Holy Priesthood Vol. 4

Ogden Kraut

The History and Law
of Plural Marriage

We have got to observe it [plural marriage]. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Joseph Smith, Contributor 5:259)

August 1995


Many volumes have been written by both LDS and non-LDS authors on polygamy, or plural marriage. The subject has been approached from about every angle imaginable, but this book considers it from the aspect of being a law of the Holy Priesthood. Also included are brief histories about many different nations, cultures and individuals who have benefitted from its practice.

Polygamy has been lived by people throughout the world for a variety of reasons, and it’s interesting to note that many benefits, other than spiritual, can be derived from such a lifestyle. However, as a doctrine of the Priesthood, the primary considerations are the spiritual (and temporal) blessings that come from living the law in a righteous and Godlike manner.

Like any other principle or doctrine of the Priesthood, plural marriage can be a blessing or a cursing, depending upon the manner in which it is used or abused. Unfortunately, since its restoration through Joseph Smith down to the present time, it has not been difficult to find countless incorrect examples of plural marriage, which is evidence of the fact that it is not an easy religious principle to live, nor is it intended for everyone. Since it is classified as one of the higher laws and doctrines of the Priesthood, greater blessings are available for its adherence, and greater punishments for its abuse.

Celestial plural marriage is an eternal law of the Priesthood, revealed by God, and throughout history there are times when the church organization itself has adopted it as a tenet of their faith. However, because of the inability of the Saints as a whole to righteously live this law, its acceptance is relatively shortlived within the ecclesiastical framework, and it once again becomes an individual decision.

Though it can be discontinued as an accepted practice of the Church, it cannot be removed as an eternal law of the Holy Priesthood.



1         INTRODUCTION:              .               .               .               .               .               .   7

The Search for Truth

2         ADAM AND EVE:              .               .               .               .               .               .  10

Adam Brought One of His Wives

3         THE ROMANS:   .               .               .               .               .               .  14

The Monogamy Law

4         THE AFRICANS:                .               .               .               .               .               .  22

A Variety of Polygamy Cultures

5         THE HINDUS:     .               .               .               .               .               .  35

India Law Changed from Polygamy to Monogamy

6         THE ISLAMS:     .               .               .               .               .               .  43

The Polygamous Solution in Arabia

7         THE HEBREWS:                .               .               .               .               .               .  58

Blessings of Bible Polygamists

8         THE JEWS:          .               .               .               .               .               .               .  69

Polygamy Increases Their Population

9         THE NEPHITES:                .               .               .               .               .               .  77

Polygamy Not for the Wicked

10      THE CHRISTIANS:.          .               .               .               .               .  89

Christ Fulfilled the Law

11      THE CATHOLICS:            .               .               .               .               .               . 100

Polygamy Against Secular and Ecclesiastical Law

12      THE MUNSTERS:              .               .               .               .               .               . 131

Defended Polygamy with Their Lives

13      THE REFORMERS:           .               .               .               .               .               . 144

Polygamy More Secret than Public

14      THE AMERICANS:           .               .               .               .               .               . 174

Land of “Religious Freedom”?

15      THE MORMONS:               .               .               .               .               .               . 189

The Restoration of Plural Marriage

16      CONCLUSION:.  .               .               .               .               .               . 229

A Principle, Ordinance, Covenant, and Law

[7]                               Chapter 1

The Search for Truth


Recognizing and honoring truth is far more important than abiding by traditions and customs. If one system has more evidence of truth and righteousness than another, then certainly we ought to condone it rather than condemn it. Our American Christian marriage system has taught us that monogamy is right and polygamy is wrong. But as James Campbell said:


These prejudices are neither natural nor inveterate; but that they have been induced by the corrupted Christianity of the medieval priesthood, and that they will be removed when Christian people become better informed. . . . (History and Philosophy of Marriage, Campbell, pp. 23-24)


The Latter-day Saints, more than anyone else on earth, should study and understand the nature, history and truth pertaining to the laws of monogamy and polygamy. For them it can mean exaltation or damnation because marriage is a law of the Holy Priesthood and a major factor in our religion.


Plural marriage has been practiced in China, India, Middle East, Arabia, Africa, Indonesia, Australia, portions of Europe, among the Indians and Eskimos, as well as in the United States. In fact, it has been stated that people in 80% of [8] all 853 cultures have at some time practiced plural marriage. (See Ethnology, Murdock and White, pp. 329-369.) They could see real and practical advantages to such a lifestyle, as the following excerpt illustrates:


In societies that have a long tradition of polygyny [one man having two or more wives], women appear to welcome co-wives. A co-wife not only affords companionship and shares the labor, but her presence indicates that the family is sufficiently wealthy to have this luxury. Indeed a principal function of polygyny is to increase the wealth of the family and thereby its social importance. Moreover, where labor is scarce, co-wives may increase the wealth of the family. For example, among the Blackfoot Indians, polygyny increased with the transition of fur trading from beaver to buffalo. Tanning the buffalo skins was the exclusive labor of women, and the more wives a man had, the greater his financial potential. Polygyny also absorbs an excess of marriageable women, particularly in instances where wars have decimated the male population. In addition, it allows older men to marry youthful and attractive younger women.

In ancient times polygyny was practiced in Egypt, among the Hebrews, in Arabia, and in Ireland, as it was, until modern times, in China and Japan, in the form of concubinage. In the societies of Oceania, plural marriages were legal but were common only among the most affluent. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1995 ed., 22:365)


Whether we base our investigation on the laws of God (which is the purest form of truth) or on the laws of nature, these two sources alone should be proof enough to convince us of what is closest to the truth. On the other hand, traditions and customs are the worst sources of truth, even though they are the most popular.


[9]           Both the laws of God and laws of nature often differ materially from civil, social and federal laws. The former are consistent and infallible; the later are often conflicting, confusing, altered, amended, or repealed. This is nowhere more noticeable than regarding the laws pertaining to marriage.


Here in the western world we have inherited the monogamous marriage system with very little study into its origins, practice, or disadvantages. We know even less about polygamy, most information coming from a few Bible stories and a little from the eastern nations–and most of that is received with prejudice and contempt. In the spirit of fair play, both sides of history should be studied with an unbiased and inquiring mind, with the object of learning truth.


Matrimony, and the civil and moral laws pertaining to it, have historically been complex and varied. There are also many forms of marriage lifestyles, such as monogamy, celibacy, polygamy, polygyny, bigamy, polyandry, common law, concubinage–and more recently same-sex. Numerous moral deviations exist as to the union of the sexes–such as fornication, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, sodomy, etc.


Because there are so many marriage and sexual variations, it is important for us to learn how God views marriage and the proper matrimonial relationships between man and woman. So let’s start at the beginning.



[10]                              Chapter 2



The Garden of Eden



The marriage system among the nations should be determined according to the laws of God, not by men in government. Since the days of the Garden of Eden, man was given the power and responsibility to govern his household. His home is his castle, and he is king. From Mother Eve to the modern-day career girl, woman has been instructed that she is not to act in a governing role in the marriage relationship. A properly organized family cannot have two heads.


When the devil tempted Eve, he did it with many truths. He said that if she would partake of the tree of knowledge, several good things would result:


  1. She would not die.
  2. Her eyes would be opened.
  3. She would be as the gods.
  4. She would know good and evil.
  5. The tree was good for food.
  6. It was pleasant to the eyes.
  7. It would make her wise.

(See Gen. 3:4-6.)


Such temptation had every element of truth within it, but she was told not to partake of it. In other words, something can be good but be forbidden. Dr. Adam Clarke stated:


[11]                         “There is a rule for all things; there are in fine fixed and stated limits, on either side of which righteousness cannot be found.” On the line of duty alone we must walk.

Such limits God certainly assigned from the beginning: Thou shalt come up to this; thou shalt not pass it. And as he assigned the limits, so he assigned the means. It is lawful for thee to acquire knowledge in this way; it is unlawful to seek it in that. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary, 1:51)


In other words, whatever God says is right should be obeyed. Every logical and reasonable deviation may sound right, and be very tempting, but it may be wrong. Our duty is to obey the law of God.


The serpent went only to Eve to present his temptation. Why didn’t he go to both Adam and Eve at the same time? Did he think she was weaker than Adam? Regardless, when Eve presented it to her husband, he accepted it. The man was tempted by the woman, not the serpent!


For what reason was this story told? Was it to show man that his greatest temptation can come from a woman? Was it to show him that the woman should not lead the man? One thing is certain–both were cursed: Adam with regard to the ground being cursed for his sake, and Eve that her “desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen. 3:16) This marriage order was for the man as much as the woman. If he should let the woman lead, then he transgresses the law.


Another underlying principle in a man’s not allowing a woman to lead, is that he would be putting his trust in the arm of flesh. Such a weakness can be spiritually fatal. Conversely, a woman should not blindly follow her husband either. These seemingly minor infractions of that law could become a serious problem to both in their marriage.


[12]         Temptation is often accompanied with dozens of logical reasons, truths and half-truths, to lead one away from obedience to God’s law. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:


Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. (TPJS, p. 256)


This means that our own logic, reason and calculations cannot always be a true indication of the course that we should pursue. The only proper path in life is by obedience to the commandments and revelations of God. The fact that man should live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God applies to marriage relationships as much as it does to anything else.


Most marriage laws have been based on Adam and Eve’s reportedly monogamous marriage as recorded in the Bible. However, since they were not born into mortality as the rest of mankind, their apparent monogamous marriage may have been different, too. Adam’s life before coming to this mortal sphere may well have included other wives, which teaching was strongly advocated by Brigham Young:


When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. (JD 1:50)


Both monogamists and polygamists use the same passages in Genesis to defend their positions. An interesting perspective was presented by Johan Leyser, who argued that since God created woman from a man’s rib, and since he has several ribs, a man should obviously have several wives. He also argued that the Bible says a man cannot have two masters, but it never said a master cannot have two servants. He also said it has always been the divine right of kings to be [13] given the most beautiful damsels from all of his provinces. (as quoted in After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross.)


Also included in Genesis are numerous stories of the greatest Bible prophets who lived plural marriage. This means they did not pattern their lives after the figurative account of Adam and Eve’s so-called monogamous marriage. How could those ancient prophets have walked and talked with God if their plural marriages were a sin? In fact, Abraham, the father of the faithful, did not walk and talk with God until after he entered into plural marriage!


To some, there seems to be a conflict, then, in approved Bible marriage systems, and for centuries it has been disputed among nations and religions. The next several chapters will discuss some of these beliefs and practices among various societies of the world.



[14]                              Chapter 3



The Monogamy Law



Although monogamy goes back to the beginning of time, specific laws enforcing it go back to only about 2500 years ago in the Roman Empire.


The date and origin of the first settlement on the present site of Rome are obscure; although legends name Romulus as the city’s founder in 753 B.C. Sometime during the eighth century B.C. various tribes that had lived on the original Seven Hills were united under the rule of Etruscan kings, who remained dominant until late in the sixth century B.C. when the Romans overthrew Etruscan rule and established the republic. Rome developed as the capital of one of the ancient world’s largest and most prosperous empires. (American Peoples Encyl. 16:148)


And so did their laws, notably those regulating and restricting monogamy within their empire.


The supposed original founders of Rome were Romulus and Remus, twins who started the city on the Palatine Hill. The early Roman settlers were a tribe of outlaws, murderers, and society rejects who made their living by plunder and robbery. The “seven hills of Rome” became their hideout and were a perfect place to settle, as the communities they plundered found it difficult to locate them or to penetrate their [15] defenses. But as these outlaws began to increase in numbers and wealth, they realized there was something missing–women! To solve this problem, they decided to kidnap some from a nearby community called the Sabines. So they planned a special festival to provide the opportunity to carry out their plan.


The famous “Rape of the Sabines” occurred during this period of legendary history. Romulus, having found it difficult to obtain wives for his followers–who were rather notorious as runaways and malefactors–invited the Sabines to a feast and games; during the games, the garrison of the Palatine seized the unsuspecting and unprotected Sabine women, whom they carried off to be their wives. (American Peoples Enc. 16:232)


Such acts of kidnapping and rape were enough to start a war–which they did. But there was an ameliorating factor which soon resulted in a peace agreement; it came from the women themselves. Because of these pleadings, the king of the Sabines, Titus Tatius, made an alliance with Romulus.

The ensuing war between Romans and Sabines was ended through the mediation of the Sabine women, and the Romans and Sabines joined into one community. . . . (Ibid., 16:149)


This ended the hostilities that broke out after the rape of the Sabine women by Romulus’s followers. (Rome and Her Empire, B. Cunliffe, p. 49)


One of the rules of the Roman brigands was that no man would be allowed to have more than one wife because of the limited number of women. They assumed this would be a factor in stopping any further wars or kidnapping. Brigham Young commented on this incident:


[16]                         Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife. (JD 12:261)


The origin of the law of monogamy:

The rape of the Sabine women by the Romans

(courtesy of Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada)


[17]         The city of Rome prospered greatly from their stealing, pillaging and conquering of other tribes and nations. Individuals and communities began to envy their power and wealth and were willing to join in with them.


. . . one of the leaders of the Sabines, Attus Clausus, was so eager for a share of Rome’s amenities that, with the agreement of its authorities and presumably of its Latin allies as well, he moved his whole clan of four thousand or more relatives and supporters to Roman territory, where he settled them and became the founder of Rome’s great Claudian clan (505 B.C.). (The History of Rome, Michael Grant, p. 46)


This may not be such a significant fact of history other than it shows the influx of peoples that gradually assimilated themselves into and under the political and religious systems of the Romans–including monogamy.


As Rome increased in size and power, the law of monogamy continued along with it–not as a religious law but as a civil and governmental edict, and a very strict one at that. However, divorce was easy. In some cases all that was necessary was to say, “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee,” and it became official. Thus came the strict law of monogamy and the simple law of divorce.


From the book History and Philosophy of Marriage, or Polygamy and Monogamy Compared, published in 1869 by the Rev. James Campbell, came a very interesting record of legal origins of monogamy. He, too, attributes this dating of the first roots of monogamy with the customs and laws of the Romans:


[18]                         In order to give some just conception of Roman monogamy at that time when it first came in contact with Christianity, and when it began to impose its social system upon the other nations of Europe (for these two events are quite synchronous), I will now, as briefly as possible, give some account of the domestic life and manners of the six imperial Caesars, who governed Rome at that period. In this account I shall enumerate their many marriages, and their numerous divorces and adoptions, and state their exact relationship to each other. By this means, I hope to be able to explain the complexity of Roman affinities, which has baffled the apprehension of so many acute and learned historians, and at the same time to exhibit the original nature and true spirit of Roman monogamy. (see pp. 84-86.)


Establishing this monogamy law, enforced by governmental powers, was in reality a civil wrong. Marriage was intended to be a religious right, and government should have nothing to do with marriages and family life. The resulting easy divorce laws were another evil in that particular system. Other evils soon followed, as explained by Apostle Orson Pratt:


Since old Pagan Rome and Greece–worshippers of idols–passed a law confining man to one wife, there has been a great surplus of females who have had no possible chance of getting married. You may think this [19] a strange statement, but it is a fact that those nations were the founders of what is termed monogamy. All other nations, with few exceptions, had followed the Scriptural plan of having more wives than one. These nations, however, were very powerful and when Christianity came to them, especially the Roman nation, it had to bow to their mandates and customs; hence the Christians gradually adopted the monogamic system. The consequence was that a great many marriageable ladies of those days, and of all generations from that time to the present, have not had the privilege of husbands, as the one-wife system has been established by law among the nations descended from the great Roman empire–namely, the nations of modern Europe and the American States. This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans, for as God has implanted, for a wise purpose, certain feelings in the breasts of females as well as the males, the gratification of which is necessary to health and happiness, and which can only be accomplished legitimately in the married state, myriads of those who have been deprived of the privilege of entering that state, rather than be deprived of the gratification of those feelings altogether, have, in despair, given way to wickedness and licentiousness; hence the whoredoms and prostitution among the nations of the earth, where the “Mother of Harlots” has her seat. (JD 13:194-95)


Historian Henry Sheldon clearly saw the effects springing from the monogamic system of marriage in both the early and later years of the Roman Empire, including the same results with Christianity. He stated that “the unmaking of marriages was about as common as their making.” He gave examples of how common divorce became:


“C. Sulpicius divorced his wife because she had gone unveiled upon the street. Q. Antistius Vetus [20] divorced his because she had spoken openly and familiarly to a freedwoman. P. Sempronius Sophus sent his away because she had gone to the play without his knowledge. Aemilius Paulus, the conqueror of Perseus, put away his wife without assigning any cause at all. And how was it among the contemporaries of Cicero? He himself separated from his first wife, in order to take a wealthier one; from his second, because she did not seem sufficiently afflicted over the death of his daughter. Cato, with all his moral strictness, divorced his first spouse Atilia, who had borne him two children, and delivered over his second wife Marcia, with the approval of her father, to his friend Hortensius, after whose death he married her again. Pompey put away his wife Antistia, in order to make family connection with Sylla, and took his step-daughter Aemilia, who, however, had first to be separated from her husband Glabrio, by whom she was with child. After her death he took Mucia, whom he also divorced in order to marry Caesar’s daughter, Julia. On their side, women separated themselves from their husbands without any cause except their mere pleasure.” In fine, it was not altogether hyperbole when Seneca spoke of noble women as reckoning their years by their successive husbands rather than by the number of the consuls. (History of the Christian Church, Henry Sheldon, 1:29-30)


Brigham Young confirmed this as a wicked system:


Those who are acquainted with the history of the world are not ignorant that polygamy has always been the general rule and monogamy the exception. Since the founding of the Roman Empire, monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout all Christendom, and which has been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom [21] throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious. (JD 11:127-28)


One of the first evils that came from this Roman monogamy law was the surplus women resulting from all the Roman soldiers that were killed in battle; they would have little or no chance of getting married at all. This was the beginning of their problems, which resulted in such evils as prostitution, illegitimate children, and disease.


Monogamy is only one of the present customs that Christians have held over from the Romans. Some of the ceremonies in marriage are identical, such as “confarreatio (literally, eating a cake together), which required religious ceremony and was confined to patricians.” (Story of Civilization–Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, p. 69) Also after the marriage the husband “lifted her over the threshold, presented her with the keys of the house, and put his neck with hers under a yoke to signify their common bond.” (Ibid., p. 69) Another part of Roman tradition was when “the man placed an iron ring upon the fourth finger of the girl’s left hand, because it was believed that a nerve ran thence to the heart.” (Ibid., p. 68) (See also Roman Women, A. Brittain, pp. 135-36)


Not only did such marriage customs become a part of Christianity, but so did their legal, political and religious systems.


In his usual clear, pointed, and definitive language, Brigham Young made a simple summary of the monogamic system:


Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men. Such a [22] system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. That empire was founded on the banks of the Tiber by wandering brigands. When these robbers founded the city of Rome, it was evident to them that their success in attaining a balance of power with their neighbours, depended upon introducing females into their body politic, so they stole them from the Sabines, who were near neighbours. The scarcity of women gave existence to laws restricting one wife to one man. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers. (JD 9:322)



[23]                              Chapter 4



A Variety of Polygamy Cultures


Africa has proved to be one of the most interesting nations allowing and practicing polygamy. Some may wonder why so many “backward” or “heathen” people should be included in a study or defense of the practice of plural marriage. One of the reasons is because Africa is composed of so many different cultures and tribes living plural marriage, and yet they have little or no contact with each other. And interestingly, from out of the backwood jungles or in the most refined, advanced metropolitan cities–the effects of plural marriage are about the same.


Father Eugene Hillman spent 25 years in Africa, where he worked with various natives–especially the Black people of the backwoods. He found a people that had never seen indoor plumbing, electric lights, telephones or television, but they were polygamists. In that society they had never heard of a woman selling her body in prostitution; it was inconceivable to them. There was no excuse, for every woman could be married to the man she wanted. Yet if they should come to America and see our modern monogamist Christian nation, they would see resulting prostitution, illegitimate children, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases.


Why is it that intellectual Americans can learn such a profound moral lesson from so-called “heathens”?


[24]                            Map of Africa


East Africa                            West Africa                           South Africa

Sudan                                    Mauritania                            Angola

Ethiopia                                 Cambia                                 Southwest Afr.

Somalia                                 Guinea                                   South Africa

Kenya                                    Liberia                                   Zimbabwe

Tanzania                                               Cameroon                                             Botswana

Uganda                                  Ivory Coast                          Mozambique

Ghana                                    Nambia

Upper Volta





North Africa                         Central Africa

Egypt                                     Chad

Morocco                                                Cent. Afr. Rep.

Algeria                                   Congo

Western Sahara                   Zaire

Libya                                     Niger


[25] In Nigeria there is an infiltrating movement of the Western influence which is causing significant social change. Western monogamy has created an increase in prostitution, adultery, concubinage and disease. Many of the tribes “do not even have in their language a word for prostitution, but this institution has developed among them side by side with Christianity.” (Polygamy Reconsidered, Eugene Hillman, p. 124)


Many African tribes have the custom that there should be sexual abstinence during a wife’s pregnancy and lactation. However, after monogamy was introduced, there was a tendency for the husband to seek out a prostitute, temporary concubine, or the wife of some other man during those particular times.


Polygamy in Africa means that a man has more than one wife at the same time, but in America it has sometimes been interpreted as a man marrying and divorcing several women. There is a deep-seated sociological and moral difference.


In some nations plural marriage is simply an improved cultural system. In another it may have begun as an historical and religious custom. Then again it may be based on a specific “revelation” from God. Regardless, it should be investigated by the “fruits” that result from both polygamy and monogamy. Africa is one of those places where it can be advantageously studied.


Most monogamists never really have the opportunity to become acquainted with some of the intricate events that can crowd into the family and thinking of polygamists. Eugene Hillman grasped a part of these when he wrote about some of the Africans:


[26]                         Where it is believed and seen and felt that polygamous, much more than monogamous, families produce for their members greater security, prosperity, and prestige, the women themselves will be seen to favor the custom of plural marriage. Since the wives, together with their children, share in all the benefits of belonging to the polygamous family, they themselves will sometimes pressure their husbands into seeking additional wives. Some women even regard it as a disgrace to be the only wife of a man. Among the Kaka people of Cameroon, a wife may provoke her husband to take another wife by ridiculing him and calling him “a poor man.” Women, have, of course, many other ways of exerting pressure on their husbands. (Polygamy Reconsidered, Hillman, p. 120)


Most people seldom consider how important and beneficial this principle can be for the women, because it is presumed that the men are the only benefactors. In monogamy the men usually look for the beautiful or shapely woman, but a polygamous man wants a woman who can help him and the family with her knowledge, talent, ability to work, cooperative personality, and good spirit. This opens the door of marriage to many women who otherwise may not be able to get married.


In societies where every woman is expected, or required, to be married, the system of polygyny provides a proper place also for women whose defects (blind, deaf, spastic, epileptic, lame, retarded) would otherwise make it impossible for them to find husbands, and thus a place in a family and in society. In monogamous societies such handicapped women may perhaps constitute the bulk of those who never marry. “No one,” according to Hajnal, “seems to have discussed this problem.” (Transition in African Beliefs, Ralph Tanner, p. 95)


Even women who cannot bear any children themselves are able to share in the love and care of a growing family.


[27]         Customs and traditions differ somewhat among the African tribes. According to John Gunther:


Most tribes in East Africa are polygamous, without limit to the number of wives a man may have. Reasons for polygamy are both economic and in the realm of symbolism and superstition; many Africans think that sexual prowess and in particular the ability to procreate children have an association with fertility of the soil. A person’s worth is not measured by the criterion of wealth in much of Black Africa, but by fecundity. But women are, on the whole, freer than in Moslem society. This does not mean that they necessarily have a good life. Fathers or husbands can be tyrants anywhere. But, generally speaking, a young Bantu girl is not packaged up and delivered to the groom sight unseen by her parents, to become an ornament in a stranger’s harem; she herself can associate with young men and know the joys of courtship and even have a say in the choice of a husband; she can refuse an undesired suitor, and is seldom (at least in advanced tribes like the Chaggas) married against her will. In many tribes a bride is supposed to be a virgin, and promiscuity and infidelity are frowned upon. (Inside Africa, John Gunther, p. 296)


One of the tribes that does not live plural marriage is the pygmies, as observed by the same author:


Pygmies are monogamous. It was difficult to tell women from men. The children had swollen bellies, with their navels bulging out almost in the shape of small pears. Pygmies in the Congo and Ruanda Urundi are forest people, who seldom see the sun, grow no crops, do no work, and live on the game they spear or trap. They have no villages of their own. They are pre-dominantly meat eaters, but not cannibals. Pygmies are generally despised by other Africans. A black servant will say to his master, “There are four men outside, and two pygmies.” * * *


[28]                         Nobody knows surely the origin of the pygmies, who must be among the ugliest people in the world. (Inside Africa, Gunther, p. 684)


In speaking of one pygmie woman, Gunther said she “might have been fourteen or forty.” (Ibid., p. 684)


The pygmie tribe is one of the 22% of the African groups that does not accept polygamy.


From this total of 742 clearly identified socio-cultural units, it was found that in 580 of them polygamy is accepted as a preferential form of marriage. In other words, polygamy is traditionally and socially normative in 78 percent of these anthropological groups, although the incidence is not the same in all of them. (Polygamy Reconsidered, Hillman, p. 94)


John Gunther also observed and reported numbers of polygamous people in specific areas of Africa:


Ruanda and Urundi are separate units historically, but are administered together; each has about two million people on roughly 10,000 square miles. Eight per cent of the people are still polygamous. There are only 5,406 Europeans in all. (Inside Africa, Gunther, p. 685)


Population percentages in Guinea show a ratio of 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania the male ratio is 95 to every 100 females, while in the Kilimanjoro Region there are a surplus of over 17,000 females. These ratios are not confined to African regions, but are similar all over the world. Insurance companies statistics show that the mortality rate of infants is much higher in males than females. Later the males suffer losses through wars, occupational hazards, and usually die at earlier age than do women.


[29]         In the sub-Saharan Africa there are about 150 females for every 100 men. If modern Christianity enforced their monogamous rule on these people, it would produce absolute chaos. It is apparent, however, that the natives will hold on to their polygamous culture in spite of these modern “family busters” who come in the name of Christianity. As one African writer stated:


The practice of polygamy is at present the rule in Africa. Women have not only reconciled themselves to their position, some even consider it a disgrace to be the only wife of a man. They give all sorts of reasons for desiring a partner or co-wife and sometimes help their husbands to prepare for the necessary expenses of having another wife. As long as this idea remains, polygamy will no doubt remain. (Polygamy and the Church in Africa, S. I. Kale, pp. 222-23)


In the Batem tribe there are very few illegitimate children because they encourage the young women to marry early. They soon learn that it is wise while young males are roaming around. There, as here in America, most young males have a tendency to postpone marriage.


The Christian missionary system in Africa began to assume a more tolerant attitude after realizing the sorrow and problems inflicted upon their converts. To make polygamists divorce, break up families, throw wives into celibacy, widowhood, poverty, disgrace and prostitution, had to be “unChristian.” It could even be classed as one of the sins committed by the clergy which Jesus condemned as “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne. . . but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. 23:4) Instead of helping to strengthen families, they were helping to destroy them.


[30]         Occasionally opposing positions were taken by the same church; for instance, in the Anglican Church, West African polygamists could be baptized, but in South Africa they could not. The Anglican bishop of Malawi wrote:


I came to this Diocese from a country where Christianity had been planted largely by the Christian wives of polygamous husbands, and their courage and resourcefulness in living a Christian life . . . and bringing up their children as practicing members of the Church, won my admiration. It was with profound shock that I learned that here none of them would have been admitted to Holy Baptism, not because of any fault of their own, but because they had the misfortune to be brought up in a society where polygamy was the rule. After discussion with the clergy, changes are coming, and baptism will no longer be refused to a woman who was married to a polygamist before her baptism. (Marriage and Baptism Regulations, R.M.C. Jeffery, quoting Bishop of Nyassland, p. 5)


Several other Protestant churches have begun to liberalize their views toward polygamists. The Lutheran Church in Liberia believed it was good policy to admit polygamists into full membership in their church. A Methodist bishop who had considerable experience with both sides of the issue made a statement that shows a clear insight into the problem:


Is it more Christian to have organized prostitution, marital infidelity with impunity, a rapidly growing divorce rate and increasing numbers of illegitimate children, than polygamy? Is it more Christian for young women to become prostitutes, call girls, or mistresses than to become the second or third wife of a respected member of the community? . . . Is permitting youth to choose their own mates necessarily more Christian than an agreement between families? Is a widow any better or happier in the world alone [31] than living intimately with a member of her husband’s family? (The Unpopular Missionary, Ralph Dodge, p. 145)


Many practical benefits of living a polygamous lifestyle in Africa are similar to those in any other country:


When a family is made up of several wives with their households, it means that in time of need there will always be someone around to help. This is corporate existence. For example, when one wife gives birth, there are other wives to nurse her and care for her children during the time she is regaining her vitality. If one wife dies, there are others to take over the care of her children. In case of sickness, other wives will fetch water from the river, cut firewood, cook and do other jobs for the family. If one wife is barren, others bear children for the family, so that the torch of life is not extinguished. Where peasant farming is the means of livelihood, the many children in a polygamous family are an economic asset–even if they also must eat plenty of food. (African Religions and Philosophy, John Mbiti, pp. 142-43)


The children raised in a polygamous family have definite advantages as well. Eugene Hillman noted:


As for the children of these families with several mothers, there is no evidence at all to suggest that their psychological development is adversely affected in any way. Each child has his own normal emotional attachment to his own mother by birth or by adoption; and co-wives are normally very solicitous and affectionate toward all the children of their husband. The husband himself, according to the traditional norms of his society, is fully dedicated to the good of his children, who are regarded as the greatest of his achievements and the joy of his life. It might even be said, at least as a tentative hypothesis, that the children of polygamous households, all other things being equal, will generally tend to be both physically [32] and psychologically healthier than the children of monogamous families, insofar as the latter enjoy less security and less prestige. At any rate, in terms of their own social ideals and cultural values, the advantages are with the children of polygamous households. (Polygamy Reconsidered, Hillman, p. 126)


It is very interesting to note that the polygamous families of aborigine tribes in the jungles of Africa have many similar characteristics to Mormon polygamous families. Compare some of Dr. Hillman’s observations and statements about the African culture:


Each new relationship gives a greater cohesion to the aggregates of social units that make up the tribe or people or nation.

In such a society each member is to many others in some degree a brother, or sister, or mother, or father, son or daughter; for each one belongs to the same ethnic-cultural family, often with the same legendary common ancestors.

The deep sense of solidarity, which may even be traced back mythologically to common parents “in the beginning,” imposes the duty to continue each family through offspring.

This vital continuity of past and future generations is concretely symbolized in the special relationships, and the titles used, between grandparents and grandchildren.

Among the Bantu-speaking peoples there is a strong bond between the living and the dead.

A person lives on, after death, somehow through, or in relation to, his progeny. This belief has profound significance in relation to the practice of polygyny.

Procreation is the link with after-life and over-comes absolute death.

Hence, the fear that a man might die without a surviving male child is one of the factors behind the practice of polygamy.

As the alliances multiply relationships, the sense of security expands and deepens in the polygamous household.

[33]                         In a society that stresses the importance of large families, a woman naturally sees her own personal self-fulfillment through childbearing; and the mother of several children is greatly respected by her relatives and neighbors.

The sharp edge of this suffering may be dulled through her active participation in the larger family life of the polygamous household.

Children are the glory of marriage, and the more there are of them, the greater the glory. (Taken from Polygamy Reconsidered, Hillman, pp. 114-120.)


And these teachings and customs are also similar to those of Israel.


Among some peoples, the Nuer and Zulu for example, the brother is required by customary law “to cohabit with the widow in order to raise children, which will be counted, not as his, but as the children of the deceased.” * * *

The more favorable solution to the problem of an infertile wife is simultaneous polygamy. Loneliness is not an indigenous African problem. (Ibid., pp. 121-22)


Romantic love does not play as important a role in African plural marriages as vividly portrayed in Hollywood movies or passionate novels.


Romantic love, a dominant feature in the current Western conception of marriage, is not very notable–or at least it is rarely dramatized–in traditional polygynous societies. “The African,” according to Radcliff-Brown, “does not think of marriage as a union based on romantic love although beauty as well as character and health are sought in the choice of a wife.” Meaningful inter-personal relationships, however, are not lacking in polygamous households. Radcliff-Brown continues: “The strong affection that normally exists after some years of successful marriage is the product of the marriage itself conceived as a process, [34] resulting from living together and co-operating in many activities and particularly in the rearing of children.”

Such relationships of friendship and affection are not by their very nature exclusive, and they exist even between co-wives. There is, nevertheless, a great burden on the husband of plural wives. He must discipline himself to an equitable distribution of his love, which is a service to his whole family: not an exclusive affair of personal gratification between two individuals. If inter-personal relationships, and especially the manifestations of conjugal affection, seem to be less intense in polygamous families than in monogamous families, this may be because they are more extensive. (Ibid., p. 125)


This author had an extensive phone interview with Dr. Eugene Hillman, author of Polygamy Reconsidered and a professor in a Minnesota university. After his 25-year study of African polygamy and monogamy, he is one of the strongest advocates of re-establishing polygamy as an acceptable alternative in Christian nations. It may seem strange that a renowned Catholic priest would recommend plural marriage for a community, society or nation. However, he saw polygamy firsthand and observed the favorable results, especially in comparison to societies without it. This same conclusion applies to every other nation and society referred to in this study.


Africa has been a wealthy nation, and it surely must be noted that its polygamous tribes have provided a wealth of information for Christian nations. However, rather than learning valuable lessons in morality, they have instead pushed their monogamous system with its evils on them. Gunther noted that, “Since 1952, however, by terms of a new Belgian law aiming to reduce polygamy, only the first wife is considered to be legitimate.” (Inside Africa, Gunther, p. 680) As monogamy is increasingly promoted among the Africans, the attending problems will also increase.


[35]         If polygamy is considered as one of the “relics of barbarism,” maybe we’ll have to adopt some of these old relics into our society before we destroy ourselves with our old monogamous relics. Of all the evil attending the monogamous Christian nations, it may be better to adopt the social polygamous laws of the jungle so we could improve our modern society. In many ways our present society is worse than that of these “backward” nations.


Maybe our modern Christian society should no longer look upon the “savage” or “uncivilized” societies as barbaric or backward in all areas. Our whole society has the appearance of vulgarity and our morals and standards are less Christ-like than many of those so-called “uncivilized” nations. We have “progressed” to the point of being able to destroy each other rather than learning the ways to save ourselves from ourselves. To advance in scientific excellence at the expense of forfeiting our standards of morality will someday bring us disaster. We may say with Pogo, “We have seen the enemy and they are us.”



