Mormons and Polygamy

Mormons and Polygamy

So with Mitt Romney, the Book of Mormon musical, and the "I am a Mormon" ad campaign (have you seen the "I am an Ex-Mormon" videos?) members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are getting a lot of attention nowadays. Most people know a few things about them: generally larger families and younger marriages than the national averages, no alcohol or coffee (or tea), and so on. And of course, polygamy. Most people know that Mormons no longer practice polygamy, but few people know the details. Even Mormons only really know a few details themselves, generally speaking, though everything I'll be saying here can be easily researched.

The Basic Story

While most are aware that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, practiced polygamous marriages, the details are not usually well-known among Mormons apart from a revelation Smith received that started the practice (Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations Smith received and edited). For those who know that Joseph practiced polygamy they assume that the marriages were usually not sexual in nature. Mormons most often identify practiced polygamy with their second President, Brigham Young. Polygamy was first publicly taught as a principle of Mormonism in 1856 (when I talk about Mormons and Mormonism I'm generally talking about the Salt Lake branch of the larger Latter Day Saint movement, but the movement fractured after Smith's death and there are many organizations still around today that are descended from Smith's original movement. I don't mean to disparage them by using "Mormonism" to generally refer to the Salt Lake branch, of course, but it's a useful shorthand). It caused issues with the US government, leading to an army sent to keep Utah in line, many failed attempts as statehood, the creation of the Republican Party, and eventually a failed attempt to argue before the Supreme Court against anti-bigamy laws on the basis of religious freedom. In 1890, Wilford Woodruff announced a "Manifesto" saying that the Church would no longer enact further polygamous marriages. Utah became a state a few years later. Modern Mormons excommunicate any members found to be practicing polygamy.

What's Wrong With the Story?

Technically nothing. All of the above details are correct. The problem is that it's missing a lot of contextual information. When did Smith first practice polygamy? To whom was he married? How did the home dynamics work both among Smith and among the Salt Lake branch of the movement? When did Mormons first start excommunicating their members for practicing polygamy? These are all questions to which most Mormons will not have many answers, and instead will rely on guesses or common assumptions.

The Beginnings

Ask a Mormon when polygamy began in the LDS Church and they'll probably point to D&C 132, received by Joseph Smith in the early 1840s (the exact date is uncertain). Yet even in the Doctrine and Covenants, the explanatory note prefacing the published version of section 132 will mention that Joseph had received aspects of plural marriage doctrine from God by at least 1831. The reason for the date of 1831 (which is given without further explanation in the preface) is because of two things.

The first is a revelation received at this time, now unpublished, which called a number of early members of the LDS Church on missions to the Native Americans and promised that they would, in a day soon to come, take plural wives of the Native Americans.

And the second is a relationship that Joseph had with a young girl who lived in his household named Fanny Alger, who had joined the household in a common practice for young girls in early America to gain some real-world education by helping out in larger, higher-class households. This relationship strained Joseph's position among the other leaders of his fledgling Church, including one of his right-hand men Oliver Cowdery, who was the principle scribe of Joseph's dictated Book of Mormon. Oliver confronted Joseph over what he would later describe as the "nasty, dirty, filthy affair". Within a few years Cowdery would leave the movement over other matters relating to the growing war-like rhetoric of Church leaders against non-Mormons and individuals who had left the movement, but the initial break started due to Fanny Alger. Many Mormon apologists today are uncertain of what to do with the story, some attempting to downplay its relevance or to try and imply that no sexual relationship with Fanny ever occurred, while others attempt to place her within the narrative of God's revelation of plural marriage to Joseph with Fanny as one of the first plural wives. His first wife, Emma, never said anything on record about Fanny, but common rumors among early Church members indicate that she knew about the relationship (in some of the more sensational stories she found out about it by discovering the two in a barn together) and was highly bothered by it, but there's nothing first-hand about it.

