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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

  • 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

  • Polygamy is not a new concept. Many of the great Patriarchs in the Bible practiced it. Abraham (Genesis 16:1-3; Genesis 25:1), Jacob/Israel (Genesis 29:21-28; Genesis 30:4-9,26), and David (2 Samuel 2:1-2; 2 Samuel 5:13; 2 Samuel 12:7-8) were some of those that practiced plural marriage. In fact, in the case of David, it specifically mentions that the Lord gave him wives (2 Samuel 12:8). Thus, the Lord sometimes commands plural marriage to be practiced. The Lord gives further explanation in the Book of Mormon. The Lord tells the Prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon that no man should have more than one wife, unless the Lord commands it and the Lord only commands it if he wants to raise up righteous seed unto Himself (Jacob 2:27-30). This was the case in the time of Joseph Smith. He was commanded by the Lord to practice Polygamy and also were some of his very close associates. The Lord knew that the church was just starting up again and wanted to raise up righteous seed unto himself. Of course the church leaders regulated this practice, because individuals entering into it had to be authorized by the Lord to do so. Eventually the Lord commanded the Prophet Wilford Woodruff, in 1890, that the church leaders should cease teaching this doctrine. The Lord no longer needed this practice, the church was growing like never before. 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

  • 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

  • While the practice of polygamy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been a cause of concern for some, it is not unique to Mormons. In the Bible, the Lord instituted polygamy when He needed to raise up a righteous generation. For example, this was done with Jacob, whose son's eventually became the twelve tribes of Israel. So if someone is a Christian and believes in the Bible, they also have to believe that polygamy is sometimes permitted by the Lord. Polygamy was practiced in the early church, but it was a huge challenge to the saints. Joseph Smith had a very difficult time instituting this practice, but as a servant of the Lord, he did what he was asked. This practice was ended in 1890, when the President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation from God commanding an end to polygamy. Today, the monogamy is God's law of marriage. 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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