[36]                              Chapter 5



India Law Changed Polygamy to Monogamy


Hinduism is the professed religion of over 2/3 of the people in India. It embraces the philosophies and moral teachings of sacred works in the Vedas (four ancient sacred books of Hinduism, consisting of psalms, chants, sacred formulas, etc.), and contains some of the most beautiful and uplifting thoughts embraced by any religion.


(Map of India)


[37]         Webster defines Hinduism as, “the religion and social system of the Hindus, developed from Brahmanism with elements from Buddhism, Jainism, etc., added.” (Webster’s New World Dic., 1984, p. 664) The history of this religion is difficult to trace; even the authors of most of its sacred writings are unknown. Their teachings have attracted students of religion from all over the world, and have had more impact on Christianity than Christianity has had on them. The morality of their teachings is of the highest standard, and their devotees are very dedicated. Interestingly, their faith and culture include the practice of plural marriage.


Plural marriages in India have been a part of their culture for thousands of years. However, that custom was changed about 40 years ago, providing an excellent opportunity to study the positive and negative effects of both monogamy and polygamy in the same culture with the same people.


The right to live plural marriage in India has been replaced by a law enforcing monogamy–not by the will of the people, but by the government. In 1955 the Parliament of India established the “Hindu Marriage Act” which abolished plural marriages in that country.


A study was made in which it was discovered that there was a ratio of five brides for every four bridegrooms. Recognizing this problem, a Hindu by the name of Atul Krishna Kundu wrote an appeal for a revision of the statutes to reinstate plural marriage:


Imposition of the rule of monogamy by means of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 on Hindus of India added fuel to the fire of various socio-economic problems of the Hindu community, because this imposition of the rule of monogamy on Hindus of India against Hindu religion, the very religion by which they are identified, is not at [38] all a true representation of the will of the community. (Polygamy and the Hindu, Kundu, p, 8)


Atul then followed with comments and a chart showing the general trend of surplus women in the country:


But actually the brides have been much more in excess compared to bridegrooms for the reasons arising out of the fundamental difference between a man and a woman already mentioned earlier. That is why practically we see that if a bridegroom 40 years old wants to marry a bride 20 years younger than him, he can definitely have a bride as his wife because those brides due to poverty for the purpose of solving their problem of feeding, clothing, and lodging, even prefer to be a co-wife to prostitution. Bureau of Corrective Administration under Home Ministry is not at all sufficient to correct and prevent the poor and unfortunate women from being prostitutes or so depriving them of their natural desire to become mothers of legitimate children.

In fact the percentage of bridegrooms and brides of Hindu Bengalee community according to those registered in Tathyakendra, Calcutta, the organization for marriage contacts, are as follows:


______________Percentage of __________

Period                 Bridegrooms         Brides     Excess Brides

December 1971                   36%                                        64%                        78%

December 1972                   39                                           61                           57

December 1973                   41                                           59                           44

December 1974                   39                                           61                           57

December 1975                   39                                           61                           57

December 1976                   41                                           59                           44


According to the method of sampling the above data can be taken as the reflection of the middle class of the people (or any class of people) of Hindu Bangalee community of India where the social environment is [39] different from that of western countries. It seems that due to lack of scientific understanding of the society we live in, monogamy was imposed on the Hindu community of India against the directives of Hindu religion, the religion by which they are identified. (Ibid., pp. 10-11)


The India Government, the same as in other countries, likes to control the affairs of religion and regulate how people live and believe–usually resulting in suppression and catastrophe. Atul was making an appeal that “the time has come for us to review the administrative system of India” so that the “control of the Parliament should be withdrawn from all institutions pertaining to all religions.” (Ibid., p. 12) He was asking them to find some solution for excess young women. He wanted the law to be repealed so their culture could return “to the natural flow and interest of the society.” He continued:


Therefore, time has come for us to review the imposition of monogamy by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, on Hindu community of India because this is necessary for stopping the socio-economic deterioration as well as for the advancement of Hindu community of India. After the implementation of monogamy for Hindus, criminal offenses among women have increased; suicides (mainly among males, the normal breadwinners for Hindu families), illegitimate children have increased in number, unhappy families and others through prostitutes spread Venereal Diseases in Bombay, so much that Bombay is now one of the ten cities in the world where the incidence of V.D. is highest. Venereal Diseases in Calcutta also have grown tremendously high. Mental illness of people due to family feuds, sexual maladjustment and marital disharmony have increased; murders of housewives have increased; some husbands have been killed by or at the conspiracy of their wives. (Ibid., pp. 14-15)


(picture–The wives of Krishna

pleading for mercy on the dragon)


[40]         This sounds very similar to a description of the American Christian system of monogamy. In judging a general practice “by their fruits”, monogamy has certainly failed miserably. Generally speaking, it does not work for the Christians nor the heathens. Atul hit the mark again when he declared:


If monogamy is to be imposed at all, it must be imposed only on contractual marriages which are nothing but legal contracts between the bridegroom and the bride spelling out rights and obligations on everything, e.g., conjugal right, shared marriage presentations, shared house work, planned number of reproduction of children, custody of children, ownership of properties achieved by joint effort, the terms and conditions of divorce, if any, etc. but it should not have been imposed on marriages by customary rites according to Hindu religion. (Ibid., p. 16)


Exactly! If a couple wishes to have the State enter into their marriage with whatever desired stipulations they want in a legalized contractual agreement, then it is the privilege of the State to do so. If, on the other hand, the couple desires to [41] enter into a religious ceremony, complying with the rules, regulations and commandments of their sacred books and scriptures, then the State should have no right to interfere. Such is a good example of separation between church and state.


This report raises an interesting question: If the government imposes a law against a correct religious principle, how can it be legal? The Hindus consider the monogamous, government-inspired laws, as “a marriage arranged, negotiated and settled by persons other than the bridegroom and the bride. . .” (p. 17); and as such, the bridegroom and bride are married by misrepresentation which may be a source of conflict after marriage.


Atul Kundu writes: “It is clear that the imposition of the rule of monogamy on the Hindu community of India in 1955 was done without any systems analysis, i.e., without studying the problems of the people of India in totality.” He then makes a comparison of India with America:


Similarly a single basic fault in the legal system of the Hindu community of India is sufficient to collapse the Hindu community of India slowly and gradually if that basic fault is not discontinued.

Indian philosophy and culture are splendid and much more advanced than those of the west. But we, the Indians, have grown an inferiority complex in us looking at the advancement of the west in technology and blindly copied the rule of monogamy in 1955 for Hindus of India, forgetting our rich culture and philosophy. (Ibid., p. 21)


Thus, monogamy has become a serious detriment to the Hindu culture, which has been that marriage should be a “family matter” rather than a government “contract between a bridegroom and a bride.” Furthermore, it is religious law that [42] the man should rule over the woman–not have equal authority in their marriage. Once again, according to Atul:


Two Prime Ministers in India or two Presidents in USA having equal authority would have been detrimental to the administration of the states, and in the same way the husband and the wife having equal authority in a family are likely to be harmful to the smooth running and progress of the family. In USA, a country of monogamy, at least one-third of the total marriages are ending in divorce in a year, and it is likely to increase in [the] future. * * * In Britain, another land of monogamy, divorce rate is now among the highest in the world; there is one divorce approximately for every two marriages. (Ibid., p. 22)


Christian Americans can and should learn a great deal from these “heathen infidels”. The recent results of enforcing monogamy in India should show that it is destroying them, and is doing the same thing here in America. If we fail to check that system, it will do as Atul said, “collapse the community . . . slowly and gradually if that basic fault is not discontinued.” (Ibid., p. 21)


To summarize the philosophy of Atul Kundu and the Hindu people, consider the following points:


  1. There is a nation-wide problem because of the surplus of women.
  2. Polygamy would allow more women to marry and would help them with their financial difficulties, providing needed food, clothing and lodging.
  3. It would help solve the problems of so much prostitution and illegitimacy.
  4. The government would have to regulate and enforce one less law, and would not be able to interfere with the practice of religion.


  1. It would avoid state contracts which include many provisions that neither the bride nor groom want.
  2. Polygamy would help stop the social and economic deterioration that has been growing in the society.
  3. It would diminish criminal activities between husband and wife and allow the husband to be the head of the family.
  4. It would decrease suicides, murder, venereal diseases, mental illness and sexual maladjustments.


The similarities in the conditions of both India and America are evident! Removing the government from the control of marriages (unless invited by the parties concerned) and placing such unions back in the realm of religion, would enable polygamy or monogamy to be the respective choices of the individuals involved and would undoubtedly improve the standards and conditions of community life.


The standard of morality in America is among the worst of all the nations of the earth, yet America is supposed to be a Christian nation. What has happened to the principles they say are the most wholesome of any other religion or nation? There must be something amiss if greater problems are being created here than those in the “heathen” nations!



[44]                              Chapter 6



The Polygamous Solution in Arabia


By definition, Islam means “The Moslem religion; a monotheistic religion in which the supreme deity is Allah and the chief prophet and founder is Mohammed.” (Webster’s New World Dic., 1984 ed., p. 747) Mohammed was born in Arabia and lived from 570 to 632 B.C. Most Moslems feel, however, that the beginnings of their religion actually went back further than that; they claim it is the restoration of the original religion of Abraham. The terms Islam, Moslem, and Mohammedan are used somewhat interchangeably.


(Map of Arabia)


[45]         Islam means “submission to the will of God”–also submission to their prophet, Mohammed, and to the Koran (Qur’an). The Muslems consider the Koran as containing the very words of God Himself, and they are extremely careful to preserve its content. “There is probably no other book in history, including the Bible, that has been so much studied or commented upon” [as the Koran], states the Encyclopedia Americana, 1995 ed., 15:494. So it is most interesting that within this Mohammedan Bible that these people hold so sacred, are instructions for living plural marriage, i.e.:


(sample from Koran)


The translation of this verse reads:


If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then (marry) only one. . . . (Qur’an 4:3)


And later from the same book:


And they ask for your instructions concerning women. Say: God does instruct you about them. And (remember) what has been rehearsed to you in the Book concerning the orphan women to whom you give not the portions prescribed and yet whom you desire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: That you stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed you do but Allah is well aware of it. (Holy Qur’an 4:127)


[46]         Alauddin Shabazz explains this verse by saying:


Orphans does not merely mean those who have lost their parents. In Qur’anic terminology, it means those who have lost shelter, protection, etc., those deprived by death of one’s spouse, the impoverished, etc. (Polygamy, A Remedy or a Right in Al-Islam, Shabazz, p. 10)


When Mohammed was 25, he married Khadija (15 years his senior), and for the next 25 years he was not inclined to a plural marriage, even though he had been offered beautiful women and riches by the Makkans to desist from his missionary activities. His small band went into five battles during and after which he saw the devastation to families resulting from war. It was after the Battle of Uhud that the men were allowed to take plural wives, solely for a remedy to the sorrowful plight of widows and their family. The revelation on polygamy–


. . . was revealed after the Battle of Uhud, in which many Muslims were killed, leaving widows and orphans for whom due care was incumbent upon the Muslim survivors. (Islam in Focus, Abd Al-Ati Hammudah, p. 103)


[47]         In such situations polygamy is more of a solution to a serious problem than an exploitation of women by sensual men. Fida Hussain wrote that “monogamy is the food which sustains society; polygamy is the medicine of the disease of (a monogamous) society.” (Wives of the Prophet, Hussain, p. 71) And Shabazz makes this interesting observation:


It is obvious that if a man married in such an abnormal situation (e.g. the situation created by the consequences of the Battle of Uhud, etc.), it will be a service to the nation, both on his part and the part of his first wife. A good Muslim sister, who is married, would consider it her duty to provide shelter to one of her unfortunate sisters who has been driven to such a pitiable condition through no fault of her own. (Polygamy: A Remedy or a Right… , Shabazz, p. 15)


In earlier times many Arabs, including those who became Muslems, took great numbers of wives and treated them very badly. Then came a restriction upon the number of wives permitted, probably to make the men appreciate their wives more. Fida Hussain said, “After the restrictive injunction, the Muslims retained four wives and discarded the surplus for better protection and their rights.” (Wives of the Prophet, p. 69) There was a recognition of certain wrongs in the living of polygamy, but there were greater wrongs in the system of monogamy.


Some of the purposes for plural marriage are more clearly seen among the “heathen” nations than among those that claim to be so “enlightened”. Many of the Islamic people show more genuine consideration and respect for women than do those in our own American “Christian” nation. Alauddin Shabazz wrote:


[48]                         The study of Islamic history reveals that polygamy came into existence simply to save the women from destruction. Prophet Muhammad’s marriages were motivated by a defacto humanitarian spirit, not sensual motive. His marriages to some showed the policy of conciliating the hands of rival factions, etc., etc.

Unmarried females unprovided for, widowed women generally with children, destituted females, in general, etc., engendered a delicate situation for Prophet Muhammad and other concerned Muslims. The problem was more than economics. They should be protected and their other human needs looked after and fulfilled.

It is the duty of society to handle this delicate situation protecting the individual dignity of those affected, as well as the moral fabric of the society. In light of these facts, it is suggested ambiguously in the Qur’an a feasible alternative by relaxing the rule of monogamy. (Polygamy: A Remedy or a Right…, Shabazz, pp. 14-15)


The Islamic and other religious societies have found that in various tribes and cultures polygamy becomes a social and economic necessity, and many of these women not only accept polygamy but even prefer it.


During the first seven centuries A.D., the Persians “continued to be better gentlemen than the Greeks,” and prostitution was less frequent among them than among the Greeks. Rabbi Gamaliel praised the Persians especially for two qualities. “They are temperate in eating, modest in the privy and in marital relations.” Polygamy was also allowed and was recommended in cases where the first wife proved barren. “Persian women were exceptionally beautiful . . . and it is the women who yearn and take the initiative in courtship and seduction. Feminine charms overcame masculine laws.” (Story of Civilization, Durant, 4:137)


[49]         The girls often wed between the ages of 12 and 14, and the boys as early as 15. The groom was rarely allowed to see the face of his bride before marriage, and the wedding never required a priest. Polygamy among the Islams was usually confined to the rich, and concubines were permitted. Polygamous women were mostly content because of their offspring; their family was a large blending of women and children.


Dr. Jamal A. Badawi describes the meaning of plural marriage as outlined in Islam’s law:


The requirement of justice rules out the fantasy that man can “own as many as he pleases.” It also rules out the concept of “secondary wife,” for all wives have exactly the same status and are entitled to identical rights and claims over their husband. It also implies, according to the Islamic Law, that should the husband fail to provide enough support for any of his wives, she can go to the court and ask for a divorce.

The verse says “marry,” not kidnap, buy, or seduce. What is “marriage” as understood in Islam? Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which is not valid unless both contracting parties consent to it. Thus no wife can be forced or “given” to a husband who is already married.

It is thus a free choice of both parties. As to the first wife:

(a) She may be barren or ill and see in polygamy a better solution than divorce.

(b) She may divorce him (unilaterally) if he is married to a second wife provided that the nuptial contract gives her the right of unilateral divorce (Ismah.)

(c) She can go to court and ask for a divorce if there is evidence of mistreatment or injustice inflicted upon her. (Polygamy in Islamic Law, Badawi, pp. 6-7)


[50]         The Moslem male was allowed to marry a Jewish or Christian woman, but not an idolatress. Mohammed accepted polygamy to better balance the community because of the high male mortality rate during wartime. It was an obligation for a man to have children, and each man could have four wives–but Mohammend himself was allowed to exceed that rule.


Divorce was much less difficult for the woman than the man to obtain, according to the Koran or the Talmud. It was written that the wife should recognize the authority of the male, and she must obey her husband. “Every woman who dieth, and her husband is pleased with her, shall enter paradise.” (Koran 4:35)


Mohammed sometimes quarreled with his wives, but he was usually very pleased and spoke highly of them. He once said the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous woman–also that men should be reminded that their mothers carried them with pain, brought them forth with pain, and nursed them for months, which is one of the reasons he felt that “Paradise is at the foot of the mothers.”


Mohammed claimed to have a revelation in which he saw Paradise, where “blessed males” would have many wives. The historian, Will Durant, obtained a copy of this manifestation:


It is one vast garden, watered with pleasant rivers and shaded with spreading trees; the blessed there will be dressed in silk brocades, and be adorned with gems. They will recline on couches, be served by handsome youths, and eat fruit from trees bowing down to fill their hands. By the mercy of Allah there will be no speeches at these heavenly banquets; instead there will be virgins never yet touched by man or jinn, in beauty like the jacinth and coral stone, with swelling bosoms but modest gaze, with eyes as fair and pure as sheltered eggs, and bodies free from the imperfections [51] and indignities of mortal flesh. Each blessed male will have seventy-two of these for his reward, and neither age nor weariness nor death shall mar the loveliness of these maidens, or their comrades’ bliss. Since pious and believing women will also enter paradise, some confusion might result, but such difficulties would not be in superable to men accustomed to polygamy. And round about them shall go children, never growing old. (The Story of Civilization, Durant, 4:179)


Durant then added, “Who could reject such a revelation?”


The law of Islam was further clarified by Dr. Jamal A. Badawi:


It is now evident that the association of “polygamy” with Islam is not only unfair or biased but based on serious misunderstanding. Polygamy was practiced, often without limitations, in almost all cultures. It was sanctioned by various religions, and practiced both before Islam and for many centuries thereafter.

It is both honest and accurate to say that it is Islam which regulated this practice, limited it, made it more humane, and instituted equal rights and status for all wives. What the Qur’anic decrees amount to, taken together, is a discouragement of polygamy unless necessity for it exists.

It is also evident that the general rule in Islam is monogamy and not polygamy. However, permission to practice limited polygamy is only consistent with Islam’s realistic view of the nature of man and woman and of the various social needs, problems, and cultural variations.

The question is, however, far more than the inherent flexibility of Islam; it also is the frank and straightforward approach of Islam in dealing with practical problems. Rather than requiring hypocritical and superficial compliance, Islam delves deeper into the [52] problems of individuals and societies, and provides for legitimate and clean solutions which are far more beneficial than would be the case if they were ignored. There is no doubt that the second wife legally married and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without any legal rights or security.

This vitality, flexibility, and farsightedness of the teachings of Islam cannot possibly be attributed to any man or group of men, including Prophet Muhammed (P.) himself. Its secret simply lies in its Divine Source, God Most High, who knows in entirety what human needs and problems are. (Polygamy in Islamic Law, Badawi, pp. 10-11)


The Qur’an itemizes a set of marriage conditions or rules for the purpose of making a righteous union between a couple:


  1. Prohibitions to marriage. These are nearly the same as in the Old Testament–mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.
  2. Deal justly with all wives. There are different stipulations between permanent and temporary contracts, which may be similar to wives and concubines.
  3. Mutual love and compassion in the union. These include peace, tranquility, and sharing sorrows and joys with each other. “Shacking up” does not embrace these.
  4. Multiplication of the human race. Both are responsible for this divine object of bearing children and their welfare.
  5. Children have the right to inherit properties of deceased parents and relatives. Thus children should be the rightful heir of inheritance.


These rules are similar to those in the Mosaic code and are reasonable enough to promote a good marriage in or out of plural marriage. And from another source:


Islam permits him four legal wives on earth, which Christianity has not yet got around to doing. ***

[53]                         Islam gains strongly by reason of the rivalry between various Christian sects; pagans see the spectacle of Protestant and Catholic missionaries competing in the same area, and do not understand how this harmonizes with the principle of a universal Christian God. (Inside Africa, John Gunther, p. 64)


The anti-polygamy governments in some Islam areas have put a great deal of pressure on the Moslems through their “Christian” laws, until today the practice is highly discouraged in many Muslem nations:


Polygyny is still prevalent in some Muslim nations. The Koran, the bible of Islam, officially permits the Muslim man to take four wives. Although polygamy has been practiced widely throughout Islam, Western mores have had their effect on Muslim society, and many Muslims consider plural marriages a sign of cultural backwardness. Consequently, polygyny is now banned or at least discouraged in several Muslim nations. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1995 ed., 22:365)


Most of the modern Christian nations are not interested in solving the problems of surplus women by restoring plural marriage. They are more concerned about gaining converts from each other and subjecting them to their priestcrafts. They are more interested in power and money than in the miseries of widows and unmarried women.


Dr. Jamal A. Badawi observed:


Both unmarried women and widows are human beings with needs. Unless their instinctive needs are legitimately satisfied, the temptation is great for corruption and immorality. (Polygamy in Islamic Law, Badawi, p. 5)


[54]         The percentage of polygamists in Arabia and other countries is usually quite small as there are only so many surplus women, and there aren’t too many men who want to take on that additional responsibility. Jehan Sadat wrote:


All over the Arab world the taking of multiple wives was the exception rather than the rule. In Egypt, polygamy was practiced by only three percent of the population. In Tunisia, polygamy has been banned since 1963. (A Woman of Egypt, Sadat, p. 28)


How strange that when there are only 3% of the population living plural marriage, they must make laws against such a small minority!


It is evident that both Talmudic and Mohammedan laws were mostly man-made, as many statements were quite humorous and God could not have originated them. They blamed Eve for her “intelligent curiosity” but gave her credit for “an instinctive wisdom missing in man.” They said that when ten measures of speech were given to the world, “women took nine, the men one.” They requested that women “beautify herself for her husband rather than for other men.” Also “a woman’s place was in the home, but their earnings and property belonged to the husband.” It seemed that gossip was common and one rabbi said, “a hundred women are equal to only one witness.” The value of a good woman was that, “no man is so rich as a wife noted for her good deeds,” and “all the blessings of a household come through the wife.” On the other hand, it was said that, “A man who has a bad wife will never see the face of hell.” However, “Let men beware of causing women to weep; God counts their tears.” (See The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, 4:363)


Islamic teachings forbid illicit sexual relations which is punishable by severe measures, even capital punishment on occasion, so they have reduced modern Christian corruptions [55] of sexual sin from their society. Furthermore, the people’s free choice between monogamy and polygamy has solved some of these problems.


To sum up, Islam being against immorality, hypocritical pretense of morality, and against divorce unless no better solution is available, provides for a better alternative which is consistent with human nature and with the preservation of pure and legitimate sex relationships. In a situation like this, it is doubtful that any solution would be better than polygamy, which is, after all, an optional solution. (Polygamy in Islamic Law, Badawi, p. 8)


The modern corruptions in our American system are noticed and disliked by these “backward” nations. The more recent lifestyle of “live-in” marriages appear to be abominable to most of them, but Shabazz explains how this corruption has spread to their country:


Mut’ah may be likened somewhat to the immoral “trial marriage”, as practiced in America, etc., “live-in” arrangement of modern times. When viewed in the light of the Holy Qur’an, Mut’ah is shown up to be exactly the same as living in a state of “Zina”, adultery! A state where the man is interested only in satisfying his animal lust, male ego, etc., throwing overboard all of the principles of permanent conjugal values as enjoined by Allah T’aala! Today, Allah “aids” us to see the evil in this.

A man enters in a Mut’ah contract with a woman for a month. When the month ends, he leaves. He came and went. Another man comes along and commits Mut’ah with the same woman for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, the man goes his way. Along comes a third man and a fourth man . . . all Mut’ah, and no permanence! Men just come and go, come and go, come and go, etc., etc. If this is not legalized prostitution, then what is it? * * *

[56]                         Marriage is no come-and-go game. . . . Mut’ah, in contra-distinction, has a built-in mechanism that gives a man the freedom and the license to degrade, debase, and humiliate a member of the oppressed, much-maligned sex further, under the travesty and pretext of “marrying” her for a period of time. No self-respecting woman would submit to such. (Polygamy: A Remedy or a Right. . . , Shabazz, pp. 41-42)


Unfortunately America holds up no enviable moral standard for Arabia or other nations to pattern after:


Wife swapping is still very voguish, in certain areas in America. “Shacking up” is in vogue. “Trying to Love Two” was the title of a song a few years ago, and “As We Lay”, by Shirley Murdock is a more recent one–both speaking about infidelity of husbands and wives. These types of symbiosis are more preferable to the sanctimonious, than a divinely structured and regulated polygamous relationship as outlined in the Holy Qur’an. These are the “if loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right” ethos. Today, “sex” is a synonym for “love”. (Polygamy: A Remedy or a Right, Shabazz, p. 4)


The Islamic people have tried to avoid some of the problems and crimes that befall our courts every day and the effect they have on society:


Rape is a sordid act conducted by a demented, mentally deranged person and is common in the United States. Some psychologists say more people are emotionally disturbed today than at any other time of human history. Many hospitals’ psychopathic wards are crowded, and the most popular psychologists today are the psychoanalysts. All this attest to the U.S. being a sick society. Some would even claim that it is terminally ill. (Ibid., p. 53)



[57] Most Moslems see our law system as foolish nonsense because so many criminals have a “glib lawyer that can secure freedom” by a technicality. Here prostitution, rape and adultery are only winked at, but to Islams they are very serious crimes. They say:


There is an overall increase in the crime rate in the country, making the society more unfit to live in and bringing it closer towards an ultimate catastrophic end. Christianity can’t handle the ills of society; that is evident.

The Islamic approach to the problem of rape is both comprehensive and organized. Firstly, it identifies the root cause of the problem; secondly, it seeks to isolate the factors contributing to its growth and existence; and thirdly, it proceeds to eliminate the problem in its entirely (Ibid., p. 58)


When they “eliminate the problem in its entirety,” they mean to remove the offending part or the offender himself from society–“in entirety!”


Tradition states that Mohammed thought the three most important things in this world were women, fragrant odors, and prayers. Durant says–


Some of his [Mohammed’s] marriages were acts of kindness to the destitute widows of followers or friends, and some were diplomatic marriages to win an enemy.

His crowded harem troubled him with quarrels, jealousies, and demands for pin money. He refused to indulge the extravagance of his wives, but he promised them paradise. . . . Women and power were his only indulgence, for the rest he was a man of unassuming simplicity. (The Story of Civilization, 4:172)


Mohammed was a simple man that would ask no services of a slave that he had time and strength to do for himself. [58] Despite all the wealth taken in booty and revenue, he spent little upon his family and less upon himself. He ate simple, which was quite common, such as dates, barley bread, milk and honey. He did enjoy beer and wine. He was vain and spent considerable time on his personal appearance. He perfumed his body, painted his eyes, and dyed his hair. In character he was nervous and sometimes subject to periods of melancholy. He was an unscrupulous warrior but a very just judge.


At the age of 59 his health began to fail, and he often had fevers. On June 7, 632 A.D., after a long period of suffering, he passed on to his paradise. Durant said, “If we judge greatness by influence, he was one of the giants of history.” (Ibid., p. 174)


When Mohammed was born, Arabia was a desert filled with rough idolatrous tribes, but at his death it was a nation. He supplanted superstition with a religion, a religion based upon Judaism and Zoroastrianism. It created a people of ruthless courage and racial pride that won hundreds of victories. Even today Arabia is a nation of power and influence throughout the world.



[59]                              Chapter 7



Blessings of Bible Polygamists


It is important in this history to also include the plural marriage beliefs and customs of the Hebrews, or Israelites–descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Polygamy is mentioned and/or inferred from the first to the last book of the Holy Bible, which comes to us through the mouths of some of the greatest prophets that ever lived. All or part of those scriptures are honored by several great world religions, i.e., Jews, Moslems, Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons. These Bible prophets recorded, spoke, and lived by the word of God. Their lives had to be clean and exemplary before they were able to receive communication from God, and one of the examples they set was living plural marriage!


Abraham. Father Abraham was the great and grand patriarch of the Bible–a man who is still honored as a spiritual giant by the Christians, Moslems, and Jews. God was very pleased with him and promised–


In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Gen. 26:4-5)


This denotes divine approval of a man’s life and his lifestyle–even though Abraham had two wives for about 19 years and then added others. The Christian nations today refer [60] to him as “The Father of the faithful,” and a “friend of God”, but still many Christians think that his marriages were adulterous, sinful and abominable. How strange that God never mentioned that to Abraham!


Is it not also strange that if plural marriage were such a terrible sin, that God blessed his life, his children and posterity forever rather than condemning them?


Jacob. The great father of the house of Israel was Jacob; and he, too, lived plural marriage and strangely enough was promised the same blessings as Abraham. After 17 years of living plural marriage, God came to him and said, “a company of nations” and many “kings” would be a part of the blessings of his posterity, and those children came from all of his wives! His lifestyle didn’t seem to offend our Father in Heaven because Jacob was able to say, “I have seen God face to face.” (Gen. 32:30) How many critics and censors of polygamy can bear such a testimony?


Moses. Moses was another great prophet honored by many different nations of the world. He not only lived plural marriage himself, but gave divine laws for others to live it! Although God never criticized him for such a lifestyle, his sister, Miriam, did, and she was cursed by the Lord with a plague as a result. That should be a lesson for Israel, both then and now, who might be tempted to make the same mistake. (See Num. 12:1-15.)


[61]         The most scholarly Bible professors of today acknowledge Moses as the great lawgiver. They wrote:


Moses had no successor. He was the lawgiver; and the law which was through him was not to change with the changing generations of men. (Zondervan’s Enc. of the Bible 4:291)


One of these laws was known as the levirate law (quoted and explained on the next few pages) which is classified with the statutes and principles that do not change with time, conditions or customs. Even Paul said, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” (Gal. 3:24) If those laws were intended to bring people to Christ, then there is no need to change them now. If the program is changed, the results will also change.


David. King David was a man after God’s “own heart”, and yet he lived plural marriage. He and his lifestyle seemed to be approved of by God until the moment that he took someone else’s wife and had her husband killed. From that time on his life was cursed and judgments fell upon him and his household. His sin was taking a woman who did not rightfully belong to him.


Solomon. King Solomon, David’s son, was the wisest man around and did very well with plural marriage–until he overdid it. His wisdom was overpowered by his lust for foreign women who ruled both him and the temple of God. His wisdom turned to foolishness, as he disobeyed certain laws and restrictions pertaining to plural marriage.


Gideon. Gideon was also a great man in the eyes of God and his countrymen; yet he had many wives and 71 sons to his credit. The great Apostle Paul lauded him as one “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, and obtained [62] promises.” (Heb. 11:32-33) Gideon was not only honored by the Lord but also by the Gideon Bible Society who have left Bibles in hotel rooms for years. This is quite ironic for the modern “Christians” to so greatly honor a polygamist!


* * * * *


Martin Luther commented on the plural marriage of these great men:


The polygamy of the patriarchs, Gideon, David, Solomon, etc., was a matter of necessity, not of libertinism. The Jews were constrained to have several wives, from the necessity of the promise, and of consanguinity. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received from God the promise that he would multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea. The Jews, having their attention constantly directed to his promise, to accomplish it were fain to take several wives each. The necessity of consanguinity was this, that when a man was elected judge or king, all his poor female relations crowded about him, and he had to take them as wives or concubines. Concubinage was lawful among the Jews, and was, indeed, a mode of aiding distressed relatives, widows and orphans, to whom it secured food and raiment. It was a burden some imposition rather than an agreeable relaxation. Solomon’s wives, most of them, were probably no more to him than my nieces, Magdalen and Elizabeth, are to me, who have remained under my roof virgins, as when they came here. (Table Talk, Luther, p. 304)


The list of notable polygamists goes on and on. If space permitted, we could discuss the lives of many polygamist prophets, patriarchs and great kings who were honored by the Lord–some of whom were Jair, Abdon, Ibzan, Jerubbaal, Jerahmeel, Ashur, Shaharam, Rehoboam, Abijah, Josiah, Elkanah, Jehoiada, Hosea, Ahab, and Job. These men were honored in Israel and their marriage system was their sacred law, which always was a part of the law of Israel.


[63]         Whatever people may say of plural marriage, it is a well-established historical fact that it was lived by God’s people for thousands of years and is one of the laws of the Bible. One of those Biblical laws was called the levirate law which was–


If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her.

And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother, which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deut. 25:5,6)


If the dead man’s brother already had a wife, he was still obligated to obey that law. This was done with Ruth, her husband being dead, and having no child, nor any brother to marry the widow, Boaz, his uncle, one of the brothers of his father, took Ruth for his wife, “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” (Ruth 4:10)


Judah had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er died without a child. When “Judah said unto Onan, go in unto thy brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother” (Gen. 38:6), he refused and was killed.


This levirate law encompassing plural marriage was never done away with by Christ or His apostles, or they would have said so. Orson Pratt explained:


Question: Was there anything connected with the gospel and teachings of Christ or his apostles, intended to abolish the law in relation to the widow of the dead? When our Saviour and his servants went forth through all the cities of Israel, preaching, baptizing, and [64] introducing into the church all who would receive their testimony, is it at all likely that they condemned those who had married a plurality of wives in obedience to the law? What would they naturally have said to a man who had married half a dozen widows of his brothers who had died childless? Would they have condemned him for keeping the law? Would they have required him to put away the widows of the dead whom the law had compelled him to marry? If he had not kept the law, would he not have been condemned by the law? Hear what the penalty of disobedience is, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, amen.” (Deut. 27:26) A man, then, was bound under a heavy curse to marry all the widows of his deceased brothers who died childless. Must he, therefore, be a cast-away for doing his duty? Must he be kept without the pale of the Christian Church, unless he put away all his wives but one? Such an idea is preposterous. On the other hand, if Jesus and his servants had found a man in all Israel who had refused to obey this law–who would not marry the widows of his dead brothers, they would have reproved him as a transgressor; they would have told him that he was under a curse for neglecting to obey the law; they would have warned him to repent; and it is very doubtful whether they would have received him into the Christian Church unless he first manifested his repentance by observing the law, and marrying the widows, as required. (The Seer, O. Pratt, p. 62)


In the beginning of the book of Exodus it is recorded that “the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Ex. 1:7) This condition would continually follow them until their captivity in Babylon. The new Pharaoh was worried over these prolific people and thought the Israelites were “more and mightier than we.” To offset this he set up taskmasters to “afflict them,” but that didn’t seem to make any difference. Josephus said they were [65] sent out to build the pyramids (Antiq. 2, chap. lxa, sec. 1), and undoubtedly many men were killed, died from accidents, or were overworked. To make things worse, the pharaoh ordered Egyptian women to be midwives to Israelites, and when a child was born, “if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.” (1:16) Jasher recorded that–


Pharaoh ordered his officers daily to go to Goshen to seek for the babes of the children of Israel. And when they had sought and found one, they took it from its mother’s bosom by force, and threw it into the river, but the female child they left with its mother; thus did the Egyptians do to the Israelites all the days. (Book of Jasher, p. 202)


Adam Clarke repeated a Jewish statement of Jarchi in his book Hebrew Roots explaining the reason Pharaoh ordered the killing of all male Israelite babies:


“When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and ye see that the birth is broken forth, if it be a son, then ye shall kill him.” Jonathan ben Uzziel gives us a curious reason for the command given by Pharaoh to the Egyptian women: “Pharaoh slept, and saw in his sleep a balance, and behold the whole land of Egypt stood in one scale, and a lamb in the other; and the scale in which the lamb was outweighed that in which was the land of Egypt. Immediately he sent and called all the chief magicians, and told them his dream. And Janes and Jimbres, (see 2 Tim. iii. 8), who were chief of the magicians, opened their mouths and said to Pharaoh, `A child is shortly to be born in the congregation of the Israelites, whose hand shall destroy the whole land of Egypt.’ Therefore Pharaoh spake to the midwives, etc.” (Clarke’s Comm. of the Bible 1:294)


Why did the children of Israel “increase so abundantly”? This is attributed to several factors: the Lord blessed them [66] with fruitfulness; these hard-working women bore children easily compared to the soft and luxurious Egyptian women; Israelites did not abort children nor did they try to prevent large families; and they lived plural marriage. Clarke gives an example of multiplication by numbers for the great increase of Israelites.


