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Joseph Smith’s polygamy and Jacob 2:30

By Bill McKeever

Note: The following was originally printed in the July/August 2019 edition of our bimonthly newsletter. To request a free subscription to Mormonism Researched, please visit here.

The Foundation for Apologetics Information and Research (FAIR) is an apologetics organization dedicated to defending the truth claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On its official website an article titled, “The Purpose for Plural Marriage” concedes that “Plural marriage can be a difficult historical fact for people to understand, both members and nonmembers alike. Trying to fully understand the purposes behind such a commandment in today’s mindset can also make this subject difficult. It is important to note that we do not have all the historical information surrounding the inception and implementation of the practice. Rather than trying to understand the Lord’s purposes in retrospect on a limited scope, one should remember the above scripture in Jacob. Other benefits, although potentially advantageous, are not given as reasons by the Lord” (www.fairMormon.org).”

The passage “in Jacob” is Jacob 2:30 in the Book of Mormon. To this the article states, “The only scriptural explanation given from the Lord for approved plural marriage is found in Jacob 2:30.” This passage reads, “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.” The article goes on to say, “Here, the Lord gives only one reason for plural marriage, ‘to raise up seed unto me.’ This explanation leads us to an obvious question that follows in the piece: “Question: If the only purpose of polygamy was to ‘raise up seed,’ then why did Joseph not have children by his plural wives?” I think that is a fair and obvious question.

The article goes on to explain,

Polygamy was not permitted only for the purpose of procreation. If the only purpose of polygamy, at least in Joseph Smith’s case, was to ‘raise up seed,’ then why did Joseph not have children by his plural wives? He was certainly capable of having children, as demonstrated by those that he had by Emma, many of whom died. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence to date of Joseph having had children by any of his plural wives, and DNA testing has ruled out most of those who were suspected of being such. Joseph was commanded to restore the practice of polygamy as part of the ‘restoration of all things.’ It was obviously not intended that Joseph use the practice to produce progeny.

 

This is perplexing. The article concedes that “the Lord gives only one reason for plural marriage,” and that is “to raise up seed unto me.” But despite this command, FAIR appears to disagree when this anonymous author says, “polygamy was not permitted only for the purpose of procreation (italics in original).”

To insist that “Joseph was commanded to restore the practice of polygamy as part of the ‘restoration of all things’” should also be troubling for the student of Christian history. Though plural marriage was practiced among some of the patriarchs and kings of ancient Israel, if it was indeed commanded of Joseph Smith, and he in turn, passes this on to his church, why is such a command suspiciously missing from the Old Testament? Nowhere do we see plural marriage being commanded in the Old Testament. Though the LDS Church has certainly tried hard to give that impression.

Consider Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 19:5, ‘‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Here, our Lord confirms the marriage commitment first laid down in Genesis 2:24; that being, marriage is between a man and a woman, not a man and more than one woman (nor a man and a man, nor a woman and a woman, for that matter). Furthermore, no where in the Bible, nor in any of Mormonism’s unique written scripture, do we find God allowing a marriage between a man and married women, yet Smith married several women who had living husbands.

Two points become readily apparent. Jesus Himself never condoned plural marriage, nor do we see this being an issue in the early Christian Church. This becomes important when Latter-day Saints come to us insisting that their church is a “restoration” of how Christ’s Church believed and practiced. This just isn’t the case.

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