Apr 2 2012
The Resurgence of Polygamy [Excerpts]
Students of Mormonism should be aware of the ambiguity of Mormonism on the matter of plural marriage. One of the basic tenets of Mormonism for its almost 170 year history is its teachings and practice of plural marriage.
"Joseph Smith, Jr., Brigham Young (despite the current leadership's effort to make it appear that he was a monogamist), and their successors (John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, and Heber J. Grant) all admittedly taught and practiced 'plural marriage'."
In my more than 47 years of dealing with Mormonism I have never seen what I would call "a believing male Mormon" who did not profess to believe that Polygamy was a Godly principle. They often pointed to the Manifesto--or just admitted their fear of problems with family, neighbors, the current LDS leadership or the law--as reasons for not practicing it. Even women almost always defended it.
Even Wilford Woodruff, who gave the Manifesto (which is credited with the cessation of the practice), said "If we were to do away with polygamy... then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation...and finally give up our religion altogether..." (Journal of Discourses, 13:166, see also Journal of Discourses, 22:148).
Yet it was Wilford Woodruff who later gave the Manifesto (which did not change Mormon doctrine at all). He simply said, "I now declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land" (Triple Combination, 1989 printing, p. 292).
Though not often mentioned, the teaching (and practice of plural marriage) also included that Adam was God, that Christ was married, and that both God and Christ were polygamists (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 31:2, Summer 1998, pp.7-8).
Today, with America's trend toward a more liberal lifestyle, the day when plural marriage will be legal may not be far away. Because of the explosive growth of Mormonism in African countries where polygamy is legal and is widely practiced, and since the Manifesto does not forbid the practice--only suggests "advice to Latter-day Saints" that they "refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land,"--it is only a matter of time until it again becomes an accepted practice by Latter-day Saints.