Prophets in Mormonism/Part 26
|By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2008|
|Polygamy was so important in early Mormonism that their first seven Prophets or Presidents and thousands of members were polygamists. “The Lord” commanded Joseph Smith and other LDS men to have more than one wife in Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, which was recorded on July 12, 1843. That is the only LDS scripture that clearly teaches polygamy, but it also teaches celestial (eternal) marriage and those two LDS beliefs are so intertwined that it is not easy to separate them.|
Polygamy was so important in early Mormonism that their first seven Prophets or Presidents and thousands of members were polygamists. “The Lord” commanded Joseph Smith and other LDS men to have more than one wife in Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, which was recorded on July 12, 1843. That is the only LDS scripture that clearly teaches polygamy, but it also teaches celestial (eternal) marriage and those two LDS beliefs are so intertwined that it is not easy to separate them. Doctrine and Covenants 132 is still in LDS scripture even though LDS claim polygamy ended in 1890. It remains because it is the only LDS scripture that defines Celestial Marriage, but since it also teaches polygamy, it is problematic. Doctrine and Covenants 131:2 does mention “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” but it doesn’t define it. Furthermore, it is dated May 16-17, 1843, which was two months before Doctrine and Covenants 132 defined Celestial Marriage.
Doctrine and Covenants 132:4 says polygamy is “a new and everlasting covenant.” LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, “Each time this everlasting covenant is revealed it is new to those of that dispensation” and it is everlasting because the Everlasting God revealed it (Mormon Doctrine, p. 530). Was it really new if Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other Old Testament men lived it as Doctrine and Covenants 132:34-39 says? And was it really everlasting if it was first recorded in 1843 and ended 47 years later in 1890 when LDS Prophet Wilford Woodruff issued his “Manifesto”? Is “everlasting life” that brief?
Doctrine and Covenants 132 was recorded on July 12, 1843 and was announced publicly on August 29, 1852 by LDS Apostle Orson Pratt, but it didn’t become LDS scripture until 1876 when it was added to the Doctrine and Covenants. If LDS polygamy ended in 1890, the “new and everlasting covenant” was only in their scripture 14 years when they were told not to obey it! Although years of pressure by the US government led Woodruff to issue his Manifesto telling LDS to obey the laws of the land, they still call it a “revelation from God.”
But polygamy was so important to LDS from Joseph Smith’s time until 1890 that many didn’t give it up. Brigham Young, the second LDS Prophet, even said, “The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God are those who enter polygamy” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269). So, some polygamists went to Canada or Mexico to continue polygamy while still others secretly practiced it in the USA. But, pressure from the US government continued until another LDS “Manifesto” was issued in 1904. That ended most of the LDS polygamy in the USA, but some Mormons still didn’t give it up because they thought their leaders were obeying man rather than God.
Many of those who continued to practice polygamy claimed to be the true successors of Joseph Smith’s Church. They formed the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) and other Mormon polygamist or fundamentalist groups. A few LDS today are also members of one of the polygamist groups.
But LDS leaders claim there is no connection between their Church and polygamist groups like the FLDS. If there is no connection between the LDS and FLDS Churches, why do they both claim that:
- Joseph Smith was their founder;
- their first three Prophets are the same men;
- they are led by a Prophet today;
- they accept the Bible, Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price as scripture;
- they have the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods;
- they are the one true church;
- they have temples where sacred (secret) rites are performed for eternity;
- God authorized Joseph Smith to teach and live in polygamy and it is “scripture” in Doctrine and Covenants 132.
These and other similarities are obvious! Although there is no organizational connection between them today, there is a long historical connection between the LDS and FLDS Churches.
In April 2008 the polygamous Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch in Texas, which is owned by the FLDS Church, was raided by Texas authorities because they were told underage girls were being pressured to marry older polygamous men. The news media carried many reports about the raid and the FLDS Church. A survey later showed that 36% of people interviewed thought the YFZ Ranch was part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon or LDS Church).
The LDS Church wants to be accepted as “Christian” and they know if people think they are involved with polygamy, that acceptance won’t happen. So, whenever the news media reports about fundamentalist Mormon groups, Mormon leaders have asked them to clearly state that they are not part of the LDS Church. If the Mormon Church doesn’t want to be identified with polygamy there are at least three things they can do that will help them:
- Take Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 (about polygamy) out of their scripture or have a “revelation” canceling it.
- Quit the current practice of marrying or sealing multiple wives to Mormon men for eternity in LDS temples.
- Quit teaching that LDS men will have multiple wives after this life when they become gods in eternity.
In those areas Mormonism still has a strong connection to polygamy.
You can read more on this subject in my book Mormon Claims Answered. Doctrine and Covenants 132 is so important to LDS that we will look at some of its other teachings next time.