mainstream Mormons practice polygamy today, as seen on
shows like TLC Sister Wives or HBO Big Love?
they do not. The mainstream Mormon Church officially ended
the practice of polygamy in 1890.
did Mormons first institute polygamy?
Church founder, Joseph Smith, said he received a revelation
from God, which is still canonized Mormon scripture as
Doctrine and Covenants Section 132. In the revelation,
the Lord commands him to take virgins "an hundredfold
in this world" for the purpose to "multiply
and replenish the Earth" so "they may bear the
souls of men." This was the only revealed reason
Joseph Smith ever gave for the Mormon practice of polygamy.
(D&C 132: 55, 62-63)
Smith also testified an angel
with a sword came to him many times and commanded
him to practice polygamy or else he would lose his life.
second church leader, The Prophet Brigham Young, stated
that the reason polygamy was instituted by the Lord was
so that "noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles
(bodies) might be brought forth." (J of D 4:56)
did Mormon polygamy start?
According to historical records, Mormon founder Joseph
Smith first taught plural marriage as early as 1831. However,
he did not start practicing it until around 1835. See:
Smith's Polygamy Timeline Chart.
practice remained very secret until the official church
announcement on polygamy in 1852. Top Mormon Church leaders
Brigham Young and Orson Pratt introduced the doctrine
at a special church-wide conference in Temple Square,
Salt Lake City, Utah.
early Mormons marry and have sex with teen brides, like
the FLDS and RLDS today?
According to church history, Mormon Church founder Joseph
Smith married eight underage girls, including one 14 year-old,
two 16 year-olds and his own foster daughters. These marriages
were not normal for the 1840s, especially to a man in
his thirties that was already married. See:
Teen polygamy in Early Mormonism.
many Mormons were involved in polygamy?
Church historian Larry Logue's study indicated that in
the 19th century, about 33% of Mormon households were
polygamist. This included nearly all local and top church
leaders and prominent Mormons in their communities.
many sister wives did the Mormon Church allow men to have?
In 1894, LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff said that
Brigham Young declared to him that since Solomon was chastised
for having 1000 wives and concubines, it was felt that
Latter-day Saints should not exceed 999. (Journal
of Abraham H. Cannon, Vol. 18 April 5, 1894, pp 66-7)
successful were Mormon polygamist marriages?
There were over 2000 divorces granted prior to the 1890
Manifesto. Brigham Young himself granted 1,645. Of the
72 general authorities who were polygamists, 39 had broken
marriages, including 54 divorces, 26 separations and 1
annulment. (Utah Historical Quarterly, Winter 1978,
did Mormon sister wives feel about polygamy?
to their writings, Mormon women felt
obligated by their religion to let their husbands
take on more wives. These women wrote about their struggles
with practicing polygamy and especially the jealousies
and emotional neglect they felt. For example, Zina Young,
a plural wife of Mormon Church President Brigham Young,
explained in the New York World that the sister
wives "expect too much attention from the husband,
and because they do not get it, or see a little attention
bestowed upon one of the other wives, they become sullen
and morose, and permit their ill-temper to finally find
vent." (See: What
Mormon Women Really Felt About Polygamy)
many wives did Mormon Church leaders have?
founder Joseph Smith had at least 33 wives. One was 14.
Five others were 17 or under. He married five pairs of
sisters. Two of which were his own adopted daughters.
After his death, another 335 women were sealed to him,
many of whom he did not know. (Religion and Sexuality,
LDS Church leader Brigham Young had 55 wives. Ten of them
divorced him. At his death, Brigham Young's oldest child
was 52 and his youngest was 7.
Third LDS Church leader John Taylor had 15 wives. Three
wives divorced him. (A Book of Mormons, 1982, pg 354)
Fourth LDS Church leader Wilford Woodruff had at least
10 plural wives. According to his record, he was also
sealed to 336 dead single women.
Fifth LDS Church leader Joseph F. Smith married at 20
and then married five others later. His first wife divorced
him on the grounds of "adulterous intercourse" with his
polygamist marriages produce more children than monogamous
No, plural marriages produced fewer children than monogamous
marriages. "Plural marriage, including monogamous remarriage,
actually slightly suppressed the total number of children
born." (The Mormon People: Their Character and Traditions
Mormons ever share their wives with other men?
church founder Joseph Smith taught this practice to other
church leaders and he married the wives of several of
his followers. In some cases, the husbands did not know
that Joseph Smith had married their wives polygamously.
