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Citations on Polygamy (Plural Marriage)

The following are sections out of Bill McKeever’s book In their Own Words: A Collection of Mormon Quotations. The full book of 400 pages is available at Mormonism Research Ministry or

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“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. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments,
saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. 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 Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:24-30).

“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 father—
that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they
should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed
among them” (The Book of Mormon, Jacob 3:5).

“Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the
crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe,
that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband,
except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry
again” (Doctrine and Covenants Section CI, 1835 ed. See also History
of the Church 2:247).

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch
as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand
wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching
the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines”
(Doctrine and Covenants 132:1).

“David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon
and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants,
from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did
they sin save in those things which they received not of me. David’s
wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand
of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the
keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against
me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath
fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall
not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another,
saith the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:38-39).

“Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid,
Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that
she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you
to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I
did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand,
by covenant and sacrifice. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith,
receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and
who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure,
and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord
God” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:51-52).

“And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man
espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give
her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins,
and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot
commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit
adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one
else” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:61).

Joseph Smith

“Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching,
or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according
to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is
never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys
are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one
wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise. (Oct. 5, 1843.)” (Joseph
Smith, History of the Church 6:46; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
p. 324; the Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122,
1989, p. 46. Italics in original).

2nd President Brigham Young

“Admit, for argument’s sake, that the ‘Mormon’ Elders have more
wives than one, yet our enemies never have proved it. If I had
forty wives in the United States, they did not know it, and could
not substantiate it, neither did I ask any lawyer, judge, or magistrate
for them. I live above the law, and so do this people. Do the
laws of the United States require us to crouch and bow down to
the miserable wretches who violate them? No” (Brigham Young,
August 1, 1852, Journal of Discourses 1:361).

“It is all connected with the exaltation of man, showing how he becomes
exalted to be a king and a Priest—yea, even a God, like his
Father in heaven. Without the doctrine that this revelation reveals,
no man on earth ever could be exalted to be a God” (Brigham
Young, August 29, 1852, Journal of Discourses 6:282).

“Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the
economy of Heaven among men. Such a 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” (Brigham Young, July 6,
1862, Journal of Discourses 9:322).

“Why do we believe in and practise polygamy? Because the Lord
introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith,
and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion
popular in heaven?’ It is the only popular religion there,
for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works
of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to
promise” (Brigham Young, July 6, 1862, Journal of Discourses 9:322).
“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 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. Polygamy did not
have its origin with Joseph Smith, but it existed from the beginning.
So far as I am concerned as an individual, I did not ask for it;
I never desired it; and if I ever had a trial of my faith in the world,
it was when Joseph Smith revealed that doctrine to me; and I had
to pray incessantly and exercise faith before the Lord until He
revealed to me the truth, and I was satisfied. I say this at the pres-
ent time for the satisfaction of both saint and sinner. Now, here
are the commandments of the Lord, and here are the wishes of
wicked men, which shall we obey? It is the Lord and them for it”
(Brigham Young, June 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses 11:128).
“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those
who enter into polygamy” (Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal
of Discourses 11:269).

“I heard the revelation on polygamy, and I believed it with all my
heart, and I know it is from God—I know that he revealed it from
heaven; I know that it is true, and understand the bearings of it
and why it is. ‘Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a
State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?’
If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted”
(Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:269).
“Now, where a man in this Church says, ‘I don’t want but one wife,
I will live my religion with one,’ he will perhaps be saved in the
celestial kingdom; but when he gets there he will not find himself
in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has
hid up. He will come forward and say, ‘Here is that which thou
gavest me, I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent,’ and
he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who
have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself
without any wife, and he will remain single for ever and ever. But
if the woman is determined not to enter into a plural marriage,
that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living
in single blessedness through all eternity…Now, sisters, do not say,
‘I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection.’ You
do not know what you will want. I tell this so that you can get the
idea. If in the resurrection you really want to be single and alone,
and live so forever and ever, and be made servants, while others
receive the highest order of intelligence and are bringing worlds
into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted
cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants and
you can be servants to them.” (Brigham Young, August 31, 1873,
Journal of Discourses 16:166,167. Ellipsis mine).

