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Why did your church previously practice plural marriage (polygamy)?

Official Answer

At various times, the Lord has commanded His people to practice plural marriage. For example, He gave this command to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1). At other times the Lord has given other instructions. In the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the prophet Jacob “for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none... for if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things” (Jacob 2:27-30).

In this dispensation, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and those closest to him, including Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, were challenged by this command, but they obeyed it. Church leaders regulated the practice. Those entering into it had to be authorized to do so, and the marriages had to be performed through the sealing power of the priesthood. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation that the leaders of the Church should cease teaching the practice of plural marriage (Official Declaration 1).

The Lord’s law of marriage is monogamy unless he commands otherwise to help establish the House of Israel (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism Vol. 3, pp. 1091-1095).

  • Because the Lord commanded it for a period of time. It wasn't easy for those who practiced it. Many, even Brigham Young (the second prophet after the death of Joseph Smith) had difficulty accepting the revelation. It took a great deal of soul searching and personal submission and communion with God for many of those individuals to reconcile themselves to the practice of plural marriage. Even in ancient times, when the practice was culturally accepted, plural marriage was difficult. Moses, Abraham, and many others who practiced plural marriage because of God's commandment all experienced personal challenges arising from their family situation. But sometimes life is such: God requires difficult things. The difficulties never seem appealing to us, but if we are faithful, we will find that God had reasons for the challenges He gave us. Show more

  • The short answer is that, for a time, God commanded it. It was a challenge for those families commanded to practice it, but they accepted the challenge with faith. There have been many times throughout history that God has asked His people to do difficult things or things that go against the norms of society. For example, God has commanded plural marriage in the Bible. He commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, stopping it at the last minute. He commanded the ancient Israelites to destroy all inhabitants of many of the settlements in the land of Canaan when they returned to the promised land. The knowledge of these things challenges our faith but we must recognize that God's ways are not our ways and He controls all life. If plural marriage is something that keeps you from the church or keeps you from investigating further, I invite you to consider this: it really comes down to one thing. Was Joseph Smith a true prophet or not? If he was, then the commandment came from God and He restored His church through Joseph. Answer that question and the rest falls into place. I am happy that I did. Show more

  • At many times in the Bible prophets were commanded to practice polygamy. Some of these prophets were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. We know that plural marriage is a sin unless God commands us to practice it. In the Book of Mormon the prophet Jacob tells the Lords will on the subject, “for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none... for if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things” (Jacob 2:27-30). So only as the Lord commands His people is it acceptable. While they early saints accepted this it was not an easy commandment to keep. They had many struggles with it and only under the direction of the Lord was it carried out. The Church leaders closely supervised the practice and only those who had been authorized by the Lord were to practice. In addition to that all of the marriages had to be performed by the sealing power of the priesthood which had been restored. It was not a temporary thing when it was practiced. In 1890, President Woodruff received revelation that plural marriage was no longer acceptable to the Lord. So the practice was stopped instantly. Anyone who practices polygamy now is NOT a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Show more

  • Mormons practiced polygamy because the Lord commanded some of them to do so, for purposes known to the Lord. At the time, there were no national laws prohibiting polygamy. When the Supreme Court ruled that later anti-polygamy laws were constitutional, the Lord directed Pres. Woodruff to issue the Manifesto, and the practice ended in the Church. Show more

  • Many people have tried to give reasons as to why the Church practiced polygamy. Though these answers at times seem logical, none of them are actually the reasons why. The short answer is, I don't know. This answer probably isn't very satisfying, but I submit that the question you're really asking is-was Joseph Smith a prophet? There have been many times that prophets have asked people to do things that they didn't really understand. Naaman was asked by Elisha to wash seven times in the Jordan River, he thought that was crazy, but he did it anyway as was blessed for his faith. Following a prophet can at times be that way, we don't know all of the reasons but we believe that we will be blessed as we follow him. I know that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration. He saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and they spoke to him. This knowledge has changed my life. Show more

  • Many of the prophets of the old testament practiced plural marriage under Gods direction; among them Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David and Solomon. It is an ancient practice. I know that God only allows it's use under his authorization. There have been instances, one in the Book of Mormon to be exact (Jacob 2:27-30) where God has condemned the practice. Given the fact that God has, throughout history, alternately prescribed and condemned the practice I believe that it is a situational doctrine where God, having all of the information, and us not having it all, reserves the right to make a judgment call, taking all things into consideration, and either prescribes it or ends its use, basing his decision on the needs of the moment and all other factors involved. So the answer to this question is that the church practiced polygamy because God prescribed it at that time, and we don't anymore because God revealed that the practice was to be discontinued. When plural marriage was practiced only a handful of men were selected by God to participate. It was, by far, not practiced by all men or women in the church. The ones who participated were obeying a commandment from God, not necessarily seeking out the practice. Show more

  • Why did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon practice plural marriage? Because God told them to. So why did Mormons practice polygamy? Because God commanded us to. There is nothing new about the concept of polygamy. It is only a tool that the Lord sees fit to put in place on his own time. Any other reasons for it are God's reasons and the fact of the matter is that an all knowing, perfected being, who also happens to be the father of our spirits commanded that it should be done. It really all comes down to your faith in God. Show more

  • The practice of having more than one wife was found in the Church because God commanded it to be so. In 1843 Joseph Smith officially recorded into literature revelation he had received from God, which explained some of what was behind the commandment to practice plural marriage. You can read it in Doctrine and Covenants section 132. In 1890 it was published to the world that Wilford Woodruff, the Prophet at the time, had been told by God to withdraw from the people the priesthood keys necessary to form such marriages. You can read this for yourself in Official Declaration - 1. The doctrine held by God's people never changed before, during, or after the period of time in which plural marriage was practiced. The law of God has always been the same--that one man should marry one woman unless specifically commanded otherwise. The granting and rescinding of authority to practice plural marriage was a result of revelation from God, and not political or economic pressure, as some may mistakenly suppose. Show more

  • A very important principle to remember about polygamy is that it is (was) only acceptable in the Lord's eyes under the circumstance that a plural wife is given by the Lord, not taken at mere whim. Jacob 2:27 and 30 state: there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none... for if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. In this dispensation of the gospel, as in old times with patriarchs like Abraham, Jacob, and David, the Lord commanded his people to practice plural marriage. God has not stated his mind on the why of this commandment, but among the myriad reasons could be to prove his people, like an Abrahamic test for the saints, and to raise up seed unto Him. Only around 15-20% of families in Utah were polygamous. About 2/3 of polygamous men had only 2 wives and over 87% had 3 or less. Plural marriage was discontinued via revelation in 1890 and thus has not been practiced for over 120 years. So, the Lord's law of marriage is monogamy unless in his infinite scope of view he deems plural marriage best for specific people at specific times. Show more

  • At various times, the Lord has commanded His people to practice plural marriage. For example, He gave this command to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1). At other times the Lord has given other instructions. In the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the prophet Jacob “for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none... for if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things” (Jacob 2:27-30). In this dispensation, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and those closest to him, including Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, were challenged by this command, but they obeyed it. Church leaders regulated the practice. Those entering into it had to be authorized to do so, and the marriages had to be performed through the sealing power of the priesthood. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation that the leaders of the Church should cease teaching the practice of plural marriage (Official Declaration 1). The Lord’s law of marriage is monogamy unless he commands otherwise to help establish the House of Israel (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism Vol. 3, pp. 1091-1095). Show more

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