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#1: It would be silly to claim that women and children did not suffer under polygamy. There's too much evidence that many did.

My views are closest to #2, but I would rephrase it. I don't know about how "plainly" Jacob 2:30 shows God will command polygamy, as I've seen other interpretations. But I do believe that God inspired the practice of polygamy in the early Church. In so doing, he knew that women and children would suffer, but did not intend that they should. In this respect, the question is no different than any other example of "the problem of evil". I do not think that polygamy *necessarily* brings about suffering to any greater extent than monogamy or singleness. I understand Jacob's denunciation to apply more to the *improper* practice of polygamy than to polygamy per se.

I like the wording of the last sentence in #3: "Mormon polygamy in the 19th century was simply a mistake, best forgotten and not repeated."

But I agree with the thinking behind #4, in that I think the will of God was a non-issue. Polygamy was Joseph Smith's answer to a problem. I don't think God had anything to do with it.

Saying polygamy = women and children suffering makes no sense. Using the same logic, you could say regular marriage = women and children suffering due to the number of wives and children in monogamous marriages who are abused by their husbands/fathers... (This is actually a tenet of some feminist groups) Of course, that conveniently ignores the many marriages that have a husband/father who doesn't mistreat his family members. What proof is there that ALL polygamous marriages inherently result in wives and children suffering? As if the problems from having a bad husband/father are somehow eliminated by the husband only having one wife...

I'm not arguing for or against polygamy, only that I don't quite buy the cause->effect relationship here. Good healthy marriages are formed by good people treating each other righteously...and vice versa. The actual number of people involved is immaterial...

Although not "proof," per se, Todd Compton's book, In Sacred Loneliness certainly portrays ample evidence of the suffering that women called to live "The Principle" endured.

I tend to agree with the latter answers--that polygamy was an aberration of Joseph's weaknesses, coupled with his megalomania, and theocracy-building zeal.

"I'm king of the world!"

I find all your comments/responses thus far very interesting.

Just to clarify, whether 19th-century Mormon women "suffered" under polygamy and to what extent they did is an open question. Moreover, either position on the "suffering" question can be reconciled with a variety of views on divinely sanctioned polygamy (in general) or the 19th-century Mormon practice specifically.

It's clear that the 19th-century media grossly misrepresented the position and attitudes of Mormon women who practiced polygamy. I think it's also evident that Mormon women went out of their way not to give "Gentile" journalists any additional negative information with which to bolster their largely fictional accounts of life in Mormon Utah. So actually nailing down a factual answer to the question is really tricky. No doubt some women were quite unhappy in polygamy and others found it bearable or even quite pleasant. Compton's book (which I haven't read) advances the inquiry and gives some useful information, but I'm sure at the end of the day his info is still consistent with "some women were happy but others were not." I suppose the same could be said about 21st-century monogamy, for that matter.

What do you mean by "suffer"? In what way did the women and children of polygamous marriages suffer? In what ways did they suffer differently than their monogamous counterparts? How did the percentage of those who suffered in polygamous relationships differ from the percentage of those who suffered in monogamous relationships?

I can't pick any of the four options. I have too little information to choose any of them.

It is my belief that God instituted plural marriage. I believe that God, on occasion, gives commandments that supersede—whether permanently or temporarily—previous commandments. I do not know His reasoning in either case.

Many of the first plural marriages were secret; some of the women suffered greatly at having to hide their marriages. Joseph Smith married girls living under his roof, who then had terrible fights with Emma (in part because he didn't always tell her that he was marrying the girls). Emma reportedly threw Eliza R. Snow down a flight of stairs on discovering that Joseph had married her as well. (The unconfirmed story is that she first learned of it when she walked in on them kissing).

Others like Zina Huntington were already married when they were taken as plural wives by church leaders. That almost certainly caused a lot of strain.


Actually, I'm not taking a stand on whether LDS women and children suffered or not under 19th-century LDS polygamy. But the point is made quite directly by Jacob in Jacob 2, where he goes on at length about how women and children suffered under Nephite polygamy. That's the context that makes it an issue.

Kaimi, your comments are appreciated, but I notice (ahem) you didn't actually weigh in with a quiz answer. If I read between the lines, I'd put you at 2.5, halfway between 2 and 3.


I think that's about right. Jacob 2 and the Bible make it clear that God has no per se rule against polygamy. (There I go using antitrust language). I'm not sure that all instances of early Mormon polygamy were in accordance with divive principles (whatever those are) on the subject. To the extent that they were caused by selfishness and resulted in suffering, the instigants would seem to come under the condemnation of Jacob 2.

Okay, time to take my own quiz. No answer key, of course: My opinion here is just one voice among many.

In my opinion, to the extent that Jacob 2 is relevant, the lesson it teaches is that polygamy makes women and children suffer and it is therefore not acceptable to God. That's option 3.

The "escape clause" in Jacob 2:30 really has nothing to do with polygamy. It could be added to any commandment: Thou shalt not kill, yet if I will, I may commmand it. This just permits one to claim private revelation as a justification for setting aside God's commandments. It is no more effective justifying polygamy than any other prohibited conduct, as I see it.

#3 Relevant. And when one considers that the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 111 contained the following prohibition against polygamy: "We declare that we believe that one man should have one wife: and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.--Doctrine and Covenants 111:4." This section was removed in later editions of the D&C. It would have been far better for all had it stayed in.

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