“Some try to say how many wives the Governor of Utah has, but
if they can tell, they can tell more than I can, for I do not know
how many I have; I have not counted them up for many years. I
did not know how many I had before I left the United States I had
so many. I heard that I had ninety. Why bless your souls, ninety is
not a beginning. You might ask me if I have ever seen them all; I
answer no; I see a few of them I pick up myself here. I have lots,
and scores I never see nor shall not until the morning of the resurrection”
(Brigham Young, The Essential Brigham Young, pp. 94-95).

3rd President John Taylor

“Now, in relation to the position that we occupy concerning plurality,
or, as it is termed, polygamy it differs from that of others. I
have noticed the usage of several nations regarding marriage; but,
as I have said, we are not indebted to any of them for our religion,
nor for our ideas of marriage, they came from God. Where did
this commandment come from in relation to polygamy? It also
came from God. It was a revelation given unto Joseph Smith from
God, and was made binding upon His servants. When this system
was first introduced among this people, it was one of the greatest
crosses that ever was taken up by any set of men since the world
stood. Joseph Smith told others; he told me, and I can bear witness
of it, ‘that if this principle was not introduced, this Church
and kingdom could not proceed.’ When this commandment was
given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders
of this Church that it was told them if they were not prepared to
enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would
come in consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be
taken from them. When I see any of our people, men or women,
opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down
as on the high road to apostacy, and I do to-day; I consider them
apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom. It is
so far, then, a religious institution, that it affects my conscience
and the consciences of all good men-it is so far religious that it
connects itself with time and with eternity. What are the covenants
we enter into, and why is it that Joseph Smith said that unless this
principle was entered into this kingdom could not proceed? We
ought to know the whys and the wherefores in relation to these
matters, and understand something about the principle enunciated.
These are simply words; we wish to know their signification”
(John Taylor, April 7, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:221).

4th President Wilford Woodruff

“If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather
in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away
with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with
revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give
up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world
does, then all would be right. We just can’t do that, for God has
commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony
to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come
life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey
Him in days to come as we have in days past” (Wilford Woodruff,
December 12, 1869, Journal of Discourses 13:166).

6th President Joseph F. Smith

“When that principle was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith,
he very naturally shrank, in his feelings, from the responsibilities
thereby imposed upon him… But he did not falter, although it
was not until an angel of God, with a draw, sword, stood before
him and commanded that he should enter into the practice of
that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed, or rejected, that
he moved forward to reveal and establish that doctrine” (Joseph
F. Smith, July 7, 1878, Journal of Discourses 20:28,29. Ellipses mine).

“To put this matter more correctly before you, I here declare that
the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th
day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it
had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps
as early as 1832” (Joseph F. Smith, July 7, 1878, Journal of Discourses

“For this testimony of Brother Clayton will stand forever, though
his body moulders into dust. And I am, and so was the deceased
when living, at the defiance of the world to dispute those statements.
They are made from personal knowledge derived from
personal associations with the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, not
with a view to gain notoriety, but rather to leave behind him his
testimony with regard to this important principle. He has done so.
And as he has here stated, as having come from the mouth of the
Prophet, this doctrine of eternal union of husband and wife, and
of plural marriage, is one of the most important doctrines ever revealed
to man in any age of the world. 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, or the blessings pronounced upon Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob, the fathers of the faithful” (Joseph F. Smith, December 7,
1879, Journal of Discourses 21:10).

“It is a glorious privilege to be permitted to go into a Temple of
God to be united as man and wife in the bonds of holy wedlock
for time and all eternity by the Authority of the Holy Priesthood,
which is the power of God, for they who are thus joined together
‘no man can put asunder,’ for God hath joined them. It is an additional
privilege for that same man and wife to re-enter the Temple
of God to receive another wife in like manner if they are worthy.
But if he remain faithful with only the one wife, observing the
conditions of so much of the law as pertains to the eternity of the
marriage covenant, he will receive his reward, but the benefits,
blessings and power appertaining to the second or more faithful
and fuller observance of the law, he never will receive, for he cannot.
As before stated no man can obtain the benefits of one law
by the observance of another, however faithful he may be in that
which he does, nor can he secure to himself the fullness of any
blessing without he fulfills the law upon which it is predicated,
but he will receive the benefit of the law he obeys. This is just and
righteous. If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error, and if
I am in error I want to be corrected. 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” (Joseph F.
Smith, July 7, 1878, Journal of Discourses 20:30-31).