Suppose there were only two hundred years reckoned, and only fifty persons who did beget children, and these begin not to beget before they be twenty years old, and then each of them beget only three children. Divide this time now into ten times twenty years. In the first time, of 50 come 150. In the second, of 150 come 450. Of them in the third, come 1350. Of them in the fourth, 4050. Of these in the fifth, 12,150. Of these in the sixth, 36,450. Of them in the seventh, 109,350. Of them in the eighth, 328,050. Of these in the ninth, 984,150. And of them in the tenth, 2,952,450. (Ibid., 1:117)


It is obvious that Pharaoh thought the death of so many males among the Israelites would leave that people with barren widows and unmarried women. However, it did not stop Israel from a rapid numerical increase because they believed in plural marriage. So his wild, insane program of killing male children was in vain.


Because of the criminal slaughter of male Israelite babies by the Egyptian Pharaoh, a great number of surplus women did result. To prevent so many childless women among them, the Lord revealed the principle of plural wives and proscribed laws that were to govern such a marriage system.


The Holy Bible is a history of the nation of Israel. It clearly speaks of the laws of marriage given to them by the Lord, and plural marriage was one of those laws which followed them throughout their history. It was just as popular [67] as it was sacred. Indeed it was so closely allied with God’s greatest prophets and people that it is difficult to find an ancient prophet, patriarch or king that did not comply with that sacred law. The Bible is full of polygamy.


The 12 polygamous sons of Jacob were honored by Christ along with His twelve apostles in the New Testament. Those 12 sons and their descendants were called “the chosen people” to whom God gave His most sacred laws and the Holy Priesthood.


If polygamy is immoral, then these ancient leaders, patriarchs and prophets were immoral. In such a case they were not worthy of anything sacred, their teachings and lives were a hypocritical farce, and they could not have been chosen of God.


If polygamy were a sin, then there is no sanctity to the scriptures because both are intimately connected with each other. It seems ridiculous that prophets could live polygamy and still talk to God if it were wrong. If it were a sin, why would God speak to all those ancient prophets who were living polygamy and not mention it to them?


Can a true prophet teach one set of divine laws while continually living in sin, or can time change the laws of God? In other words, can the principle of plural marriage be sacred at one time and sinful during another?


Nearly all Christian churches teach that polygamy was merely a heathen custom which God tolerated; or that God winked at it but Christ brought new light with Christianity. It seems foolish to believe that prophets lived sinfully in their marriages for 4,000 years, but it took only a few words to change it. Is it possible that a divine law can be changed from [68] sacred to sinful? Can a principle that produced the most chosen men of the earth, including Christ, suddenly become adultery and wicked?


Each of the kings of Israel was told by the Lord to write the laws of God in their own handwriting, and then read them “all their days,”


. . . that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left. . . . (Deut. 17:19-20)


Should not Bible believers of today do the same? The laws, statutes, and commandments of God are eternal in their nature, and they are not meant to be changed or discarded just because of conditions or governments. Cultures and nations change; even their laws, customs and traditions evolve in time. But correct principles and standards of morality do not and cannot change.



[69]                              Chapter 8



Polygamy Increases Their Population


During the first century A.D. the Jews lost their temple, their city, their nation and their priests. They had little alternative but to wander through the hostile world trying to preserve their lives. Returning to their holy city, Jerusalem, where a million of their people had been killed, was forbidden.


In a rebellion called Bar Cocheba (132-135 A.D.), the Jews tried to regain Judea and Palestine where 985 towns had been wiped out and 580,000 men and women were slain. The Jewish population was reduced to half its former size.


Under Roman rule the Jews had an equal footing with other religions; but when Constantine favored the Christians, the Jews suffered heavy taxes and unfair restrictions. If a Christian and Jew got married, it meant the death penalty. The rabbis were banished in 337 A.D., but in 352 they rebelled and thousands were killed and thousands more enslaved.


The emperor, Julian, was a savior to them in 361 A.D. by reducing taxes and restrictions, and allowing them to return to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem–even with state funds. But two serious difficulties arose as they began digging the foundation: (1) there was a burst of flames from the ground (probably natural gas) which discouraged many from that work, and (2) Julian died and state funds were withdrawn. Old restrictions were again imposed with even more severity.



Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem

by the Romans in 70 A.D.



Jews praying at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall (Western Wall)

a remaining section of a high wall

that surrounded Herod’s Temple


[71]         The Jewish population dwindled to one-tenth of its earlier number. They immigrated to other lands, mostly Mesopotamia and Persia, where they seemed to prosper–at least in numbers:


The Jewish communities in Persia multiplied rapidly, for Persian law permitted, and the Jews practiced polygamy, for reasons that we have seen under Mohammedan law. (The Story of Civilization, Will Durant 4:348)


The Jews encouraged polygamy because of their surplus women. Some Jews went to Arabia, where they could also live plural marriage, and dwell in peace with their fellow Semites.


That polygamy survived into the Christian era is, however, asserted by Josephus (Ant. xvii, 1 & 2); and he himself (“Vita” S75) seems to have had one wife in Palestine and another in Egypt. * * *

The Jewish law reached the Middle Ages with polygamy permitted, but not much practiced. * * * So in his codification of the Jewish law, Maimonides makes it lawful for man to contract many simultaneous marriages. But this must not be taken to represent the personal opinion of Maimonides, especially if the letter attributed to him concerning the French rabbis be authentic. * * * The law, as laid down in the Talmud and codified by Maimonides, required, however, that the husband should not only insure to each wife adequate maintenance (each wife could claim a separate domicile), but should also secure for each full conjugal rights.

It must be remembered that in the Jewish view the purpose of marriage was not to satisfy carnal desires, but to raise up a family; hence it was not uncommon that a man was permitted and even urged to take a second wife when this purpose was unfulfilled.

Occasional cases of bigamy are found in Spain as late as the fourteenth century. (Jewish Enc. 8:658)


[72]                         Justin Martyr is not wrong in asserting that in his time (2nd century) Jews were permitted to have four or five wives. [It was] practiced among the rich and the nobility. (Ibid. 10:120)


It is written that the king should not “multiply wives”, (Deut 17:17 as in the Sanh. 21a) where the number is limited to 18, 24, or 48 according to the various interpretations given to 2 Sam. 12:8. (Ibid., 10:121)


Polygamy among the Jews was one of the main factors in their prolific numbers during the Dark Ages; but they usually followed the customs and laws of the various nations where they migrated.


The position of a Jewish woman was legally low, but morally she was highly regarded. Plato, a Jew, said that he “thanked God that he had not been born a woman”, and the woman replied humbly, “I thank God that I was made according to His will.” (Woman in World History, E. M. White, p. 176)


The men were prone to take the law very seriously and tried to abide by its precepts. Some oaths were taken so seriously between Jews that “his most solemn oath was taken by laying his hand upon the testes of the man receiving the pledge; hence the word testimony.” (Story of Civilization, Durrant, 4:381)


Under the rules of the Talmud, early marriages were recommended and usually a 14-year-old girl was ready, while it was about 18 for the man. The young men were encouraged to marry a girl not for her beauty but for her qualifications as a good mother. The Talmud and the Koran, like the Old Testament, encouraged polygamy.


[73]                         “A man may marry as many wives as he pleases,” said one rabbi; but another passage in the same tractate limited the number to four; and a third required the husband, when taking a second wife, to give a divorce to the first wife if she should ask for it. The institution of the levirate, by which a Jew was required to marry his brother’s widow, presumed polygamy, and was probably due not only to kindly sentiment but also to a desire for a high birth rate in a community which, like all ancient and medieval societies, suffered high mortality. Having allowed such freedom of mating for the man, the rabbis made adultery a capital crime. (Ibid., 4:362)


Polygamy was discouraged in the Christian nations and even some of the others, so it began to be a diminishing doctrine among the Jews. They began to write rules and regulations against it:


Later enactments of the institution of the Ketubah, which was introduced by the Rabbis, still further discouraged polygamy; and subsequent enactments of the Geonim. (See Muller’s Mafteah, Berlin, 1891, p. 282.)


However, many Jews continued to accept plural marriages until around the year 1000 A.D. At that time Gershom ben Judah brought about a change in the doctrine:


Polygamy was practiced by rich Jews in Islamic lands, but was rare among the Jews of Christendom. Post-Talmudic rabbinical literature refers a thousand times to a man’s “wife,” never to his “wives.” About the year 1000 Rabbi Gershom ben Judah of Mainz decreed the excommunication of any polygamous Jew; and soon thereafter, in all Europe except Spain, polygamy and concubinage became almost extinct among the Jews. Cases continued to occur, however, where a wife barren for ten years after marriage allowed her husband to take [74] a concubine or an additional wife; parentage was vital. The same decree of Gershom abolished the old right of the husband to divorce his wife without her consent or guilt. Divorces were probably less frequent in medieval Jewry than in modern America. (The Story of Civil., Durant, 4:380)


Gershom ben Judah was called “Gershom the Elder” and was a French rabbi who was the founder of Talmudic studies in France and Germany. He was considered a profound and sagacious scholar, teaching and writing extensively. But his status and learning had little effect on his son who became a Christian.


Gershom was noted for such teachings as: (a) it was necessary to obtain the consent of both parties in order to get a divorce; (b) modification of rules concerning those who became apostates under compulsion; (c) prohibition against opening correspondence addressed to another; (d) but mostly for his prohibition of polygamy. It is written of him:


An express prohibition against polygamy was pronounced by R. Gershom b. Judah, “the Light of the Exile” (960-1028), which was soon accepted in all the communities of northern France and of Germany. The Jews of Spain and of Italy as well as those of the Orient continued to practice polygamy for a long period after that time, although the influence of the prohibition was felt even in those countries. Some authorities suggested that R. Gershom’s decree was to be enforced for a time only, namely, up to 5000 A.M. (1240 A.D.), * * * probably believing that the Messiah would appear before that time; but this opinion was overruled by that of the majority of medieval Jewish rabbis. (Jewish Enc. 10:121)


Gershom ben Judah was to the Jews what Wilford Woodruff was to the Mormons. Both gave their advice and used their persuasion for their people to give up plural [75] marriage–which was, in fact, heeded only by those who wanted to discontinue it anyway. Gershom did not persuade everyone against polygamy, and it continued among some of the Jews in various nations.


People who believe in a particular religious order and then turn away from it are called apostates. The apostate then opposes the principles he once revered, is usually blinded by his opposition, often becomes like Judas, and is the worst antagonist of all. In his desperation to shake off and condemn his former beliefs, he makes false and vicious statements which soon become obvious to others. Such has happened to some Israelitish people–the Jews and Mormons–who have turned against the doctrine of plural marriage. For instance, the authors of the Jewish Encyclopedia have shown their bias in the following statements:


The prophets and the scribes looked upon it (plural marriage ) with disfavor.

At no time, however, was it practiced so much among the Israelites as among other nations.

The ideal stature of human society, in the mind of the primitive Israelite, was a monogamous one. There is no Biblical evidence that any of the Prophets lived in polygamy.

Polygamy was compared to polytheism or idolatrous worship. (Jewish Enc. 10:120)


The Jews, as with the early Christians, became influenced by the material world, its cultures, traditions and pagan laws. The living of polygamy was usually attended with persecution and poverty on the one hand, while the world offered wealth and honor on the other. It didn’t take long for them to choose the latter.


There comes a time when the faithful adherents to principle become outnumbered by those who oppose them; [76] then a strange transition occurs: the faithful are labeled apostates by the apostates. However, principles do not change but men do.


The Jews can’t deny that polygamy existed in the Bible, nor will they say that it was never lived by some of their people. Yet today most of them do not recognize it as a necessary principle of their faith.


But as in Mormonism, there are currently a limited number of Jews in Jerusalem, as well as in other countries, who still believe and practice plural marriage. Fortunately, eternal principles and laws of God find acceptance by a few.



[77]                              Chapter 9



Polygamy not for the Wicked


Unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon doesn’t say much about plural marriage. Nor did it say much about any of the other higher principles of the Priesthood. This is understandable when you consider that the book was intended for a priestcraft oriented people, blinded by tradition, custom and superstition. A thousand contending Christian churches were leading the people down different and strange paths. The corruptions of their society and failure to learn and obey Priesthood laws denote a people about to be destroyed rather than a people about to be translated or exalted.


Nephi often read the words of Isaiah to his brothers and he told them, “I did liken all scriptures unto us. . . .” (l Nephi 19:23), meaning that he applied those passages to themselves as much as to anyone else. He explained that the judgments of God “come upon all nations.” (2 Nephi 25:3) And when the Savior appeared among the Nephites, He said, “a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Nephi 23:1) Among the last words of Mormon was his admonition to “Search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Mormon 8:23)


It seems rather strange that the Nephites would include in their historical record, the third and fourth chapters of Isaiah, which tell about a war so terrible that six out of seven [78] men would be killed and “seven women shall take hold of one man” to live plural marriage. (2 Nephi 14:1) Then the next verse says, “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious.” (v. 2) Such an inclusion would certainly encourage them to accept plural marriage as a desired, correct and honorable principle.


But Nephi knew many things he could not reveal to his brothers or other family members. He said, “I was forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard” (l Nephi 14:28), and again, “mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for men; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” (2 Nephi 4:25) Moroni said he wanted to write more: “I was about to write more, but I am forbidden.” (Ether 13:13) This appeared again and again in the Nephite record. Mormon explained why only a very small part of the Savior’s teachings could be recorded at that time:


And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;

But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.

And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade [79] it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:6-11)


If people are too worldly or proud to accept the first principles of the gospel, there is no reason to offer them any more, as Jesus said, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it unto the dogs.” (Mark 7:27)


Thus the Book of Mormon seemed to avoid the subject of plural marriage as much as possible, and even the little that was written was half-hidden in the wording. Many times it would say a man had sons and daughters, and then describing another man it would say he begat many sons and daughters, but it seldom mentioned the exact numbers of children. Had that been the case, plural marriage might have been inferred by those high numbers, as it was in the case of Orihah:


And it came to pass that Orihah did execute judgment upon the land in righteousness all his days, whose days were exceeding many.

And he begat sons and daughters; yea, he begat thirty and one, among whom were twenty and three sons. (Ether 7:1-2)


With 31 children, he had to be a polygamist. And if he was a man of “righteousness all his days” and he had 31 children in polygamy, it must mean that the Lord was not displeased with him or his marriages.


Amulek said as he was journeying to see a “near kindred,” that “an angel of the Lord” appeared unto him and told him about a “chosen man of God”. Amulek was instructed to return and take this “holy man” into his house and care for his needs. He did this and as a result Amulek recorded that Alma “blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk.” (See Alma 10:7-11.)


[80]         Amulek must have been a good man because, first of all he was instructed by an angel of God. He had possibly taken as wives some of the widows left from the many wars, and Alma blessed his wives, or “women” as he called them. Amulek was recognized as a righteous man by God and obviously would have lived righteously with those women.


One of the most faithful men described in the Book of Mormon was the brother of Jared. It is said of him:


And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith. (Ether 12:19-20)


Because of his great faith, “the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight; wherefore he showed him all things, for he could no longer be kept without the veil.” (Ether 12:21) He was so inspired that “the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.” (v. 24) Here was a good man–a man who conducted his life and his family according to the will of the Lord. He was worthy to raise a large family with many wives, which is what must have happened, as we read that “the number of the sons and the daughters of the brother of Jared were twenty and two souls,” (Ether 6:20), indicating that he, too, must have had more than one wife.


Another indication of plural marriage in the Book of Mormon is also recorded in Ether:


[81]                         Wherefore every man did cleave unto that which was his own, with his hands, and would not borrow neither would he lend; and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defense of his property and his own life and of his wives and children. (Ether 14:2)


This passage is talking of “every man” (singular) and “his property”, but mentions “his wives” (plural).


Just like any principle and doctrine of the Gospel, both the righteous and wicked have been permitted to obey and live them, for whatever reasons–and it is no different with plural marriage. There is the example of Riplakish, a wicked man–


. . . who did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.

And he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes, he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death. (Ether 10:5-6)


Certainly this is enough evidence to show Riplakish was a very wicked man! Yet he “did have many wives and concubines” and “did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations.” (v. 5, 7) Because of his free agency, he was entitled to this lifestyle as much as anyone else; but it certainly doesn’t mean he took additional wives because he wanted to obey God and become a more righteous man.


[82]         Along these same lines, King Noah, son of righteous King Zeniff, did not walk in the ways of his father and became corrupted by selfish lusts and vanity. It is said of him:


For behold, he [Noah] did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness. * * *

And it came to pass that he placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines; and so did also his priests spend their time with harlots. (Mosiah 11:2, 14)


The Devil enjoys influencing wicked men to twist and abuse righteous principles, and polygamy seems to be one of his favorite areas, as there are countless cases of those who lived that doctrine unrighteously.


Riplakish and Noah were just two examples of the type of men whom the Lord did not want to live plural marriage; and apparently there were many others during the time of Jacob, Lehi’s son, for he warned the people:


And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?

Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.

And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak [83] unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.

But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. (Jacob 2:20-28)


The key words here are “among you”–talking of the wicked people he has just been addressing. Why should they be allowed to continue in the abuse of such a holy principle? As verse 23 states, these people were guilty of three serious sins:


  1. They were beginning to wax in iniquity.
  2. They did not understand the scriptures.
  3. They were committing whoredoms (multiplying wives), like David and Solomon.


For these reasons, the Lord wanted them restricted to only one wife and no concubines. Plural marriage must have been practiced among the Nephites before this time or why [84] else would this limitation now be placed on them by the Lord? Because of their actions, the Nephite people, generally speaking, had really become unworthy of even one wife. As Jacob goes on to describe their iniquities, it becomes even more evident why the Lord restricted them to one wife:


Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. (Jacob 2:35)


Except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction. . .

Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our fathers–that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.

And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people. (Jacob 3:3, 5-6)


The Lamanites apparently had also been guilty of abusing the principle of plural marriage and the Lord had already commanded them to have just one wife; but because of their renewed obedience, they would “one day . . . become a blessed people,” indicating their people would once again be righteous enough to live plural marriage. But it was harder to get the Nephites to obey, and because of their disobedience and abuse of plural marriage, they were under greater condemnation.


[85]         But did this instruction of having “one wife” apply to the righteous leaders and people who tried to live close to the Lord and obey all His commandments? Certainly there must have been a few of them scattered throughout the Nephite communities, who felt that instruction did not pertain to them.


Jacob 2, verse 24, referred to David and Solomon’s having “many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me.” We need to remember that when David and Solomon were in good favor with the Lord, He blessed them in every way, which included their wives; but when they apostatized, they were no longer worthy of those good women. David was guilty of murder and adultery, and Solomon took foreign wives which led to further unrighteousness:


Foreign marriages brought foreign religions, and the king compromised the convictions which he had expressed in his dedicatory prayer for the temple (I Kings 8:23, 27) by engaging in syncretistic worship to placate his wives. This violent breach of Israel’s covenant could not go unpunished. (Illus. Bible Dict., vol. 3:1472)


After such sins and “multiplying wives” out of lust, David and Solomon were no longer worthy to live plural marriage or to take additional wives. This is what the scripture is referring to as being “abominable before me.”


With this explanation it becomes a little more clear what Jacob meant when he said:


And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son. (Jacob 1:15)


[86]         Both David and Solomon corrupted themselves, their families and their kingdoms through their immorality. The purpose of plural marriage is to live pure lives and raise up a righteous posterity. They failed to do this and so did the Nephites, and thus they were forbidden from taking plural wives.


It is easy to understand the potential nature of good and evil in all things. For example, a fire can warm a house or burn it down. A gun may provide food for hungry people, or it can kill the people themselves. So it is with plural marriage–it can exalt or destroy. Like any other marriage, it is neither good nor bad in and of itself; its value is determined by the way it is used or abused.


Jacob left the door open for the righteous to live plural marriage when he said:


For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. (Jacob 2:30-31)


So apparently it was just as difficult for men to live this principle righteously in those days as it has been in our dispensation. So Jacob issued a type of Manifesto for his time similar to what was declared and accepted in the LDS Church in 1890. Orson Pratt commented:


But because the Lord dealt thus with the small branch of the House of Israel that came to America, under their peculiar circumstances, there are those at the present day who will appeal to this passage in the [87] Book of Mormon as something universally applicable in regard to man’s domestic relations. The same God that commanded one branch of the House of Israel in America, to take but one wife when the numbers of the two sexes were about equal, gave a different command to the hosts of Israel in Palestine. But let us see the qualifying clause given in the Book of Mormon on this subject. After having reminded the people of the commandment delivered by Lehi, in regard to monogamy, the Lord says–“For if I will raise up seed unto me I will command my people, otherwise they shall hearken unto these things;” that is, if I will raise up seed among my people of the House of Israel, I will give them a commandment on the subject, but if I do not give this commandment, they shall hearken to the law which I give unto their father Lehi. That is the meaning of the passage, and this very passage goes to prove that plurality was a principle God did approve under circumstances when it was authorized by Him. (JD 13:191-92, Oct. 7, 1869)


Of course, he is talking here about accepted procedure of the Church, allowing for the fact that there will always be a few who wish to obey eternal principles in or out of the Church.


The Book of Mormon is an amazing book. It is so amazing that it must be true, because truth is stranger than fiction. Unlike fiction, however, it teaches principles, religious themes, history and a vast amount of common sense. It depicts the lives of both good and bad men as descriptively and eloquently as any in the Bible. From such illustrative examples comes a precious understanding of good and evil, and the fruits resulting from each.


Our actions determine our outcome–not merely the beliefs we claim nor what we possess. For instance, gold is neither good nor bad, but its use by either good or bad individuals determines its significance and value. Both good [88] and bad individuals hold government offices, and how they use that power becomes a factor in determining their true worth.


So now we come to the principle of plural marriage. It, too, can be received and lived by both good and bad men and women; it can be righteously practiced or it can be terribly abused. The Book of Mormon gives us important instructions by providing a glimpse into the fateful history of plural marriage. We can learn from the many examples that plural marriage is not a principle to be lived by the wicked, and God will not tolerate His Church in any dispensation to abuse it for long.



[89]                              Chapter 10



Christ Fulfilled the Law


When Jesus Christ was born, polygamy was known and lived by various nationalities all over the world. Many of the Jews that He associated with either talked about it or were living it. How could these learned Biblical scholars teach about the ancient prophets without bringing up the subject of their many wives? These people were caught between the ancient Israel laws that advocated polygamy and those of the Roman Empire that discouraged it. So, isn’t it strange that on the written record Jesus never said a single word about either law? In all the writings of His disciples, never did they say a word for or against plural marriage.


This unusual mystery certainly indicates that some sort of “editing” must have been done in the original manuscripts. If Jesus had said something negative about plural marriage, there would be no reason to hide it because monogamy was the most common form of marriage, and enforcing monogamy would have given the Christians more favor with the Roman government. But no law for monogamy is included in the New Testament–nor is there any law against polygamy. If Jesus said anything favorable about plural marriage, why was it omitted from the New Testament manuscripts? [90] There are at least two reasons. One is because some contemporary Christians, like some Mormons, hated that principle. They would rather obey the law of the land than this law of God. They would edit manuscripts and history to eliminate anything in favor of that subject. Secondly, they would encourage monogamy to protect themselves from persecution. By gaining favor with the Roman government, they could find jobs, acceptance, and political position. It is a story that would be repeated nearly 2,000 years later in the restored church.


This is understandable when we read the prophecy of Nephi who mentioned a book that “is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel,” and that contains “covenants of the Lord . . . of great worth unto the Gentiles.” But after it goes forth, “a great and abominable church . . . have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” (1 Nephi 13:23-26) Nephi continued by saying that “an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (verse 29; see also the rest of that chapter and all of chapter 14.)


Changes and omissions are difficult to prove since we do not have any original or early Bible manuscripts to compare with. However, we do have some evidence from within the Bible itself. For instance, all of the Bibles published before King James’ translation had a most interesting prophecy about the Messiah (Christ) who was to come. From the Geneva Bible published in London in 1599 comes this photocopy:


[91]  (photocopy of verses 8, 9, 10, 11, 45th Psalm, 1599 Geneva Bible)


Again, the Church of England Bible published in 1636 has an interesting footnote attached to their translation:


(photocopy of verses 6-15)


[92]         The Apostle Orson Pratt commented on this:


King James’ translators were not willing that this passage [above] should have a literal translation, according to the former English rendering, lest it should give countenance to polygamy; therefore, they altered the translation to honorable women instead of wives; but any person acquainted with the original can see that the first translators have given the true rendering of that passage. (The Seer, p. 160)


In His day Jesus could see the need for living plural marriage, for about the time of His birth, Herod had ordered thousands of male children killed, leaving a great surplus of women Christ’s age. Added to this, many young men were killed in the usual wars and depredations of life. So why should Jesus and the apostles prohibit plural marriages which would solve the problem?


They also had children. The chosen lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, and His apostles would still be represented on the earth in these last days, as latter-day prophets have confirmed:


Among the other things, he [George Q. Cannon] said, “There are those in this audience who are descendants of the old Twelve Apostles–and shall I say it, yes, descendants of the Savior Himself. His seed is represented in this body of men.”

Following Pres. Cannon, President Snow arose and said that what Bro. Cannon had stated respecting the literal descendants among this company of the old apostles and the Savior himself is true–the Savior’s seed is represented in this body of men. (“Journal of Pres. Rudger Clawson,” pp. 374-375)


We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before He was crucified. “Has he indeed passed by [93] the nature of angels, and taken upon himself the seed of Abraham, to die without leaving a seed to bear his name on the earth?” No. But when the secret is fully out, the seed of the blessed shall be gathered in, in the last days; and he who has not the blood of Abraham flowing in his veins, who has not one particle of the Savior’s in him, I am afraid is a stereotyped Gentile, who will be left out and not be gathered in the last days; for I tell you it is the chosen of God, the seed of the blessed, that shall be gathered. I do not despise to be called a son of Abraham, if he had a dozen wives; or to be called a brother, a son, a child of the Savior, if he had Mary, and Martha, and several others, as wives; and though he did cast seven devils out of one of them, it is all the same to me.

Well, then, he shall see his seed, and who shall declare his generation, for he was cut off from the earth? I shall say here, that before the Savior died, he looked upon his own natural children, as we look upon ours; he saw his seed, and immediately afterwards he was cut off from the earth; but who shall declare his generation? They had no father to hold them in honorable remembrance; they passed into the shades of obscurity, never to be exposed to mortal eye as the seed of the blessed one. For no doubt had they been exposed to the eye of the world, those infants might have shared the same fate as the children in Jerusalem in the days of Herod, when all the children were ordered to be slain under such an age, with the hopes of slaying the infant Savior.

History is replete with circumstances of neck-or-nothing politicians dyeing their hands in the blood of those who stood in their way to the throne or to power.

That seed has had its influence upon the chosen of God in the last days. The same spirit inspires them that inspired their father, who bled and died upon the cross after the manner of the flesh. (Orson Hyde, JD 1:82-83)


Two years later Orson Hyde spoke again on this subject:


Abraham was chosen of God for the purpose of raising up a chosen seed, and a peculiar people unto his [94] name. Jesus Christ was sent into the world for a similar purpose, but upon a more extended scale. Christ was the seed of Abraham, so reckoned. To these, great promises were made; one of which was, that in Abraham, and his seed, which was Christ, all the families of the earth should be blessed. When? When the ungodly or those not of their seed should be cut off from the earth, and no family remaining on earth except their own seed. Then in Abraham and in Christ, all the families and kindreds of the earth will be blessed–Satan bound, and the millennium fully come. Then the meek will inherit the earth, and God’s elect reign undisturbed, at least, for one thousand years.

Is there no way provided for those to come into this covenant relation who may not possess in their veins, any of the blood of Abraham or of Christ? Yes! By doing the works of Abraham and of Christ in the faith of Abraham and of Christ; not in unbelief and unrighteousness, like the wicked world who have damned themselves in their own corruption and unbelief. (Orson Hyde, JD 4:260)


When Jesus frequently counselled His followers to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39), he was referring to the Old Testament. He did not preach against the laws of Moses nor did He try to change or do away with them. At the beginning of His ministry He made it clear: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. . . .” (Matt. 5:17) He even suggested that the law would continue long afterwards: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18) Then He continued by saying that if man would teach these Old Testament laws as scripture, he would be considered great in heaven. Orson Pratt explained:


Some may say that when Christ came, “old things were done away and all things became new.” But who does not know that this had reference only to the law of carnal commandments and ordinances which Christ came to fulfill? Who does not know that [95] there were many commandments and laws which were connected with the law of ordinances which were continued under the gospel? The Ten Commandments were not done away in Christ. Prayer which was practiced under the law, was also necessary under the gospel. The gospel did not abolish the law against stealing, against killing, against taking the name of the Lord in vain, against false witnesses, against drunkenness, or against any other abominations. Christ did not do away the law of doing good to one’s neighbor, the law of uprightness and honesty which should characterize their dealings, one with another. Christ, by introducing the gospel, never intended to abolish the law practiced among Israel in helping the poor, the needy, the fatherless, and the widow. Hence there were hundreds of commands and laws under the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations which Christ did not come to do away. What was moral, and good, and righteous before Christ came was equally so after he came, unless we can find some evidence to the contrary. (The Seer, p. 63)


Christ was the Messiah to come in the meridian of time. His mission was to teach and live as an example of the laws of God. Although He lived without sin, He was baptized–not for the remission of sins, but to fulfill, or obey, the law. Baptism was a law imposed upon everyone, and Jesus was no exception to that law. Plural marriage was also a law, and He was no exception to that one either.


Some of the modern Christians who believe that “the law” was done away with at the coming of Christ, quote Luke in support of this:


The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16)


[96]         But if this were literally true, then all the laws including the Ten Commandments were to be done away at the coming of Christ. The next verse somewhat contradicts this idea, however:


And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:17)


Thus, the law does not change, it cannot be done away, and Christ did not destroy it.


These same verses were greatly clarified in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible:


Then said Jesus unto them, The law and the prophets testify of me; yea, and all the prophets who have written, even until John, have foretold of these days.

Since that time, the kingdom of God is preached, and every man who seeketh truth presseth into it.

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.

And why teach ye the law, and deny that which is written; and condemn him whom the Father hath sent to fulfil the law, that ye might all be redeemed? (Luke 16:17-20)


All the law and all the prophets up to the time of John pointed to the coming of the Messiah, who was the object of all the law and their prophecies. There would be no “new law,” as good scholars recognized: “Neither Jesus nor John came preaching something absolutely new. Theirs was a word of fulfillment.” (Zondervan’s Enc. of the Bible 3:642) But no one made it more clear than Jesus Himself when He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt. 5:17). To “fulfill” the law means to “obey” and “carry out”. For this [97] reason, Christ obeyed and lived the law of polygamy, along with all God’s other laws.


A Christian minister by the name of James Campbell traveled the world in the 1860’s and studied its many religions. One of the most interesting parts of his study was the practice of plural marriage. He eventually wrote a book about it and said:


. . . let the inspiration and perpetual authority of the Old Testament be fully admitted, yet the modern Christian may say, “We do not live under the first Covenant, nor observe the ceremonies of Moses; but we live in the New Dispensation, under the full light of the gospel: Christ has fulfilled the ritual and emblematical ordinances of the law, and set them aside; and it is presumed that the ancient marriage laws have been set aside among the rest, and superseded by the purer system of monogamy.” But this assumption cannot be supported either by sufficient testimony or by valid reasoning. The social system of polygamy had existed before the time of Moses, and had no dependence upon the ceremonial law which was instituted in his day. That law only confirmed it as a pre-existent institution. Marriage laws cannot be regarded as merely ritual and emblematical: they are moral and fundamental, guarding the dearest rights and punishing the deepest wrongs of mankind. They are, therefore, equally permanent with those laws protecting life and property, those inculcating obedience to parents and rulers, and those maintaining the sanctity of oaths. All these, together with the marriage laws, existed before the time of Moses, and have survived the time of Christ. They are among those “laws” that Jesus came not to subvert but to ratify; as Dr. George Campbell of Edinburgh has, in Matt. v. 17, very exactly translated the terms (Hebrew) and (Hebrew). Hence the marriage system of polygamy never formed a part of that ceremonial dispensation which was abrogated [98] by the New Testament; nor has it ever been proved that the New Testament was designed to affect any change in it; but the presumption is that this new dispensation has also left it, as it found it,–abiding still in force. If any change were to be made in an institution of such long standing, confirmed by positive law, it could obviously be made only by equally positive and explicit ordinances or enactments of the gospel. But such enactments are wanting. Christ himself was altogether silent in respect to polygamy, not once alluding to it; yet it was practiced at the time of his advent throughout Judea and Galilee, and in all the other countries of Asia and Africa, and, without doubt, by some of his own disciples.

The Book of the Acts is equally silent as the four Gospels are. No allusion to it is found in any of the sermons or instructions or discussions of the apostles and early saints recorded in that book. It was not because Jesus or the apostles durst not condemn it, had they considered it sinful, that they did not speak of it, for Jesus hesitated not to denounce the sins of hypocrisy, covetousness, and adultery, and even to alter and amend, apparently, the ancient laws respecting divorce and retaliation; but he never rebuked them for their polygamy, nor instituted any change in that system. And this uniform silence, so far as it implies anything, implies approval. John the Baptist was thrown into prison, where he was afterwards beheaded, for reproving King Herod on account of his adultery: and we cannot doubt, that, if he had considered polygamy to be sinful, he would have mentioned it; for Herod’s father was, just before that time, living with nine wives, whose names are recorded by Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews; but John only reproved him for marrying Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, while his brother was living. He administered the same reproof to Herod that Nathan had formerly done to David, and for similar reasons. The apostles always denounced the sins of fornication and adultery, but never denounced polygamy, nor intimated in any way that it was a sin. In all the long and painful catalogues of sins enumerated in the first, [99] second, and third chapters of Romans, many of which relate to the unlawful indulgence of the amorous propensities, polygamy is not once named. It is the very place where it is morally certain that it would have been named if it were sinful; and, that it is not there named, we are fully warranted to believe that it is not sinful. (The History and Philosophy of Marriage, Campbell, pp. 68-71)


In all the clouds of confusion, man will frequently fail or fall. Custom, tradition, circumstances, regulations and public law may lead mankind away from the laws of God. Jesus constantly fought against the apostate traditions of the Jews, saying, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3) Regulations and laws are often made by traditions, and the laws governing monogamy were among them.