Joseph's Nauvoo

The early decade of the LDS Church was long periods of peace punctuated by a pattern of insult to local non-Mormon residents, violent actions by locals against Mormons, violent reprisals by Mormons against locals, followed eventually by migration of Mormons to different settlement locations. From New York/Pennsylvania to Ohio to Missouri, the Mormons finally ended up in a city they called Nauvoo that they built on the banks of the Mississippi in Illinois. Joseph's doctrine of plural marriage saw its fullest exploration here during the first half of the 1840s. Joseph married a number of young women, some with the knowledge and grudging consent of his wife, and others in hidden ceremonies purposefully kept from his wife's knowledge. Yet this was not a harem (a fact often exploited in public denials of polygamy by Mormon leaders of the time: this was not like "Oriental" polygamy, and thus they didn't really practice "polygamy"); Joseph did not usually have repeat visits to these women and (for those who I'm sure are wondering) never explored any sexual activities beyond being with one woman at a time. Yet some of Joseph's closest associate at the time (who, it should be noted, became bitter enemies in the months before his death over this issue) said many years later that Joseph could often be quite blunt and "ungenteel" about how particular girls were more pleasurable than others. (Biographies of the known and suspected wives of Joseph can be found at the website WivesofJosephSmith.org.)

The process of Joseph's marriages usually kept to the following pattern: Joseph would approach the parents of the young woman explaining that God had privately revealed a new order of marriage and desired their family to participate by Joseph marrying their daughter. Sometimes he would approach the young woman directly. Usually Joseph would describe that the command had been given to him by an angel with a drawn sword and that Joseph did not dare to disobey the commands of God. He would give them a short time to think about it. Most families, while initially repulsed by the idea, would eventually agree to it following period of prayer and careful thought; some felt that their prayers were answered by strong emotion and others saw visions or angels. Joseph promised them that by being connected to him in this way that their salvation in heaven would be assured for their entire family. Some Mormon apologists speculate that Joseph was trying to expand his family relations by establishing a sort of "tribal" family through these marriages, but few of them deny that Joseph had sexual relations with most of his wives. With some of them there may be some question, but the majority were sexual as well as spiritual marriages. However, most modern Mormons today assume that Joseph's marriages were either to deceased women or were to widows or other women who needed taking care of. This assumption, however, is not supported by the facts.

Polyandry

Another aspect of Joseph's Nauvoo marriages were that they were not just polygynous ("many women") but were also polyandrous ("many men"). However, instead of meaning that some women sought out additional marriages of their own, this meant that Joseph sought out marriages among women who were already married. One of these marriages was to an early Mormon missionaries, Orson Hyde, who famously served a mission that reached Jerusalem where he prayed that God would someday return the Jewish people to their homeland. While he was on his mission, his wife and Joseph were married. Upon his return the Hydes resumed their relationship together and Hyde eventually followed Joseph's command to also marry additional wives. Genetic testing of the few children born to Joseph's polyandrous wives has shown that none of them were Joseph's children. Mormon apologists have enjoyed these findings, and some of them have begun asserting that from them we can assume that Joseph did not have sexual relations with his polyandrous wives, though all that the research indicates is that no children were produced from the relationships. The sexuality of Joseph's polyandrous marriages has no evidence either for or against.

There's no evidence that any other Church leaders participated in polyandrous marriages while Joseph was alive, and this particular aspect of Mormon polygamy didn't see much further adoption among Brigham's Church in Utah. Polyandry among Utah Mormons quickly became a largely forgotten aspect of Joseph's life.

Brigham's Utah

After Joseph's assassination in 1844, his movement fractured. Two of the largest groups were led by James Strang (who went to Wisconsin and eventually was himself killed and his movement, while still around today, shrank considerably) and Brigham Young. Most of Joseph's plural wives, including some of his polyandrous wives, were remarried to other Church leaders and followed Brigham west. Joseph's first wife, Emma, remained in Nauvoo. She eventually remarried and lived a long and generally happy life with her second husband, Louis Bidamon. When pressed about Joseph's polygamy she eventually settled into a pattern of denial, asserting that Joseph never participated in the practice at all. Unfortunately, her denials helped to cloud an already complex period of Mormon history that took many decades to finally be unraveled.

In Utah, Brigham's church initially continued the practice in secret among Church leadership, but in 1856 the practice was finally revealed to the general public and Church membership. Up until this time, Mormon leaders continued to deny that they practiced polygamy; the revelation of polygamy strongly hurt missionary activities in Europe, which until this point had been providing the vast majority of coverts to the Church. Many missionaries to England denied that the LDS Church practiced polygamy while already married to two or three women back in Utah before the public announcement.