10th President Joseph Fielding Smith

“Polygamy, in the sense of plurality of husbands and of wives never
was practiced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in
Utah or elsewhere; but Celestial marriage — including a plurality
of wives — was introduced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and was
practiced more generally by the saints under the administration
of President Brigham Young” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement
and the Origin of Plural Marriage, 1905, p. 48).

12th President Spencer W. Kimball

“Plural marriage ended through revelation. We warn you against the so-called
polygamy cults which would lead you astray. Remember the
Lord brought an end to this program many decades ago through
a prophet who proclaimed the revelation to the world. People are
abroad who will deceive you and bring you much sorrow and remorse.
Have nothing to do with those who would lead you astray.
It is wrong and sinful to ignore the Lord when he speaks. He has
spoken—strongly and conclusively” (Spencer W. Kimball, The
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 447. Italics in original).

15th President Gordon B. Hinckley

“If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage,
they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the
Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation
of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are People Asking About Us?” Ensign
(Conference Edition), November 1998, p. 71).

“There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction
to use the two words together. More than a century ago
God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the
practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means
that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil
or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage
must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership
those practicing plural marriage” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are
People Asking about Us?” Ensign (Conference Edition), November
1998, pp. 71-72).

First Presidency

“Whereas brother Richard Hewitt has called on me to-day, to know
my views concerning some doctrines that are preached in your
place, and states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having
a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and
that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches
false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither
is there any such thing practiced here.” (Hyrum Smith, Times and
Seasons 5:474, March 15, 1844. Italics in original).

“You might as well deny ‘Mormonism,’ and turn away from it, as
to oppose the plurality of wives. 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” (Heber C. Kimball, October 12, 1856,
Journal of Discourses 5:203).

“In the spirit world there is an increase of males and females,
there are millions of them, and if I am faithful all the time, and
continue right along with brother Brigham, we will go to brother
Joseph and say, ‘Here we are brother Joseph; we are here ourselves
are we not, with none of the property we possessed in our probationary
state, not even the rings on our fingers?’ He will say to
us, ‘Come along, my boys, we will give you a good suit of clothes.
Where are your wives?’ ‘They are back yonder; they would not follow
us.’ ‘Never mind,’ says Joseph, ‘here are thousands, have all
you want.’ Perhaps some do not believe that, but I am just simple
enough to believe it” (Heber C. Kimball, February 1, 1857, Journal
of Discourses 4:209).

“The opposers of Celestial Marriage sometimes quote a passage in
the seventh chapter of Romans, second and third verses, to show
that a plurality of wives is wrong; but when we come to read the
passage it shows that a plurality of husbands is wrong” (George A.
Smith, October 8, 1869, Journal of Discourses 13:40-41. Italics in

“We are solving the problem that is before the world to-day, over
which they are pretending to rack their brains. I mean the ‘Social
Problem.’ We close the door on one side, and say that whoredoms,
seductions and adulteries must not be committed amongst us, and
we say to those who are determined to carry on such things we will
kill you; at the same time we open the door in the other direction
and make plural marriage honorable. What is the result? Why, a
healthy, pure and virtuous community, a community which, in
these respects, has no equal on the earth. I say these few words by
way of explanation; they are very inadequate to convey the ideas
that we entertain, and that I would like to convey to my hearers,
in relation to celestial marriage” (George Q. Cannon, August 15,
1869, Journal of Discourses 14:58).

