Mormon Essays On Polygamy In The Bible

Click on the links below to read the entire essay on LDS.org.

  • Plural Marriage (Polygamy) in Kirtland and Nauvoo

    When God commands a difficult task, He sometimes sends additional messengers to encourage His people to obey. Consistent with this pattern, Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.

    Published on October 22, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
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  • First Vision Accounts

    Joseph’s First Vision accounts describe the heavenly beings with greater detail over time. The 1832 account says, “The Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.” His 1838 account states, “I saw two Personages,” one of whom introduced the other as “My Beloved Son."

    Published on November 20, 2013 | Read on LDS.org
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  • Book of Mormon Translation

    Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument. The process as described brings to mind a passage from the Book of Mormon that speaks of God preparing “a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light.”

    Published on December 30, 2013 | Read on LDS.org
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  • Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

    Although the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical, some people have wondered whether the migrations it describes are compatible with scientific studies of ancient America. The discussion has centered on the field of population genetics and developments in DNA science.

    Published on January 31, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
    Available Translations: Español | Português | Deutsch | Italiano | Français | 中国

  • Race and the Priesthood

    Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

    Published on December 6, 2013 | Read on LDS.org
    Available Translations: Español | Português | Deutsch | Italiano | Français | 中国

  • Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

    Joseph’s translation was not a literal rendering of the papyri as a conventional translation would be. Rather, the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection, and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri.

    Published on July 8, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
    Available Translations: Español | Português | Deutsch | Italiano | Français | 中国

  • Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah

    Accounts left by men and women who practiced plural marriage attest to the challenges and difficulties they experienced, such as financial difficulty, interpersonal strife, and some wives’ longing for the sustained companionship of their husbands. But accounts also record the love and joy many found within their families.

    Published on December 16, 2013 | Read on LDS.org
    Available Translations: Español | Português | Deutsch | Italiano | Français | 中国

  • Are Mormons Christian?

    Latter-day Saints believe the melding of early Christian theology with Greek philosophy was a grave error. Chief among the doctrines lost in this process was the nature of the Godhead. The true nature of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    Published on November 20, 2013 | Read on LDS.org
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  • Becoming Like God

    God “was once as one of us” and “all the spirits that God ever sent into the world” were likewise “susceptible of enlargement.” Joseph Smith preached that long before the world was formed, God found “himself in the midst” of these beings and “saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” and be “exalted” with Him.

    Published on February 24, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
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  • Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints

    [The Latter-day Saints] were persecuted, often violently, for their beliefs. And, tragically, at some points in the 19th century, most notably in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, some Church members participated in deplorable violence against people they perceived to be their enemies.

    Published on May 13, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
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  • The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage (Polygamy)

    The end of plural marriage required great faith and sometimes complicated, painful—and intensely personal—decisions on the part of individual members and Church leaders. Like the beginning of plural marriage in the Church, the end of the practice was a process rather than a single event.

    Published on October 22, 2014 | Read on LDS.org
    Available Translations: Español | Português | Deutsch | Italiano | Français | 中国

  • Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women

    During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have the gift of healing. “I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters,” testified Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift. In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow explained in 1883, “Women can administer in the name of JESUS, but not by virtue of the Priesthood.”

    Published on October 23, 2015 | Read on LDS.org

  • Mother in Heaven

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all human beings, male and female, are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents, a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. This understanding is rooted in scriptural and prophetic teachings about the nature of God, our relationship to Deity, and the godly potential of men and women. The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.

    Published on October 23, 2015 | Read on LDS.org

  • Note: The following was originally printed in the January/February 2016 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here. 

    By Eric Johnson

    Polygamy, or plural marriage, is a sticky issue for many Mormons. Some have become deeply embarrassed when they found out how their founder, Joseph Smith, married at least 34 girls and women. In fact, a third of his marriages were to teenagers and another third were to women who were already married to living husbands. Latter-day Saint apologists have attempted to obfuscate the questionable practices of Smith and other 19th century Mormon leaders by pointing to the example of certain polygamous men in the Old Testament. This is the tactic in the introductory portion of the LDS Church Gospel Topics essay titled “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” which was published on the lds.org website in late 2014:

    In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman. Some early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also received and obeyed this commandment given through God’s prophets.

    The essay later explains:

    The revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, states that Joseph prayed to know why God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice.

    The following three points will show how the practice of one man marrying two or more women was a perversion of God’s original intention, even if those who practiced plural marriage were patriarchs, judges, and kings from the Bible. In addition, there were specific consequences for these actions.

    1. The design for marriage—one man and one woman—was God’s original intention  

    Genesis 2:24 states, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Jesus references this important passage in Matthew 19:3-9, as does Paul in Ephesians 5:31. Meanwhile, 1 Corinthians 6:2-4 explains that

    each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

    It is “each man” with “each woman,” not “each man” with “his women.” Polygamy was never part of God’s original intention. Ephesians 5: 25-27 even likens monogamy to the relationship Jesus has with His Church:

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

    The analogy makes no sense if polygamy is a viable option in God’s framework.