If Christ had changed the moral laws, He would have proved Himself a fraud. Morality included marriage and all the principles and laws connected with it, and God said they could not and would not change. He declared, “For I am the Lord, I change not. . . .” (Mal. 3:6), and “So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and for ever.” (Psalms 119:44)


Much more could be said in this chapter about the marriages of Christ and His Apostles, including their plural marriages. But for further information, see this author’s books entitled Jesus Was Married and Polygamy in the Bible.



[100]                             Chapter 11



Polygamy Against Secular and Ecclesiastical Law


As is true in every dispensation when prophets bring the word of God to man, the Gospel of Jesus Christ also began to be changed within a few years of its beginning. Departure from true principles did not occur suddenly, but rather with small compromises, gradual changes and alterations–similar to the setting of the sun when darkness slowly overtakes the light. During Christ’s ministry there were “thousands” who came to listen and follow Him; but just before His crucifixion, “all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” (Matt. 26:56)


Jesus warned His disciples that dangers would come from within their own ranks: “They shall put you out of the synagogues” [churches] (John 16:2). Paul wrote to the Saints, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thus. 2:7), and “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6). To the Saints in Asia he said, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” (II Tim. 1:15) “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (II Tim. 3:13) Then again:


The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [101] and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Tim. 4:3-4)


Peter also warned:


But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies. . . . (II Peter 2:1)


John also noted this apostasy when he said they had “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” (Rev. 2:2) He also wrote to the seven churches in Asia condemning each of them for extremely wicked sins. Jude tried to persuade the Saints to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. for there are certain men crept in unawares, . . .” (Jude 1:3-4)


How can such conditions be possible? Persecution is not the only means to destroy a religion; its worst danger comes from the weaknesses and unfaithfulness of its own leaders.


If opposition by force against the truth is not successful, Satan then resorts to infiltration. At first he hoists certain half-hearted men into positions of power and influence within the ranks of Christ’s own disciples. He selects men who will abandon the laws of God for the laws of man. These compromisers will, for a price, barter off the principles of Christ for the traditions of men. The devil prizes such men above any others because they prove to be the most effectual at deception and destruction. These champions of spiritual darkness become tempted and led away by the influences of wealth, the honors of men, and the desire to be at peace with their enemies. Such semi-apostates are usually found busily engaged in mercantile traffic, money making schemes, and are absorbed in their temporal affluence among all men. They are [102] so concerned about the temporal progress of the church and in supporting the laws, traditions, and leaders of the land that they will barter away eternal principles to accomplish temporal peace. In their aspirations to acquire the praise of other men, they lose their bonds with heaven. These spiritually dead leaders sell eternal blessings for a mess of mortal pottage. In their eagerness to magnify the progress of the world and acquire the praise of worldly leaders, they lose sight of their dependence upon God and His Word. At this critical point of history, the Church stood in its greatest peril.


Rome was the hub of the great Roman Empire, and today it is the headquarters for the Catholic Church. The story of the transition from one of the most corrupt powers on earth to one of the most ritualistic religions is a fascinating study. The evolution of their attitude toward marriage is also very interesting–even appalling. The Roman leaders consecutively took numerous wives and tossed them aside like old shoes, while Catholicism restricted their leaders from having any wives at all. To understand this change in marital attitude, we must go back to the lives and writings of Christ’s apostles.


As a Roman, Paul wrote in one of his letters, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5) He also said,


Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Rom. 13:1)


This could be the origin of the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Paul was a Roman, he spoke as a Roman, and he honored the laws of the Romans. This would also become the reason given for many of the Christians to conform to the laws and customs of their particular secular [103] government. It would be the justification offered by Christians for changing God’s Biblical laws of plural marriage to monogamous laws of the land.


But Paul apparently did not honor all Roman laws because in the end he was accused of political disobedience, or at least a verbal expression of it, which was a capital offense. Tertullian, in his writings dated about 200 A.D., reported that Paul had been beheaded in Rome. Eusebius, one of the early Christian bishops (264-349 A.D.), records that under Nero “Paul, after having pleaded his cause, was sent a prisoner to Rome,” and that “Paul passed two whole years at Rome as a prisoner at large,” and that in that city “he finished his life with martyrdom.” (Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, p. 74)


In the beginning Rome was very unfriendly toward Christians; later, however, she would court, tempt and finally seduce them with Roman laws in opposition to the laws of Christ.


  1. Westermarck wrote a three-volume work entitled The History of Human Marriage (London, 1921) and later summarized it in a book called simply Marriage in which he stated:


The New Testament does not expressly prohibit polygyny, except in the case of a bishop and a deacon (and, he might have added, the ban was by Paul and not Christ). No Council of the Church in the earliest centuries opposed polygyny, and no obstacle was put in the way of its practice by kings in countries where it had occurred in the times of paganism, for example in Ireland and among the Merovingian kings. (Marriage, Westermarck, p. 62)


It is said that Julius Caesar attempted to have a law passed in favor of polygamy, but could not put it into effect. [104] He found for himself that once a tradition is set into society, it is most difficult to extract.


The Christians had not been instructed by law to obey any particular form of marriage–monogamous, polygamous or celibate. It was their free choice. According to Martin Luther, celibacy was first imposed on church leaders over two centuries after the time of Christ.


The celibacy of spiritual persons began in the time of Cyprian, who lived two hundred and fifty years after the birth of Christ. (The Table Talk of Martin Luther, Hazlitt, p. 307)


George Q. Cannon spoke of the more lasting nature of polygamous nations as compared to monogamous ones–Rome, for example:


But the history of the world goes to prove that the practice of this principle [plural marriage], even by nations ignorant of the gospel, has resulted in greater good to them than the practice of monogamy or the one-wife system in the so-called Christian nations. * * *

Where are the nations that have existed from time immemorial? They are not to be found in Christian monogamic Europe, but in Asia, among the polygamic races–China, Japan, Hindostan and the various races of that vast continent. Those nations, from the most remote times, practiced plural marriage handed down to them by their forefathers. Although they are looked upon by the nations of Europe as semi-civilized, you will not find among them woman prostituted, debased and degraded as she is through Christendom. She may be treated coldly and degraded, but among them, except where the Christian element prevails to a large extent, she is not debased and polluted as she is among the so-called Christian nations. It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest-lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome, with her arts, sciences and [105] warlike instincts, was once the mistress of the world; but her glory faded. She was a monogamic nation, and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her. The strongest sayings of Jesus recorded in the New Testament were leveled against the dreadful corruptions practiced in Rome and wherever the Romans held sway. The leaven of their institutions had worked its way into the Jewish nation, Jewry or Palestine being then a Roman province, and governed by Roman officers, who brought with them their wicked institutions, and Jesus denounced the practices which prevailed there. (JD 13:202)


When did Christianity adopt the law of monogamy from the Romans? The answer is easy. The marriage laws of the Romans entered into Christianity about the same time most of their false doctrines did–nearly 300 years after the establishment of Christianity. It is true that many small and gradual changes took place within the Church of Christ shortly after the death of Jesus, but most of the critical deviations came through the actions of Emperor Constantine. He probably had more influence on what Christians eventually believed than did Christ Himself.



The Diocletian oppression was the last of the great persecutions brought by pagan Rome against Christianity as a whole. A stupendous change, amounting to a revolution, now appears in the affairs of the Church. Constantine, known in history as Constantine the Great, became emperor of Rome A.D. 306, and reigned 31 years. (The Great Apostasy, James E. Talmage, p. 75)


Constantine turned from the persecution of Christians to placing them in a position of worldly honor, rank and the highest of privileges. The unbelieving Romans became Christians, and the Christians began to think, act, and live like Romans. Philip Schaff, a noted historian, describes this conversion:


The reign of Constantine the Great marks the transition of the Christian religion from under persecution by the secular government to union with the same; the beginning of the state-church system. (p. 4)

The despised sect, which, like its Founder in the days of His humiliation, had not where to lay its head, is raised to sovereign authority in the state, enters into the prerogatives of the pagan priesthood, grows rich and powerful, builds countless churches out of the stones of idol temples to the honor of Christ and his martyrs, employs the wisdom of Greece and Rome to vindicate the foolishness of the cross, exerts a molding power upon civil legislation, rules the national life, and leads off the history of the world. (p. 5)

Now, too, for the first time, could ecumenical councils be held, in which the church of the whole Roman empire was represented, and fixed its articles of faith in an authoritative way. (p. 7)

Constantine, the first Christian Caesar, the founder of Constantinople and the Byzantine empire, and one of the most gifted, energetic, and successful of the Roman emperors, was the first representative of the imposing idea of a Christian theocracy, or of that system of policy which assumes all [107] subjects to be Christians, connects civil and religious rights, and regards church and state as the two arms of one and the same divine government on earth. (p. 12) (History of the Christian Church, Schaff, vol. 3)


Thus, the gradual merging of Christ and Caesar culminated at the time of Constantine. Here was a man for all seasons–a man who revolutionized both Christianity and the Roman Empire. Romans became Christians and Christians became Romans.


What kind of man was Constantine?


A keen supporter of the gladiatorial games during his youth and a commander who threw his German prisoners to wild beasts, Constantine executed both his wife, Fausta, and his eldest son, Crispus, by ordering that they should be slowly suffocated in the hot rooms of their bathhouses. For some while he divided his allegiance between the sun-god and the Christian Savior, and he would appear to have valued Christian relics primarily as magic-working charms. (The Colosseum, Life, Inc., p. 69)


Constantine was a showman. He knew how to invite, persuade, and rule over people. As an emperor he certainly acted the part. He not only enmeshed the Christians and the Romans nationally, but he also blended their religious, economic, social and political ideals. When meeting with religious leaders–


The emperor waited until all the bishops had taken their seats before making his entry. He was clad in gold and covered with precious stones in the fashion of an Oriental sovereign. A chair of gold had been made ready for him, and when he had taken his place, the bishops seated themselves. (Catholic Enc. 2:44)


[108] How unusual that this man set the rules for the Christian Church and yet he himself was not even a member of it! He professed it as his faith, but was not baptized until just before his death. B. H. Roberts explained why he delayed his baptism:


A professed Christian for many years, if we may believe Iactantius and Eusebius, he postponed his baptism, after the fashion of his times, until the very last year of his life, in order that, purified at once from all the stains of sin by means of it, he might be sure of entering into bliss. Such the explanation of those who would defend this delay of the emperor’s; but one cannot fail to remember that it was quite customary at this time among many professing the Christian religion to put off baptism as long as they dared that they might enjoy a life of sin, and then through the means of baptism, just before death, as by magic, obtain forgiveness. (DHC 1:iv, Introduction)


Constantine was not baptized into the church until 337 A.D., only days before his death–“the ceremony presided over by Eusebius, the personage of somewhat grievous notoriety.” (The Early History of the Church, Abbe Duchesne 2:71) It was well said that his baptism was an event that “Constantine had been hedging all his life, trying to be a Christian to the Christians and heathen to heathens.” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1:556)


By the turn of the fifth century, the gladiator schools were closed, and by 404 A.D. gladiator games were abolished. However, criminals and enemies were sent to the Colosseum to fight wild beasts for another hundred years. Some, but not all, of the practices of paganism began to disappear. However, many Roman customs, traditions and laws have continued to the present time.


[109] The leadership of Rome gradually changed from Emperors to Popes, and their standards of morality and marriage evolved accordingly. The sexual licentiousness under the Emperors’ monogamy changed to the strict moral ethics of the Popes’ celibacy–from one end of the moral spectrum to the other. But even with this reversal from total sexual indulgence to complete abstinence, polygamy was still against the law! Ironically, plural marriage sanctioned by God was outlawed; but celibacy which was prohibited by God became a law for the priests. Living a celibate life was in direct opposition to such scriptures as “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) And, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. . . .” (Gen. 1:28)


When the Roman Empire and the Christian Church were unified, they both compromised their principles. In the process, the Christians lost some of their true principles and replaced them with some of the false Roman ones.


The State might have had to yield, but now that it had protected the Church, and showered privileges and wealth upon her, it demanded all the more her absolute surrender. Thus might the friendship of the Roman State have proved more dangerous than its enmity, and in the embrace of the Empire, the spiritual power of the Church ran the risk of suffocation. (Outlines of Church History, Rudolph Sohm, p. 46)


Persecution by the Romans was a means of purifying the Church, but when they were offered good will, favors, offices, wealth and power, it was poison to the body of the Christian religion. Roman laws became more and more acceptable to the Christians, and monogamy was one of them.


Around the year 400 A.D. restrictions increased for persons who wanted to become members of the priestly offices. Schaff reports:



Catechumens, neophytes, persons baptized at the point of death, penitents, energumens (such as were possessed of a devil), actors, dancers, soldiers, curials (court, state, and municipal officials), slaves, eunuchs, bigamists, and all who led a scandalous life after baptism, were debarred from ordination. The frequenting of taverns and theatres, dancing and gambling, usury and the pursuit of secular business were forbidden to clergymen. (Hist. of the Christian Church, Schaff, 3:256)


Varying views of who should live celibate lives were maintained by the Greek and Latin churches:


In practice of clerical celibacy, however, the Greek and the Latin churches diverged in the fourth century, and are to this day divided. The Greek church stopped halfway, and limited the injunction of celibacy to the higher clergy, who were accordingly chosen generally from the monasteries or from the ranks of widower-presbyters; while the Latin church extended the law to the lower clergy, and at the same time carried forward the hierarchical principle to absolute papacy. * * *

It sets virginity far above marriage, and regards marriage only in its aspect of negative utility. In the single marriage of a priest it sees in a measure a necessary evil, at best only a conditional good, a wholesome concession to the flesh for the prevention of immorality, and requires of its highest office bearers total abstinence from all matrimonial intercourse. It wavers, therefore, between a partial permission and a partial condemnation of priestly marriage.

In the East, one marriage was always allowed to the clergy, and at first even to bishops, and celibacy was left optional. Yet certain restrictions were early introduced, such as the prohibition of marriage after ordination (except in deacons and subdeacons), as well as of second marriage after baptism; the apostolic direction, that a bishop should be the husband of one wife, being taken as a prohibition of successive [111] polygamy, and at the same time as an allowance of one marriage. Besides second marriage, the marrying of a concubine, a widow, a harlot, a slave, and an actress, was forbidden to the clergy. * * *

The Western church, starting from the perverted and almost Manichaean ascetic principle, that the married state is incompatible with clerical dignity and holiness, instituted a vigorous effort at the end of the fourth century, to make celibacy, which had hitherto been left to the option of individuals, the universal law of the priesthood; thus placing itself in direct contradiction to the Levitical law (plural marriage), to which in other respects it made so much account of conforming. * * *

The first prohibition of clerical marriage, which laid claim to universal ecclesiastical authority, at least in the West, proceeded in 385 from the Roman church in the form of a decretal letter of the bishop Siricius to Himerius, bishop of Tarragona in Spain, who had referred several questions of discipline to the Roman bishop for decision. It is significant of the connection between the celibacy of the clergy and the interest of the hierarchy, that the first properly papal decree, which was issued in the tone of supreme authority, imposed such an unscriptural, unnatural, and morally dangerous restriction. (Ibid., vol. 3: 242, 243, 247)


Thus, Christianity emerged from years of persecution into the role of a national religion. It had struggled through divers troubles and inflictions but with the church elevation, the poor, simple, devout disciple was lifted into executive offices of business and government. A new kind of man–proud and rich, with special privileges and immunities–replaced the humble disciple of previous years. It was a new church with new leaders, and it soon incorporated new doctrines and new laws.


. . . the Emperors enacted and enforced the observation of the ecclesiastical as well as of the civil [112] law. Theodosius and Gratian define or ratify the definition of doctrines, declare and condemn heretics. Justinian is a kind of Caliph of Christianity, at once in the authoritative tone and in the subjects which he comprehends under his decrees he is a Pope and an Emperor. * * *

The Emperor Justinian, having now reunited the Eastern and Western Empires, aspired to be the legislator of the world; on Christendom and on the Roman Empire, according to his notions commensurate, he would bestow a full, complete, indefeasible Code of Law. (Hist. of Latin Christianity, Henry A. Milman, 2:4-5)


In spite of all the rules and regulations against plural marriage, there seemed to be a continuous undercurrent of thinkers and writers who kept probing into the subject. Many prominent men both in and out of the church entered into that marriage system. Even some of the most recognized scholars of the Catholic Church wrote favorably of it.


One such person was St. Jerome (331 – 420 A.D.). He was a student of Greek and Roman literature and became the literary secretary to Pope Donatus. Besides his many famous defensive letters in behalf of Christianity, his greatest work was translating the Bible into the Latin Vulgate which became the Bible of Western Christendom until the Reformation. He ranks as one of the four doctors of the Latin Church.


Oceanus, a Roman nobleman, asked Jerome to back him in a protest against Carterius, a Spanish bishop, who acted contrary to the rule that a bishop should be “the husband of one wife,” because Carterius had married a second wife. At this time (397 A.D.) even if a first wife died and a man married a second wife, it was considered polygamy. Jerome defended the Bishop rather than siding with Oceanus:



A Spanish bishop named Carterius, old in years and in the priesthood has married two wives, one before he was baptized, and, she having died, another since he has passed through the laver; and you are of opinion that he has violated the precept of the apostle, who in his list of episcopal qualifications commands that a bishop shall be “the husband of one wife.” I am surprised that you have pilloried an individual when the whole world is filled with persons ordained in similar circumstances; I do not mean presbyters or clergy of lower rank, but speak only of bishops of whom if I were to enumerate them all one by one, I should gather a sufficient number to surpass the crowd which attended the synod of Ariminum. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 6:142)


The doctrine of the Catholic Church in those early days, considered it plural marriage when anyone married for a second time, even if the second marriage was after the death of the first companion. However, even though it was a doctrine of the church, many priests and leading members did not consider it a sin. Jerome once stated:


“When one thing is good and another thing is better; when that which is good has a different reward from that which is better; and when there are more rewards than one, then, obviously, there exists a diversity of gifts. The difference between marriage and [114] virginity is as great as that between not doing evil and doing good–or, to speak more favorably still, as that between what is good and what is still better.”

Moreover when he (Paul) goes on to compare monogamy with digamy [a second legal marriage after the death or divorce of the first spouse], he puts digamy after monogamy, just as before he subordinated marriage to virginity.

Can anyone, moreover, be so unfair in his criticism of my poor treatise as to allege that I condemn first marriages, when he reads my opinion on second ones as follows. “The apostle, it is true, allows second marriages, but only to such as cannot contain, lest when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they marry, having condemnation because they have rejected their first faith, and he makes this concession because many are turned aside after Satan.”

Having thus brought forward proofs that second marriages are allowed by the apostle, we at once added the remarks which follow. “As marriage is permitted to virgins by reason of the danger of fornication, and as what in itself is not desirable is thus made excusable, so by reason of the same danger widows are permitted to marry a second time.”

I marked my own view of these practices with the words, “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. I do not condemn digamists nor yet trigamists, nor even, to put an extreme case, octogamists. Not to condemn is one thing, to commend is another. I may not praise it as meritorious.” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 6:70)


Jerome said the church had protected men from sins of all kinds, yet they worried about two lawful married wives! Jerome wrote:


All fornication and contamination with open vice, impiety towards God, parricide and incest, the change of the natural use of the sexes into that which is against nature and all extraordinary lusts are washed [115] away in the fountain of Christ. Can it be possible that the stains of marriage are indelible, and that harlotry is judged more leniently than honourable wedlock? (Ibid., p. 143)


Jerome continued by saying that the church made it more tolerable for a man to be like the “Scots and the Atacotti and the people of Plato’s republic to have community of wives . . . who were concubines or mistresses” rather than wedded wives. (Ibid., p. 143) He quoted the scripture indicating that “Marriage is honourable . . . and the bed undefiled,” and spoke of Paul the Apostle:


Paul knew that the Law allowed men to have children by several wives, and was aware that the example of the patriarchs had made polygamy familiar to the people. Even the very priests might at their own discretion enjoy the same license. (see Lev. 21:7-14.) (Ibid., p. 144)


Jerome concludes his remarks by saying:


I will ask you the following question, Can a man who before his baptism has kept a concubine, and after her death has received baptism and has taken a wife, become a clergyman or not? You will answer me that he can, because his first partner was a concubine and not a wife. What the apostle condemns then, it would seem, is not mere sexual intercourse but marriage contracts and conjugal rights. Many persons, we see, because of narrow circumstances refuse to take upon them the burden of matrimony. Instead of taking wives, they live with their maid-servants and bring up as their own the children which these bear to them. ***

Be careful therefore not to interpret the words “the husband of one wife,” that is, of one woman, as approving indiscriminate intercourse and condemning only contracts of marriage. (Ibid., p. 145)


[116] From these letters it can be seen how strange doctrines were soon coming into the Church, and many of them aimed at condemning anything close to polygamy.


The problems in polygamy can easily be doubled or tripled over those of a person living monogamy. As a matter of fact, a man who lives plural marriage should be a philosopher with a sense of humor. St. Jerome gives a good example:


Socrates had two wives, Xantippe and Myron, granddaughter of Aristides. They frequently quarrelled, and he was accustomed to banter them for disagreeing about him, he being the ugliest of men, with snub nose, bald forehead, rough-haired, and bandy-legged. At last they planned an attack upon him, and having punished him severely, and put him to flight, vexed him for a long time. On one occasion when he opposed Xantippe, who from above was heaping abuse upon him, the termagant soused him with dirty water, but he only wiped his head and said, “I knew that a shower must follow such thunder as that.” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 6:384)


Plural marriage had its difficulties at home and abroad, but its worst enemy was the Catholic Church. However, a few members, such as Jerome, ventured into the literary arena to justify the ancient prophets and their plural wives.


Another was St. Aurelius Augustine (353 – 430 A.D.), who was one of the Christian fathers and wrote much on the history and doctrine of the early Christian church. His numerous letters, pamphlets and books have been continuously published and are still available. He lived and died in poverty and began the Augustine Order of monks, which Martin Luther joined over 1000 years later. It is said that if Augustine had lived at the time of Luther, he would have been his colleague because much of what he wrote was not acceptable to the Catholic Church either.


[117] Augustine was a left-handed author with a pen frequently found in his hand. He was considered “a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, towering like a pyramid above his age . . . and a heart full of Christian love and humility.” (Ibid. 1:7) His works span nearly every subject, yet some observers said he was more a thinker than a scholar, which made his works more readable and influential.


For years, he was a gifted student, eventually opening his own school near Rome where his fame spread widely. He was chosen as a professor at the Imperial Court where his conversion to the Church was said to have been first intellectual, then moral, and finally religious. After joining the church, be became a bishop and a doctor of philosophy and theology.


He was considered to be the missionary who brought Christianity to England. His numerous pamphlets and books on theology are still used as missionary works and stand as classics in the field of theology.


With all of his insight and depth of study, Augustine saw no fault in the practice of plural marriage. He defended the polygamy of the ancient prophets and patriarchs even though customs and laws during his time were opposed to it. Among [118] his work was a treatise in defense of Abraham, which he wrote in a letter to Faustus. Faustus, a member of the Manichaeans (an anti-Christian religious order), wrote to Augustine, objecting to many things done by the ancient prophets, including plural marriage. Augustine responded by saying,


You understand neither the symbols of the law nor the acts of the prophets, because you do not know what holiness or righteousness means. As if a deaf man, seeing others move their lips in speaking, were to find fault with the motion of the mouth as needless and unsightly; or as if a blind man passing his hand over the surface of the wall, and on coming to the windows were to cry out against them as flaws in the level, or were to suppose that the wall had fallen in.

Thus an irreligious Pagan might bring the same reproaches against Christ in the gospel, as Faustus brings against God in the Old Testament. * * * So also the patriarchs and prophets . . . I will not be content with showing them to be superior to your elect, who keep all the precepts of Manichaeus, but will prove their superiority to your god himself.

First of all, then, not only the speech of these men, but their life also, was prophetic; and the whole kingdom of the Hebrews was like a great prophet, corresponding to the greatness of the person prophesied. So, as regards those Hebrews who were made wise in heart by divine instruction, we may discover a prophecy of the coming of Christ and of the Church, both in what they said and in what they did; and the same is true as regards the divine procedure towards the whole nation as a body. For, as the apostle says, “All these things were our examples.” Those who find fault with the prophets, accusing them of adultery for instance, in actions which are above their comprehension, are like those Pagans who profanely charge Christ with folly or madness because He looked for fruit from a tree out of the season. . . . Such critics are incapable of understanding that certain virtues in great minds resemble closely the vices of little minds, not in [119] reality, but in appearance. Such resembles wisdom or the want of it in reference to the grand moral distinction between virtue and vice. (Reply to Faustus, the Manichaean, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, see 4:272-290.)


Augustine continued by saying that a man who obeys God, no matter what God requires, does not sin–which is in agreement with what Joseph Smith testified when he said, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is. . . .” (TPJS, p. 256) Augustine explained further:


Sin, then, is any transgression in deed, or word, or desire, of the eternal law. And the eternal law is the divine order or will of God, which requires the preservation of natural order, and forbids the breach of it. * * *

A man, therefore, who acts in obedience to the faith which obeys God, restrains all mortal affections, and keeps them within the natural limit, regulating his desires so as to put the higher before the lower. If there was no pleasure in what is unlawful, no one would sin. To sin is to indulge this pleasure instead of restraining it. And by unlawful is meant what is forbidden by the law in which the order of nature is preserved. * * *

Beasts do not sin, for their nature agrees with the eternal law from being subject to it, without being in possession of it. And again, angels do not sin, because their heavenly nature is so in possession of the eternal law that God is the only object of its desire, and they obey His will without any experience of temptation. But man, whose life on this earth is a trial on account of sin, subdues to himself what he has in common with beasts, and subdues to God what he has in common with angels; till, when righteousness is perfected and immortality attained, he shall be raised from among beasts and ranked with angels.

The exercise or indulgence of the bodily appetites is intended to secure the continued existence and the invigoration of the individual or of the species. If the appetites go beyond this, and carry the man, no longer [120] master of himself, beyond the limits of temperance, they become unlawful and shameful lusts, which severe discipline must subdue. * * *

For as the eternal law–that is, the will of God the Creator of all–for the preservation of the natural order, permits the indulgence of the bodily appetite under the guidance of reason in sexual intercourse, not for the gratification of passion, but for the continuance of the race through the procreation of children; so, on the contrary, the unrighteous law of the Manichaeans, in order to prevent their god, whom they bewail as confined in all seeds, from suffering still closer confinement in the womb, requires married people not on any account to have children, their great desire being to liberate their god. Instead, therefore, of an irrational craving in Abraham to have children, we find in Manichaeus an irrational fancy against having children. So the one preserved the natural order by seeking in marriage only the production of a child; while the other, influenced by his heretical notions, thought no evil could be greater than the confinement of his god. * * *

For Sara did not connive at any criminal action in her husband for the gratification of his unlawful passions; but from the same natural desire for children that he had, and knowing her own barrenness, she warrantably claimed as her own the fertility of her handmaid; not consenting with sinful desires in her husband, but requesting of him what it was proper in him to grant. Nor was it the request of proud assumption; for every one knows that the duty of a wife is to obey her husband. But in reference to the body, we are told by the apostle that the wife has power over her husband’s body, as he has over hers; so that, while in all other social matters the wife ought to obey her husband, in this one matter of their bodily connection as man and wife their power over one another is mutual–the man over the woman, and the woman over the man. So, when Sara could not have children of her own, she wished to have them by her handmaid, and of the same seed from which she herself would have had them, if that had been possible. No woman [121] would do this if her love for her husband were merely an animal passion; she would rather be jealous of a mistress than make her a mother. So here the pious desire for the procreation of children was an indication of the absence of criminal indulgence. We may thus easily understand how Abraham, seeing that his wife was barren, and that she desired to obtain from her husband and her handmaid the offspring which she herself could not produce, acted not in compliance with carnal appetite, but in obedience to conjugal authority, believing that Sara had the sanction of God for her wish; because God had already promised him an heir from his own body, but had not foretold who was to be the mother. * * *

Abraham was not an adulterer, when, in submission to the lawful authority of his wife, he consented to be made a father by his wife’s handmaid. But, from the nature of the relationship, for a wife to have two husbands, both in life, is not the same thing as for a man to have two wives: so that we regard the explanation already given of Abraham’s conduct as the most correct and unobjectionable; . . .

Jacob, the son of Isaac, is charged with having committed a great crime because he had four wives. But here there is no ground for a criminal accusation; for a plurality of wives was no crime when it was the custom. . . . There are sins against nature, and sins against custom, and sins against the laws. In which, then, of these senses did Jacob sin in having a plurality of wives? As regards nature, he used the women not for sensual gratification, but for the procreation of children. For custom, this was the common practice at that time in those countries. And for the laws, no prohibition existed. (Ibid.)


Augustine gave a punch at Faustus when he stated:


. . . and so the mistake arises of supposing that no one could ever have had many wives but from sensuality and the vehemence of sinful desires. Unable to form an idea of men whose force of mind is beyond [122] their conception, they compare themselves with themselves, as the apostle says, and so make mistakes. Conscious that, in their intercourse though with one wife only, they are often influenced by mere animal passion instead of an intelligent motive, they think it an obvious inference that, if the limits of moderation are not observed where there is only one wife, the infirmity must be aggravated where there are more than one.

But those who have not the virtues of temperance must not be allowed to judge of the conduct of holy men. (Ibid.)


Augustine wrote many pages of justification and explanation for plural marriage, and his arguments and reasoning are logical, original, and have a depth of understanding not often found in other defenses of polygamy.


John Cairncross acknowledged and respected these great Catholic scholars for their honesty:


Not only is there nothing in the Bible contrary to polygamy, the fathers of the Church, Augustine and Jerome, did not condemn it in the Old Testament. In early Christian times, it was common. Even Charlemagne had several wives. It was only the evil spirit which prevented polygamy from becoming customary. Gradually priestcraft became more and more powerful. It is all the fault of the Devil–and Rome. The Church imposed not only monogamy but the celibacy of the priests, and also church control of marriage which had formerly been a civil affair. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 80)


Will Durant said that during the years 511 – 614 A.D. the heads of France generated an aristocracy. They were “proud of their long beards and silken robes, and almost as polygamous as any Moslem save Mohammed.” (Story of Civilization 4:93) Even in 628 King Dagobert had three wives.


[123] Justinian II summoned a council to meet in Constantinople in 692. This council group claimed all the privileges that the Pope of Rome did in his council decisions. One of the new doctrines “permitted marriage to deacons and presbyters, and condemned the Roman prohibition of such marriages. The Greek Church still maintains this permission.” (A History of the Christian Church, W. Walker, 2:147)


Charlemagne the Great (742 – 841) succeeded to the throne as king of the Franks and annexed France and a large part of Germany. In 800 A.D. he was proclaimed Caesar by Pope Leo III. “As an emperor, he spread Christianity and learning” throughout the empire. (See New Modern Enc., p. 213.) Strangely enough this man had several wives.


For many years the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church had mixed opinions on plural marriage, and apparently the Popes never instigated any definite doctrine against it until the year 866. The occasion was when Prince Bogoris of Bulgaria, with many of his people, joined the Church. Plural marriage was a major concern to them, so they wrote to the Pope for the official view on the subject. Pope Nicholas I wrote:


Therefore, if one is found to have two wives at the same time, he is to be compelled to lose one and keep the first. (Can Polygamy Be Compatible with Christianity?, Jesuit Priest Francisco Urrutia, p. 275)


In 1201 Pope Innocent III explained that plural marriage was lived in ancient times for two reasons:


. . . the Old Testament apparent acceptance of polygamy, which theology for a long time interpreted in terms of a dispensation for the multiplication of God’s chosen people, is one, [and] . . . without any doubt, that [124] it was never licit to any one, unless it was granted by divine revelation. (Ibid., p. 277)


With two such good reasons, one could question why it should not be continued today? But this Catholic bar against plural marriage has continued up to recent times. On March 5, 1980, Pope John Paul II spoke in Zair, Africa, and asked the Africans to give up their plural wives.


The Catholic Church, like the Mormon, has gone through gradual changes in their beliefs and practices; but true principles, eternal laws and perpetual ordinances do not change.


Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), called the Angelic Doctor, was an Italian dominican friar. He was the most famous and probably the most influential of the medieval scholastic philosophers. His extensive education qualified him to be a professor of theology at the University of Paris. For nine years he studied, wrote, and taught at papal courts in Italy and organized a center of theological studies.


Thomas’ most famous work, the Summa Theologica, is a vast, closely argued summary of his doctrinal position on almost all subjects. He wrote many other works besides, such as commentaries, a series of major works on special topics, numerous exegetical works, explanations of the four gospels, and minor works of considerable variety. * * *


From the foregoing brief description of Thomas’ doctrine, it should be apparent that Thomas accomplished a vast architectonic union of theology and philosophy; his Summa Theologica is aptly named. (American Peoples Enc. 18:120, 122)


Here was a profound thinker whose mind ranged over every aspect of men’s lives and became one of the greatest intellectual lights of the Catholic Church. Even though the Church had made an objection to plural marriage about 400 years before Thomas’ time, he still maintained a respect for that principle and those who lived it. Catholic Priest Father Hillman stated:


Thomas Aquinas also understood the sacrementality of marriage in such a way as to allow, at least theoretically, for a plurality of wives. In answering those who felt that “fidelity and the sacrament” could not possibly be maintained when one man is joined to several wives, Saint Thomas affirmed that “fidelity and the sacrament” were not entirely absent in a polygamous union. (Polygamy Reconsidered, Hillman, p. 203)


In Thomas’ own words, he wrote:


Now the faith to be kept with God is of greater import than the faith to be kept with a wife, which is reckoned a marriage good, and than the signification which pertains to the sacrament, since the signification is subordinate to the knowledge of faith. Hence it is not unfitting if something is taken from the two for the sake of the good of offspring. Nor are they entirely done away, since there remains faith towards several wives; and the sacrament remains after a fashion, for though it did not signify the union of Christ with the Church as one, nevertheless the plurality of wives signified the distinction of degrees in the Church, which distinction is not only in the Church militant but also in the Church triumphant. Consequently their marriages signified [126] somewhat the union of Christ not only with the Church militant, as some say, but also with the Church triumphant where there are many mansions. (John 19:2) (Summa Theologiae, supplement, p. 65)


Going back in time, the Northmen were Teutons who came up through Denmark into Sweden and Norway. An early chief, Dan Mikillati, gave his name to Denmark–Dan’s march. Norge, or Norway, was taken from the north-way. Their chiefs in the tenth century made inroads to those countries: Harald Bluetooth (945-85) gave Denmark Christianity and King Olaf Skottkonung made Sweden Christian. These great leaders often had wives and concubines. For instance, a leader called Halfdan the Black subdued most of Norway to become its first king.