“If plural marriage be divine, as the Latter-day Saints say it is, no
power on earth can suppress it, unless you crush and destroy this
entire people” (George Q. Cannon, July 20, 1879, Journal of Discourses


“Now, after having said so much in relation to the reason why we
practice polygamy, I want to say a few words in regard to the revelation
on polygamy. God has told us Latter-day Saints that we shall
be condemned if we do not enter into that principle; and yet I
have heard now and then (I am very glad to say that only a low
such instances have come under my notice,) a brother or a sister
say, ‘I am a Latter-day Saint, but I do not believe in polygamy.’ Oh,
what an absurd expression! what an absurd idea! A person might
as well say, ‘I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not
believe in him.’ One is just as consistent as the other. Or a person
might as well say, ‘I believe in Mormonism, and in the revelations
given through Joseph Smith, but I am not a polygamist, and do
not believe in polygamy,’ What an absurdity! If one portion of the
doctrines of the Church is true, the whole of them are true. If the
doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not
true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came
through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole
of them, because it is utterly impossible, according to the revelations
that are contained in these books, to believe a part of them
to be divine—from God—and part of them to be from the devil;
that is foolishness in the extreme; it is an absurdity that exists because
of the ignorance of some people. I have been astonished at
it. I did hope there was more intelligence among the Latter-day
Saints, and a greater understanding of principle than to suppose
that any one can be a member of this Church in good standing,
and yet reject polygamy. The Lord has said, that those who reject
this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith
the Lord; those to whom I reveal this law and they do not receive
it, shall be damned” (Orson Pratt, October 7, 1874, Journal of Discourses

“I want to prophecy that all men and women who oppose the
revelation which God has given in relation to polygamy will find
themselves in darkness; the Spirit of God will withdraw from them
from the very moment of their opposition to that principle, until
they will finally go down to hell and be damned, if they do not repent…
Now, if you want to get into darkness, brethren and sisters,
begin to oppose this revelation. Sisters, you begin to say before
your husbands, or husbands you begin to say before your wives,
‘I do not believe in the principle of polygamy, and I intend to
instruct my children against it.’ Oppose it in this way, and teach
your children to do the same, and if you do not become as dark as
midnight their is no truth in Mormonism” (Orson Pratt, October
7, 1874, Journal of Discourses 17:225. Ellipsis mine).

“And hence, God has strictly forbidden, in this Bible, plurality of
husbands, and proclaimed against it in his law” (Orson Pratt, July
11, 1875, Journal of Discourses 18:55-56).

“Can a woman have more than one husband at the same time? No:
Such a principle was never sanctioned by scripture. The object of
marriage is to multiply the species, according to the command of
God. A woman with one husband can fulfill this command, with
greater facilities, than if she had a plurality; indeed, this would, in
all probability, frustrate the great design of marriage, and prevent
her from raising up a family. As a plurality of husbands, would not
facilitate the increase of posterity, such a principle never was tolerated
in scripture. As a plurality of husbands, would not facilitate
the increase of posterity, such a principle never was tolerated in
scripture. But a plurality of wives would be the means of greatly
increasing a family, and of thus fulfilling the command, not only
to a far greater extent on the part of the husband, but also On the
part of the females who otherwise might have been under the necessity
of remaining single forever” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 60).

“If none but Gods will be permitted to multiply immortal children,
it follows that each God must have one or more wives” (Orson
Pratt, The Seer, p. 158).

“One thing is certain, that there were several holy women that
greatly loved Jesus — such as Mary, and Martha her sister, and
Mary Magdalene; and Jesus greatly loved them, and associated
with them much; and when He arose from the dead, instead of
showing Himself to His chosen witnesses, the Apostles, He appeared
first to these women, or at least to one of them — namely,
Mary Magdalene. Now it would be natural for a husband in the
resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards
show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written,
we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were His
wives” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 159).

“We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality
of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our
spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His First Born, and another being
upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as
His Only Begotten in this world. We have also proved most clearly
that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the
great Bridegroom to whom kings’ daughters and many honorable
Wives were to be married. We have also proved that both God the
Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity
as well as in time; and that God the Father has already begotten
many thousand millions of sons and daughters and sent them into
this world to take tabernacles; and that God the Son has the promise
that ‘of the increase of his government there shall be no end;’
it being expressly declared that the children of one of His Queens
should be made Princes in all the earth” (Orson Pratt, The Seer,
p. 172).

