Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Joseph Smith claimed that in 1831 God had commanded him to introduce the practice of plural marriage, but not to make it public. So he had shared this “revelation” with only a few others in the LDS church leadership. Although he had not wanted to participate in polygamy, an angel with a sword had threatened to kill him if he did not do so.
“Joseph was commanded to take more wives and he
waited until an angel with a drawn sword stood before him
and declared that if he longer delayed fulfilling that
command he would slay him.” (Hyrum Smith, Elder
Benjamin F. Johnson’s Letter to George S. Gibbs,
“When that principle was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith … he did not falter, although it was not until an angel of God, with a drawn sword, stood before him; and commanded that he should enter into the practice of that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed, or rejected, that he moved forward to reveal and establish that doctrine.” (Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Plural Marriage for the Righteous Only-Obedience Imperative-Blessings Resulting, Journal of Discourses, Vol.20, p.28 - p.29)
“The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.” (Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259).
Joseph’s first polygamous marriage was to 16 year old Fanny Elger in 1833. After that there was no stopping him. Although he did his best to keep his growing number of marriages a secret, rumors about his ongoing sexual involvement with numerous women kept surfacing thick and fast. He realized all too well that he needed to do something to “defend” his reputation and at the same time reassure his followers. At that stage he had been bigamously married to least 25 women and was in pursuit of even more. But this didn’t deter him from making the following declaration from his pulpit in Nauvoo on Sunday, 26th May, 1844
“ … What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411)
Records reveal that he was eventually married to at least 33 women besides his legal wife. Two of his marriages involved girls who were only 14 years old.
Unable to stem the growing tide of accusations against him, on the 12th July 1843 (ten years after his first plural marriage) Joseph recorded in Doctrine & Covenants section 132, that God had brought into being a new, everlasting covenant. This provided for the practice of polygamy by members of the LDS church, and a marriage ceremony covering both time and eternity. If they lived by this covenant they would enter into God’s glory. If they rejected it they would be damned:
“For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132:4)
Note that it was to be an everlasting covenant and that non-compliance would result in damnation.
Verse 6 goes on to say that this covenant was instituted for the fullness of the glory of God, indicating a very low view of God. And verse 20 declares that those who keep this covenant will become Gods.
Verses 35 to 37 claim that God had commanded Abraham and David to have plural wives and concubines. As this was God’s law for them, it was counted to them as righteousness and in none of those things did they sin. Joseph Smith would have us believe that the same pure and holy God who wrote the 10 commandments also passed a law commanding Abraham, David and other married men to take concubines and multiple wives. And he then counted their adultery as righteousness, in contradiction of His 7th commandment.
But God hasn’t got a split personality. Nor does He apply double standards. As the Book of Mormon says in Moroni 8:18, “God is not a partial God or a changeable being; but He is unchangeable from all eternity to eternity.” That means that no matter what our status in life may be, every single one of us is subject to His 10 commandments including the one about not committing adultery. To make sure we understood that, He instructed Israel that when they eventually had a king to rule over them, he was not to have multiple wives and was to read the book of the law all the days of his life so that he might keep the words of the law (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). David was the second of those kings.
How could polygamy possibly increase a man’s spiritual worth? It’s not having more than one marriage partner that make us righteous or good, but being, faithful, humble, selfless, patient, kind, honest and true.
The LDS’s main excuse for introducing polygamy, other than that they believed that God had commanded it, was that there was a shortage of men. But the U.S. Census records reveal that in 1840 there were 5169 males and 4762 females in Hancock County, Illinois (Nauvoo, where their polygamy commenced, being the primary population center). Utah (where they moved en masse in an effort to escape prosecution) recorded 6020 males and 5310 females in 1850. Joseph Smith was well aware that there was a law against polygamy in Nauvoo at the time he began his practice of plural marriages. That’s why he did it in secret.
The following are just a few of the many justifications for polygamy that were made by men who were in the LDS leadership:
“…the one-wife system not only degenerates the
human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is
entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of
immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always
proved a curse to a people.” (Prophet John Taylor,
Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227)
“.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ it is the only popular religion there” (The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862)
“This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans” (Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195) (Editor: Prostitution was introduced in Old Testament times after polygamy had come into practise, not during monogamy. Polygamy came into being shortly after the fall c/f Genesis 4:19, when Lamech took two wives. Furthermore, genuine Christendom isn’t really modern as its doctrines are all taught by the apostles in the New Testament. Biblical Christendom as practised today most certainly does not groan under prostitution and diseases of the most revolting nature and character.)
Mormonism always has been a patriarchal religion. For instance, a Mormon woman can only gain eternal life through her husband’s LDS priesthood. So single women miss out. But the Bible says:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even
so must the Son of man be lifted up: That
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but
have eternal life. (John 3:14, 15, KJV)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galations 3:28, KJV)
Polygamy was not the will of God and was never permitted by the primitive church. It degrades women and causes untold misery. Marital love was always intended to be exclusive. God created only one woman to be Adam’s help meet. If He had wanted men to be polygamous He would have created several women for Adam. But that’s not what He did.
Jesus said: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain (the two, not the three or four or five) shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-5).
Polygamy is one of the many sins that became prevalent shortly after the fall (c/f Genesis 4:19). It was often practised in Old Testament times because of their laws on inheritance. A married man would take his brother’s widow to be his wife to prevent the family land from being split up. But from the beginning God had intended men to have only one wife. The fact that fallen man did not live up to God’s requirements doesn’t mean that polygamy is God’s will for mankind any more than murder is.
The Bible doesn’t cover up anything. It tells it to us exactly the way it was. It’s aim is to reveal the truth so that we can become aware of how far mankind has fallen from God’s standards of purity and holiness, and of our need for redemption. It shows us our heroes Abraham, David, Elijah and so on, as they really were, warts and all. And it isn’t always pretty. God wants us to learn from their mistakes, not copy them.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13, KJV)
Joseph Smith maintained that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth and that it contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. (Note his use of the words fullness and everlasting.) Here are some of its teachings on the evils of polygamy:
“And it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under
the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their
hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked
practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many
wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.”
(BOM Jacob 1:15)
“For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” (BOM Jacob 2:23-24)
“Behold the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath become upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father — that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.” (BOM Jacob 3:5).
“For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.” (BOM Mosiah 11:2)
“And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines.” (BOM Ether 10:5)
Throughout the BOM the LDS God consistently tells us that both polygamy and the taking of concubines are sinful and an abomination in His sight. But barely one year after it was printed, Joseph Smith said that God had declared to him that if the members of the LDS church did not engage in polygamy they would be damned.
Ongoing attempts were made by the Law to put an end to Mormon polygamy, but without success. Eventually Congress decided to put the onus on the LDS church itself, rather than carry on with the labourious and difficult task of prosecuting its polygamous members individually. So the LDS leadership was duly advised that all the church’s assets in excess of $50,000 would be frozen unless they complied with the law. This got their attention, and they issued the 1890 Woodruff Manifesto, denying that they had encouraged polygamy, and advising Latter-day Saints to refrain from contracting any marriage that was forbidden by the law of the land. The Manifesto was included at the back of the Doctrine & Covenants as an official declaration rather than a revelation. The polygamy revelation and its commands are still in Section 132. And Mormons believe that polygamy will be practised in the after life.
In 1893 Mormon polygamists were granted amnesty by US President Benjamin Harrison. Three years later Utah became a state. (Their constitution banned polygamy.)
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