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.