His son Harald Haarfager (860-933) was challenged by rebellious chieftains; the Gyda whom he wooed refused to marry him until he should conquer all Norway; he vowed never to clip or comb his hair till it was done; he accomplished it in ten years, married Gyda and nine other women, cut his hair, and received his distinguishing name–the Fair-haired. ***

Olaf, son of Tryggve, was a great grandson of Harald of the Fair Hair. He was “a very merry frolicsome man,” said Snorri of Iceland, “gay and social, very generous, and finical in his dress . . . stout and strong, the handsomest of men, excelling in bodily exercises every Northman that ever was heard of.” He could run across the oars outside his ship while men were rowing; could juggle three sharp-pointed daggers, could cast two spears at once, and “could cut equally well with either hand.” Many a quarrel he had, and many an adventure. While in the British Isles he was converted to Christianity, and became its merciless advocate. When he was made King of Norway (995), he destroyed pagan temples, built Christian churches, and continued to live in polygamy. The bonders opposed the new religion fiercely, and demanded that Olaf should make sacrifice to Thor as in the ancient ritual; [127] he agreed, but proposed to offer Thor the most acceptable sacrifice–the leading bonders themselves; whereupon they became Christians. * * *

Another Olaf, called the Saint, reunited Norway (1016), restored order, gave righteous judgment, and completed the conversion of the land to Christianity. “He was a good and very gentle man,” says Snorri, “of little speech, and openhanded, but greedy of money,” and slightly addicted to concubines. (The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, 4:502-03)


It was obvious at this time that both Catholic and Protestant theologians could accept the doctrinal aspect of plural marriage, but not the practice of it. That does not mean no one lived it; even emperors such as Charlemagne, Lothair and Pepin had officially accepted several wives. Cairncross noted:


It is worth recalling that, in the thirteenth century, Frederick II, the master of southern Italy, carried over the traditions left by the long Moslem occupation of Sicily by himself keeping a harem, and by officially tolerating polygamy among his Christian subjects. There is no record of a papal protest against his policy. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, p. 64)


It is recorded that Montezuma, the King of Mexico, had a very large family of wives and children. Historian A. F. Pillard stated that in 1437 King Henry IV of Castille married Dofia Blanca but had no children, so the Pope granted him permission to marry a second wife. But the condition was that if she, too, had no children he must go back to only his first wife. (See Henry VIII, p. 207.) A similar decree by Pope Gregory II was given in 726 A.D.


Durant said that “Polygamy was practiced by the rich till the thirteenth century.” (Story of Civil., 4:505) This was a typical pattern throughout most nations.


[128] During the first 15 centuries of Catholicism there were some in the Church who favored plural marriages. Two of the principle reasons were (1) because there were so many wars that left a surplus of women; and (2) the Christian soldiers and missionaries traveled into the “heathen” nations and saw first-hand the exemplary and beneficial merits of such a practice. If there ever was a time to consider a law permitting plural marriage, it is because of the disorder caused by war. For many centuries the Catholic Church continually considered and reconsidered this issue. Cairncross reported:


But, if there was disagreement as to the natural justification of polygamy in natural law, there was general agreement that, should the male population be decimated by wars or the plague, the Pope, after a special revelation from God, could sanction the temporary introduction of polygamy to replenish the earth. Duns Scotus and the Summa Angelica are two of the many authorities giving this ruling. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, p. 59)


Shabazz reviewed some examples of polygamy in the Catholic Church:


The early church fathers permitted polygamy. In the sixth century, Diarmait, King of Ireland, had two wives and two concubines. Charles the Great had two wives and many concubines.

In 1650, soon after the peace of Westphalia, when the population had been greatly reduced by the Thirty Years War, the Frankish Kreistag at Nuremburg passed the resolution that thenceforth every man should be allowed to marry two women.

King Constantine and his successors all had more than one wife. All this is attested by history. (Polygamy, a Remedy or a Right, p. 3)


Catholic Charles V, King of France (1500 – 1558), not only imposed monogamy on the people, but made polygamy a [129] capital offense! Yet those who had committed adultery or whoredom were usually released and set free.


At the 24th session of the council of Trent in 1563, the subject of polygamy was one of the principle subjects for consideration. It was determined at this time that the Catholic rule of the whole church, in all nations, would allow only monogamous marriages. This ruling would mean that all polygamists who were converted to the faith must divest himself of all plural wives. This became a serious detriment to Catholic conversions in every polygamous nation, and many who would have been converts refused to join because of this restriction. When Catholic missionaries taught Akbar, the Great Mogul and follower of Mohammed, he was ready to accept Christianity until he was told to give up his harem. He thought more of plural marriage than he did of Catholicism.


All this caused a rise to many writings defending polygamy. The subject is still an issue of debate among many Catholic missionaries and priests.


The Protestant Reformation forced the Catholic Church to define its doctrines and to undertake the ecclesiastical reforms that had long been debated. (American Peoples Enc. 6:21)


All of their doctrines, ordinances and beliefs (including the anti-polygamy stand) were brought to the forefront and have been generally accepted ever since. These were ratified by the Church in 1564.


Between 1530 and 1580 the pressure against plural marriage grew more dramatically throughout the Catholic world. One of the final and decisive factors was attributed to Abbe Tosi, who in 1676 compiled a large two-volume rebuttal against polygamy. His observations came from the Arabs and [130] Turks, and so he concluded it should not be practiced among Christians. His work, entitled History of the East, still stands as an orthodox view of church policy, and it lists four major reasons for marriage:


  1. Procreation of children
  2. Comfort and mutual help
  3. Tempering of lust
  4. A symbol of Christ to the Church


He fails to point out that each of these purposes can also be achieved in plural marriage, but are unavailable to those women who can’t find an unmarried monogamous man.


Philosophers, civil officers and leading Catholic church-men, have failed to solve the problem and plight of their surplus women. They seek every possible justification for monogamy, at the sacrifice of the widows, spinsters, and other single women in their society.



[131]                             Chapter 12



Defended Polygamy with their Lives


Of the several different polygamous advocates and societies, none has proved as unusual and interesting as that of John Bockelson (John of Leyden) and his Anabaptist followers in Munster, Germany, during the mid-1500’s. “Anabaptists” was the name given to those who denied the validity of infant baptism, among other things, and were the extreme left in the army of the Reformers.


John Bockelson was born an illegitimate son of the mayor in a small Dutch town near Leydon, Holland. He was trained as a tailor but soon ventured into other fields. He became restless and traveled throughout Europe and later spent four years in England. He loved poetry and acting and soon found his gift as an eloquent orator. His success came quickly when he became a preacher in the Anabaptist movement that was spreading across Holland in 1533. The leader of this new revival was Jan Matthy who selected John for a mission to Munster, Germany, to convert the town from other Protestants and Catholics. John did just that. His success was phenomenal, and the town was soon converted to the Anabaptists.


The Catholics and Protestants were at war, and John had a revelation showing him that his leader, Jan Matthy, would be killed. This prophecy was fulfilled shortly afterwards, on Easter [132] Day (April 4th). Thus John became the new religious, political and military leader of the Munster community, and he declared himself king of “the New Zion”. Within two months his little fortress consisted of 15,000 people, and when Munster was assaulted by a military force, John led his people to victory.


But the male population in Munster had diminished until there were four women to every man. About this time John announced that he had received a revelation to live plural marriage–that the ancient prophets lived it without condemnation from God, and that it would now be legal and acceptable in their community.


“The new doctrine raised a storm of opposition,” but John said the “revelation is damnation of those who refuse to accept it” and “threatened his opponents with excommunication.” John quoted extensively from the Old Testament showing that God approved of it and from “a community that lived by the Bible, literally interpreted, the case for polygamy had been made.” (See After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 8)


The people of Munster suffered from many hardships such as war, poverty and social upheavals–but then came polygamy–


. . . which was not introduced without some sanguinary opposition, and did not probably extend far beyond the circle of Beuckelssen and the leaders of the movement. These eccentricities were regarded by their authors as a necessary preparation for the second coming of Christ. (Cambridge Modern History, 2:226)


During the 1520’s there had been several religious leaders who had periodically advocated plural marriage. They appeared in different areas of Germany, but none gained the [133] notoriety of the little colony of Anabaptists in Munster. The pages of German history have always been filled with the devastations of war, and naturally wars produce a surplus of women. That surplus usually creates two possible options–prostitution or polygamy. It was shortly after this critical time that Bockelson claimed to have had his vision from the Lord telling him and his followers to live plural marriage.


The announcement of this controversial doctrine was made in July of 1534, and the whole community assembled in the cathedral square where polygamy was debated for hours. The majority finally concluded that it was a Bible practice sanctioned by God and, not too surprisingly, no men protested against it.


So much for the men. But the women might logically have denounced a trend which would put them in their place. Far from it. From the outset, they played a crucial role in the Anabaptist movement, in Munster and elsewhere. Keyed to a higher emotional pitch, women are seldom absent from a mystic or revivalist explosion, especially when there is an appeal to the spirit of self-sacrifice. Even before Mathys took over, they readily responded to the propaganda urging them to sell all they had and renounce the things of this world. They divested themselves of their rings, gold, studded girdles and other jewelry. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 9)


Thus, in a comparatively short time, the town had solidified and unitedly proclaimed that it was a “revelation” given to “a righteous man.”


A complete and accurate account of this strange society of polygamists of Munster, Germany, is difficult to locate because all that remains are small portions of rare manuscripts and a few short writings by those who were prejudiced against [134] them. One statement from an apostate comes from a Mr. Gresbeck who described polygamy in the town in the following manner:


There was fierce resentment in the town among the women where two or three of them lived together and shared a husband. There was no end to the abuse and bickering among them. For the first wife always wished to be closest to her husband, and so did the new wives. . . . Thus, they could not get along together, and there was never any peace. Complaints streamed in every day to the prophets, the preachers and the Twelve Elders. At first, the authorities put the refractory wives in prison. But in vain. Then Rottman brandished the much graver threat of the sword which cowed them for a time. (The Rebaptism of Munster, K. Loffler, p. 116)


And another account reads:


Bockholdt, better known in history as John of Leyden, was now supreme. Giving himself out as the successor of David, he claimed royal honours and absolute power in the new “Zion”. He justified the most arbitrary and extravagant measures by the authority of visions from heaven, as others have done in similar circumstances. With this pretended sanction he legalized polygamy, and himself took four wives, one of whom he beheaded with his own hand in the market-place in a fit of frenzy. As a natural consequence of such license, Munster was for 12 months a scene of unbridled profligacy. (Enc. Britannica, 1936 ed., 1:858)


These biased accounts, however, were not supported by others who recorded a more peaceful homestyle among these polygamists.


Polygamy is oftentimes used as an excuse for the lustful nature of men, but this apparently was not true of the Munsterites. Cairncroft concurred:



Nor was it even a question, in theory at least, of the men satisfying their sexual drive. The Anabaptists claimed on the contrary that they were eliminating lust, and thus returning to the state of sinlessness obtained before the Fall. Not for nothing is the main doctrinal writing of the Munsterites (by Rottman) called “The Restitution,” for its subject is precisely the restitution of all things to the original purity of Eden before corruption entered the world. “The aim of marriage,” he wrote, “is to beget children who will praise God for all eternity. Husband and wife marry to live according to God’s love, in order to beget children, and for no other reason. Only for this purpose did God create man and woman and unite them.” This document is the first known apology for polygamy in Europe.

When therefore such constant emphasis was laid on the need to increase the population, John and his colleagues were not simply following Luther’s anti-celibacy line, but (the key words) the principle that “the world should be increased, for God wanted to set up a new world with His people.” . . . the most rapid increase in the number of children conceived without sin in the New Jerusalem was an integral part of the Anabaptists’ millennial beliefs. Matthy’s master, Hofman, predicted that the advent of the New Jerusalem would be hastened if the elect could conceive without sin, in covenantal purity, as before the Fall, the “hundred and forty and four thousand” who were to be sealed according to one of the favourite texts of the Millennialists, Revelations 7:4. And Rottman, in a sermon in Munster cathedral, proclaimed that the saints should multiply as the sands of the sea. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, pp. 26-27)


So this polygamous community was not a city of orgies, as many may have supposed, but one which attempted to live plurality with morality. One author of this history stated that “sexual behaviour was at first regulated . . . strictly in a severely puritanical morality.” (The Pursuit of the Millennium, N. Cohn, p. 292) Cairncroft agreed:



In fact, Munster under Anabaptist rule, far from being the scene of wild orgies, was throughout a centre of extremely austere morality. Its only crime, in the sexual field, by orthodox standards, was to have introduced polygamy, and a highly Puritan type at that! (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, p. 24)


Divorce was granted on the basis of three reasons: if the woman was forced to marry; if the man was impotent; or if the husband was an unbeliever. A woman with two husbands was put to death. One man who lived for wine and women was put to death. Even adultery and fornication were capital crimes. The Munster standard of morality also advocated that men should not have intercourse with their wives while pregnant or menstruating. A barren woman was grounds for a man to take another wife. Many of their moral beliefs were substantiated in the books of the Bible.


As king, John Bockelson proceeded to institute parades, parties, banquets, theatrical performances, and exciting dances, especially loved by the women. He fashioned a table on which he wrote the queens’ names in order of precedence. John ultimately had 16 wives, but they were not very prolific as apparently he had only two children.


In the beginning there was considerable opposition by the first wives to this new practice of plural marriage, but later many of them became the strongest advocates. It was recorded that the plural wives did much of the “recruiting” for new wives for their husbands–just as Sarah did for Abraham.


There was even a type of honor and distinction that came to a man because of the number of wives he had. On one occasion a particular preacher went around the tables asking the brethren how many wives each had. One man responded that he had four, whereupon the preacher said, “God be [137] praised! Take precedence over me, for I have only three.” (The Rebaptism of Munster, K. Loffler, p. 159)


The doctrine of plural marriage became as deeply planted into the minds and hearts of this people as it ever was with the Mormons. Cairncross stated: “There is no evidence of any serious opposition to polygamy on the part of the first wives,” and all the wives–


. . . gave the men strong backing in the defense of the town. Had there been any extensive opposition to the new form of marriage, it is clear that this would have been reported. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, p. 16)


Wives became good friends, and the second wives were stronger and happier because they were getting a husband that they may not have had otherwise.


News of the Munster community traveled fast, and finally Prince Philip of Hesse entered the town and reproached the citizens for their views on marriage. Ironically the Prince would later be the talk of the nation for taking a second wife himself!


About this time Luther proclaimed freedom for Catholic nuns to marry because their convents were a mere “prison of virginity.” This, too, caused a new surplus of women eligible for polygamy. It was a strange thing because it was the women who began the thrust for their rights of choosing husbands–married or not. Cairncross explained:


But the Anabaptists’ trump card in obtaining the women’s support was the crude mathematical fact that, in February 1534, there were at the very least three women of marriageable age to one man, and by October the proportion may well have risen to four (or [138] even five) to one. In the chaos that followed the sectarians’ assumption of power, many of the male “unbelievers” were driven out, but left their wives behind to look after their businesses, in the expectation that they (the men) would soon be back. Conversely, streams of sympathizers swept into the New Jerusalem, sometimes husbands without wives, but more often wives whose husbands had been killed or abandoned as infidels.

Given the proportion of the sexes, the pressure for polygamy was bound to be almost irresistible, quite apart from doctrinal incentives. Many a woman, as a Catholic historian of the revolt has pointed out, “preferred to share a husband than have none at all.” (Ibid., p. 11)


Men were advocating plural marriage from a Biblical and doctrinal standpoint, but it was generally being accepted more from practicality than because of doctrine. Marriage was a new opportunity for many of the nuns in the convents, and they were anxious to take advantage of it. Cairncross stated:


A week later, the nuns from another (a second) convent abandoned the veil on the pretext of producing offspring, and pressed to be allowed to endure the yoke of marriage. Nor did the enthusiasm of the women slack when polygamy was introduced. On the contrary, it was they who brought up the guns to batter in the doors of the town hall where the rebels against the new form of marriage had dug themselves in. (Ibid., p. 11)


Then Cairncross added, “Given the proportion of the sexes, the pressure for polygamy was bound to be almost irresistible, quite apart from doctrinal incentives.” (Ibid., p. 11)


A flood of women were available because of the Catholic-Protestant wars, and some men were so eager to take more wives that certain restrictions had to be placed on them. The historian Gresbeck commented that when a woman did not get [139] a confirmation of a marriage proposal, the man usually did. Some young girls, too young, became the victims of this mad dash to acquire wives. A proper and wise rule was adopted that a lady had the privilege of choosing her own husband.


The Catholics and Protestants had seriously clashed on doctrine until it became a clash of arms. The Peasants Revolt of the Twenties was actually a revolutionary war. These Christians who believed in praying for their enemies and turning the other cheek, put aside their religion to baptize each other in their own blood. The Protestants thought the Catholics were heathen apostates and the Catholics thought the Protestants were the heathen apostates. Actually they were both right. However, when they saw the people of Munster adopt the practice of polygamy, they felt a worse enemy had arisen. They believed such a system might be contagious and would put an end to their craft. So these two bitter enemies made peace with each other and united to destroy the polygamists!


The news of polygamy in Munster aroused panic in all of Germany and created terror among the “Christians.” Their solution was to create another war, and every polygamist that was captured was tortured, turned on the wheel, burned, drowned, stabbed or beheaded. It was a new era in which the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon and many other prophets would have been in mortal danger from the “Christians.”


The reports of this religious order defending themselves reads like a masterpiece of military victories.


The idea of preparing for the Second Advent gave the movement its strength, and stimulated the revolutionists of Munster to resist for a year and a half the miseries of a siege and all the forces which Germany [140] could bring against them. (The Cambridge Modern History, 2:226)


Since Munster was a town of 15,000 inhabitants with only 1500 able to bear arms of warfare, it was amazing that they could hold out against much greater forces. It would have taken uncommon cooperation, organization and determination to make such a defense of their homes, families and beliefs. Both men and women defended their polygamous faith with their lives. But unfortunately, this grandstand program was short-lived. About a year after it started, it was doomed. In January 1535 their persecutors sealed off the town from the outside world and provisions were cut off. Starvation set in. Some escaped and others were captured. On June 24, 1535, the attackers forced entry into the town.


The overwhelming odds against them soon reduced their defense force to only 300 able-bodied men. This small remnant decided to surrender rather than have their wives and children all massacred. The “Christian” victors took all 300 captives outside the city and killed them off one by one. Divara, John Bockelson’s second wife, was told to recant her beliefs, and when she refused, they beheaded her.


John himself was captured, paraded around, and exhibited like a strange animal, as the man who “had so many wives.” Then they tortured him, trying to force him to deny his revelation on polygamy, but he would not give in. He said he had probably offended man, but not God in that belief, and that “Better several wives than several whores.” He pleaded, “Let God be judge between us,” but they wouldn’t allow that.


He was tied to a stake with Knipperdollink and another rebel leader, and tortured to death with red-[141]hot tongs, amidst the rejoicing and applause of the Catholic audience (as a Lutheran eyewitness recorded uneasily). John endured his ordeal with heroic fortitude, without a sound and not a movement, until he was dead. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 21)


It was said that his persecutors had demanded that he deny his “revelation” on plural marriage; but with every jab of a hot poker, he refused to tell them what they demanded. Without ever denying his revelation and in the midst of severe pain and suffering, he expired–faithful to the end to his conviction of plural marriage.


Thus passed a people with a principle. Their enemies were too heathenish to live it, and they didn’t want anyone else living it either. From triumph to tragedy, from heaven to hell–that little band of people defended the doctrine of plural marriage to the bitter end. Tragically, similar sacrifices were recorded in history 300 years later–among the Latter-day Saints.


The Anabaptists had “gained an enormous following and threatened to supplant the other churches, especially in the Rhine Valley and in the Netherlands.” Because of their views they were “branded by Catholics and Protestants alike as heretical and seditious.” Ultimately the death penalty “was imposed upon all Anabaptists throughout the empire with Lutheran concurrence. In Germany the Anabaptists were exterminated or expelled. They survive elsewhere, however, as Mennonites and the Hutterian Brethren.” (American Peoples Enc. 15:487)


Even though the Anabaptists in the Munster community were quite radical and different in many ways from the early Latter-day Saints of 300 years later, there are some striking similarities that are interesting to note:



John Leyden took his plural wife exactly 300 years before the time that

Joseph Smith took his.

John proclaimed his society was the beginning of a “restitution” of sound

Christian doctrine; Joseph claimed a “restoration” of it.

John advocated he was preparing the people for the coming of the

Millennium and establishing a New Jerusalem; Joseph tried to do the same.

John considered his people “the elect” and advocated their gathering

together for protection from the destructions to come. So did Joseph.

John attempted a program of “unity” of their temporal means so there

would be no poor among them. Joseph attempted to establish a “United Order” for the same purpose.

John introduced a program to have everyone rebaptized, just as Joseph did.

John’s followers were from the poorer class of people, who believed in

Puritanical sexual morals with the purpose of having large families, just as with Joseph Smith and his followers.

John taught the members to have faith, works and the Holy Spirit so they

could receive the gifts of dreams, visions and revelation. So did Joseph.

John said he was establishing a theocracy that should gradually spread to

all communities and nations. Joseph did the same.

John ordained men to the office of kings, and women as queens–just as

Joseph did.

John received a revelation supporting the doctrine of plural marriage–

and so did Joseph.

John wrote and adopted 12 articles of their faith; Joseph wrote 13.

John was considered and hailed as a “prophet”, just as was Joseph.


John believed in a “temple of the Lord”, and so did Joseph.

John had “12 apostles” for the ruling ministry of their church, just as

Joseph did.

John believed that as a religious leader, he should be a prophet for the

people and should receive revelation, just as the Prophet Joseph did.

John and his people received persecution from the Catholics and

Protestants, just as Joseph did.

John supported the idea that a “New Jerusalem” would be built other than

at Palestine; so did Joseph.

John knew that his life and the lives of his followers were in danger from

the “Christians,” so he formed a military force with himself as commander in chief; so did Joseph as commander of the Nauvoo Legion.

John was persecuted and tortured by his “Christian” enemies and finally

became a martyr to his faith–and so was Joseph Smith.


After completing the job of killing off the polygamists, the Catholics and Protestants went back to making war against each other. These continual attacks intensified until they developed into what was known as the “Thirty Year War”. It was a strange name for a warfare that actually existed for centuries. Nations were involved, and through the centuries their religion included new and better tactics for killing each other by the technical advancement of military power and machines.


World War I and II both displayed this same spirit in which Christian brothers sent each other to heaven by gunpowder and steel. But in spite of their differences, history has shown that they will once again make a peaceful alliance to kill polygamists.



[144]                             Chapter 13



Polygamy–More Secret than Public


The Reformation supposedly started about 1517, but many men before then had preached, written and given their lives in support of a reform in the Catholic Church. The Reformation caused a split in the church because of their many changed and perverted doctrines. Besides all their errors in doctrine, history, and ordinances, the Church had ventured into money-making programs to gain greater wealth. The popes received and wallowed in more riches than kings and emperors.


[145] The Pope was especially engaged in two expensive programs: one was sending out troops to fight his wars in foreign lands; the other was his plans to build the great St. Peter’s Basilica. In order to acquire the necessary wealth to accomplish his purposes, the Pope sent out men with “Indulgences”, which could be bought in exchange for forgiveness of sins. Repentance was not necessary. These bargains in salvation could even be bought for sins that might be committed in the future. Salvation was much easier to buy than to earn. The Pope was pleased, too, because with this program, immense income poured into Rome’s treasury.


The wealth of the popes was best depicted by two artist preachers. They painted two large pictures on the wall of a building in full view of the public. One was a picture of Christ, meek and poor, tattered clothes and bare feet riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The other was of the Pope in a pontifical procession with rich robes, triple crown of gold in a dazzling array preceded by a parade of trumpeters. This was an obvious sermon in paint.


Morality of the Catholic clergy had sunk to a new low. It has been acknowledged that Pope Gregory VII introduced “a clerical celibacy that was legally imposed, but the outcome was often clerical concubinage.” (American Peoples Enc. 15:485) When Luther made his pilgrimage to Rome, he prostrated himself on the earth and exclaimed, “Holy Rome, I salute thee,” but everywhere he looked he saw things that filled him with disgust and horror:


No one can imagine what sins and infamous actions are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. Thus they are in the habit of saying, “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it; it is an abyss whence issues every kind of sin.” (The Great Controversy, E. G. White, p. 143)


[146] Luther expressed it even stronger when he said there were more devils in Rome than tiles on the rooftops.


Another vice that had troubled the members of the Catholic Church was the declared infallibility of the Pope. Members were told to put all confidence in him, regardless of true principles, preachings, the scriptures, or the Spirit of God. The doctrines of the Church and the practices of its leaders were taking two different directions. Such conditions were clearly noticed by lay members of the Church.


Even the Church hierarchy began to run into conflicts with their religion. It finally resulted in the Church having two different Popes! And if this weren’t enough, to settle the conflict, another Pope arose to the throne. The Papacy was shaken!


The following sections in this chapter will discuss the Reformation roles played by known polygamists or advocates, such as Martin Luther, King Philip of Hesse, King Henry of England, John Leyser, Martin Madan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Schopenhauer, and James Campbell.


Martin Luther


The problems within the Catholic Church came to the ears and hearts of many priests. Good men such as Wycliffe, Huss, Jerome, Cathari, Walden and Zwingli were all deeply moved to make appeals for sensible reforms. Another active voice of the Reformation was Martin Luther who posted 95 theses on a chapel door requesting a discussion among the more learned members of his local parish. What he thought might be a problem-solving local discussion turned into an uproar that swept all over Europe.


[147] This little monk caused the Reformation to gain terrific momentum–all because he renounced the sale of indulgences and the infallibility of the Pope. Luther was soon contacted by the Papacy, but reconciliation became impossible. The Church burned Luther’s tracts; Luther burned theirs. The Pope wrote repudiations against Luther; Luther wrote repudiations against him. Many of Luther’s tracts against the corrupt doctrines of the Catholic Church are still published.


A variety of doctrines arose in heated debates, among which were indulgences, purgatory, sacraments, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, penance, mass, confession, monasticism, and of course the one they didn’t want mentioned–polygamy!


[148] Luther was excommunicated at Worms, Germany, in 1521, which was just 13 years before the polygamous uprising in Munster. As a priest, he had had a concourse of people coming to him for help with their marriages. Monogamy produced a multitude of problems, as Luther explained:


‘Tis a grand thing for a married pair to live in perfect union, but the devil rarely permits this. When they are apart, they cannot endure the separation, and when they are together, they cannot endure the always seeing one another. ‘Tis as the poet says: “Nec tecum vivere possum, nec sine te.” Married people must assiduously pray against these assaults of the devil. I have seen marriages where, at first, husband and wife seemed as though they would eat one another up; in six months they have separated in mutual disgust. ‘Tis the devil inspires this evanescent ardour, in order to divert the parties from prayer. (Table Talk, Luther, p. 301)


If monogamy had many problems, polygamy certainly had more; but celibacy was the worst of the three. Yet this was the lifestyle the Catholic Church was insisting on for its priests, nuns and monks. The consequences were catastrophic:


St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, related a fearful thing that befell at Rome. Pope Gregory, who confirmed celibacy, ordered a fish-pond at Rome, had by a convent of nuns, to be cleared out. The water being let off, there were found at the bottom, more than six thousand skulls of children (babies) that had been cast into the pond and drowned. Such were the fruits of enforced celibacy. Hereupon Pope Gregory abolished celibacy, but the popes who succeeded him, re-established it.

In our own time, there was in Austria, at Nieuberg, a convent of nuns, who, by reason of their licentious doings, were removed from it, and placed elsewhere, and their convent filled with Franciscans. These monks, wishing to enlarge the building, foundations were dug, and in excavating, there were [149] found twelve great pots, in each of which was the carcass of an infant. How much better to let these people marry, than, by prohibition thereof, to cause the murder of so many innocent creatures. (Table Talk, Luther, p. 307)


Celibacy had infiltrated the Catholic Church as early as the first century A.D. Learned philosophers such as Simon Magus, Menauder, and Cerinthus, had studied at Alexandria and were later converted to Christianity, but brought some of their gnostic and celibate ideals with them. Other gnostic Christians such as Valentine, Montanus, Tertullian, and Origen, also advocated celibacy. By the second century it was one of the prevailing doctrines, and by the third century it had permanently corrupted the Church. It was Bardesanes who wrote in 170 A.D. that the disciples of Christ would live closer to God if they “renounce wedlock, abstain from animal food, and live in solitude on the slightest and most meager diet.” (See History of the Roman Empire, Keightley, Pt. 2, Chap. 7.)


Origen (185-253 A.D.), the celebrated and prolific ecclesiastical writer from Alexandria, was so strongly convinced of celibacy that he voluntarily was castrated. By the fourth century a sect called the Severians thought that woman was the work of Satan and marriage was diabolical. This idea, of course, soon led to their own extinction!


Luther questioned many doctrines of the Catholic Church, and celibacy was one of them. He soon brought about a full exposure of what horrid deeds followed the nuns, monks, and priests in their cloisters and monasteries.


Luther cried out, “Would to God that I could thus rescue all captive consciences and empty all the cloisters. . . .” (Hist. of the Reformation, D. H. D’Augbigne, 3:241) The breach [150] had already started, and Luther was soon able to assist the numerous nuns and monks in their liberation. In 1524 Luther laid aside the frock of the friars and strongly encouraged the celibate nuns and monks to enter into domestic family life. He himself married a former nun, Catherine Von Bora. Luther saw celibacy as one of the “works of men” and not of God, and declared that, “It is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen. 2:18). His marriage created more commotion than an earthquake, but Luther considered anything offensive to the world must be inoffensive to God.


Another problem arose when so many nuns were available for marriage. In fact, there were too many. Again the discussion of plural marriage arose and could not be dampened. It soon broke out in Munster, among kings, and even with the lay members of the churches.


Books and pamphlets both for and against polygamy were sent all over Germany, one of which came into the hands of Luther and his friends. When asked about it, Luther gave it serious thought.


It was mentioned at table that a book had just been published, setting forth the apology of bigamy: the doctor for awhile remained silent, and seemed plunged in grave reverie. At length he said: “I have often wondered at the king of Arabia having seven hundred wives.” Someone observed: “Sir doctor, what say you to Solomon, who had three hundred wives, or queens, and seven hundred concubines? The text, moreover, adding, that the number of young girls at his court had not been reckoned up.” The doctor replied: ” ‘Tis to be kept in mind that the list of queens in Scripture comprehends the royal family of David, who were supported by his son. The elector of Saxony has a great number of ladies at his court, princesses, noble damsels, women of honour, maids of honour, women of the bedchamber, and what not; but it does not follow [151] that these are all his wives. As to Solomon’s having entertained all these women as his wives, ’tis out of the question, impracticable.” Some one asked, did Solomon perform penitence? Luther replied: “No, but the Scripture tells us, `He slept with his father,’ wherefore I conclude he was admitted to beatitude, such being the meaning of that expression, which is not employed with reference to Absalom. Scotus has formally damned Solomon. (Table Talk, p. 301)


The Catholic Church qualified those for church offices according to their moral standards, and polygamy or bigamy were among the worst kinds of moral sins. The Pope considered a man who had two wives, either consecutively or at the same time, to be a bigamist. Martin Luther criticized the Pope for such a stand:


Scripture uses the term “bigamist” for one who, like Lamech, has two wives living at the same time (Gen. 4:19). The pope, however, is more learned and calls one who marries two women successively a bigamist. ***

They are not allowed to preach, baptize, administer the sacrament, or hold any office in the church, even if they were holier than St. John and their wives holier than the mother of God. So marvelously holy is the pope in his decretals! * * *

However, if someone had ravished a hundred virgins, violated a hundred honorable widows, and lain with a hundred whores before that, he may become not only pastor or preacher but also bishop or pope. And even if he were to continue this kind of life, he would nonetheless be tolerated in those offices. But if he marries a bride who is a virgin, or a make-believe virgin, he cannot be a servant of God. It makes no difference that he is a true Christian, learned, pious, competent. He is a bigamist; thus, he must leave his office and never return to it. What do you think of that? * * *


Is that not a higher holiness than that of Christ himself, together with that of the Holy Spirit and his church? Christ spurns neither men with one wife or two successive wives, nor women with one husband or two successive husbands, if they believe in him. He lets them remain members of his holy, Christian people. He also makes use of them for whatever work they are adapted. (Selected Writings of Martin Luther, T. G. Tappert, 4:349)


Luther was also critical of the Church rule that stated if a man should marry a woman who was not a virgin, then he was a bigamist and therefore not worthy of any office in the Church:


I truly believe that in accordance with their wisdom, no man could marry a virgin and, after her death, become a priest among them, for who can guarantee or vouch that he is actually getting a virgin? “The road runs past the door” (as they say). Now if he would find her not a virgin–and that is a chance he must take–he would, through no fault of his own, be a stinking bigamist. And if he wants to be certain that he can become a priest, he dare not marry a virgin either, for what assurance does he have that she is one? However, he may ravish virgins, widows, and wives, have many whores, commit all sorts of secret sins–he is still worthy of the priestly office. The sum and substance of it all is that the pope, the devil, and his church are averse to the estate of matrimony. ***

Therefore do not worry (as was said) about the papists’ talk concerning the personal qualifications for an ecclesiastical office, for these asses do not understand St. Paul’s words, nor do they know what St. Paul’s language calls a sacrament. (Ibid. 4:355)


At Wittenburg as early as 1522 Luther gave a sermon in which he mentioned

the plausability of plural marriage. He was not advocating living it, but merely accepting it as a doctrinal [153] issue. A few years later he was pressured to acknowledge it as a true doctrine that could be lived at that time. It was not from the peasants’ corner that the query came, but from Prince Philip of Hesse. The king’s wife could not give him a son, and so he considered a plural marriage, appealing to Luther for the Biblical view of that doctrine. Luther and his wisest colleagues seriously considered it for several days and finally wrote him the conclusion of their research:


But after all, if your Highness is fully resolved to marry a second wife, we judge it ought to be done secretly, as we have said with respect to the dispensation demanded on the same account, that is, that none but the person you shall wed, and a few trusty persons, know of the matter, and they, too, obliged to secrecy under the seal of confession. Hence no contradiction nor scandal of moment need be apprehended; for it is no extraordinary thing for Princes to keep concubines; and though the vulgar should be scandalized thereat, the more intelligent would doubt of the truth, and prudent persons would approve of this moderate kind of life, preferable to adultery, and other brutal actions. There is no need of being much concerned for what men will say, provided all goes right with conscience. So far do we approve it, and in those circumstances only by us specified; for the Gospel hath neither recalled nor forbid what was permitted in the law of Moses with respect to marriage. Jesus Christ has not changed the external economy, but added justice only, and life everlasting for reward. He teaches the true way of obeying God, and endeavors to repair the corruption of nature.