Second church leader Brigham Young also married the wives
of other men, but the practice eventually went way after
Mormons settled in Utah. (See:
Sharing your spouse with the prophet)
heard that there were more women than men in the Mormon
Church at that time, as the reason for polygamy. Is that
No, that is not correct. The U.S. census from 1850 to
1940 and all available records of the Utah church show
that men outnumbered women in the church and in Utah.
(Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 1977, p360 and Utah
Census and Polygamy) Church leaders never taught
that polygamy was because there was a surplus of women
polygamy legal when Joseph Smith started it, or was it
No, polygamy was illegal everywhere the Mormon Church
practiced it, including Illinois, Mexico, Canada, and
Utah. (See: Mormon
Polygamy was never legal)
heard a Mormon say that Jesus was a polygamist. Did the
Mormon Church ever teach that?
Yes, the Mormon Church has taught that Jesus
was married and a polygamist. Church President Joseph
F. Smith taught that at the marriage in Cana at Galilee,
Jesus was the Bridegroom and Mary and Martha the brides.
(Wilford Woodruff Journal, July 22, 1883)
Prophet Brigham Young taught "The Scripture says
that He, the Lord, came walking in the Temple, with His
train; I do not know who they were, unless His wives and
- The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses
Vol. 13, p.309
polygamy ever a requirement in the Mormon Church?
In an 1884 Mormon Church general conference, church president
John Taylor asked for all monogamists serving in ward
bishoprics or stake presidencies either make preparations
to marry a plural wife or to offer their resignations
to the church office. (Abraham H. Cannon Journal,
April 6, 1884, Vol. I pp 177-8)
marriage has also been condemned by the Mormon Church
as an evil system set up by the devil. For decades the
church criticized monogamy and declared polygamy as "the
only marriage system in heaven." (See: Mormon
happened when the United States Congress passed laws against
Polygamists in the Mormon Church went into hiding. Church
leader John Taylor spent the last two years of his life
hiding on the Underground. (John Taylor Papers, Vol
II, p. 337)
Mormon polygamists caught and arrested?
Yes. Over 1300 men and a few women were put in prisons
in Arizona, Michigan, South Dakota, Idaho, and Utah. Of
that number, 1035 were imprisoned in Utah. (Utah Historical
Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1 Winter 1979, p. 24)
did the Mormon Church issue the Manifesto -- claiming
the end of Mormon polygamy?
Church leader Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto in
1890. Many members were caught by surprise. Only three
apostles approved the Manifesto in manuscript and half
the church's top quorum were barely supportive when they
met just before the church conference to discuss the newly
published document. (Dialogue, Spring 1985, pp 46-7)
the Mormons follow the Manifesto ending polygamy?
No, many did not. In fact, church President Joseph F.
Smith's wives bore him 13 children after the Manifesto,
even though he publicly testified he was not "cohabiting"
with them. (Dialogue, Spring 1985, p.83)
At least 3,300 children were born to Mormon men who married
polygamously with official LDS Church authority from 1890
through 1904. (Dialogue, Spring 1985, pp. 3-104)
do you mean "with LDS Church authority?" Did the church
sanction polygamy after their Manifesto against it?
Yes, church leaders continued the practice. Many top church
leaders, including apostles were known to have taken additional
wives after the 1890 Manifesto. (Utah Historical Quarterly,
Winter 1980, pp. 9, 19)
There is also strong evidence that Church President Wilford
Woodruff, 8 years after issuing the Manifesto outlawing
polygamy, married a Madame Mountford in Sept. 1897. (Wilford
Woodruff Journals, 1896-97)
polygamy officially discussed in the Mormon Church now?
Not any more. All church manuals and documents no longer
refer to polygamy. Even almanacs that give a biography
of church leaders only list the first wife and no plural
wives. Because of this, most Mormons today don't even
know church founder Joseph Smith was a polygamist with
at least 33 wives.
who are caught today practicing polygamy are typically
Mormons believe polygamy will be practiced in heaven?
Many do, because the doctrine is still part of official
Mormon scripture (See Doctrine and Covenants Section
132). However, there will not be enough females in
heaven for polygamy. Mormons believe that all children
who die before the age of 8 are "automatic" heirs to the
highest heaven. An analysis indicates that of the 70 billion
people or so that have been born on earth, the gender
ratio has been about 104 males to 100 females. An estimated
47% of males and 44% of females have died before age eight.
That means 1.7 billion more males than females have so
far made it to the highest heaven in Mormon theology.
Mormons have completely abandoned polygamy on Earth?
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated: "Obviously the holy
practice (of polygamy) will commence again after the Second
Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium."
(Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition)
on Mormon Polygamy
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