Afterwards, Utah quickly transitioned to a polygamous culture. As the practice of polygamy was now publicly known among most prominent members of the community, for those who lived in Utah it became non-remarkable. Various statistics have been attempted to define how popularly polygamy was practiced, but each attempt represents particular issues and biases among those assembling the statistics. Should the polygamous marriage rate be measured among all residents of the state, including children? Then the percentage will be very low. Should is be measured only among women? The it will be very high. About the only real agreeable statistic is that among men who were polygamist, most only had two wives. Also, the higher up you went in the Church hierarchy, the more wives a given man would probably have. Polygamy was expected for positions like Bishop, and if a monogamist man was asked to be a bishop by Church leaders he would also be asked to marry a second wife. Adherence to polygamy was often correlated to the preception of righteousness to the commandments of God.

Polygamy was difficult and expensive. The larger families demanded larger housing, and could be very taxing economically and emotionally among men and women. Church leaders commonly had problems understanding the number of unmarried young men in Mormon communities, but it wasn't just that polygamy shrunk the pool of available women: many young men recognized that while having one wife and a family was already expensive, having additional wives simply compounded the problems.

While many Mormons assume a few myths about Utah polygamy, most of them simply are not true. Men did not have to obtain the consent of their existing wives to marry addition women. Men did not abstain from plural marriage until asked by a higher Church authority to begin. Men were not required to house their wives in separate houses, and they were not required to treat their wives equally in terms of monetary and emotional support. If you are ever visiting Salt Lake City you can take tours of one of Brigham Young's largest homes, the Lion House, where the tour guides now frankly discuss that Young was a polygamist. However, what they will not usually talk about is that the home you are touring was only for Young's favorite wives, and that the long, utilitarian house next door that has been converted into a bakery and restaurant was meant for many of his other wives and contained far less spacious and extravagant living quarters. Brigham had other fancy homes for other favored wives, but most of them have been torn down during the past century.

A little should be said about the motivations for plural marriage among Utah Mormons. One of Joseph's last publicly-taught doctrines was that God was an exalted human who had arrived at Godhood at some point in a primeval past, and that such an option was also possible for humans on Earth. For Brigham Young and others in Utah, the doctrine that humans and God share a similarity of species was adopted and made central to many aspects of Mormonism. Since God was human, then the good aspects of human life were also divine aspects. For humans, productive work can be a source of joy, so God was also a great Worker (an idea also based upon some scriptures revealed by Joseph that the salvation of mankind was God's "work and glory"). Marriages were ordained of God for humans and God had given to Mormons the ritual and authority to allow marriages to persist beyond death; thus leading to the idea that God himself was also married. In polygamous Utah, the idea that Christ or God were polygamists was often assumed, though there were usually no illusions that the scriptures were silent on such matters. The human qualities of God such as marriage also extended to children and families. Many taught that the spirits that would eventually come to Earth to live human lives had their start in Heaven with God as their very literal Father in a great pre-mortal family, a doctrine that even Joseph did not fully explore (Joseph taught that human minds had always existed and that it was even beyond the power of God to create spirits, thus making all of humanity co- eternal with God, having always existed). While this idea of "celestial sex" has been mocked for decades ever since, early Mormons saw this expansion of eternal families as a way that both God and saved humans could continue to grow in greatness and glory as their families grew, experienced mortal lives, were saved, and then saw eternal increase of their own. Less about the idea of eternal pleasure with multiple partners, it was seen as a way to bring honor both to oneself and to God.

That's not to say, however, that polygamy was entirely viewed as only a godly duty to be followed. As Mormon leaders moved up the hierarchy they tended to marry younger and younger wives, often to the consternation and jealousy of the older wives. The ability of Mormon men to obtain pleasure later in life through marriage was often discussed as being superior to the monogamist avenues of simply enduring old marriages, enjoying mistresses and adultery, or divorce and remarriage.

Mormon Feminism

In all of this it may be thought that polygamy was a degrading institution to Mormon women. Some women certainly had real trouble with the institution, and abuses could and did happen.

However, the creation of multiple households where the fathers were often absent formed a new dynamic among Mormon women where they enjoyed much more freedom over their own households and persons than many other women in America at the time. First-wave feminism, devoted to the ideals of thinking women participating as full and equal members of society, blossomed among Mormon women. Mormon women enjoyed local suffrage as Utah became one of the first (but not the first) territories and states to give women the vote. Mormon women were strenuously engaged in the national suffrage movement, often to the enjoyment and bewilderment of other American suffragettes who incorrectly assumed that the increased freedom that equal rights would afford Mormon women would lead to the destruction of the LDS Church. Mormon women ran for and held local public offices, managed their own households, and enjoyed intellectual pursuits. They published their own newspapers, ran their own schools, owned their own businesses. The Mormon women's association, the Relief Society, owned stock in many Utah businesses, controlled their own budget and expenditures, and enjoyed extensive power over their own membership apart from much male control. Mormon women also enjoyed a certain level of theological equality as well. Mormon doctrines of the time held that women had equal access to charismatic gifts such as faith healings. Women praying for each other and their children, often with hands on heads in united prayer in a similar fashion to male priesthood blessings, were so commonplace as to be unnoteworthy at the time, usually only getting the occasional passing reference in journals of the time. Far from being uncommon, women enjoyed a level of ritual authority nearly equal to that of men in local communities.