Your Highness hath therefore, in this writing, not only the approbation of us all, in case of necessity, concerning what you desire, but also the reflections we have made thereupon; we beseech you to weigh them, as becoming a virtuous, wise, and Christian Prince. We also beg of God to direct all for His glory and your Highness’s salvation.


May God preserve your Highness. We are most ready to serve your Highness given at Wittenberg the Wednesday after the feast of Saint Nicholas, 1539.

Your Highness’s most humble and most obedient subjects and servants,

Martin Luther,

Philip Melancthon,

Martin Bucer,

Antony Corvin,


John Levingue,

Justus Wintferte,

Dennis Melanther.

(From Hist. of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, James Benign Bosuet, Vol. 1)


King Philip of Hesse


But let’s briefly review the events leading up to this response to Prince Philip.


The three powerhouses that ramrodded the Reformation were Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer–the latter being an eminent theologian, friend and advisor to King Philip, the Landgrave. Bucer was “utterly horrified” when he learned that his good friend, Philip, who was one of the most important defenses of the Reformation, was about to commit bigamy. Bucer rushed to Philip’s castle at Melsungen in an attempt to dissuade the Prince from a terrible mistake. Bucer listened to Philip’s arguments–the main one being his desire for a son to inherit the throne, and had scriptural references to justify it. Philip further stated that if the Reformers wouldn’t assist him, he would turn to the Catholic Emperor. Bucer was stunned and took the problem to Luther. This was a matter that would take more than a day for the leading Reformers to solve.


Melanchthon argued that if polygamy were allowed, the enemies of the Reformation would lump them in with the [155] Turks, Orientals and Arabs. It was obvious that if they decided in favor of Philip’s request, the marriage would have to be a complete secret–which was the plan proposed.


So in December 1539, polygamy was again to be lived within the boundaries of Germany. The Protestant leaders had made their “Wittenburg Deliberation” for the sanction of plural marriage–even if it was to be a secret.


Philip’s wife, Anna, had given her consent, but with a long list of stipulations. The new bride, Margarete, was less informed of the wedding arrangements than her mother, yet she seemed happy with the prospects of her future. The wedding would occur March 4, 1540, in Rothenburg. Bucer and Melanchthon arrived for the ceremony. Philip issued an address to be read at that time, part of which stated–


. . . that this step is not decreed as capricious or frivolous and no offense be caused hereby and the good name of the said maiden and her honourable relatives be not jeopardized, [his Highness swears before God] that it is motivated by important and unavoidable considerations of conscience and body and that it is impossible for him to be saved unless he takes a second wife in addition to his first one. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 39)


The ceremony was a joyous one for Philip, and he said he did it with God and a good conscience. Through his marriage to Margarete, Philip was overjoyed to learn that he was now a brother-in-law to Martin Luther! Nonetheless Luther’s concern was that the marriage be kept secret because of the “bad example” it might set for others. Philip agreed and afterward said, “The marriage was a quiet one, since in our times it is unusual to have two wives at the same time . . . although in the present case it is licit and Christian.” (Ibid., p. 39)


[156] Shortly after this event, however, the court preacher, Melander, proclaimed plural marriage as a true and acceptable principle of the Bible. That should have been enough to let Philip “off the hook,” but rumors still spread about him when Margarete had a new residence built for her. Eventually, through pressure on witnesses, the truth came out. Even a document by Bucer for and against polygamy was discovered, which added more public awareness of the doctrine. Fingers were pointed at Luther, who supported polygamy as a moral and Biblical doctrine, but its practice bothered him for fear it would backfire against the Reformation.


Luther’s friend, Melanchthon, also felt the effects of the public pressure and began to suffer the “monstrous danger and scandal” that fell upon him. For days he couldn’t eat or drink anything, so Luther went out to bolster him up. One wonders how Melanchthon would have reacted if it had been his own polygamous marriage!


Now only about five years after the Munster episode, polygamy was again the subject of debate and consternation all over Germany.


As rumors of polygamy spread among the Germans, there were mixed reactions–laughter, anger, hatred and even some support–as a few deemed it a practical solution to a serious problem. To Prince Philip it was right in God’s eyes and should be defended, regardless of the cost. He was prepared to stand by his convictions and lose his throne or his life if necessary.


Bucer suggested that Philip’s marriage contract be revised to read that he had taken a concubine, but would treat her as a wife. Even the powerful Luther seemed to quail sooner than Philip who wrote strong letters of defense for his faith [157] and belief in his plural marriage. He assembled all of his notables together to convince them of his stand, saying that anyone should have the right to have a plural wife if they so desired.


Philip and Luther finally met head on and thrashed it out for a period of four days. Luther was not denying its justification before God–only before the eyes of the world. Luther thought a public defense of polygamy would destroy the Protestant cause, but he said if the “Deliberation” were published, he would take all the blame.


How strange that even then, as now, mistresses, concubines, illegitimate children and fornications were acceptable moral behavior, before the legality of plural wives!


The Protestants backed away from Philip because of his plural marriage, so he withdrew from them and changed the balance of power in favor of the Catholic Emperor. This change in support gave the Catholic pamphleteers ample opportunity to refute both Philip’s marriages and the Protestant cause as religious mockery before God. Philip then turned to his chief theologian, Lening, who issued pamphlets and briefs in defense of plural marriage–especially his “Dialogus Neobuli” which was a dialogue between a supporter and an opponent of polygamy. His summary was that “polygamy was not contrary to divine, natural, canonical or imperial law.” The manuscript was given to Bucer for comments. He added a few corrections, but still tried to prevent Philip from publishing it. Philip continued to chide the Reformers for their faint-heartedness and wrote to Melanchthon:


If we, you, Luther and others suffer death, yet there will be found people who are more godly and trusting than we who will accept this solution which is not forbidden by God and is free and permissible. (Ibid., p. 47)


[158] Luther and Philip eventually patched up their differences and together pushed the Protestant cause once again. When someone said that Abraham was not a Christian because he lived polygamy, Luther shot back that he was the first Christian, and he was more important than all the popes put together. Luther stated that he could not forbid such marriages, but he would not advise them either. He supported the idea that it was a matter that should be directed from God to the individual. He also declared that many polygamists were members of the early Christian Church.


Bucer and Melanchthon both agreed with Luther and said that plural marriages should not be denied to Christians in modern times. Bucer even wrote an extensive book supporting polygamy which was never published until nearly 300 years later. He concluded that a Christian could live plural marriage, and it should be left to his own individual conscience. Luther’s problems with Prince Philip of Hesse should have been enough to last a lifetime, but that was not the end of it. The scene extended clear to the King of England!


King Henry of England


King Henry of England (1491 – 1547) was married to Catherine of Aragon who bore him several children, but only one daughter survived. (She would become the future Queen Mary.) Unless the king had a son, the country could be torn between the armies of rival claimants, or it might be a reason for invasion by some foreign contender.


[159] In 1526, at the age of 35, Henry looked seriously at a 19-year-old girl named Anne Boleyn as a possible prospect for a wife. This presented the problem of getting Pope Clement VII to issue a divorce from Catherine, which was not very likely. Firstly, the Pope would say it was theologically wrong, and secondly Catherine was an aunt of Emperor Charles V who had previously sacked and captured the holy city of Rome.


In July 1528 Henry sought to have an annulment case tried in English courts; the result was for Rome to make the final decision. Since that failed, he then sought the possibility of a bigamous marriage.


In September the Pope, strangely enough, relayed by secret message that it was in his jurisdiction to favor Henry’s request for two wives; however, the Pope’s advisors did not agree. The King then went to a noted theologian and scholar named Cardinal Cajetan, who was inclined to give permission for polygamy rather than have the King guilty of divorce or some other infraction of moral principle. Cajetan declared that polygamy was not forbidden by natural or divine law because all the marriages of the prophets and patriarchs were legitimate. He also noted that it was not forbidden in the New Testament and that Matthew 19:9 forbade divorce–not polygamy. He further stated that there is no law in the Bible commanding men to have only one wife. The Cardinal’s views did not set right with his colleagues who thought they were just “filthy teachings.” Yet some of the theologians agreed with him.


The King then sought the help of Protestant leaders for theological advice on this marriage arrangement since it had been lived and recorded in the Bible.


[160] By 1530 the issue had become a serious matter with the Pope who wanted to sanction polygamy for Henry, but it was too radical for his hierarchy to accept. As theological doctrine, it could be resolved, but in practice it was poison. Divorce from a first wife was easier than marriage to a second. Catholic missionaries had caused more trouble by breaking up plural marriages among the “heathen” converts than if they had just accepted them. In some places the Catholic missionaries were rejected because they did not accept plural marriages, i.e.:


According to the French missionary, Alexander of Rhodes, writing in the middle of the seventeenth century, the King of Cochin forbade the preaching of the Gospel on this score. “You want my subjects to have only one wife,” he told them, “but I want them to have several, so that they can produce sons who will be my faithful subjects. Cease, then, to preach so pernicious a doctrine.” And he promptly expelled the offending missionaries. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 61)


Back in 1521, King Henry had written a rebuttal against Martin Luther for his attack on the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic religion, which the King called “Defense of the Seven Sacraments.” In it he called Luther a “poisonous serpent” and a “wolf of hell,” which pleased the Pope so much that he called Henry “The Defender of the Faith.” But fate plays strange tricks–in a few years Henry would be relying on the words of Luther which would change his life and his kingdom.


In January 1533 the King secretly married Anne Boleyn. On May 23, 1533, a secret sentence was effected to nullify the King’s first marriage and to sanction Anne Boleyn as the new queen. Word was sent to Catherine that she was no longer queen and must bear the name of Princess Dowager; but she refused to submit to such degradation. This news brought a sentence of excommunication from the Pope against Henry on [161] July 11, but he was given until September to set himself aright by taking back his wife and putting away Anne Boleyn. But about this time, the English Parliament was in the process of passing an Act of Succession in favor of Anne Boleyn.


In September, contrary to the astrologers’ forecast for a son, Anne gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth. The Pope was consigned to carry out the King’s excommunication. All of this created a new national church for England. Henry was king but he could not formulate doctrine of the Church nor could he appoint officers therein. The archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Cranmer) became the highest office-holder in the Church in England.


Orders were sent out to arrest preachers who still maintained the Pope’s authority. The King’s subjects were required to swear to the Act of Succession, and those who refused were sent to the Tower. Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, with six other priests, were among the first to be imprisoned. They were warned that they must swear to the succession and supremacy of the King and were given six weeks to do so.


Fisher denied that the King was Supreme Head of the Church of England; More said he would not meddle with such questions. Fisher was condemned on June 17, and was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 22nd.

On July 1 More was brought up for trial on a complex indictment, one article of which showed that he did not, like Fisher, expressly repudiate the King’s ecclesiastical supremacy, but only kept silence when questioned about it. He made, as might be expected, an admirable defense, but in vain; and after his condemnation, he declared frankly as to the statute that it was against his conscience, as he could never find, in all his studies, that a temporal lord ought to be head of the spiritual. He was sentenced to undergo a traitor’s death at Tyburn; but it was commuted by the [162] King to a simple decapitation on Tower Hill, which he suffered on July 6. (Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge University, 2:443)


The story of More’s death sent a shock throughout the Empire. He was a man of high legal ability, intellectually gifted, possessed wit and humor, and was not persuaded by emotion or deceptions.


His learning was entirely without pedantry, even as his humour was without gall. He loved men, he loved animals, he loved mechanism, and every influence that tended to humanize or advance society. He had served his King in diplomatic missions with an ability that was fully appreciated, and as Lord Chancellor with an integrity that was noted as altogether exceptional. But his very probity had made him at last an obstacle in the King’s path, and he was sacrificed. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 444)


About this time the Archbishop went to interrogate Elizabeth Barton, called the Nun of Canterbury, who professed she had received visions of fearful warnings to the King for his marrying Anne Boleyn. Some supposed she was encouraged by Catherine’s friends. Her pronouncement of doom backfired, however, because she was sent to a prison with six others for treason and was later executed.


The celibate monks did more mischief than they did missionary work. They traversed nearly every area to gather tithes for themselves. It was up to King Henry to determine what their fate would be.


Monks in England were neither popular nor devout. One author called them “four, unhappy lepers who despoiled poor wives of the tenth egg.” Their lack of dedication to their calling was evident in 1536 when Henry suppressed the smaller monasteries. (Church History in Plain Language, Bruce Shelley, p. 285)


[163] King Henry was an enigma. His life was filled with loose associations with women, even some who bore children, yet he became one of the strongest advocates for plural marriage. He issued strong appeals to both the Catholic Pope and Protestant leaders, and gave his full approval to whomever would acknowledge and sustain polygamy.


In January Catherine of Aragon died, and when Henry heard the news, he exclaimed, “God be praised! We are now free from fear of war.” If Catherine had lived, history may have been very different. The Court and Anne Boleyn wore yellow in mourning for Catherine. But it was not long until Anne herself would also be mourned, for she was apprehended and charged with acts of adultery. She protested her innocence but did acknowledge some “familiarities” (whatever that meant). She was taken to the Tower where she, her brother, and four supposed “paramours” were beheaded. King Henry did not mourn long for the next day he married Jane of Seymour.


Henry was a hero to many people and a scum to many others. It makes one wonder if it does polygamy any good to have someone like King Henry as a supporter.


The Bible was considered so sacred at this time that the British commoners were not allowed to have one. The Catholic hierarchy felt they were the only ones that could interpret it anyway. An Englishman by the name of William Tyndale, however, saw the need for it to be in the hands of all Englishmen and once said to a Catholic Priest:


If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for a boy behind the plow to know more scripture than you do. (Church Hist. in Plain Language, B.L. Shelley, p. 286)


[164] He labored with much difficulty to accomplish that goal and–


. . . went abroad and printed for importation into England a translation he had made of the New Testament, not from the Latin Vulgate like Wycliff’s, but from the original Greek text. It was smuggled into England and found no lack of purchasers, who were obliged to keep it in secrecy. But every effort was used to put it down. (The Cambridge Modern History 2:464-65)


He lived to see much of his goal accomplished; but since it was against the law, he was caught, imprisoned and then burned at the stake. His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,” which in a short time actually happened. Henry, by the request of Thomas Cranmer whom Henry had made his “local Pope”, was authorized to put together Tyndale’s and other versions of the Bible, resulting in the “Great Bible”, which was ordered to be available in every church in England. Tyndale’s prayer had at last been answered.


There is an ironic twist in this whole story. After the death of Henry, his only son, the frail ten-year-old son by Jane, his third wife, came to the throne. His advisors helped him lead the nation into accepting Protestant doctrines. He allowed priests to marry; Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer replaced Catholic Latin prayers; and Cranmer’s 42 Articles were issued which defined the religion of the Church of England. This all stopped when the young king died and Mary, the daughter of Catherine (Henry’s first wife), became queen. She returned the Empire to Catholicism as the state church. She repealed Archbishop Cranmer’s works and sent him to be burned at the stake. In four years she sent nearly 300 leading Protestants to their death. Their fate is recorded in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. She soon received the name known to every historian, and spoken in every bar-room–“Bloody Mary”.


[165] After her death, Elizabeth I came to the throne; she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. This little red-headed, fiery-tempered lady worked extremely hard, and again the empire was turned another way. This time it was headed in a neutral direction with religious peace and toleration.


King Henry certainly added an interesting twist of fate into English history with his strange plural marriages and their divergent offspring. Whatever honor and glory, disrepute or disgrace, that was attributed to the great Church of England, it should be remembered that it was started by a polygamist!


John Leyser


From the time of Christ to the latter part of the 16th century, there were alternate efforts to either outlaw plural marriage or to promote it. Both the Popes and Protestant leaders took turns on both sides of the issue. With the aid of the Gutenburg printing press and the availability of the scriptures, many pamphlets and books began to be published supporting plural marriage. John Leyser came out with a great work in 1682 called Polygamy Triumphant, containing over 500 pages with nearly every supporting quote by leading scholars, ministers and even some Catholics. Its logic and common sense appealed to many people, even in other countries, but the general public accepted the subject more from curiosity than for an application in their lives. It was so well received that it became a sort of “source book” on the subject. But teaching people to live polygamy then, as now, had a similar effect of trying to sell someone a disease.


Leyser’s spirited defense of polygamy is almost without equal, especially for a man who could hardly support or handle one wife. He was poor, frail, downcast and nervous, but he [166] devoted his life to publishing his works in support of the principle of plural marriage. From his meager earnings and from extra winnings at chess, this man struggled to publish and republish his books. His first work, entitled Discourse on Polygamy, came at a time when people were prone not to marry at all because of the high cost of children, home expenses and helping in-laws. This publication was a dialogue between a polygamist and a monogamist, part of which follows:


  1. How can the wretched husband manage single-handed to deal with a horde of wives?
  2. We have to bear our cross in this world. In any case, one cock can cope with several hens and impregnate them, too.
  3. But who will feed the wives?
  4. Consider the lilies of the field and the fowls of the air. Go to the cock, O thou of little faith, and ask him who feeds the hens. On the day of judgment the Turks and Gentiles will resuscitate and accuse Christians of lack of faith, though God’s message as regards polygamy is clear enough. Nowhere does the Bible say that one man should be limited to one woman.
  5. No doubt, but women will never accept polygamy.
  6. (Indignantly) Did not God set men in authority over them? In any case, women will submit to it if properly indoctrinated. And look at all the sins that spring from monogamy. It drives women to arrogance and domination over men. What is even more serious, monogamy leads to onanism [by which Leyser means intercourse with sterile or pregnant women], abortion, infanticide, whoremongering and adultery. All these could be abolished if polygamy were admitted. (After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, Cairncross, p. 77)


Other arguments in favor of plural marriage–some from other authors–were also included in Leyser’s works, such as:



  1. It would expand the family size, income and influence.
  2. It would be easier for girls to find a good husband.
  3. It would allow all girls a chance to be married.
  4. Children would be cared for at home by other mothers if a wife was ill or away.
  5. Fathers would have more help at their vocation and at home, and children would have more friends and ties within the family circle.
  6. Wives would vie with each other with their best appearance and personality.
  7. The man would gain much greater experience in handling women than in monogamy.
  8. The man would have a much greater source of counsel from several wives than from one.
  9. It would mean more converts to Christianity from the many polygamous countries of the world.
  10. It would help prevent immoral temptations, abortion, fornication, adultery, illegitimate children, prostitution and divorce.


Martin Madan


Between 1680 and 1750 there was another upswing in the polygamous campaign, both in Germany and England. One of the most prominent advocates was the Englishman, Martin Madan, a disciple of the John Wesley Church. But his work came later with a three-volume publication in 1781, called “Thelyphthora” or “Female Ruin.”


He mentioned that under the current laws, women were considered less than the beasts of the field. A person could seduce, defile, or abandon to prostitution and ruin a thousand women, married or unmarried, and suffer less than if he should steal or kill an ox or a sheep. Madan wanted to influence the laws of man to again conform to the laws of God. In his Preface he wrote:



Yet such is the system under which we have been living from generation to generation, and which will be transmitted to the latest posterity, with all its growing and increasing mischiefs, unless the apparent necessity of a Reformation shall make us willing to receive and adopt the only means of it–what those means are, it is the purpose of this book to lay before the public eye, and to recommend, in the most earnest and serious manner, to Legislative Interposition; not as opposing one human scheme to another, but as restoring the Divine Government to its due honour and respect, and of course to its salutary influence over the manners and actions of mankind. (Preface to Thelyphthora, I:iv)


Dr. Madan’s work was a masterpiece of research and scholarship. His publication is still considered one of the most authoritative and reasonable arguments ever made in support of plural marriage.


He contended that plural marriage was practiced and sustained in the Old Testament with the sanction of God, that Christ descended from King David, who was a polygamist, and therefore that lineage was not condemned. He gives point after point of support and proof, showing that Christ never condemned anyone for teaching or living it; and He didn’t even give any warning that it might be a temptation to be avoided.


Dr. Madan not only wanted the laws to sanction polygamy, but he insisted on the Old Testament law that anyone seducing a girl must marry her. Furthermore, he insisted on another Biblical law, imposing the death penalty for anyone guilty of adultery.


Dr. Madan appealed to the public to compare the results of a people who live monogamy to those living polygamy. He quoted Jesus saying that we could judge a tree by its fruits, so we should see what happens in both these lifestyles. He said:



The only real and substantial difference between the ancient Jews and the Christians is this: The former took a plurality of women whom they maintained, protected and provided for agreeable to God’s word. The latter take a plurality of women and turn them out to ruin and destruction not only against God’s word but against every principle of justice and humanity. Or in other words, if the Jew took as many as he could maintain, the Christian ruins as many as he can debauch. (from the Thelyphthora quoted in After Polygamy Was Made a Sin, p. 159)


Madan was not alone in his support of plural marriage at this time, as it was also favored by such great and thinking men as Milton, Boswell, Newton, Rousseau, Spinoza, Napoleon, and Schopenhauer.


Napoleon Bonaparte


Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821), Emperor of France, was also a noted military genius. He had concluded that it was not just military armaments that won peace among nations, but also the giving of wives to the kings of nations was a “brilliant” and effective method for securing peace treaties.


He wanted to introduce polygamy in the West Indies, with the idea that it would spread from there. He even went to consult with Catholic theologians on the possibility of changing the Church doctrine that suppressed polygamy.


[170] Adultery had become more tolerable than polygamy. In France the Penal Code of 1791 abolished a penalty for adultery, yet polygamy remained a crime.


To force the breakup of polygamous marriages, either centuries ago or presently, is a violation of individuals’ natural and lawful rights and creates a disruption of family unity. It is the destruction of sacred vows and the sanctioning of divorce. It casts mothers and children into a hostile world to fend for themselves. It is against the laws of God that state, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) It is no more correct for monogamists to break up marriages of polygamists than for polygamists using similar reasons and means to destroy monogamist marriages.


Since warfare continues to exist in this world, and other causes of death for thousands of young men, a surplus of women also continues. Valiant and faithful men should accept these women in plural marriage.


Napoleon had much to say about women. He was in favor of the Orientals who advocated and practiced women’s servitude to men. He also mentioned that plural marriage was a natural lifestyle for a couple:


She stops being a wife when she can no longer give her husband children. Man, who nature impedes neither by age nor by any of these disadvantages, must have several wives. (Memorial of Saint Helen, Las Cases, 1:676)


His reasoning may have been influenced by the fact that his first wife, Josephine, who was sterile, had been deceiving him and he had to put a perpetual watch over her night and day. He noted how well the Oriental males had subjugated their women, yet he claimed they were just as happy as the women in the west. Again he wrote:



Mahomet seems to have known the secret and to have acted accordingly. Otherwise, how would a man who followed so closely in the steps of Christianity and swerved so little from it not have suppressed polygamy? Can it be said that he kept it because his religion was utterly sensual? But then he would have allowed the Moslems an indefinite number of wives and not restricted them to four. . . . (Ibid., p. 374)


Arthur Schopenhauer


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860), the noted German philosopher, lecturer and author, was another advocate of plural marriage. He read published works in German, Italian, English, and French. He believed in a certain type of spiritualism, claiming that portions of his work, “The World as Will and Idea,” was dictated by the Holy Ghost. He was a pessimist but contended that man should labor for the suppression of desire, but aim for a sort of Nirvana as taught by the Orientals.


Although he supported polygamy as a virtue, when his wife died, he remained a bachelor. He thought that the monogamous women of the west were artificial and had mastery over their husbands. He claimed that monogamy created old maids or prostitutes, but that nature’s aim is to increase the species. A man can engender a hundred children a year, but a women can bear only one in that length of time.


James Campbell


James Campbell said:


. . . having seen all the continents of the globe, and many islands of the sea, and having observed human society in every climate and in every social condition, I have at length returned to my native land, an older, and I hope, a wiser man. (Polygamy and Monogamy, Campbell, p. 16)


[172] He related the story of an aged native American Indian who had two wives. When the Christian missionaries came to convert him, he was told that he must give up one or the other of them. One was an aged but faithful companion; the other a younger one with a child and his only heir. He could not decide which wife he should leave, so he left it up to the missionaries. They decided against the young one. The Indian wrote:


And thus, in one hour, was that young wife and mother deprived of her husband, her child, her character, and her home; and sent away a bereaved and lonely outcast into the wide world. The report which the missionaries themselves gave of this affair closed by saying that the repudiated wife and bereaved mother soon died inconsolable and broken-hearted. ***

I now began to blush at my own late ignorance and bigotry. And the more I thought of the ecclesiastical tyranny of the North-American missionaries, the higher rose my indignation against it. I could not fail to see that their narrow attachment to their own social system had made them judicially blind to the merits of any other; and that they were more ignorant of the true spirit of Christianity as well as of the natural rights of man concerning the laws of marriage, than even the poor savages themselves. (Ibid., pp. 21-22)

* * *


It is a common thought that every king would like to have more subjects; every merchant would like more customers; every farmer would like more land; and every good man would like more wives and children. Polygamy is a natural instinct for a man; and when he is prevented from plural marriage, it creates a frustration in his emotional character.


The Reformation was an attempt to turn back centuries of changes that had crept into the Catholic Church. It was a [173] notable effort to reform and return the early Christian and Judaic laws of the Bible to the church, and many original doctrines were brought back. The Reformation was an heroic effort which actually set the stage for the Restoration.



[174]                             Chapter 14



Land of “Religious Freedom”?


Both governments and religions were growing like mushrooms, and some lasted about as long. Religions wanted control over governments, and governments tried to get control over religions. Unfortunately, God usually had little to do with either. Their laws and the laws of God were frequently in conflict.


A few souls attempted to get out from under such secular and ecclesiastical bondage and sought for a new land and new freedom. They called the new country America–a place where good men and women could accept God’s laws as their laws. It seemed to be His desire also, for later He said, “For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.” (D & C 58:19) Men who loved freedom and good government were selected to write those laws into a Constitution, as God explained:


And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose. . . . (D & C 101:80)


Government organization usually reflects the personality of its people; the citizens of a nation seldom get a better or worse government than they deserve. The political architects of [175] this country knew what they were doing. As the Mayflower pilgrims had written that their–


. . . great hope and inward zeal is for the propagating and advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in these remote parts of the world. (Christian History of the Constitution, Verna Hall, p. viii)


The primary reason most people started coming to America was because they finally heard of a nation that had religious liberty. That term was best described by Henry Campbell Black, who wrote the famous Black’s Law Dictionary which, after more than a century, is still being used. He defined religious liberty as:


Freedom from dictation, constraint, or control in matters affecting the conscience, religious beliefs, and the practice of religion; freedom to entertain and express any or no system of religious opinions, and to engage in or refrain from any form of religious observance. . . . (p. 723)


The customs, traditions and personal beliefs regarding marriage are an important part of one’s religion, and the U.S. Constitution offered its citizens those rights–leaving the conscience of a man untrammeled as long as he injured no one. He was free to marry one wife, several wives, or no wife at all.


But this idea was short-lived–even in America. Men who entered into public office were soon tempted with power, position, and wealth, and America began to be more and more like other nations. Laws, privileges, and rights were changed and became more restrictive. The Constitution said one thing and the politicians something else–and, for that matter, they still do.


[176] Conflicts arose between religion and civil government because Government was in violation of the “Establishment of Religion” clause fostering “excessive entanglement” between government and religion. Justice Black once delivered a decision (Everson vs. Board of Education) in which he clearly explained:


The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. * * *

In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Constitutional Law, Freund, Sutherland, Howe, Brown, p. 1351)


Justice Black referred to other major decisions relating to the protection of a religion and its members:


* The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.

* That Amendment requires the state to be a neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers; it does not require the state to be their adversary. State power is no more to be used so as to handicap religions than it is to favor them.

* Neither so high nor so impregnable today as yesterday is the wall raised between church and state by Virginia’s great statute of religious freedom and the First Amendment, now made applicable to all the states by the Fourteenth . . . .


* There is not a shadow of right in the general government to inter-meddle with religion and that “this subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it.”

* Madison opposed every form and degree of official relation between religion and civil authority. For him religion was a wholly private matter beyond the scope of civil power either to restrain or to support. Denial or abridgment of religious freedom was a violation of rights both of conscience and of natural equality.

* In recent years the doctrine of Watson v. Jones has been given constitutional status, so that it now seems that the states and nation are compelled to respect not merely the religious liberty of natural persons but to secure the liberty of churches, domestic and foreign, to govern themselves without interference by American secular authority, whether legislative or judicial. See Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral, 344 U.S. 94 (1952).

* But our concern is not with the wisdom of legislation but with its constitutional limitation.

* If the purpose or effect of a law is to impede the observance of one or all religions or is to discriminate invidiously between religions, that law is constitutionally invalid even though the burden may be characterized as being only indirect. Braunfeld v. Brown, [366 U.S.], at 607.

* The test may be stated as follows: what are the purpose and primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion, then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the strictures of the Establishment Clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Everson v. Board of Education, supra; McGowan v. Maryland [365 U.S. 420,] 442 (1961). The Free Exercise Clause, likewise considered many times here, withdraws from legislative power, state and federal, the exertion of any restraint on the free [178] exercise of religion. Its purpose is to secure religious liberty in the individual by prohibiting any invasions thereof by civil authority.

* Further, it is no defense to urge that the religious practices here may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment. The breach of neutrality that is today a trickling stream may all too soon become a raging torrent and, in the words of Madison, “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.” Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, quoted in Everson, supra at 65.

* The antecedents of today’s decision are many and unmistakable. They are rooted in the foundation soil of our Nation. They are fundamental to freedom. Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of no-religion; and it may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.

* The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the State is firmly committed to a position of neutrality. Though the application of that rule requires interpretation of a delicate sort, the rule itself is clearly and concisely stated in the words of the First Amendment. (Ibid., see pp. 1351 – 1354.)


An outstanding feature of the Constitution was that it limited the power of the Federal Government rather than of its citizens. The Constitution was to serve as a leash upon its [179] politicians, but unfortunately there were still enough loopholes for political rats to crawl through and destroy the American dream.


That such freedom means also freedom to make disastrous experiments, only drives home again that no country can ever be a government of laws and not of men, but only a government partly of laws, around which ill-chosen men will build ill practices or well-chosen men build wise ones. (National Encyclopedia 3:240)


So under this protective umbrella of the Constitution–supposedly assuring separation of church and state–the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to Joseph Smith. The Mormons, more than any other people, had reason to support, defend and promote the Constitution. It offered them the greatest protection for religious beliefs and practices. The Prophet Joseph loved this “heavenly banner”:


Hence we say, that the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun. (TPJS, p. 147)


As broad as the Constitution was, and as much as the greatest minds of the nation put into it, Joseph Smith noticed a weakness, which over the passage of time, has proved to be very prophetic:


It is one of the first principles of my life, and one that I have cultivated from my childhood, having been taught it by my father, to allow everyone the liberty of conscience. I am the greatest advocate of the Con-[180]stitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights. The only fault I find with the Constitution is, it is not broad enough to cover the whole ground.

Although it provides that all men shall enjoy religious freedom, yet it does not provide the manner by which that freedom can be preserved, nor for the punishment of government officers who refuse to protect the people in their religious rights, or punish those mobs, states, or communities who interfere with the rights of the people on account of their religion. Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them. It has but this one fault. Under its provision, a man or a people who are able to protect themselves can get along well enough; but those who have the misfortune to be weak or unpopular are left to the merciless rage of popular fury. (TPJS, pp. 326-27)


In 1788, when several State Conventions were ratifying the U.S. Constitution, they decided to more clearly identify the rights offered to its citizens, resulting in what is now referred to as the Bill of Rights. The very first of these ten amendments states:


Article 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assembly, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Based on the strength of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Joseph Smith and his followers incorporated an article in their belief structure that stated, “We believe . . . in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Article of Faith No. 12) The question has been asked many times since then, “What law?” The Lord Himself answered:



And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. (D & C 98:5-8)


In another Article of Faith, it was worded even more emphatically:


We claim (not merely believe) the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Article of Faith No. 11)


This was the same principle the Constitution advocated, so “whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.”


The Supreme Court was instituted to enforce these individual Constitutional rights and should be supported by federal, state and local law officials. One of their rulings explained this:


Certain aspects of religious exercise cannot, in any way, be restricted or burdened by either federal or state legislation. Compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship is strictly forbidden. The freedom to hold religious beliefs and opinions is absolute. (Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303)


[182] Other legal sources also emphasize the fact that governments cannot control or force a change in anyone’s religion:


The constitutional limitations have a dual aspect. They prevent the legal compulsion to accept any creed or the practice of any form of worship on one hand, and, on the other hand, permit the free exercise of a chosen form of religion.

The freedom of religion protected against Federal legislation by the first amendment of the Federal Constitution is also protected against invasion by state action by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause (6).

What is freedom of religion? It embraces the right to maintain theories of life, of death, and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths (7). “. . . (it) allow(s) everyone under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relations to his maker and the duties they impose as may be approved by his judgment and conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, not injurious to the equal rights of others. (American Law and Procedure, LaSalle Extension University, 12:90D)


In other words, the government cannot tell a person what to believe or what religious beliefs to practice. What good is a religion if you are permitted to just believe in it? Is there any value in believing the Ten Commandments without practicing them?


George Washington understood the important role of religion and morality within a nation:


Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness. . . . (Stand Fast by Our Constitution, J. Reuben Clark, p. 27)


[183] But great speeches and noble thoughts of American patriots were soon in conflict with “new and improved” state and federal laws–especially those concerning religious freedom. Men in government proved traitors to their oath of office. The Prophet Joseph noticed this and advised the Saints:


The different states, and even Congress itself, have passed many laws diametrically contrary to the Constitution of the United States. * * * Shall we be such fools as to be governed by its laws, which are unconstitutional? No! (DHC 5:289)


The Latter-day Saints were among the first American citizens to learn from experience of such two-faced hypocrisy. They became more and more unpopular, their freedoms could not be preserved, unjust Government officers were not punished nor were mobs and states who deprived the Mormons of their Constitutional rights. The corrupt government was more merciless than the vicious mobs! The Saints had no appeal within the government since officials on all levels were equally guilty.