“A grand and glorious principle had been revealed, and for years
had slumbered in the breast of God’s Prophet, awaiting the time
when, with safety to himself and the Church, it might be confided
to the sacred keeping of a chosen few. That time had now come.
An angel with a flaming sword descended from the courts of glory
and, confronting the Prophet, commanded him in the name of
the Lord to establish the principle so long concealed from the
knowledge of the Saints and of the world—that of plural marriage”
(Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 321).

“What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked
him for his money? He would say, ‘Yes, and I wish I had more to
help to build up the kingdom of God.’ Or if he came and said,
‘I want your wife?’ ‘O yes,’ he would say, ‘here she is, there are
plenty more’” (Jedediah M. Grant, February 19, 1854, Journal of
Discourses 2:14).

“It was difficult for men and women from all parts of the world,
who had lived in the monogamic order all their lives to accept
this doctrine of the eternity and plurality of marriage. It was ‘a
new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant,
then are ye damned, saith the Lord.’ This was the obligation that
was laid upon the Prophet Joseph, and through him, upon the
true believers of the Church, even all who were worthy to accept
of these obligations. It was herein that the Elders and their wives
extended their faith, enlarged their obedience, and accepted the
terms of the new and everlasting covenant extending not through
time only, but eternity also” (Franklin D. Richards, October 1885,
Journal of Discourses 26:341).

“The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all
available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of
males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has
usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be
expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey
the usual population law — a slight excess of males. Orson Pratt,
writing in 1853 from direct knowledge of Utah conditions, when
the excess of females was supposedly the highest, declares against
the opinion that females outnumbered the males in Utah. (The
Seer, p. 110) The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of
a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence”
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 391).

“Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second
Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium”
(Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 578).

“Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation… All
who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day,
when the one holding the keys has withdrawn the power of which
they are performed, are guilty of gross wickedness” (Bruce R. McConkie,
Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 578-579 Ellipsis mine).


“The statement has been made that if polygamy should be
stamped from among this people, the time would come that the
Church would die: that those who practiced that principle were
fanatics; and that the generations who were to follow would not
have the strength and courage that their fathers had. But facts
prove otherwise” (Samuel O. Bennion, Conference Reports, October
1915, p. 84).

“Polygamy is when a man has multiple wives. Polyandry is when a
man marries another man’s wife. Joseph Smith did both”(Marlin
K. Jensen, 1st Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of
the Church History Department, Q&A session held in Stockholm,
Sweden on November 28, 2010).

Church Manuals

“The Lord, as Jacob pointed out, gave instructions that when He
desired to raise up seed unto Himself He would command His
people to have more than one wife (2:30). Otherwise they should
refrain from having more than one” (Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon
Studies, Gospel Doctrine Department Course of Study for the
Sunday Schools of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
p. 37).

“Avoid sensationalism and speculation when talking about plural
marriage. Sometimes teachers speculate that plural marriage will
be a requirement for all who enter the celestial kingdom. We have
no knowledge that plural marriage will be a requirement for exaltation”
(Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher
Resource Manual, 2001, p. 225).

“The law of celestial marriage, as outlined in this revelation [D&C
132], also included the principle of the plurality of wives. In 1831
as Joseph Smith labored on the inspired translation of the holy
scriptures, he asked the Lord how he justified the practice of plural
marriage among the Old Testament patriarchs. This question
resulted in the revelation on celestial marriage, which included
an answer to his question about the plural marriages of the patriarchs”
(Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, 2003,
p. 255. Brackets mine).

