Was polygamy necessary because the LDS Church needed to have its growth “jump-started”?

By Eric Johnson

According to some Mormon apologists, polygamy instituted by the LDS Church in the 19th century was necessary in order for the church membership to grow. According to LDS pollster Gary Lawrence in his book Mormons Believe…What?

Because original Christianity needed to be re-established to be the forerunner for the Second Coming of the Savior in all countries, there was a need to jump-start its growth (p.110)

He offers no support. This is because his statement conflicts with the historical evidence. According to Stanley Ivans in his book The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past,

Jacob 2:30 does offer a single exception: “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.” In an essay titled “Notes on Mormon Polygamy,” writer Stanley Ivans states, “While polygamy increased the number of children of the men, it did not do the same for the women involved. A count revealed that 3,335 wives of polygamists bore 19,806 children, for an average of 5.9 per woman. An equal number of wives of monogamists taken from the same general group bore 26,780 for an average of 8. This suggests the possibility that the overall production of children in Utah may have been less than it would have been without benefit of plurality of wives.” (edited by D. Michael Quinn, p. 177).

Read Ivans’s citation again. Polygamists were having 5.9 children per wife compared to 8 children being born to monogamists. Meanwhile, there were more men than women in 19th century Utah. Consider Utah’s population totals:

1850 total 11,380      male 6,046          female 5,334

1860 total 40,273      male 20,255        female 20,018

1870 total 86,786      male 44,121        female 42,665

1880 total 143,963    male 74,509        female 68,454

1890 total 210,779    male 111,975      female 98,804

1900 total 276,749    male 141,687      female 135,062

How many men were without a wife because other men were taking multiple women in marriage? Couldn’t these single men just as easily have impregnated these polygamist women? Based on the facts, Lawrence is perpetuating a myth with inaccurate information.


For more on the issue of polygamy/plural marriage, click here.

For additional questions and our answers, click here.