Government should exist to protect its citizens, showing no discrimination because of race, politics, or religion. As a public servant, it should offer service without special favors for certain people. In other words, a policeman protects a Catholic, not because he is a Catholic, but because he is a citizen. A fireman protects a church, not because it is Protestant, but because it is a part of society. Public servants are in office to protect Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Mormons, without asking them:


Are you identified with a particular religion, or are you incorporated with the government? A State may not adopt programs or practices which “aid or oppose” any religion. (Abington School District, 374 U.S., at 225)


[184] Also, a “state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them.” (Justice Clark in Burstyne v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 1952)


When a government turns from protecting religions to invading or persecuting them, it has turned from being a public servant to a public menace. When a government tries to dictate and control the beliefs and practices of a religion, it has assumed the power of a god. But such powers, decisions and rights are not intended to be invested with “Caesar.” They are still and always will be invested with God the Father, who has His own plan to be carried out among the righteous Saints, as Erastus Snow stated:


Now, when the Lord raised up the Prophet Joseph to lay the foundation of this Church, He found monogamy instead of polygamy to be the rule of Christendom, and He enjoined, in the early revelations to this Church, that every woman cleave unto her husband, and that every man cleave unto his wife and none else, saying that he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her who is not his wife hath committed adultery already with her in his heart. This was the law governing Christendom which had been inherited by the Gentiles for ages past, and introduced among the Roman Empire and perpetuated by the Roman church and the Protestant churches that had sprung out of her, and the Lord in the early history of this people continued this order of things, but revealed unto the Prophet Joseph, nevertheless, that the time would come when He would require His people to enter into plural marriage as He did Abraham and the prophets of old, to bring about His purposes in the latter days. Joseph revealed this unto some of the first Elders of the Church, taking care to enjoin them that they must preserve these things in their own hearts; that the time had not yet come when the Lord required His people to enter into this order, but the time would come when He would require them to do so. This was made manifest [185] in the early stages of this Church, but not until 1843 was this law committed to writing and given to the people. This revelation we find in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. (Erastus Snow, JD 24:164-65)


So here in America, too, there began to be a distinct difference between the marriage laws of God and those of man. Legally, the rites and type of marriage should be a matter of personal preference–religious, civil, or by private contract. However, shortly after the Constitution was ratified, some states began to establish marriage laws limiting these individual rights. Among those states were five in which Joseph Smith lived: Vermont, New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. The laws restricting polygamy in each of these states are briefly presented here.


Vermont passed the following law of 1797, which was a civil law against any persons who wanted to live plural marriage:


Sec. 23. And it is hereby further enacted, that if any person or persons in this state being married, or who shall hereafter marry, shall, at any time, marry any other person, the former husband or wife being alive, or shall continue to live together so married, every such offender being thereof convicted before the supreme court of judicature, shall be punished as in case of adultery, and every person so offending may be tried in the county in which he or she shall be apprehended. (Statutes of Vermont R 1797, p. 165)


This law was in force at the time Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont. It seemed that the devil knew what Joseph would do and was setting up his barriers among the laws of men. The influence and traditions of the “Holy Roman Empire” were already making their appearance in America.


[186] In 1815 Joseph Smith’s family moved to Wayne County, New York. A state law had already been established there on February 7, 1788, against certain types of marriage. It was revised and clarified in 1813, two years before Joseph and his family arrived there. It reads:


Chap. XXIV. An Act to restrain all persons from marrying, until their former wives and former husbands be dead. Passed 7th February, 1788.

Be it enacted by the people of the state of New York, represented in senate and assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that if any person or persons being married, or who hereafter shall marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, then every such offense shall be felony. (Laws of the State of New York, Revised and passed at the thirty-sixth session of the Legislature, 1813, pp. 113-114)


Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in early 1831. Here he was met by another state law on the marriage issue, passed just seven years previously. It stated:


Sec. 7. That if any married person, having a husband or wife living, shall marry any other person; every person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in the penitentiary, and kept at hard labor, not exceeding seven nor less than three years. (First Session of the Twenty-second General Assembly of the State of Ohio, begun and held in the town of Columbus, December 1, 1823. Vol. XXII. An act for the punishment of crimes. Sec. 7–Bigamy)


In the middle of July 1831, Joseph Smith and a few of his companions went to Jackson County, Missouri, where the following statute was already in force:



Sec. 76. Be it further enacted, That if any person or persons, within this state, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, upon conviction thereof, he or they shall be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, be fined in not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars, and imprisoned, not less than six nor more than twelve months, and thereafter be rendered infamous, be incapable of giving testimony, or holding any office, civil or military, within this state. (Laws of the State of Missouri. Revised and digested by authority of the General Assembly, 1825; pp. 305-306)


When the Saints were driven from Missouri to Illinois, they were at first welcomed and treated fairly by the local citizens. However, they found an anti-polygamy law in that state as well:


Sec. 121. Bigamy consists in the having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive. If any person or persons within this state, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons within this state, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive; the person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the penitentiary not exceeding two years. (Revised Laws of Illinois, 1833, pp. 198-199)


Thus, the five states where Joseph Smith resided all had laws against plural marriage. These state laws were made after the creation and ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights–in conflict with guaranteed rights and also in opposition to the marriage practices of the ancient prophets and patriarchs of God. Joseph Smith was well aware of the laws of [188] the land and could see that they were in conflict with the laws of God. His teachings and conduct proved which laws he considered to be the most important.



[189]                             Chapter 15



The Restoration of Plural Marriage


In the foregoing chapters of this book we have studied the history and attitudes of many different people and nations toward the principle of plural marriage. Kings and paupers, prophets and priests, rich and poor have recognized the beneficent attributes of polygamy. From the Congo to the most industrialized nations and from every color, religion and nationality have come favorable statements regarding this marriage lifestyle.


Now we come to the restoration of plural marriage as part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We will read what the Lord Himself had to say about plural marriage in this dispensation and what the response of the Saints has been toward these revelations. The Lord has emphasized the important connection between plural marriage and the laws of the Holy Priesthood.


Apparently, the reasons why plural marriage was introduced into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are still a mystery to most Mormons. However, Elder Mark E. Petersen gave one good reason:


Why was plural marriage practiced by the Latter-day Saints? Only about 4 percent of them ever entered into this form of matrimony, but why did even they?


When the Apostle Peter spoke, as is recorded in Acts 3, he referred to the second coming of the Savior and indicated that this great event will not take place until the time of the restoration of all things spoken by the Lord through his prophets from the beginning of the world.

All things were to be restored!

Would this include plural marriage? It did, and hence Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given. In verses 40 and 45 of that section, as he speaks of plural marriage to Joseph Smith, the Lord refers to it as part of the restoration of all things.

The Prophet Joseph did not wish to enter polygamy. It was farthest from his mind. But he was the restorer, and through him “all things” must be restored. Hence under the persuasion of the Lord, he accepted it. This is why there was polygamy among the Mormons. (Way of the Master, Petersen, p. 43)


Polygamy had to be restored because men had previously apostatized from obeying God’s command to live it. Interestingly, Elder Mark E. Petersen, who understood the genuine necessity of its restoration, probably became the foremost Church opponent of plural marriage.


History has definitely repeated itself. The early Christians abandoned many true principles and practices and adopted the ways of the gentile Romans. The Mormons abandoned many eternal principles and adopted the ways of the gentile Americans. This transition has come by slow subtle means until those who once were its greatest defenders became its greatest opponents.


A brief chronology of the LDS Church’s evolution in their attitude toward plural marriage (1829 to the present) is outlined in this chapter. This more recent history is not much different from the conditions that have been repeated many times previously in the history of the world and its cultures and religions.


[191] 1829


Even before the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation supporting the principle of plural marriage. Charles Walker recorded in his journal:


At night went to the 14th Ward Meeting. Brigham spoke . . . said that while Joseph and Oliver were translating the Book of Mormon they had a revelation that the order of Patriarchal Marriage and the sealing was right. * * *

Oliver said unto Joseph, “Brother Joseph, why don’t we go into the Order of Polygamy, and practice it as the ancients did? We know it is true–then why delay? Joseph’s reply was, “I know that we know it is true and from God, but the time has not yet come.” This did not seem to suit Oliver who expressed a determination to go into the order of plural marriage anyhow, altho (sic) he was ignorant of the order and pattern and the results. Joseph said, “Oliver, if you go into this thing, it is not with my faith or consent.” Disregarding the counsel of Joseph, Oliver Cowdery took to wife Miss Annie Lyman, cousin to Geo. A. Smith. From that time he went into darkness and lost the spirit. Annie Lyman is still alive a witness to these things. (Charles Walker Journal, July 26, 1872)




Within two years (July 17, 1831) another revelation came to the Prophet Joseph while he and others were on a mission to the Indians. W. W. Phelps made a copy of that revelation which said, in part:


Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my holy priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fulness by reason of the anointing: for it is [192] my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.

[Phelps added later] About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph privately, how “we,” that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives from the “natives” as we were all married men? He replied instantly, “In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah; by revelation–the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation.” (Letter to Pres. Brigham Young from W. W. Phelps, Aug. 12, 1861, Church History Library)


Ezra Booth, a Protestant minister who joined the LDS Church and later apostatized, published an account of this 1831 revelation on December 8, 1831, in the Ohio Star. He wrote that “It has been made known by revelation” that it would be “pleasing to the Lord if the elders formed a matrimonial alliance with the natives.”


Elder James S. Brown, who was a Mormon missionary among the Shoshone Indians in 1853, said that he was told by Church leaders to marry “among them, if we would be permitted to take young daughters of the chief and leading men.” (Life of a Pioneer, Brown, p. 320)


Oliver Cowdery was probably the first person in this dispensation to enter into plural marriage (sometime shortly after 1832). He was perhaps too eager to enter it, while Joseph was too reluctant–as he postponed it until his life was threatened. Mary Lightner said, “An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him.” (Life and Testimony of Mary Lightner, p. 58)


[193] Legally, such plural marriages were next to impossible, even though under the laws of the Constitution a civil marriage could be created by common law contract, a judge, or by a religious ceremony. However, plural marriage in the early 1830’s was almost unknown in America.




The law in Ohio did not recognize Mormon leaders as legal ministers; however, in 1835 Joseph said:


Our Elders have been wronged and prosecuted for marrying without a license. The Lord God of Israel has given me authority to unite the people in the holy bonds of matrimony. And from this time forth I shall use that privilege and marry whomsoever I see fit. (Lydia Knight’s History, p. 31)


This occurred on the 14th of November, 1835, when Lydia Goldthwait Bailey was going to be married to Newel Knight. Joseph gave an account of that Mormon wedding ceremony:


I then remarked that marriage was an institution of heaven, instituted in the garden of Eden; that it was necessary it should be solemnized by the authority of the everlasting Priesthood. The ceremony was original with me. . . . (DHC 2:320)


Later, on January 17, 1836, Joseph married three other couples and gave them a marriage certificate, one of them as follows:


Form of Marriage Certificate


I hereby certify, that, agreeable to the rules and regulations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on matrimony, Mr. William F. Cahoon and [194] Miss Nancy M. Gibbs, both of this place, were joined in marriage, on Sabbath, the 17th, instant.

Joseph Smith, Jun., (Presiding Elder

(of said Church.

Kirtland, Ohio, January 19th, 1836

(DHC 2:377)


This was the beginning of a matrimonial conflict between political marriages and priesthood marriages.


It was very difficult for Joseph Smith to reveal all of the doctrines of the kingdom to the Saints. Even Jesus could not teach openly the deeper doctrines and told His disciples, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (the people) it is not given.” (Matt. 13:11) In explaining why there was a difference in who should hear them and who should not, He said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” (Matt. 13:15) In other words, they preferred to maintain their worldly customs and traditions. (See Joseph Smith’s full explanation of this text in TPJS pp. 96-98.)


The Prophet expressed a similar view when he referred to the Latter-day Saints:


But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. (DHC 6:184-185)


[195] 1843


Because of such deeply entrenched traditions, members of the Church were not prepared to accept plural marriage. Joseph Lee Robinson recorded one of Joseph Smith’s first attempts to teach the doctrine publicly:


Again we heard the Prophet say upon the stand in Nauvoo in a grove near the Temple when he was speaking to a large assemblage of saints, with many other things he said, “If I should reveal the things that God has revealed to me, there are some on this stand that would cut my throat or take my heart’s blood.” We wondered if it was possible that that saying could be true. And again while speaking to the people in that place he supposed a case. He said, “Suppose we send one of our Elders to Turkey or India or to a people where it was lawful to have several wives, where they practiced polygamy and he should say to them, `Your laws are not good, you should put away your plural wives;’ what would they do to him? They would kick him out of their realm,” said he. * * *

And when the Elder shall come round again, this Brother shall accost him thus saying, “Elder is there not a land of Zion, a place where the saints should gather to?” The Elder should not lie to him. He shall say, “Yes, Brother, there is a land of Zion where saints of God are required to gather to.” Then said he to the Elder, “I have five wives and I love one equally as well as I do the other, and now what are the laws in that land? Can I bring my five wives there and enjoy them there as well as I can here?” Said the Prophet, “Yes, the laws in Zion are such that you can bring your wives and enjoy them here as well as there,” the Elder shall say to that Brother.

The Prophet went on preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom as if he had not said anything strange or awful, but this to me was the first intimation that I ever received that polygamy would ever be practiced or lawful with this people. The Prophet went to his dinner [196] and as it might be expected several of the first women of the Church collected at the Prophet’s house with his wife, said thus to the Prophet Joseph, “O Mister Smith, you have done it now. It will never do; why it is all but blasphemy. You must take back what you have said today. It is outrageous. It would ruin us as a people.” The Prophet knew it would not avail anything to contend with the sisters. Said he, “I will have to take that saying back and leave it as though there had been nothing said,” for he was aware it was a very large pill for them or the people to swallow, but as the Lord had revealed the principle of plural marriage to him, and had informed him that the time had fully come that that doctrine should be taught and practiced by his people, the Latter-day Saints, as it was a very important item pertaining to the fullness of the Gospel there he deemed it wisdom to throw out something for the people to reflect upon that they might begin to digest that very important doctrine which belongs to the dispensation of the fullness of times. * * *

We attended the meeting in the afternoon. The Prophet arose to address the meeting. He said, “Brethren and sisters, I take back what we said this morning and leave it as though there had been nothing said.” It amused me somewhat but it didn’t take with me for I was satisfied that he meant what he said in the morning. (Joseph Lee Robinson Journal, pp. 12, 13, 14)


In 1855, Apostle George A. Smith recalled the reaction of the people to these same remarks by Joseph Smith:


It produced such a tremendous excitement that, as soon as he had got his dinner half eaten, he had to go back to the stand, and unpreach all that he had preached, and left the people to guess at the matter. (JD 2:217)


Nearly 15 years after Joseph’s first revelation on plural marriage he received another one–on July 12, 1843. (See D & C Section 132.) It was a revelation that would shock the [197] world. If his name was not already known “for good and evil,” it soon would be. Most ministers, lawyers, women, and Congressmen began publicly speaking or privately whispering about his revelation.


From around the General Store pickle barrel to the halls of Congress, “Joe Smith” was a common conversation piece. At one time he was confined to jails and dungeons, and the next he was a candidate for president of the United States. Trying to keep a sane and sensible appearance in the midst of rumors, lies, and “pink sheet” newspaper articles was a most difficult task for him. The announcement of polygamy would just make it worse.


The revelation of 1843 did not come about because Joseph wanted to live plural marriage, but rather because he wanted to understand how the Lord could justify Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon for their many wives. (See D & C 132:1.) The Lord answered him and said:


Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D & C 132:2-4)


The reasons for plural marriage now consisted of more than just having another family if the first wife was barren, having a large posterity, or saving women from a lonely life or prostitution. The Lord announced that it was to be His law. He explained that, “Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And [198] why did she do it? Because this was the law.” (D & C 132:34) Within this single section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord mentions plural marriage as His law 32 times–and explains clearly that it is a law of the Holy Priesthood! (See verses 28, 45-46, 58, 61.)


Within this 1843 revelation there are many forceful and positive statements in favor of living plural marriage, i.e.:


*              All those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. (v. 3)

*              And if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned. (v. 4)

*              No one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (v. 4)

*              All who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing. (v. 5)

*              He that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law. (v. 6)

*              I give unto you this commandment . . . . (v. 12)

*              No man shall come unto the father but by me or by my word, which is my law. (v. 12)

*              These angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity. (v. 17)

*              They cannot, therefore, inherit my glory. (v. 18)

*              If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, . . . it shall be said unto them–Ye shall come forth . . . and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers, dominions, all heights and depths– . . . in time, and through all eternity. (v. 19)

*              Which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (v. 19)

*              Then shall they be gods. . . because all things are subject to them. (v. 20)


*              Except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory. (v. 21)

*              This is eternal lives–to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ . . . receive ye, therefore, my law. (v. 24)

*              He that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned. (v. 27)

*              This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father. . . . (v. 31)

*              Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved. (v. 32)

*              Whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven. (v. 46)

*              I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law. (v. 64) (D & C Sec. 132)


These are only a few of the reasons for plural marriage, and for the next several years, hundreds of sermons would present additional reasons.


Personal revelations on plural marriage were also received by individuals, such as Abraham Hunsaker:


(picture of Hunsaker)



When the law of celestial marriage was first whispered to him, he opposed it, exclaiming, “It is of the devil,” but God knew his heart and in open day a messenger from heaven with three women clothed in white raiment stood before him several feet from the ground and addressed him thus, “You never can receive a full and complete salvation in my kingdom unless your garments are pure and white and you have three counselors like me.” Thus he was convinced that the principle was right and he subsequently married five wives and he became the father of fifty children. (Jenson’s Biographical Encyclopedia 3:415)




Opposition to the law of plural marriage increased as well as the persecutions of Joseph Smith. Conspiracies plotting his death were no secret to him:


They accuse me of polygamy, and of being a false Prophet, and many other things which I do not now remember; but I am no false Prophet; I am no impostor; I have had no dark revelations; I have had no revelations from the devil; I made no revelations; I have got nothing up of myself. The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. And they say if I do so, they will kill me! Oh, what shall I do? If I do not practice it, I shall be damned with my people. If I do teach it, and practice it, and urge it, they say they will kill me, and I know they will. but,” said he, “we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.” (Contributor 5:259)


In June he was killed.


[201] 1852


Because of his knowledge on the subject, Orson Pratt was selected to introduce the revelation and the doctrine of plural marriage to the church on August 19, 1852. His special conference address was the first public sermon on the subject.


I think, if I am not mistaken, that the constitution gives the privilege to all the inhabitants of this country, of the free exercise of their religious notions, and the freedom of their faith, and the practice of it. Then, if it can be proven to a demonstration, that the Latter-day Saints have actually embraced, as a part and portion of their religion, the doctrine of a plurality of wives, it is constitutional. And should there ever be laws enacted by this government to restrict them from the free exercise of this part of their religion, such laws must be unconstitutional. (Mill. Star Supp. 15:18)


Brigham Young then addressed the Saints on the same subject and called for a vote. It was accepted by the members of the Church as a revelation from the Lord.


Two weeks after this announcement, Orson Pratt was sent to Washington, D.C., to publicly announce it–through The Seer–to the United States as a tenet of the LDS faith. The American public was generally against it at the outset, and from then on opposition and persecution increased.




Elder John Taylor was sent to New York to establish a newspaper called The Mormon, and through its pages defend the principle and practice of plural marriage. Elder Erastus Snow was called to St. Louis to publish the St. Louis Luminary for the same purpose; and George Q. Cannon went [202] to San Francisco to print The Western Standard. The elders in England published similar defenses in the Journal of Discourses and Millennial Star. Beginning in great secrecy, plural marriage was now being proclaimed with great fanfare.




The Mormon Endowment House, completed on Temple Square in 1855, was used for more than 30 years for polygamous marriage ceremonies.


(picture of Endowment House)




When the Christians, with all their scriptures and rebuttals, failed to defeat the Mormons, the Federal Government sent out their best trained, best equipped and best prepared army to put down the Mormons. John Taylor said:



We had men in all the camps, and knew what was intended. “Beauty and Booty” were their watch-words. We were to have another grand Mormon conquest, and our houses, gardens, orchards, vineyards, fields, wives and daughters were to be the spoils. (CHC 4:259)


The Mormons received still more lessons on charity from the Christian monogamists. This anti-polygamy program cost the U.S. Government $44 million, and they didn’t even achieve the victory they wanted!




The gentiles tried to break up the Mormons with mobs, with their Bibles, and a militarized army. Having failed with that, they now employed lawyers to make laws against them. On July 8, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Anti-bigamy Act into law. It provided for a penalty of $500 fine and five years imprisonment for polygamous Mormons. It disincorporated the Church and limited their holdings to $50,000.


The Mormons constantly tried to become a state, but were repeatedly refused. Yet during the Civil War the U.S. Government went to war against some of the other states, trying to keep them in the Union!




Some Mormons thought the Church should receive another revelation revoking the law of plural marriage. Brigham Young, Jr., responded by saying:


There is no half-way house. The childish babble about another revelation is only an evidence how half informed men can talk. The “Mormons” have either to [204] spurn their religion and their God, and sink self-damned in the eyes of all civilization at the moment when most blest in the practice of their faith, or go calmly on to the same issue which they have always had–“Mormonism in its entirety, the revelation of God, or nothing at all.” (Brigham Young, Jr., editor, Mill. Star 27:676, Oct. 28, 1865)




A number of meetings were held by several thousand women protesting the anti-polygamy Cragin and Cullom Bills. They wrote:


Resolved, that we consider the above named bills foul blots on our national escutcheon–absurd documents–atrocious insults to the honorable executive of the United States Government, and malicious attempts to subvert the right of civil and religious liberty. (Essentials in Church Hist., Jos. Fldg. Smith, p. 444)




“Judge McKean made some absurd rulings in the naturalization of foreigners, making their belief in polygamy a test question.” (Church Chronology, Jenson, Feb. 1871)


“The Salt Lake County authorities arrested a number of prostitutes, who subsequently were released by Federal officials.” (Church Chronology, Jenson, Dec. 1871, p. 84)




“President Brigham Young was in the Third District Court, but his case was continued until March. Judge McKean refused $500,000 bail for him, and the President was again guarded in his own house by U.S. Deputy Marshals.” (Ibid., Jan. 2, 1872, p. 84)


[205] 1874


In 1874, Congress passed the Poland Bill which repealed certain Utah statutes. It partially fulfilled the clamoring of the radical anti-Mormon element because it curtailed the civil and political rights of the Mormon people–giving more authority to federal judges and officers.




Judge McKean again put Pres. Young under an indictment when one of his wives sued him for divorce and alimony. The Judge was so eager for this case that he gave Ann Eliza the status of a legal wife and decided against Brigham, ordering him to pay her alimony of $10,000. When Brigham failed to pay, sentence was passed upon him on March 11, 1875, and he was sent to the Utah State Penitentiary for 24 hours.


George Reynolds, the private secretary to Brigham Young, was chosen to be a “test case” where they could follow through with the court system to prove that plural marriage was legal under the Constitution and First Amendment.


The law being tested was the 1862 bigamy law, and Reynolds voluntarily appeared in court, giving himself up for trial. In spite of all the legal arguments for his defense, he was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison and a $500 fine. An appeal was then taken to the Supreme Court of the territory where it was dismissed on the ground that the grand jury which heard the indictment was an illegal jury.


Reynolds was set up for another trial in 1875, when Judge Alexander White was more harsh than the previous judge–sentencing him to $500 fine and two years in the penitentiary at hard labor! The Supreme Court confirmed the verdict and an appeal was taken to Washington.



The ladies of Utah sent a petition having 23,626 signatures to Congress, praying for the admission of Utah into the Union as a State, and the repeal of the anti-polygamy laws. (Church Chronology, Jenson, Dec. 1875)




The George Reynolds test case went before the Supreme Court where “the question is raised, whether religious belief can be accepted as a justification of an overt act made criminal by the law of the land.” (Reynolds v. United States, p. 162) But the question should have seen, “Can politicians be justified in the overt act of making laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion?”


Under a new law (12 Stat. 501), plural marriage was made a crime in the territory. The humorous part was that “this was done because of the evil consequences that were supposed to flow from plural marriages.” (Ibid., p. 168) They completely failed to look at the consequences that flowed from monogamy–right in their own front yard was all the evidence they needed.




At the funeral of William Clayton, one of Joseph Smith’s close associates, Joseph F. Smith spoke and said:


This doctrine of plural marriage is one of the most important doctrines ever revealed to man. Without it man would come to a full stop; without it we never could be exalted to associate with and become Gods, neither could we attain to the power of eternal increase. There are, however, enough witnesses to these principles to establish them upon the earth in such a manner that they never can be forgotten or stamped out. For they will live; they are destined to live, [207] and also to grow and spread abroad upon the face of the earth, to be received and accepted and adopted by all the virtuous, by all the pure in heart, by all who love the truth, and seek to serve Him and keep His commandments; they are bound to prevail, because they are true principles. (JD 21:10)




During the period of the extreme and unrelenting prosecutions under the anti-polygamy acts of Congress, President Woodruff spent much of the time among the churches in Arizona and Southern Utah. On January 26, 1880, having retired for some days in the mountains fasting and praying, he obtained important revelations from the Lord concerning the work of the Twelve Apostles and events which would happen, affecting both the church and the nations. These were submitted to President John Taylor and the Council of the Apostles and were accepted by them as profitable for doctrine, for comfort, for light as to the future and for encouragement in the work of the ministry. (Imp. Era 1:874)


Since the Saints were suffering such perilous times because of plural marriage, this revelation of 1880 was very important to them. In it the Lord said to them:


The devil is ruling over his kingdom and my spirit has no place in the hearts of the rulers of this nation, and the devil stirs them up to defy my power and to make war upon my Saints. Therefore let mine Apostles and mine Elders who are faithful obey my commandments which are already written for their profit and guidance. * * *

As I have said in former commandments, it is not my will that mine Elders should fight the battles of Zion, for I will fight your battles. * * *

This nation is ripened in iniquity and the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full and I will not stay my hand in judgments upon this nation or the nations of the earth. * * *


And I say again, woe unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal law of Abraham, which leadeth to Celestial Glory, which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth these things shall be damned, saith the Lord of Hosts, and shall be broken up and wasted away from under heaven by the judgments which I have sent forth, and which shall not return unto me void. * * *

Thus saith the Lord unto you, my servants and Apostles who dwell in the flesh. Fear ye not your enemies. Let not your hearts be troubled. I am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father. (Revelations 1880-1890, comp. by Kraut, pp. 7-12)


Regardless of all the laws of the land that had been passed against polygamy, the Lord continued to exhort, persuade and command His people to obey His law of plural or celestial marriage.


The whole question, therefore, narrows itself to this in the “Mormon” mind. Polygamy was revealed by God, or the entire fabric of their faith is false. To ask them to give up such an item of belief, is to ask them to relinquish the whole, to acknowledge their Priesthood a lie, their ordinances a deception, and all that they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, prayed for, or hoped for, a miserable failure and a waste of life. (S.L. Telegraph, Brigham Young, Jr., 28 Oct. 1880; Mill. Star 27:673)




“Christian” representatives wanted war with the Mormons. They wanted to see the Mormons killed, their property taken away and their religion wiped out. The Reverend J. H. Peters, at Dayton, in October 1881, said, “I would that the guns of Fort Douglas were turned upon them (the Mormons) and they made loyal by this means if by no other.” (Ibid., p. 482) Such were the feelings of most of the “Christian” people [209] of America. They were Christians by name and Romans at heart.




This year saw the passage of the Edmunds Law which reads:


Every person who has a husband or wife living, who marries more than one woman, is guilty of polygamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars and by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. . . . (Section I)


This law prohibited a polygamist from voting or holding any public office, and anyone under suspect was made to sign a test oath.


A few centuries before, the Inquisition brought all the forces of law and imprisonment against faithful Christians. Now the Christians were imposing the same on the Mormons. They were being forced to sign a modern “Test Oath” or suffer the consequences. A portion of that oath stated:


I, ______________, further swear that I am not a bigamist, polygamist, or living in unlawful cohabitation, or associating or cohabiting polygamously with persons of the other sex. . . .


Immediately following the passage of the worst law against plural marriage so far, the Lord gave another revelation in support of plural marriage, i.e.:


Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve, and to the Priesthood and people of my Church.

Let my servants George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the [210] labors devolving upon you, for you have a great work to perform; and then proceed to fill up the presiding quorum of Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of my priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law;

For it is not meet that men who will not abide my law (plural marriage) shall preside over my priesthood. (Revelation to John Taylor, Oct. 13, 1882, Revelations 1880-1890, Kraut, p. 35)


How interesting–as the government made laws against plural marriage, the Lord reinforced His commands to obey it. There could be no compromise. John Taylor suggested that “it would be well for us to keep up our coat collars and protect ourselves as best we could until the storm passed over.” (Life of John Taylor, B. H. Roberts, p. 360)


In this revelation of 1882 was a new law pertaining to plural marriage–that only polygamists could preside over the Priesthood. In other words, a monogamist should not serve as a general authority in the Church.


Other supportive information and positive statements soon followed from leading Church brethren, such as:


Concerning the Patriarchal Order of Marriage, President Taylor said: “If we do not embrace that principle soon, the keys will be turned against us. If we do not keep the same law that our Heavenly Father has kept, we cannot go with Him. A man obeying a lower law is not qualified to preside over those who keep a higher law.” In harmony with the remarks of President Taylor, Elder Woodruff observed: “The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance [211] that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham, or they will have to resign.” (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Matthew Cowley, p. 542)


The following precepts for this law of marriage had now been established:


  1. Men must live it or the keys will be turned against them.
  2. If they want to go where Heavenly Father is, they must obey it.
  3. A man living monogamy cannot preside over a polygamist.
  4. It belongs to this dispensation.
  5. The Church cannot progress without it.
  6. Stake Presidents must live it or resign.




Prosecutions continued as Federal officials paid rewards and bribes for information on “co-habs”. Many polygamists were imprisoned, went into hiding, or moved to Mexico. In President John Taylor’s last public address (Feb. 1, 1885), he said:


These are precious principles which only the Saints know how to comprehend and appreciate. We are told “that the natural man perceiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” and therefore those outside of that influence and spirit which is communicated to the Saints of the Most High, through obedience to the Gospel of the Son of God, find it very difficult to understand them. But we comprehend them, because God has given unto us His Spirit, which takes of the things of God and shows them unto us. (JD 26:148-149)


[212] Shortly after this time, an editorial appeared in the Deseret News, undoubtedly the work of Pres. John Taylor because Charles Penrose, editor, was in England at the time. It stated:


What would be necessary to bring about the result nearest the hearts of the opponents of “Mormonism,” more properly termed the Gospel of the Son of God? Simply to renounce, abrogate or apostatize from the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in its fullness. Were the Church to do that as an entirety, God would reject the Saints as a body. The authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn, with its gifts and powers, and there would be no more heavenly recognition of the ministrations among the people. The heavens would permanently withdraw themselves, and the Lord would raise up another people of greater valor and stability, for his work must, according to His unalterable decrees, go forward, for the time of the second coming of the Savior is near, even at the doors. (Des. Eve. News, editorial, Apr. 23, 1885)


What an indictment against monogamy in Church leadership! Consider the gravity of this editorial:

  1. To renounce plural marriage was apostasy.
  2. If the Church did that, God would reject them as a body.
  3. The authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn.
  4. Spiritual gifts would disappear.
  5. The heavens would be withdrawn and no more revelations given.
  6. Another people would be called to continue to obey that law.


A grand mass meeting was held in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, to protest against the oppressive course of the Federal officials in the Territory. A declaration of grievances and protest, addressed to the [213] President and people of the United States, were adopted, and John T. Caine, John W. Taylor, and John Q. Cannon were chosen as a delegation to proceed to Washington with the documents. Similar mass meetings were held in the various cities and towns of the Territory. (Church Chronology, Jenson, May 2, 1885)


Why would the Lord and the leaders of the Church be opposed to these gentile anti-polygamy laws of the land? That was explained in another editorial in the Deseret News:


What constitutes a genuine law of the land? This can be commensurately answered by stating the Constitution is the “Supreme law of the land,” and all statutes made in conformity with its provisions, in letter and spirit, are genuine laws. Those which conflict with it according to that proposition are not. The Edmunds Act is grossly unconstitutional, and therefore is not essentially a law of the land in the true sense of the term, because it is an infringement on constitutional privileges, being ex post facto, a bill of attainder, and a curtailment of religious liberty.

If it were a constitutional law, there would be no conflict between it and the revelation on celestial marriage. There being a clash, there is no alternative but to sustain what God has given. (Des. Eve. News, editorial, June 5, 1885)


The judges and juries in territorial courts were anything but fair and impartial. For example:


Judge Zane, in his instructions to the grand jury, interpreted the law in such a way, that persons found guilty of unlawful cohabitation could be imprisoned for life. (Sept. 16, 1885) (Church Chron., Jenson, p. 17)


After two day’s trial in the First District Court, at Ogden, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Lorenzo Snow for unlawful cohabitation in 1885, [214] notwithstanding the evidence introduced had proven him innocent. (Dec. 31, 1885) (Ibid., p. 24)




The Mormons were now placed in the critical position of either allowing the Lord to protect them and fight their battles, or compromising and giving in to their enemies. This was clearly the proposition stated to them by Lorenzo Snow who said in court:


“Fifty millions of people” are said to be calling loudly for the extermination of the “Mormons.” If it be a fact that our religion is divine, established of God, there is no cause for alarm, nor even anxiety or uneasiness. Tens of thousands, through obedience to the sacred Gospel, know it to be true–a fact by immediate revelation to themselves. Therefore, these “Fifty millions of people,” are not fighting the “Mormons,” or their religion, but they are fighting God and His purposes.

Israel, on the banks of the Red Sea, were God’s people–a fact perfectly known to Moses; and he knew, also, what were the purposes of God concerning them. Hence, there was no occasion for alarm or anxiety in view of the overwhelming forces of Pharaoh’s army, threatening immediate annihilation. God’s eye was upon Israel–they were there by His direction–a fact–a revealed fact, known to Moses and Aaron, and doubtless to many others, by direct communication from God. It is true, they were placed in a frightful situation–naturally, a hopeless one, from which no human power or ability could extricate them.

Israel was there, not from choice, but by the command of God; and He had arranged His own programme; yet Pharaoh with his armed hosts, sought to thwart His purposes, and in the end was overthrown and destroyed; and the result of this ignorance and folly stands recorded on the pages of history as a lesson to all generations.


