Plural marriage, or polygamy, continues to be one of the most well-known doctrines and practices associated with the Mormon tradition. Though LDS President Wilford Woodruff announced the official end of the practice in 1890, Mormon leaders continued to quietly marry plural wives up until the issue of the "Second Manifesto" in 1904. Today the Mormon church excommunicates any member involved in a plural marriage, but it is far from a dead issue. A common question is: Do Mormons today still practice polygamy? Much of today's confusion about this issue stems from two facts.
First, some Mormons continued to practice polygamy even after the Second Manifesto prohibiting it in 1904. They either separated themselves from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believing it had gone into apostasy when it disavowed polygamy, or they continued to practice polygamy secretly and were eventually excommunicated. For them, polygamy would always be the "most Holy Principle" as it was referred to before being discontinued. These people, known today as "Fundamentalist Mormons," still believe that polygamy is an "everlasting covenant" just as Joseph Smith had declared in Doctrine and Covenants 132. And they are indeed "Mormons" as they trace their historical and doctrinal roots back to Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and his revelations.
Second, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do expect to practice polygamy again in the Celestial Kingdom. Mormon men are allowed to marry more than one woman in this life, but it is with the understanding that the marriage is "for eternity." Though they do not enter into physical relations with their plural wife or wives, they expect to do so once they reach heaven.
Several points of interest are highlighted by the documentation in this section: (1) Jesus was a polygamist, (2) only polygamists become Gods, (3) the LDS Church denies the practice, and (4) Joseph Smith denies the practice, even while being married to several women.
Click on the following links to see scanned documentation.
- "MARRIAGE. v. 4 "Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251(1835)
- Andrew Jensen - Provides list of women married to Joseph Smith and the dates they were married to him. Historical Record, vol. 6, p. 233-234 (1887)
- Jedediah M. Grant - Jesus and his disciples were persecuted for being polygamists Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 346 (1853)
- Orson Hyde - Jesus is understood to be married. Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 80 (1854)
- Orson Hyde - Jesus was the bridegroom at Cana of Galilee, and lived to see his own children. Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 82 (1854)
- Brigham Young - "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned." Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266 (1855)
- Heber C. Kimball - Opponents of polygamy will be "cut off" by God. Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 108 (1856)
- Orson Hyde - "It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction , it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it." Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 259(1857)
- Joseph F. Smith - Plural marriage is not some sort of superfluity or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. Marriage to only one woman is only partial compliance to the law of exaltation. Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p. 28 (1878)
- Joseph F. Smith - "To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832." Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p. 29(1878)
- Joseph F. Smith - "I understand the law of celestial marriage to man that every man in the Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned. I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that." Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p. 31 (1878)
- As to the "foolish tales about two wives, we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter-day Saints, and never will." Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 74 (1842)
- Orson Pratt - Jesus a polygamist, God the Father had a plurality of wives. "We have also proved that both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity as well as in time." The Seer, p. 172 (1853)
- Orson Pratt - "The one wife system did not originate in the Christian Church, but was adopted from the practice of the Roman nation by the Romish priesthood, and by them palmed upon the nations as originating in Christianity." The Seer, p. 178 (1853)
- Hyrum Smith - Affidavit in LDS periodical Times and Seasons recounting Joseph Smith's denial of polygamy. Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 870-871 (1842)
- Joseph Smith - Joseph Smith refers people to extract from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage which disavows polygamy, stating that this is "the only rule allowed by the church." Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 909 (1842)
- Joseph Smith - Repeats again statement from Doctrine and Covenants on Marriage to deny all allegations of polygamy being practice. Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 939 (1842)
- Joseph Smith - Joseph disavows any connection with book on marriage printed at his office, written by Udney H. Jacobs. Times and Seasons, vol. 4, p. 32 (1842)
- Joseph Smith - Joseph and Hyrum Smith announce the excommunication of Hiram Brown, a member of the Church, for "preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan." Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 423 (1844)
- Hyrum Smith - Publishes statement categorically denying any teaching of plural wives or polygamy, and that all such teaching is false doctrine. Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 474 (1844)
- Statement denouncing teaching of plural wives as fiendish. States that the spiritual wife system merely allows a man to be married to another wife for time and eternity if his first wife dies. Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 715(1844)