However, as the apparatus of polygamy was eventually dismantled, so too were the feminist qualities that it produced. Over time, the newspapers stopped running, the Relief Society was absorbed under the male Church hierarchy, along with their budget and holdings. Along with the loss of influence and power, ritual faith healings by women also became discouraged by the male leadership of the Church to the point that very few Mormons, both men and women, are today aware that there was an extended period of time when Mormon women performed them at all.

The First Manifesto

Following a politically disastrous attempt to bring the Utah Territory into line by sending an army to quell what inflated rumors said was a territory in open rebellion (the truth was far more mundane than what Americans wanted to hear about an exotic land where dangerous, polygamous men lived lives of pleasure with their harems), Americans kept a watchful eye on Utah, but the growing crisis of slavery and state rights quickly became a higher priority than a boring western territory occupied by a somewhat mundane religious order (though it need to be noted that the war fever the approaching army inflamed among Mormons led directly to the brutal massacre of an innocent wagon train passing through Utah at Mountain Meadows in 1857, a fact made all the more disturbing by how it was perpetrated by regular people following a few local authorities out of a sense of loyalty and duty; Mormonism, while usually quite boring, does have occasional explorations of violence). During the Civil War, the United States turned its attention away from Utah, and Utah Mormons patiently waited to see what the outcome of the conflict would bring. Though a slave territory, Young himself publicly supported the cause of the North, though Church rhetoric was commonly negative towards both North and South. Many Mormons felt that the Civil War was the justice of God being visited upon a nation that had allowed God's prophet to be killed and for God's people to be scattered without the protection of law. Some felt that the Civil War was the fulfillment of a then-unpublished prophecy that Smith had received that the last great war would begin with armed conflict between the states that would spread to cover the Earth in war.

After the Civil War ended, however, the newly formed Republican Party, which had been formed to fight the "twin relics of barbarism: slavery and polygamy," turned its attention back to the remote Utah territory. Laws were passed to try and outlaw the practice of plural marriage, but Young's strong influence over the territory kept many of them from being observed; after Young's death in 1877, the Church increasingly saw problems. As stronger and harsher anti-bigamy laws were enacted and attempts to enforce them began, residents of Utah entered a period where plural marriages were driven underground. Thousands of men endured incarcerations for repeat offenses of cohabitation. Women became accustomed to lying under oath as laws were enacted that forced them to testify against their husbands. Children were taught to respond to federal officials with confusion when asked who their fathers were. Church leaders themselves had difficulty meeting together in public. John Taylor, the President of the Church following Young, eventually died while in hiding, having lived a life traveling from house to house for the previous few years.

When Wilford Woodruff succeeded John Taylor as LDS Church President in 1889, the LDS Church was in dire straits. Anyone who publicly supported polygamy as an idea, even if they themselves were single or monogamists, had been stripped of the right to vote or hold public office. The legal entity known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been dissolved (though the organization itself continued to function the same as ever, neverthless), and Woodruff could see the writing on the wall. A test case was sent through court appeals until it wound up in from of the United States Supreme Court. The LDS Church argued on the basis of the right to freedom of religion. The Court issued a decision where they acknowledged the strength of that right as well as the possible consequences of curtailing it. However, they also indicated that if the freedom of religion were given precedence over all laws then it might be that any law could be ignored by the theological demands of a religion. To prevent this abuse of power, freedom of religion must be expressed within the bounds of the law. The Courts thus carefully decided against the claims of the LDS Church and upheld the anti-bigamy laws recently passed by Congress.

Soon after the Court's ruling, Woodruff publicly issued what was known as the "Manifesto", which proclaimed "to whom it may concern" that the LDS Church was not planning on contracting further plural marriages and that the practice would be halted. While the Manifesto itself is simply a letter written to the general public, since it is the only public record of the change, most Mormons accept that it was written according to divine command and thus represents a revelation from God ending plural marriage. Woodruff himself later claimed to a divine vision of what would have happened if the Manifesto had not been given, stating that the federal government would have taken ownership and occupation of all LDS religious buildings, including the temples, and that the Church would have been extinguished.

