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I see one problem is the "brethern" have been less than forthcoming in providing the historical details.

The thing about polygamy is that as a historical question it is fascinating, but as a theological question it is Boring (with a capital B). There is very little theology one way or the other. As long as no one has to be poly-married to be saved or exalted it seems mostly an enormous oddity.

Mark, you may find it theologically boring, but most people find it captivating -- witness the popularity of Under the Banner of Heaven and (now) Big Love. Think how boring Mormon history would be without polygamy to grapple with!

mark, i like your comment, but oh, how i wish it was boring to me. i find it all very confusing from JS covering polygamy up from the very start, to BY forcing it on everyone, to post manifesto polygamy, to Pres. Hinckley stating his opinion that polygamy is not doctrinal, to the present possibility for a man to be eternally sealed to more than one wife. i hope for some clarification one day from a GA who has the gumph to put us all straight and hopefully its on a "oops made a mistake" note.

I agree it is historically and sociologically fascinating. Theologically, the problem is there doesn't seem to be a any reason for it except expedience.

The real puzzle of LDS history is not the existence of polygamy, but why it became a cardinal principle that was defended so tenaciously, instead of making pragmatic accomodations as soon as it became obvious that a major conflict was on the way.

Another explanation offered is the divine command theory of polygamy - God commanded it, and we should fight to the death before giving it up. The problem about the DCT of course, is it is vacuous - the theological question is Why would God command it? And in particular require it to be defended at great cost, as the late 19th century LDS believed?

As a temporary expedient for LDS population increase it is almost plausible, but given the very obvious problems with younger men losing out to older men, in terms of opportunity for a family, it is hard to see how anyone could see it was particularly sustainable in the first place.

Dave, great post and choice. I enjoyed Quinn's essay very much and posted a few brief remarks at UoM on it. The most interesting thing about the article for me is the ambiguity that isn't acknowledged in traditional accounts of the Manifesto. It seems clear that the Manifesto wasn't interpreted in the contemporary sense for at least fifteen or twenty years.

Would it be fair to say that David O. McKay was the first prophet to have no inclination toward supporting secret polygamy? Interesting that McKay is generally interpreted as being somewhat more liberal than his predecessors in office.....

D-T, the sense I got from reading Solemn Covenant is that when Joseph F. Smith died in 1918, official sympathy for the practice largely disappeared. But I'll have to go review Van Wagoner's book to get any sense of what happpened under Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith. In some ways, J. Reuben Clark was the real mover and shaker during those years, and he was very much against polygamy in any form.

An excellent analysis of the history of polygamy in the LDS Church can be found here. It is an apologetic viewpoint, but I personally think it's much better than Quinn's analysis. It also deeply discusses and deals with post-manifesto polygamous marriages.

People like Jen need to remind us the plural marriage episode isn't going away anytime soon. I agree with those of you who say it's anything but boring.

Sorry to inject doubt into a fool-proof case. Who's to say it won't come back? Folks, polygamy is alive and well, theologically speaking, in the Church today. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are both "polygamously" married right now (through previous spouses passing on). Don't tell me it's not an issue in my extended family. And polygamy is alive and growing outside the Church. There's growing fringe support for the Principle in fundamentalist and even Protestant groups, besides the growing American Muslim population.

What about men dying in the latter day wars theory? Is that to be seriously thought of as a possibility?

Thanks Reach Upward for the link. People who are concerned about "lying for the Lord" ought to understand the apologetic argument.

What about men dying in the latter day wars theory? Is that to be seriously thought of as a possibility?

Not really. Why would we take it anymore seriously than the belief that the Lord would return in the 1890's?

As to the FAIR paper, I very much recomend Justin's discussion of it.

Dave, I believe that you are correct that while as an apostle Grant obviously dabbled in post-manifesto polygamy, his presidency was a diametric shift against it. Clark can be credited with the assault on polygamy, to be sure; but, Quinn's analysis of Grant (having read his journal) indicates that He too was on the war path.

I think Polygamy makes the most sense viewed in terms of the Abrahamic test (Sacrifice of son versus sacrifice of husband/wife simply because the Lord commanded it) viewpoint combined with the simultaneous need to receive the abrahamic promise of seed "greater than the sands of the sea" quickly raising a generation of the Lord's people raised in gospel truth. After all, the only standardized scriptural hint states in Jacob after assaulting unauthorized polygamy, "For if I will, saith the Lord of hosts raise up seed unto me" ...
Certainly, the church did everything imaginably within their power to keep this commandment, looking at the history, and once everything in their power had been done, the law was no longer in force and probably filled its purpose.

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