“His first recorded plural marriage in Nauvoo was to Louisa Beaman;
it was performed by Bishop Joseph B. Noble on 5 April 1841.
During the next three years Joseph took additional plural wives in
accordance with the Lord’s commands. As members of the Council
of the Twelve Apostles returned from their missions to the British
Isles in 1841, Joseph Smith taught them one by one the doctrine
of plurality of wives, and each experienced some difficulty in
understanding and accepting this doctrine. Brigham Young, for
example, recounted his struggle: ‘I was not desirous of shrinking
from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded,
but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave,
and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a
funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I
was not in the coffin.’ After their initial hesitancy and frustration,
Brigham Young and others of the Twelve received individual confirmations
from the Holy Spirit and accepted the new doctrine
of plural marriage. They knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet
of God in all things. At first the practice was kept secret and was
very limited. Rumors began to circulate about authorities of the
Church having additional wives, which greatly distorted the truth
and contributed to increased persecution from apostates and outsiders.
Part of the difficulty, of course, was the natural aversion
Americans held against ‘polygamy.’ This new system appeared to
threaten the strongly entrenched tradition of monogamy and the
solidarity of the family structure. Later, in Utah, the Saints openly
practiced ‘the principle,’ but never without persecution” (Church
History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, 2003, p. 256).

“On 28–29 August 1852 a special conference was held in the Old
Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City…. On the second
day of the conference, under the direction of President Brigham
Young, Orson Pratt made the public announcement that the
Church was practicing plural marriage under commandment of
God” (Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, 2003,
p. 424. Ellipsis mine).

“If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the
man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already
sealed to another man” (Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops,
2010, p. 20).

Other Sources

“The exact percentage of Latter-day Saints who participated in the
practice is not known, but studies suggest a maximum of from 20
to 25 of LDS adults were members of polygamous households. At
its height, plural marriage probably involved only a third of the
women reaching marriageable age-though among Church leadership
plural marriage was the norm for a time” (Encyclopedia of
Mormonism 3:1095).

“It is not so easy to determine what is ‘traditional’ or ‘orthodox’
Mormonism. Orthodoxy has to do with a straight and proper walk,
with appropriate beliefs and practices. In our case, it may or may
not be a course charted by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young or
some Church leader of the past. Some who claim to be orthodox
on the basis of following the teachings of Brother Joseph—for example,
members of polygamous cults—are not in harmony with
the Church’s constituted authorities and are therefore not orthodox”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, “Joseph Smith
and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension,
and Tradition,” BYU Studies, Summer 1989, p. 65).

“The decision of Church leaders to keep plural marriage hidden
until 1852 posed a serious moral dilemma for the few who were
aware of its practice. In Nauvoo, protecting the practice of plural
marriage from public exposure, especially to hostile gentiles,
was a greater virtue than telling the truth” (Richard Van Wagoner,
“Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of An Apostate,” Dialogue: A Journal
of Mormon Thought, Vol.19, No.2, p. 97).

“Joseph Smith was probably the most married of these men. The
number of his wives can only be guessed at, but it might have gone
as high as sixty or more. Brigham Young is usually credited with
only twenty-seven wives, but he was sealed to more than twice that
many living women and to at least 150 more who had died. Heber
C. Kimball had forty-five living wives, a number of them elderly
ladies who never lived with him. No one else came close to these
three men in the point of marrying” (Stanley S. Ivins, “Notes on
Mormon Polygamy,” The New Mormon History, D. Michael Quinn,
ed., p. 172).

“It is difficult to determine exactly when Joseph Smith first felt
compelled to practice polygamy. W. W. Phelps recollected three
decades after the fact in an 1861 letter to Brigham Young that
on 17 July 1831, when he and five others had gathered in Jackson
County, Missouri, Smith stated: ‘It is my will, that in time, ye
should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites [Indians],
that their posterity may become white, delightsome and
just.’ Phelps added in a postscript that ‘about three years after this
was given, I asked brother Joseph, privately, how “we,” that were
mentioned in the revelation could take wives of the “natives” as
we were all married men?’ He claimed that Smith replied, ‘In the
same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob
took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpha, by Revelation’” (Richard S. Van
Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p. 3. Brackets in original).

“If Smith did take a plural wife in Kirtland during the early 1830s
under such a system, the woman was likely Fanny Alger. McLellin’s
1872 letter described Alger’s relationship with Smith. ‘Again I told
[your mother],’ the former apostle wrote, that ‘I heard that one
night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn
and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked
through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story
too was verily true.’ McLellin also detailed the Alger incident to
a newspaper reporter for the 6 October 1875 Salt Lake Tribune.
The reporter stated that McLellin informed him of the exact place
‘where the first well authenticated case of polygamy took place.’
According to the article, the marriage occurred ‘in a barn on the
hay mow, and was witnessed by Mrs. Smith through a crack in the
door!’” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p. 5. Brackets
in original).