The issuing of the Manifesto softened the radical Republicans in Congress enough that the process of statehood for Utah began, and in 1896 Utah entered the Union. A general pardon was issued to all Mormons found breaking the anti-bigamy legislation on the understanding that further cohabitation with plural wives would cease. Incensed, Church members grudgingly accepted the pardon, but nearly all members, including all later polygamous Church Presidents, continued to break the cohabitation laws.

Most Mormons assume that the story ends here, but in actuality we have quite a bit further to go in our discussion of LDS polygamy.

The Second Manifesto

Lorenzo Snow had a brief presidency following the death of Wilford Woodruff: most notably Snow strongly emphasized the payment of tithing to the Church, now reconstituted as a corporation sole. Snow's redefinition of tithing to apply to an individual's yearly income and emphasis upon the importance of tithing to the Church helped the Church to quickly recover the massive debts it had incurred during the years that polygamist Church members went into hiding.

Following Snow's death, President Joseph F. Smith, nephew of Joseph Smith, became Church President. In an attempt to promote goodwill and a good public image, Smith approved the attempts of LDS Apostle Reed Smoot to run for Utah's Senate seat. Smoot, who was one of the rare monogamists among Church leaders, handily won the election and went to Washington. The Church had previously had another Church leader, B. H. Roberts, elected to the House of Representatives, but as Roberts was a practicing polygamist he was prevented from ever taking his seat and left Washington in disgrace.

As a monogamist, however, Smoot was allowed to take his seat in the Senate, but a movement quickly began among his opponents to unseat him. A series of hearings were convened to ascertain whether Smoot's loyalties lay with his oath of office to the US Constitution or to the LDS Church. Quickly, however, the hearing grew into a larger series of investigations into the activities of the LDS Church itself. Lasting a number of years, the Reed Smoot hearings produced one of the Senate's largest collections of testimony and evidence still on record today. The issues covered many different topics from a ritualized prayer in the LDS temple ritual asking God to send vengeance upon America for the death of Joseph Smith, to the extensive power that the LDS Church continued to hold in Utah both politically and economically.

But the one issue that particularly bothered Americans who followed the proceedings in their papers throughout the East was the shocking revelation that Mormons had not actually ended plural marriage at all. As more and more evidence was brought up that showed that Mormons at all levels of their hierarchy had continued to enact new plural marriages, the Mormon image in the American consciousness became quite negative. Mormons were seen as duplicitous and liars.

Joseph F. Smith, who himself was subpoenaed before Congress in the early days of the hearings, was angry and embarrassed. Until that time, the authority for plural marriages was quite widely dispersed. Though he himself had approved of a few marriages, and continued (to the horror of non-Mormon Americans) to cohabit with his wives and have further children, the vast number of marriages performed after the Manifesto even surprised him. Finally, he felt the need to issue in 1904 what would become known as the "Second Manifesto" calling upon all members of the Church to obey the laws of the land in regard to plural marriage. In other words, "This time we really mean it."

Church members had trouble with this turn of events. During their decades spent avoiding federal officers, the Church had developed a rather intricate way of viewing their situation and responding to questions. Lying to protect one's family was seen as necessary to both support them and the singular doctrine that set the LDS Church apart from other Christian churches as the only one that God supported. Many Mormons had seen Woodruff's Manifesto as a needed way to get the government off of their backs. It fit into their worldview; as children and spouses they had been expected to try to work their way around the questions of Federal officials through redefinition, half-truths, and on occasion outright lying. Why wouldn't Woodruff's Manifesto be any different?

The Second Manifesto, while strongly worded, ended up not having any teeth as the punishment for continuing to pursue plural marriages usually consisted of losing positions of authority in the Church. Bishops and other leaders found to have married again were usually asked to step down from their positions and other leaders were called in their place. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were asked to step down from their positions by a deeply conflicted Joseph F. Smith. Due to difficulties in how it was handled, one of the Apostles was excommunicated, but excommunication had not yet become the standard way of dealing with new polygamists in the Church.

It took nearly another decade before the LDS Church finally felt forced to start applying harsher and harsher punishments against members participating in new polygamy. A new Church generation was starting to grow up who were born after the first Manifesto and were unaccustomed to the previous culture and lifestyles. They were firmly monogamists and a generational cultural divide began to force the Church to begin excommunications.