The Prosecuting Attorney was quite mistaken in saying “the defendant Mr. Snow was the most scholarly and brightest light of the Apostles;” and equally wrong when pleading with the jury to assist him and the “United States of America”, in convicting Apostle Snow, and he “would predict that a new revelation would soon follow changing the Divine law of celestial marriage.” Whatever fame Mr. Bierbower may have secured as a lawyer, he certainly will fail as a prophet. The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom. Though I go to prison, God will not change His law of celestial marriage. (Mill. Star 48:110-111, Feb. 1886)


At this critical juncture a resolution, or form of manifesto, was presented to President John Taylor. In reality, it was a minor compromise, thought to lessen the political pressure from off the Church. It was suggested that the president take it before the Lord for His approval. In answer, another revelation was received from the Lord:


My Son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people;

Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant;

For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated, nor done away with, but they stand forever. * * * Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not. * * *

I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof. Even so, Amen. (Revelations 1880-1890, Kraut, pp. 54-55; also Douglas Todd Journal, Sept. 1, 1934)


[216] Frequently asked questions were: Does federal agency have the right of jurisdiction over religion? Do the laws of man take precedence over the laws of God? Once again an editorial in the Deseret News clearly answers these questions:


Any religious society or individual that views a law of man as superior to a law of God proclaims his own hypocrisy. That which is divine must be supreme. Only what Deity recognizes is valid in religion. And he who truly believes in God will be willing to obey Him in all things, as the highest and greatest of all powers and authorities, in heaven or on earth in time or in eternity. (Des. Eve. News, editorial, Dec. 31, 1886)




Every possible means was being used for the “attempted destruction of the Mormon Church”, wrote Charles Penrose, adding that–


What mobs failed to do in Missouri and Illinois, and what ministers of all denominations have been unable to accomplish anywhere, legislators, judges and lawyers are now trying to achieve in Washington and in Utah. (Des. Eve. News, Feb. 26, 1887)


He was referring to another act called “The Edmunds-Tucker Act”–the worst, most unconstitutional and unreasonable law that Congress ever conceived. It made the following stipulations:


  1. Dissolved the corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity.
  2. Made husband and wife a competent witness.
  3. Caused forfeiture and escheatment of all Church property, both real and personal in excess of $50,000 to the Federal Government, the property to be disposed of [217] and the proceeds to be used for the benefit of the district schools of Utah.
  4. Dissolved the Perpetual Emigrating Company and escheated its resources to the Federal Government, to be disposed of and used as were those of the Church.
  5. Prohibited the chartering of any corporation similar in nature or intent to the Perpetual Emigrating Company.
  6. Abolished woman suffrage in Utah.
  7. Disinherited polygamous issue.
  8. Provided for complete disfranchisement of polygamists by test oath: (a) they could not vote; (b) they could not sit on juries; (c) they could not hold public office.
  9. Placed all law enforcement, judicial and militia power in the Utah Commission or other Federal appointees.
  10. Suspended Territorial school laws.
  11. Required certification and registration of all marriages in the probate court. (Des. News, Mar. 3, 1887)


The Constitution was meant to protect people in their religious rights, but with the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, such protection was denied. Persecution replaced protection. America was founded and the Constitution created to guarantee freedom of religion, but evil politicians became as venomous and corrupt as those in the European nations from which they had fled.


The effects of this law not only changed the condition of the Church, but also the thinking of many Mormons. The defenders of plural marriage were succumbing to the onslaughts of the gentiles, as was manifest in their proposal for a new state constitution.


June of this year witnessed another attempt–the fifth of its kind–to secure for Utah the boon of Statehood. The movement was especially notable from the fact that it was proposed by the Mormons–[218] the Gentiles refusing to take any part in the proceedings–to insert in the State Constitution an article prohibiting and punishing polygamy.

The Constitutional Convention assembled at the City Hall, Salt Lake City, on the 30th of June. Sixty-nine delegates were present from nearly all counties. (Whitney’s History of Utah, 3:583)


The state constitution was framed and adopted with the following provision:


Section 12 (of Article XV). Bigamy and polygamy being considered incompatible with a republican form of government, each of them is hereby forbidden and declared a misdemeanor. Any person who shall violate this section shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, and by imprisonment for a term of not less than six months, nor more than three years, in the discretion of the court. (Ibid., 3:584)


This may not have had anything to do with the untimely death of President John Taylor, living in exile, but he passed away a little over two weeks later.


The election occurred on Monday, the 1st of August. The count of the votes cast showed the following result:

For the Constitution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13,195

Against the Constitution . . . . . . . . . . . . .    502

(Ibid., 3:585)


The Saints were becoming as pernicious as their persecutors. These were Mormons voting for a Constitution that declared plural marriage a crime. This occurred only one year after John Taylor said the Lord revealed to him that the Latter-day Saints would soon give up plural marriage. The Mormons didn’t even wait for the Manifesto three years later; the great majority had already turned against plural marriage!


[219] 1889


Pandemonium reigned supreme in the land of the Mormons. The Church had lost millions of dollars in property and businesses. Families were broken up with many leading men in the underground or in prison. Mormon polygamists were considered aliens if not enemies by the government. Local businessmen and bankers were crying to the Church leaders to make a concession or compromise or to abandon polygamy by some form of manifesto.


President Woodruff once again went to the Lord, and according to Abraham Cannon and others, a revelation was received. Cannon wrote an interesting account in his journal:


Sunday evening, Nov. 24th (1889). Propositions had been made for the Church to make some concessions to the Courts in regard to its principles. Both of Pres. Woodruff’s counselors refused to advise him as to the course he should pursue, and he therefore laid the matter before the Lord. The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. He had done and would continue to care for His work and those of the Saints who were faithful, and we need have no fear of our enemies when we were in the line of our duty. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. We were admonished to read and study the Word of God and to pray often. The whole revelation was filled with words of the greatest encouragement and comfort, and my heart was filled with joy and peace during the entire reading. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue. (Journal of Abraham Cannon, Dec. 19, 1889)


Parts of the revelation stated:



Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men.

Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.

Let my servants who officiate as your counselors before the courts make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, without any further pledges from my Priesthood.

I, the Lord, will hold the courts, with the officers of government and the nation, responsible for their acts towards the inhabitants of Zion.

Awake, O Israel, and have faith in God and His promises and He will not forsake you.

I cannot deny my Word, neither in blessings nor judgments. (Messages of the First Presidency, Clark, 3:176; also Gospel Doctrine manual, “Thy Kingdom Shall Roll Forth,” 1979, p. 58)




Ten months after receiving this powerful revelation of 1889, Wilford Woodruff wrote in his private journal–


After feeling inspired by his spirit, I have issued the following Proclamation . . . : “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages. . . I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” (Sept. 25, 1889, entry)


No revelation was ever entered in his journal supporting his “Official Declaration,” nor has one ever been published or found in Church archives.


It should be remembered at this point that in the 1880 revelation he received, the Lord had said:



Wo unto that nation or house or people, who seek to hinder my people from obeying the patriarchal law of Abraham which leadeth to a Celestial Glory which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth these things shall be damned. . . . (Jan. 26, 1880, W. Woodruff Journal entry)


Thus, in 1880, Woodruff received a revelation saying wo to any people that hinder His people from living plural marriage; then ten years later he signed a manifesto saying, “I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws [against plural marriage], and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” (“Official Declaration”, at end of the D & C)


After the Manifesto of 1890 was issued, the government and its citizens reversed their position and ceased to persecute the polygamists. The Church also reversed their stand. Instead of defending plural marriage, they began to prosecute, persecute and excommunicate those who still lived it.


The consequence of such actions would have a devastating effect on one’s salvation, according to Heber C. Kimball, who had once warned:


Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned. What are you opposing it for? It is a principle that God has revealed for the salvation of the human family. (JD 5:203)




The Manifesto had been signed and now Church members asked to be pardoned. Church leaders wrote a letter to the President of the United States in which they made a “Petition for Amnesty”:



The President of the United States:

We, the first presidency and apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beg to respectfully represent Your Excellency the following facts:

We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come.

That doctrine was publicly promulgated by our president, the late Brigham Young, forty years ago, and was steadily taught and impressed upon the Latter-day Saints up to September 1890. . . . The Government added disfranchisement to its other punishment for those who clung to their faith and fulfilled its covenants. . . .

To be at peace with the government and in harmony with their fellow-citizens who are not of their faith . . . our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they have believed to be a sacred principle. (Smoot Case Proceedings, 1:18; also Contributor 13:196)




Utah became a state with their own state constitution through the Enabling Act. The Constitution was framed with a toleration of religious sentiment included:


First: Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed. No inhabitant of this State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship, but polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited.


This was clearly a contradiction of terms, and it still stands on the pages of our Utah Constitution.


[223] 1904


On April 6, 1904, Joseph F. Smith issued what later became known as the “Second Manifesto”, wherein he stated:


I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. * * *

If any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage, he will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with, according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom. (Mess. of First Pres. 4:84)


Francis M. Lyman then presented this “Manifesto” to the General Conference attendees for their adoption–which they eagerly did.


Michael Quinn referred to the importance of this document in a widely circulated article published ten years ago:


On 6 April 1904, Joseph F. Smith presented his official statement for the vote of the general conference. A polygamist confidant of both President Smith and Senator Smoot told the Senator’s secretary that the “Second Manifesto” had a hidden meaning: “The new manifesto modifies that of 1890 by eliminating unlawful cohabitation. Unlawful cohabitation now has the sanction of the Church, though the people did not know what they were doing in adopting it.” (Mess. of First Pres. 4:84-85) Despite the Second Manifesto’s unqualified denial of post-Manifesto polygamy, the circumstances of its ratification by the general conference also sent another message to those who were already aware of what had been happening on and off for more than thirteen years. (“LDS Church Authority and New [224] Plural Marriages, 1890-1904,” D. Michael Quinn, Dialogue 18:1, Spring 1985)




After many “little manifestos”, the so-called “Third Manifesto” was issued by Heber J. Grant, and it was even more effective in trying to put an end to plural marriages once and for all within the Church. It wholeheartedly supported the arrest and conviction of all polygamists.


We have been, however, and we are entirely willing and anxious too that such offenders against the law of the State should be dealt with and punished as the law provides. We have been and we are willing to give such legal assistance as we legitimately can in the criminal prosecution of such cases. We are willing to go to such limits not only because we regard it as our duty as citizens of the country to assist in the enforcement of the law and the suppression of pretended “plural marriages,” but also because we wish to do everything humanly possible to make our attitude toward this matter so clear, definite, and unequivocal as to leave no possible doubt of it in the mind of any person. (Mess. of First Pres. 5:292-93)


I would like all those in this congregation who feel to sustain this statement that I have read to you to manifest it as the Apostles and all of the General Authorities have done, by raising their right hands. (The congregation responded by raising their hands.)

I have never seen such a lot of hands held so high in my life.

All those who are opposed to this statement will please raise their hands. (No hands were raised.)

Our enemies do not seem to be here. (Ibid., 5:297)


[225] 1935


It is said that J. Reuben Clark and Hugh B. Brown, both lawyers, worked on a bill (H.B. No. 224) which made polygamy a felony–the only state in the union giving it such a severe classification–and this in a state founded and settled by polygamists!

* * * * *


No other principle of the Gospel has been so complex and controversial. At one time it was considered a most holy law of God that men would die for; then later, according to James E. Talmage, “plurality of wives was an incident–never an essential.” (Story of Mormonism, p. 86) But according to Brigham Young:


The doctrine of polygamy with the “Mormons” is not one of the kind that in the religious world is classed with “non-essentials.” It is not an item of doctrine that can be yielded, and faith in the system remain. . . . The whole question, therefore, narrows itself to this in the “Mormon” mind. Polygamy was revealed by God, or the entire fabric of their faith is false. To ask them to give up such an item of belief is to ask them to relinquish the whole, to acknowledge their Priesthood a lie, their ordinances a deception, and all they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, prayed for, or hoped for, a miserable failure and a waste of life. (Mill. Star 27:673)


Giving up plural marriage, opposing it, supporting the prosecution of polygamists and considering them enemies is one thing–but achieving the blessings promised to those who live it is another. Obedience to a law and opposition to that law cannot render the same reward. In 1878 Joseph F. Smith stated:



Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. . . . The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part. . . . But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. . . .

It is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law (polygamy) or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful. Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations. . . . Man . . . cannot receive the fullness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by the proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism. I understand the law of Celestial Marriage to mean that every man in this 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. (JD 20: 28-31)


Most Church members in our day live with a half-hearted, partially converted, poor understanding of the Gospel. They obey part of the laws but expect the blessings for living them all. But, can a person work half a day and expect a full day’s [227] pay? Can you expect to continually buy something of value for half of its worth? The fullness of the Gospel is not a “McDonald’s hamburger”, but rather a full course dinner requiring a full price payment.


The history of Mormon polygamy is a paradox–an absolute contradiction in principle and practice. For 40 years it was taught 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 fulness of exaltation in celestial glory. (Hist. Record 6:227)


Then for the next 100 years it was considered to be a serious sin and a felony. Those who lived it were accused of–


. . . living in adultery, have sold their souls to Satan, and whether their acts are based on ignorance or lust or both, they will be damned in eternity.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1st edition, Bruce R. McConkie, p. 523)


Why would God tell people they must live this “most holy principle” up to September 25, 1890, and then the next day begin the inconsistent program of telling them it was a terrible “adulterous” evil for which they could be thrown out of His Church and even be “damned”?


One apostle understood the importance of plural marriage to mean that “We should in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace.” (Heber J. Grant, Des. News, Apr. 4, 1885). Yet another apostle said, “We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage.” (John A. Widtsoe, Imp. Era 46:91)


[228] Every Latter-day Saint is under the obligation of determining whether plural marriage is right or wrong, because “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (13th Article of Faith) We should recognize that when obeyed and lived correctly, plural marriage can certainly fall into that category.



[229]                             Chapter 16



A Principle, Ordinance, Covenant and Law


It has been very interesting and informative to see how many nations have benefited from their acceptance of a plural marriage lifestyle. Several non-Christian nations, such as China and India, and some in the Near East, such as Arabia, Syria, Persia and Africa, have, on the whole, had less immorality than the so-called Christian nations who have not accepted such a lifestyle.


The Bible records that for thousands of years prophets, patriarchs, priests, and kings obeyed and lived polygamy. All the tribes of Israel, including the Jews, accepted it; and God chose this polygamous lineage through which Jesus was born. Furthermore, the Savior always spoke respectfully of those prophets and people who lived plural marriage, never saying anything against that principle.


There is nothing in the Old or New Testament that enforces the law of monogamous marriages, neither is there anything opposing plural marriage. We have seen that the only ancient law enforcing monogamy came from a band of robbers who gradually extended it throughout the Roman Empire, and influenced other nations and religions, especially the Christians. What a tragic history, showing how the “Christian” nations have repeatedly neglected their surplus women–[230] leaving them with illegitimate children, prostitution, disease, or a life of celibacy!


We have read how the freedoms and religious rights of Americans have been crushed by the very government established to guarantee these rights–and also how the American government and the Christian religions have betrayed, corrupted and violated their most sacred oaths and covenants.


We have studied the calamity of Mormonism’s plural marriage system and how men in the Church struggled, defended and even died for it; but later the hierarchy turned to prosecute and excommunicate those who taught or lived it.


Throughout all this, we have learned why plural marriage has been lived and respected and why the Lord has revealed such a principle and commanded it to be lived as a law of the Holy Priesthood.


Let us briefly consider plural marriage in the light of four major classifications:


  1. a principle and doctrine
  2. an ordinance
  3. a covenant
  4. a law


  1. A Principle and Doctrine


Population records show that there are always more women than men. Why is this?


  1. More male babies die than female.
  2. Men often lose their lives in hazardous occupations.


  1. Wars claim the lives of thousands of young men.
  2. Men’s life expectancy is shorter than women’s.


There are many positive opportunities in plural marriage for this surplus of women. A woman is provided with a chance to marry and to marry any man of her choice. It also provides a better opportunity of marriage for women who might be handicapped, crippled, overweight, homely or sickly. It gives women who are barren a chance to be in a family with children. It gives women more time and independence to pursue vocations, hobbies, individual studies, etc. It can certainly be considered as a true principle with very positive results.


But true principles seem to attract opposition. If plural marriage were a sin, the devil wouldn’t oppose it so much. As Joseph Smith said: “When wicked and corrupt men oppose, it is a criterion to judge if a man is warring the Christian warfare.” (TPJS, p. 259)


Plural marriage is meant to be a principle upon which to build a large and righteous family. Only the most noble of men should live it for spiritual reasons. The Lord explained why He blessed Abraham, his family and his children:


Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (Gen. 18:18-19)


On the other hand, the people who are the most wicked should not be allowed to have any posterity to perpetuate their wickedness; so in many cases the Lord has caused them to be destroyed.



The Sodomites, Canaanites, etc., received the reverse of this blessing. Instead of giving them a multiplicity of wives and children, He cut them off, root and branch, and blotted their name from under heaven, that there might be an end of a race so degenerate. Now this severity was a mercy. If we were like the people before the flood, full of violence and oppression; or if we, like the Sodomites or Canaanites, were full of all manner of lawless abominations, holding promiscuous intercourse with the other sex, and stooping to a level with the brute creation, and predisposing our children, by every means in our power, to be fully given to strange and unnatural lusts, appetites, and passions, would it not be a mercy to cut us off, root and branch, and thus put an end to our increase upon the earth? You will all say it would. The spirits in heaven would thank God for preventing them from being born into the world under such circumstances. Would not the spirits in heaven rejoice in the covenant and blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in relation to the multiplying of their seed, and in every additional wife which God gave to them as a means of multiplying? Yes, they would; for they could say–“Now there is an opportunity for us to take bodies in the lineage of a noble race, and to be educated in the true science of life, and in the commandments of God.” O what an unspeakable contrast, between being a child of Sodom and a child of Abraham! (Parley P. Pratt, JD 1:259)


  1. An Ordinance


An ordinance in this instance is “a religious rite or ceremony.” (New Intern’l. Dic., p. 889) It is usually performed or administered by someone with authority and in this study is frequently a duty or commandment from God. It denotes an official acceptance like a signature on a document; thus when obeyed, it shows a person’s acceptance of it. Ordinances, such as baptism or marriage, should be obeyed in faith, expecting the fulfillment of the promises connected with [233] it. Joseph Smith spoke very clearly of the importance of God’s ordinances:


All the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation. . . .

Without the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.

He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever.

All men . . . will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole. (TPJS, pp. 171, 172, 168, 309)


Plural marriage is one of these ordinances that cannot be changed; it remains “the same forever and ever.” Thus the blessings pertaining to it cannot be received through any other means.


  1. A Covenant


A covenant is “a binding and solemn agreement (or compact) made by two or more individuals, parties, etc., to do or keep from doing a specified thing.” (Webster’s New World Dic., 1984, p. 326) The word covenant is often used interchangeably with contract, which has a very similar definition: “an agreement between two or more people to do something, esp. one formally set forth in writing and enforceable by law; compact; covenant; a formal agreement of marriage or betrothal.” (Ibid., p. 308)


If either party breaks his part of that agreement, then the terms of the contract or covenant are no longer valid, whether the agreement is made between mortals or between man and [234] God. There is a penalty and a loss of blessings for breaking a covenant with the Lord, and the more serious the commitment, the more drastic the penalty. The temple ceremony used to be very explicit on the types of penalties that could be incurred when men or women would break certain covenants–and even though these penalties are no longer explained inside LDS temples today, nevertheless they are still in force when warranted. Breaking temple covenants are among the most serious, as the Lord explained:


And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfill the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.

For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord. (D & C 124:47-48)


A marriage can be a (1) private, (2) civil, or (3) religious contract, but if the marriage covenant is made till death do them part, it ends with the death of either party because it cannot remain “in force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world, therefore, they are not bound. . . .” (D & C 132:15)


Joseph Smith introduced religious wedding ceremonies into the Church and later plural marriages were a part of those covenants which included eternal marriage. These were bound with the power that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matt. 16:19), which was possible through the power of the Holy Priesthood.


Sometimes a type of covenant is made between a man and woman before they are married, and this is called an [235] engagement. However, going back even further, similar covenants may have been agreed upon even before they were born. This knowledge was revealed to others in addition to the Prophet Joseph, such as Emanual Swedenborg (1688-1772), a Swedish scientist and spiritualist. In 1743, about 100 years before Joseph Smith had his revelation on plural marriage, Swedenborg claimed to have had a very similar revelation. He wrote:


Two souls which grew up together before life are bound to find each other again on earth; in heaven as on earth there are males and females. Man was made for woman and woman for man. Love must unite them eternally, and there are marriages in heaven. (De La Touche (Of the Success), p. 333)


Several important and valid truths are expressed in Swedenborg’s revelation:


  1. Men and women existed before they were born on earth.
  2. They made covenants with each other in that pre-mortal world.
  3. They promised to meet each other in this world.
  4. Marriage and love can exist forever.


More clarifying information was revealed to the early Saints, such as Mosiah Hancock, who had a vision of our pre-earth life and was shown the covenants that were made there between men and women. In his vision he saw there was a surplus of women spirits there as well as here in mortality:


No females took part against the Father and the Son, but all took sides in their favor, except the neutral ones already mentioned. After the tears were dried from our eyes, the voice of the Great Eternal spoke again and said, “Hear, O ye my children;” His voice penetrating the immensity of space so that all could [236] hear it; it is decreed by the Great Eternal that the females shall not follow their males in their banishment, but for every male that has kept his first estate and fought valiantly for the Father and the Son, there are two females, and the voice of the Great Eternal said, “Oh, my neglected daughters, gather around these my faithful servants who have been faithful in teaching you the principles of righteousness and of our kingdom, that others may come up and have the chance to be glorified.” I saw many of them gather around Joseph and form a ring with him and the Savior in the center. They made a covenant with him that they would meet him on the earth and help him establish that great work upon the earth. I saw many of them gather around Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and many other notable ones, and around many who have not become so notable. They formed rings around each of them with Christ in the center each time, for He rehearsed to them the Covenant. They would take each other by the hand, in the circle, and bow their faces down to Him, in the center, and in the most solemn manner agree to meet them here, until every one of those neglected daughters was provided for; and they were filled with such joy that their songs made a paradise of the realm. (Mosiah Hancock Journal, pp. 72-73)


Such eternal covenants made between men and women–either in the pre-mortal world or this world–can be fulfilled only through the powers of the Holy Priesthood.


  1. A Law


There is an eternal struggle between good and evil–good laws and bad ones. Most of the ancient prophets suffered and died by the law. Christ also was condemned to death by the law: “The Jews answered him (Pilate), we have a law and by our law he ought to die. . . .” (John 19:7) The Apostles had trouble with laws because some of men’s laws were in conflict [237] with the laws of God: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)


Benefits we receive are generally predicated on obedience to correct law. Disobedience to such laws means a loss, rejection or denial of those benefits or blessings. We have shown that God sustains the law of plural marriage, but usually man’s laws have opposed it. The men who make those laws against plural marriage are really inconsistent. They oppose plural marriage but do little or nothing about men who have sex with many women outside of marriage. In fact, most of them support such immoral practices.


Plural marriage is an eternal law of the Priesthood, but becomes a law of the Church only when accepted as such. Such eternal laws of God have always existed and always will. God Himself achieved His position because of obedience to eternal laws. Like the laws of mathematics, chemistry, gravity, science or any truth, they last forever. Circumstances, time or our relationship to them do not change the laws themselves, as B. H. Roberts clearly explained:


Suppose a law is promulgated before the Latter-day Saints–a revealed principle of truth is submitted for their acceptance–and then, in the exercise of that liberty, which God has conferred upon His Church, they reject it. The question is then asked, “What remains?”

Why, the truth remains! The action of the church has not affected that in the least. It is just as true as if the Church had accepted it. Our acceptance or rejection does not make or mar the truth; it simply determines our own relationship to that truth. If we reject the truth, the truth still remains. * * * Human conduct does not affect the truth. (Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Roberts, 2:518)


[238] All laws, man’s or God’s, should be investigated, studied and tested. One of the ways to do this is to observe their results and fruits. Jesus said: “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” (Matt. 7:17) Monogamy itself is not wrong, but a law that forces monogamy on society is an evil law because it produces evil results. If a tree can be judged by its fruit, then so can laws, for “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Ibid., v. 20)


The people of Israel have always been a polygamous people, while the pagan Romans, Greeks and apostate Christians have enforced laws of monogamy. “Look what monogamy has done. Why, in every generation a large percentage of our sisters has been consigned either to that nameless condition of which it is a shame to speak, or have died without ever knowing the joys of maternity.” (George Q. Cannon, JD 20:198)


The law of monogamy originates from the great deceiver, and celibacy, whoredom, and divorce are usually the consequences. It is so in America.


It was recently reported that “by 1988, 51.5 percent of female teenagers ages 15-19 said that they had engaged in premarital sex. . . .” (S.L. Tribune, Jan. 15, 1991) And the percentage is even higher among the boys.


The Apostle Paul said that in the latter days men would “give heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (I Tim. 4:1-3) Today immorality is popular. Casual sex is taught in our schools; venereal disease has reached plague proportions; prostitution exists everywhere; immorality is a common part of movies, magazines, advertising and our social life–and these are just a few of the real immoralities promoted by the people who have made or supported laws against plural marriage because they think it is wrong!


[239] Destructions and Cleansing


The evidence is clear that for many years we have lived in Babylon–but the day will come when it will be said, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” (Rev. 18:2) The Lord will have to destroy all its wickedness to prepare for the re-establishment of His Kingdom on the earth.


Why does the earth need to suffer wars and destructions? It is a cleansing process. Since man has failed to honor the laws of God, they will reap their punishments.


God gave the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:24), but society and government now encourage small families and promote birth control and contraceptives–even in public schools. God forbids whoredom, prostitution, and adultery, making laws to burn or stone the guilty parties to death. (See Lev. 21:9; Num. 5:22; Gen. 38:4.) But these sins, and countless more, rage in every city of our nation.


God established laws against homosexuals saying, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 20:13) But instead our government makes civil rights laws to protect them.


And the list goes on and on–so is it any wonder that there will have to be drastic destructions to bring about a complete cleansing!


After all these wars and destructions, the surplus of women will be even greater than before–so the question arises:


How are the overplus females to obtain husbands for eternity? We will answer this question in the words of Isaiah, “In that day seven women shall take hold of [240] one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1) Thus we see that the reproach of having no husband will be far greater than the reproach of seven women having one husband; indeed the latter will be no reproach at all; it will be the only means of taking away their reproach; being a divine institution, it will be sought after with eagerness, even at the expense of eating their own bread and wearing their own apparel. (The Seer, O. Pratt, p. 59)


Many early leaders of the Church saw the gruesome fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy on this nation. Joseph said, “The United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation.” (DHC 1:315) Brigham foretold, “Millions will seek to you for salvation.” (JD 9:143) And Heber prophesied, “Millions on millions that will come . . . when judgments come on the nations.” (JD 4:106)


All this will cause the rest of IsaiahÕs prophecy to be fulfilled. John Taylor “saw many people coming west, mostly women who were carrying small bundles on their backs, and I thought it strange that there were so few men among them.” (Vision of John Taylor, Visions of the Latter Days, comp. by Kraut, p. 104) Wilford Woodruff said, “I saw the road full of people, mostly women, with just what they could carry in bundles on their backs traveling to the mountains on foot.” (Prophetic Years, Anderson, p. 54) Newman Bulkley reported, “I saw many thousands of women and children take refuge in the timber, hazel rough, or any place they could conceal themselves from the turmoil that was going on the States. And when word reached this people of their situation, there were hundreds of Seventies called upon to go and hunt them up and bring them to this people in Utah.” He also saw senators “hurled from the hall . . . and a great number of them were killed.” Those surviving had the “name of [241] EDMUNDS printed on their foreheads.” (Visions of the Latter Days, pp. 109, 110)


Women who already have husbands will see the sadness and calamity of so many unfortunate single women that they will welcome their sisters into their own family to care for them and save them from their terrible plight. They will be the “queens” who will care for their subjects, thus fulfilling another prophecy by Isaiah:


I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro. . . . Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth. . . . (Isa. 49:21-23)


An excellent explanation of this prophecy was provided by Heber C. Kimball:


Perhaps you will now refer to the Bible to prove that the time is to come when the kings of the earth will gather the Saints together, and when they will bring the sons and daughters of God from afar, and when they will protect and sustain them,–when the queens of the earth will have them by their sides and become nursing mothers unto them. * * *

Now, a great many suppose that this applies to the kings and queens of the various nations; but I can tell you that the kings and queens of the Gentiles will never gather the Saints. * * *

And if we should wait for the rotten-hearted kings and queens of the wicked nations to gather us home, we shall have to wait a long time. ***

Then who is to gather the people of God? You all say that we are to become a kingdom of kings and [242] priests–of queens and priestesses; and the Bible supports this doctrine. Now, the truth is, you are the very kings and priests that have got to gather the Saints, and your wives have got to school them and nurse them. * * *

The Scriptures say that with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. * * *

We have got to gather the people, and our wives and sisters will become the nursing mothers, for they are the queens spoken of in Scripture. (JD 8:348-49)


And later Brother Heber mentioned this again:


You Elders of Israel are the very men that will have to bring the sons and daughters of Israel from afar, and nurse them at your side; and you mothers will have to take care of them when they are gathered, if you will honour your calling. (JD 9:28)


In his conference address in October 1901, J. Golden Kimball referred to other warning prophecies that had been uttered by his father, Heber:


Whenever we transgress the laws of God, we have to suffer the penalty. I remember very accurately what my father (Heber C. Kimball) told this people in the old Bowery. Said he, “You men and you women that lift up your voices against that holy principle (plural marriage) that has been introduced among this people, the time will come when your daughters will run these streets as common harlots, and you can’t help yourselves.” I think some have been guilty of lifting up their voices, and if there is any one thing that some people are glad and happy it is done away with, it is that principle. I remember hearing another statement my father made: “When you stand on the street corners of this great city and you cannot tell a Mormon from a Gentile, then look out for trouble.” Well, it has come. The trouble has not come to us in the way of tornadoes, or cyclones; but it has [243] come to us and to our sons and daughters in the way of temptations. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1901, p. 32)


Such terrible conditions of crime and apostasy within the LDS Church were also seen by John Taylor. He spoke of seeing Joseph Smith and the Savior in 1886, and among other things he said a Manifesto “would be adopted by the Church, following which apostasy and whoredom would be rampant in the Church.” (Truth Magazine 6:136)


God wanted a church composed of a “peculiar people” rather than a “popular people.” He asked for “the elect” to be gathered “out of Babylon” rather than become a part of it. Plural marriage was once accepted among the Christians, but they turned against it. It was once again accepted by the Mormons, but they, too, have rejected it.


By giving up the laws of God for the laws of man, we traded persecution for praise, and wisdom for wealth. When the early Christians did the same, we called it apostasy; today we call it a blessing!


The Polygamy Paradox


The history of Mormon polygamy is indeed a paradox–a contradiction in both principle and practice. For 40 years the Church taught 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 fulness of exaltation in celestial glory. (Historical Record 6:227)


Now they call it apostasy and excommunicate him for it! The law and practice of plural marriage in the Mormon Church [244] must hold a record for being the most confusing, contradictory, and misunderstood doctrine ever preached by any church, at any time, at any place.


Five years before the Manifesto, one of the apostles was so convinced that the law of plural marriage should be obeyed without compromise, that he said, “We should in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace.” (Heber J. Grant, Des. News, Apr. 4, 1885) Yet shortly after this, another apostle from the opposite side of the spectrum stated, “We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage.” (John A. Widtsoe, Imp. Era 46:91)


Naturally it will be difficult for Christians and Mormons alike to realize why the Lord will begin His Millennial kingdom on the earth with so many polygamists. They will be even further shocked when they see those who lived the principle righteously, dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven. Brigham Young explained:


No religion is popular there but the religion of the Bible. Episcopalianism, Methodism, Quakerism, Catholicism, Presbyterianism, and all their collateral branches are unpopular in the celestial kingdom of God, while the religion of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the patriarchs and prophets, Jesus and His Apostles, is the only acknowledged and popular system of religion with the sanctified ones in the presence of the Father and the Son. “But,” says a Presbyterian, “Abraham was a polygamist.” He was. “And you say that his religion is popular in heaven.” It is the only religion acknowledged there. (JD 9:319)


When recording his great vision of the Pre-Existence, Mosiah Hancock began by saying, “I saw the Eternal [245] Father on His throne and His wives on His left side, all shining in glory. . . .” (Hancock Jrnl., p. 71) What a shock this will be for all those good Christian members who have ridiculed and persecuted polygamists for centuries. Even most Mormons will be distressed to learn that the God who gave so many laws on plural marriage actually lives those laws Himself!


It cannot be denied that God permitted and even commanded Old Testament prophets and apostles to live plural marriage. If it were wrong, they–with all their knowledge and inspiration–certainly would have been the first to disclaim it. Referring to this, even Bruce R. McConkie had to admit:


. . . we learn that the Lord frequently did command his ancient saints to practice plural marriage. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–among a host of others–conformed to this ennobling and exalting principle; the whole history of ancient Israel was one in which plurality of wives was the divinely accepted and approved order of matrimony. Millions of those who entered this order have, in and through it, gained for themselves eternal exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 522)


At that time (as well as now) there are more worthy women than men. This same condition is apparent in both the pre-mortal and post-mortal worlds as well. Thus, plural marriage seems to be the only answer for this continuing problem.


An Eternal Priesthood Law


People who do not live plural marriage often voice strong objections and arguments against it, but they do so without [246] any experience. This is similar to the person who argues against Christianity without ever opening a Bible or entering a chapel.


But in a religious sense, plural marriage did not originate with man, but with God, who is the only one who can see clearly the eternal picture of mankind and why obedience to this principle, ordinance, covenant, and law is so important. In reality, it provides another opportunity for God to bless His Saints in the following ways:


Temporal Blessings:

  1. It gives all women a chance to have a husband and children–and a better husband at that.
  2. Barren women can have the joy and satisfaction of still being a mother in Israel by being a “mother” to her sister wives’ children.
  3. It encourages fidelity to one’s spouse, rather than promiscuity, fornication, adultery, etc.
  4. It provides another helping hand in a man’s earthly kingdom–at home and at work.
  5. A man has a greater source of counsel from several wives rather than just one.
  6. It provides a man with greater experience in handling a variety of women–preparing him for eternal marriages.
  7. With a division of responsibility, wives have more free time for their own personal interests.
  8. Each wife will usually put forth her best conduct and appearance in order to please her husband.
  9. While one or more wives pursue activities outside the home, their children can be well taken care of by those wives who prefer to stay at home.
  10. Economically, should wives desire to live together, one home is cheaper to maintain than two.


[247] Spiritual Blessings:

  1. Celestial plural marriage comes with the conditional promise of an eternal marriage relationship as gods and goddesses.
  2. As such, it provides the opportunity of having your own spirit children.
  3. Such individuals will receive exaltation and associate with other gods and goddesses forever.


There are reasons for every principle, ordinance, covenant, and law that God has given. We may not always see the reasons, nor will obedience always be easy, but they all have their purpose. The Prophet Joseph stated:


. . . and as God has designed our happiness–and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has–He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. (TPJS, pp. 256-57)


Celestial plural marriage, then, should be recognized as an eternal law of the Priesthood, a command of God for the well-being, happiness and exaltation of His elect, who will eventually rejoice in this blessing of the Holy Priesthood.

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