Ever wonder what today's Mormon Church would
be like if Joseph Smith had never practiced polygamy?
just a few of the lasting legacies due to Joseph Smith "restoring"
the doctrine of Polygamy:
1. Creation of Temple Endowment Ceremony
In order to keep Smith's Polygamy a secret, he came up with
the temple endowment with its oaths of secrecy. On Wednesday,
May 4th, 1842, Joseph Smith initiated nine men into his
new inner-circle called the "Holy Order," the
"Quorum," the "Holy Order of the Holy Priesthood,"
or the "Quorum of the Anointed." For the first
year, only a very select few men received the endowment
and all were sworn to secrecy based on a death oath. By
using a secret ceremony and oaths, Smith was able to keep
his practice of polygamy a secret for years. History of
the Church Volume 5:1 documents these first meetings and
the participants. They were all in Smith's inner-circle
of polygamy. Heber C. Kimball's journal (1840-45) also describes
the introduction of the secret endowment as it relates to
2. Closing of Temple Marriages
The practice of closed Temple marriages started with polygamy.
Before polygamy in Nauvoo, mormon marriages were performed
anywhere. In fact, those performed in the Kirtland Temple
were open to non members! Joseph Smith's own diary lists
marriages he performed in the temple, which included non-members
as participants and as witnesses. See "The Personal Writings
of Joseph Smith, 1835-1836." Today, mormons have the tradition
of closed temple marriages as a direct legacy of Smith's
attempt to keep polygamy a closely-guarded secret. When
he was marrying
other men's wives without their knowledge, he had to
have the ceremonies closed and secret.
3. Concept of Eternal Marriage
Until Smith started secretly practicing polygamy, Smith
taught that marriage was until death only. That's right
- the doctrine of "together forever" started when he began
proposing to other women. He told them that marrying him
would "seal" their whole family to him "forever." But before
these proposals, Smith believed and taught that marriage
ended at death. In fact, before Nauvoo, his love letters
to his first wife Emma reflect his beliefs. In a letter
to Emma on May 18th, 1834, Smith signed "...your husband
until death." Writing from Carthage Jail on 4 November 1838,
Smith told his wife "If I do not meet you again in this
life may God grant that we may somehow meet in heaven."
4. The term "Celestial Marriage"
Modern mormons think this means monogamous temple marriage.
Actually, this term always referred exclusively to plural
marriage until the 1890s. Until that time, faithful members
married in the temple to only one spouse did not have a
celestial marriage! According to ALL Church presidents until
1890, celestial marriage was achieved only by marriage to
multiple wives. See 27
Rules of Celestial Marriage, by Apostle Orson Pratt.
Also, William Clayton said: "From Joseph Smith I learned
that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the
most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on
the earth, and that without obedience to that principle,
no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in
celestial glory." Historical Record, Vol. 6, pp. 225-227.
Read even more historical references here: celestial
5. The Practice of "Sealings"
Once again, before polygamy, marriage was just that; marriage.
But to take on a second wife, especially one that was already
married, a new term needed to be used, so it wouldn't sound
like adultery. Smith chose to call his plural marriages
"sealings." Reference from Emma
Hale Smith Biography, page 140: "Simultaneously with
the endowment and plural marriage, Joseph formalized a third
concept. He explained to Emma (for the first time) that
husbands and wives could be married, 'sealed,' forever by
proper priesthood authority. Understanding this new doctrine
led to the next step, which was the marriage of a living
husband to several living wives. This doctrine seemed to
alleviate some of the repugnance to plural marriage." This
allowed women that already had husbands to say they were
married to their first husband, but sealed to Smith. Although
women had sex with both Smith and their husbands, they perceived
the marriage contract different.
6. Creation and Wearing of Secret Garments
These too, were a result of Smith's polygamous affairs.
It started with the secret circle of men that accepted and
practiced his plural wife doctrine. It was his way of setting
them apart from monogamous men. It was originally the "uniform"
required for men to perform spiritual wifery. Reference
Hale Smith Biography, page 140: "After being involved
in the construction and design of the garments, the building
of the temple, and hearing about their place in the endowment
in the Relief Society (by Smith), why had women not been
admitted to the Endowment? Joseph taught that a man must
obey God to be worthy of the endowment and that a wife must
obey a righteous husband to merit the same reward. Until
Emma could be obedient to Joseph (see D&C Sec. 132) and
give him plural wives, she could not participate in the
endowment ceremonies, yet Smith taught her that the endowment
was essential for exaltation."
Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith condemned Smith for taking
off his garments before he went to Carthage Jail. Part of
their reason was that it was a sign he had regretted his
practice of polygamy. "Smith removed his own endowment "robe"
or garment before he went to Carthage Jail and told those
with him to do likewise. His nephew Joseph F. Smith later
explained, "When Willard Richards was solicited [by Smith]
to do the same, he declined, and it seems little less than
marvelous that he was preserved without so much as a bullet
piercing his garments."" (The
Mormon Hierarchy : Origins of Power, page 146) Michael
Quinn references Heber J. Grant journal sheets, 7 June 1907,
7. Design of Modern Temples
Why was the Nauvoo temple so different than the Kirtland
temple? Both came from the same unchanging God, right? The
Kirtland Temple was actually an expensive church, not an
endowment house like the Nauvoo temple. Modern temples with
their closed doors, secret ceremonies and odd clothing started
in the polygamy-inspired Navuoo temple. In fact, the whole
concept of a "Celestial Room" was created to reinforce the
doctrine that Smith would be with all of his wives in "heaven"
as one big family. The touching experience today when mormon
families reunite after the veil in the temple, started out
as an experience Smith could use to show how polygamy worked
Polygamy (one man married to two or more living wives) may
not be practiced today in the church, but its influence
on church doctrine and practices still haunts the lives
of millions of active members. The temple endowment, garments
and oaths of secrecy all have their origins in Joseph Smith's
practice of polygamy.