Even so, the process of discovering new plural marriages within the Church experienced some difficulties caused by the years of hiding. As Church leaders tasked with finding out who were enacting new marriages talked with members of the Church, the situation was so close to when federal authorities were asking questions that members fell into their old habits of obfuscating, dodging, and lying. Sometimes the leaders who were asking members about new plural marriages had themselves been participating in new polygamous marriages, which only further gave the impression to members that plural marriage was still secretly supported. Playing the same game they had before, members often did their best to hide their friends and neighbors from Church officials, leading to a very real internal church that continued to practice polygamy within the LDS Church. As the Church eventually began to excommunicate those it found participating in new plural marriages, this internal Church eventually broke off to become the original organization of many of the fundamentalist Mormon groups in existence today. Claiming that the LDS Church had variously lost its God-given authority or that the LDS Church secretly supported their cause, the polygamists saw themselves as the true inheritors of Joseph's movement and doctrine.

Following the history of the fundamentalists quickly becomes difficult as the groups themselves soon experienced problems of leadership that led to several divergent organizations. There are dozens of Mormon fundamentalist organization today, from the famous (and still largest) Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of recent fame for their isolationist culture and appearance, the El Dorado, Texas, raid, and the incarceration of their President and Prophet, Warren Jeffs. However, there are thousands of other Mormon polygamists who live lives much more similar to those of regular Americans and Canadians apart from their polygamist lifestyle.

After participating with information that led to Federal raids against polygamous compounds in the mid-20th Century, the negative public backlash caused the Church to adopt a policy of simply ignoring and minimizing polygamous groups and their influence. Even today, after failed attempts to secure a trademark on the term "Mormon", the Salt Lake-based Church continues to assert that the popular nickname of "Mormon" should only be applied to them and not to groups that the media commonly refers to as Mormon polygamists or fundamentalist Mormons.

Modern Mormonism and Polygamy

As for Mormons who had entered polygamous marriages before the period when Church leaders began excommunications, both pre- and post-Manifesto, Church leaders felt that continued cohabitation was not a problem. For those able to be married before the mid-1920s or so, their polygamist marriages continued, though increasingly such members became marginalized by later generations of monogamist Mormons. With only a few hiccups, the story of Mormon polygamy mostly drew to a close. One of those hiccups was the excommunication of Apostle Richard L. Lyman in 1943 for having been in an unauthorized polygamous relationship for the previous two decades, after having been found out through the extensive detective work of fellow church leader J. Rueben Clark. The last LDS Church President who was himself a polygamist was Heber J, Grant who died in 1945 near the end of World War II. It's believed that the last allowed polygamist member of the LDS Church died in 1976.

In the modern LDS Church, polygamy still exists in a few small areas. The LDS Church has never actually repudiated polygamy as a doctrine revealed by God, but instead teaches that God no longer allows the practice to continue. Members are divided as to whether God's highest ideal of marriage in the eternities is polygamous or monogamous, though the numbers who view polygamy as merely a great test that the Church was supposed to endure is growing. It is still a minority view among Mormons that Woodruff issued the Manifesto as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, instead feeling that the Manifesto is the public evidence of a private revelation received by Woodruff. The Manifesto is now published in all copies of the Doctrines and Covenants as an "Official Declaration", thus signifying that it is not fully a revelation (which it does not claim to be), but still attaining a level of canonical authority by being published alongside Joseph Smith's revelations. The second Manifesto issued by Joseph F. Smith as well as subsequent public statements remain mostly unknown among the general Church membership.

Polygamy also still occurs through the practice of Temple marriages. Since Temple marriages, or sealings, can be either for time only or for all eternity, Mormon widowers or divorced men who remarry are allowed to marry their new spouses for all eternity. Thus, while no marriages of living or current spouses are allowed, Mormon men may marry multiple wives in marriages that last beyond death. This form of marriage is not allowed for divorced women, who must apply to cancel their previous sealings if they wish to remarry for eternity (sealings are almost never cancelled even when divorce occurs, and cancellations are very difficult to obtain), as well as for widows, who may only marry again "for time" only, though polyandrous sealings may on rare occasion be done in proxy for women who were married more than once, but this can only be done after the widow and her last husband have both died. The folk assumption is that these women will eventually choose one of their spouses to remain sealed to and not that their sealings to all of their husbands will remain in force, but there is no established doctrine on this point.

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

View Comments