (page 251) state, “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”? Is this not a situation of conflicting doctrine in the LDS church during this period of history? Can you explain how polygamy was practiced by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other LDS leaders, but during this same time the 1835 D&C Section CI Marriage stated “one man should have one wife”? This doctrine of Section CI Marriage was not removed from D&C until 1876 when it was replaced with D&C 132. Why did something so important from God to the LDS Church as D&C 132 with the “…new and an everlasting covenant…” (D&C 132:4) take more than 33 years to appear in D&C? Why was the doctrine of “plural marriage” officially announced in Utah by Brigham Young in 1852, but the D&C Section CI Marriage was not removed from D&C until 1876?
When I joined the LDS Church in 1977 I was told that polygamy was started out West by Brigham Young, not true. Also it was practiced because there were more LDS women than men, not true. Polygamy was stopped once the balance of women and men were equal in the late 1800’s, not true. Even President Hinckley stated a few years ago on national TV that polygamy was not doctrine and was started out west, not true. If polygamy is not doctrine how did President Hinckley marry (seal) President Hunter to a second wife after his first wife died. I always thought that the LDS Church was about truth. What did the LDS Church tell you about polygamy at the MTC?
The LDS Church still believes in the “eternal principle” of plural marriage (D&C 132). The LDS Church does not practice plural marriage/polygamy today, but still teaches that it is an eternal principle and that it will be practiced in the celestial kingdom. The 1890 Mormon “Manifesto” was given to stop the physical practice of polygamy, not the belief in polygamy. Even as President Hinckley in 2007 was supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage only between “one man and one woman” the LDS Church was marrying for time and eternity men to a second wife after his first wife has died, and so on. The LDS Church teaches that any man married for eternity with two or more wives will have his multiples wives with him in the celestial kingdom. This is the practice of spiritual polygamy today.
I do agree with M. Russell Ballard statement in his address called “Sharing the Gospel with Confidence” (Ensign, July 2010) where he states “…don’t waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during Old Testament times…“ That is true; you cannot justify it in the OT. Another point he made that I agree with was:
We follow Jesus Christ by adhering to God’s law of marriage, which is marriage between one man and one woman. This commandment has been in place from the very beginning. God said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) God instructed Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
Do you really believe Ballard thinks this is a true statement or does he not understand the LDS doctrine of “plural marriage” as recorded in D&C 132?
Given Ballard’s statement, we have just receded 175 years in LDS history to 1835 concerning the doctrine on marriage. Now we are back to where the LDS Church started in 1835 D&C Section CI Marriage (page 251) which states “…we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband…” But how do we explain Joseph Smith being married for eternity to a minimum of 34 women (with two as young as 14 and 11 married to other men) when he was alive and then he was sealed to hundreds of women after his death? What do we do with Brigham Young being married (sealed) to 54 wives and with five other latter-day prophets who practiced polygamy? What do we now do with D&C 132? What is Ballard going to tell the other apostles Elder Oaks, Elder Perry, and Elder Nielson who are sealed to two wives each? So which doctrine is true - the doctrine of polygamy in D&C 132 or marriage of one man to one wife?
What you need to ask God is, “Is plural marriage as taught by Joseph Smith in D&C 132 an eternal principle?” If the answer is yes then you have received your answer from a different god than the One in the Bible. For your god and christ are different because of what the LDS Church teaches about them. Your god and christ are polygamists and my God and Christ are not. The LDS Church doctrine teaches of another Jesus and another gospel. The Bible warns of “another Jesus.” The Apostle Paul warns us, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth ANOTHER JESUS, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or ANOTHER GOSPEL, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Cor. 11:3-4). “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
If you read all of D&C 132, does it sound like it came from Jesus Christ or another jesus? We all need to be on guard against false doctrine and follow the direction as stated by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We also need to listen to the words of Jeremiah 23:32 from the Lord “I am against them that prophesy false dreams…and cause my people to err by their lies…”
I find it interesting that D&C 132 was the last revelation received by Joseph Smith before he was killed. Joseph Smith had practiced polygamy for many years before 1844, but denied its practice as stated by Joseph Smith in May 1844, “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” (LDS History of the Church Volume VI, page 411) Was it proper for Joseph Smith to lie about his practice of polygamy? Also before 1844 Brigham Young practiced polygamy in secret and so did other LDS leaders until it was announced to the body of the LDS Church in Aug 1852. The LDS Church practiced polygamy in secret until it was put into their D&C in 1876. Even after the 1890 Mormon “Manifesto” the leaders of the LDS Church continued to practice polygamy in secret. We are even warned in the BOM about these secret situations “…shall be filled with all manner of lyings…all manner of hypocrisy…and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of SECRET abominations” (3 Nephi 16:10). These warnings are given to us in the Bible, too, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:11-12)
Joe, I do not expect you to answer all the questions in this email or any of them, but I hope you will try to answer them in your mind. If I have erred in anything I have written I will recant my words, but I know I have spoken to you in truth and in God’s word. It is truth that I was looking for when I joined the LDS Church, but it is truth I found when I left and became born again in Christ and in Christ alone. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:16-21) Joseph Smith instituted in the LDS Church that a man is justified by works of the law, for example as in the law of plural marriage and temple work. As pertaining to the law of the priesthood a man is justified in the practice of polygamy (D&C 132:61). And the LDS lord says “if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto her husband, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.” (D&C 132:64). Is this not the “another Jesus” and “another gospel” that was warned about in the Bible?
I write this in love and truth. I know you are searching for the truth too. We cannot be trusting in the arm of flesh, but only in the word of God found in the Holy Bible (2 Timothy 3:16).