    1. While God allowed for polygamy in the Bible, it certainly cannot be said that He “commanded” it

    Although it was the exception rather than the rule, polygamous relationships are found in the Bible. For example, men such as Lamech, Nahor, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, and Eliphaz were polygamists according to the Pentateuch. However, it is nothing more than an argument from silence to suggest that God commanded His people to practice plural marriage, as the Gospel Topics essays argues. While there is a reference to a verse from the Doctrine and Covenants, this is not considered “scripture” for Evangelical Christians. (If God is responsible for D&C 132, why didn’t He correct Joseph Smith in his query since Isaac was monogamous, not polygamous?)

    The only biblical passage used in the church essay to support the idea that God commanded polygamy is Genesis 16. The first verses of this chapter say:

    Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

    Genesis 16 does explain how Hagar was given to Abram “to be his wife,” the only reference that says this. In the immediate context, however, this is a reference suggesting how Abram and Hagar joined together in a sexual union. As one commentary points out:

    The phrase “to be his wife” in verse 3 is merely a euphemism for sexual intercourse. That is clear from the phrase that immediately follows it as well as from the original request (v. 2). The context makes it clear that Hagar remained the slave not of Abraham, but of Sarai. . . . Even after the agreement between Sarai and Abram (v. 2), Hagar is still considered her maidservant (v. 3). The language is important. It is not Abram who takes Hagar into his tent, but Sarai gives Hagar to Abram. Sarai is in charge. After Abram slept with Hagar and conceived, not only Sarai (v. 5) but also Abram still talks about Hagar as Sarai’s servant (v. 6), not as his (new) wife. Furthermore, the narrator continues to call Sarai “her mistress” (v. 4). (http://www.answering-islam.org/BibleCom/gen16-3.html)

    The angel of the LORD addressed her as “Hagar, servant of Sarai,” not as “Hagar, wife of Abram.” He gave her the command, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Hence, it can be seen that Sarai, not God, told Abraham to take another “wife.” Just like the issue of divorce—a practice not intended for God’s people as Malachi 2:10-16 teaches—plural marriage was tolerated but not commanded by God. Neither divorce nor polygamy was God’s original intention.

    1. Consequences, not blessings, are consistently associated with polygamy in the Bible

    Referring to the examples of polygamous men described in the Torah as practicing polygamy, Old Testament professor Richard M. Davidson makes an excellent point:

    Though no explicit verbal condemnation of this practice is given in these biblical narratives, the narrator (whom I take as Moses) presents each account in such a way as to underscore a theology of disapproval. The record of these polygamous relationships is bristling with discord, rivalry, heartache, and even rebellion, revealing the negative motivations and / or disastrous consequences that invariably accompanied such departures from God’s Edenic standard. The inspired narratives with their implicit theology of disapproval speak even louder, and more eloquently, than explicit condemnation (“Condemnation and Grace: Polygamy and Concubinage in the Old Testament,” Christian Research Journal September/October 2015, p. 35).

    Following the patriarchs, some of Israel’s judges and kings—starting with David and Solomon—practiced polygamy. Again, however, no biblical support can be mustered to prove how these relationships were commanded by God. In addition, no example of any positive blessing can be shown emanating from polygamy. This practice was continually a detriment to the intentions of God while creating heartache for everyone involved. Davidson makes another excellent point:

    In the Old Testament, there are some thirty-three reasonably clear historical cases of polygamy / concubinage out of approximately three thousand men mentioned in the Scriptural record. Most of these examples involved wealthy patriarchs or Israel’s judges / monarchs. Within the narratives involving polygamy or concubinage, the divinely inspired writers invariably embed their tacit condemnation of these practices. Mosaic legislation never commands or condones plural marriages but rather prohibits polygamy / concubinage (Lev. 18:18) as part of universal moral law based on the creation order. Thus the Old Testament documents a departure from the Edenic model of sexuality in actual practice but affirms that this departure is not approved by God. (Ibid., p. 37)

    Conclusion

    Mormon leaders and their apologists may think that pointing to the Bible for support of their church’s 19th century practice of marriages between one man and multiple women will suffice. However, the Bible does not support this argument. Those who advocate polygamy as a possible alternative—whether in the biblical past or even for the contemporary future—will have to come up with alternative reasoning. If God did not command polygamy in the Old Testament, could it be possible that He didn’t commend this practice to LDS leaders such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? If so, then polygamy has not been “divinely mandated,” as the church essay makes it appear. Indeed, there can be no biblical justification for the practice and should be considered less than God’s best for all people in all times and in all places.


    For a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the church essay referred to in this article, visit here. 

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