“In some instances, however, Smith’s actions went beyond ‘trying
the people.’ He sought to marry wives of several living men, refusing
to recognize their civil marriage. Despite the clause in the
canonized 1835 Mormon marriage statement recognizing that ‘all
legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into
this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled,’ Smith viewed as
invalid those marriages not sealed by his blessing. As God’s earthly
agent, he believed he had been given powers that transcended
civil law. Claiming sole responsibility for binding and unbinding
marriages on earth and in heaven, he did not consider it necessary
to obtain civil marriage licenses or divorce decrees. Whenever he
deemed it appropriate he could release a woman from her earthly
marriage and seal her to himself or to another with no stigma of
adultery” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, p. 42).

“Smith’s denials of polygamy were accepted at face value by most
Saints. But Emma so strongly suspected her husband of practicing
it that she enlisted support from other anti-polygamy women to
keep track of him. Joseph Lee Robinson wrote of one such alliance.
Angeline, wife of his brother Ebenezer, ‘watched Brother
Joseph the Prophet[,] had seen him go into some house that she
had reported to Sister Emma the wife of the Prophet[.] it was at a
time when she was very suspisious and jealous of him for fear he
would get another wife.’ Robinson alleged that Emma was so angry
she ‘said she would leave and was making preparations to go to
her People in The State of New York it came close to breaking up
his family.’ The Smiths’ bitter differences over polygamy reached
a peak in early 1843. Eliza Roxcy Snow, ‘Zion’s Poetess,’ had been
living in the Smith home since 14 August 1842. Her sealing to
Smith two months earlier on 29 June had been kept secret from
Emma. Apparently Emma later found out about the relationship,
for Eliza abruptly moved into the Jonathan Holmes residence on
11 February 1843 (Beecher 1975, 402). Eliza’s absence from the
Smith home evidently left a void in the prophet’s life. Within two
weeks he had focused his attention on two other women living in
his home” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, pp. 51-52.
Brackets in original).

“Much of the development of Mormonism can be linked to the introduction,
promotion, and eventual abnegation of polygamy. To
those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, plural marriage
can be evidence of his divine calling; to those who question
or reject his prophetic claims, polygamy is more readily explained
as evidence of his downfall” (Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy,
p. 212).

“Early in that summer of 1841, however, Joseph publicly tested
the water for this new order of marriage. …One church member,
Joseph Lee Robinson, heard the speech and later recorded it in
his journal adding, ‘This was to me the first intimation that I ever
received that polygamy would ever be practiced or lawful with this
people.’ His brother Ebenezer later wrote of Don Carlos Smith’s
reaction, ‘Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of
spiritual wifery will go to hell, I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph’”
(Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma:
Emma Smith, 1994, pp. 95-96. Ellipsis mine).

“Many concluded that the practice of polygamy stemmed from his
own insatiable sex drive, fueled by a quest for power. In an effort
to defuse that charge somewhat, others have intimated that Emma
was frigid and unresponsive, implying that if Joseph had a problem
it must have been Emma’s fault. …The majority of faithful
Mormons would give little consideration to Joseph’s own physical
drives or to other charges. With ‘an almost compulsive emphasis
on unquestioning loyalty to the Priesthood authority as the cardinal
virtue,’ they would maintain simply that God commanded plural
marriage through the prophet Joseph Smith” (Linda Newell
King, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Smith, 1994,
p. 97. Ellipsis mine).

“The demand for secrecy coupled with the need to warn others
of unauthorized practices such as [John C.] Bennett’s led Joseph
and the Twelve to develop a system of evasion. By employing ‘code
words’ the practitioners of the ‘new and everlasting covenant of
marriage,’ as taught by Joseph, felt they could publicly deny one
thing and privately live by another – and do it with a clear conscience”
(Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma:
Emma Smith, 1994, pp. 112-113. Brackets mine).

“On November 2, 1842, Joseph moved his desk, books, and papers
from the red brick store ‘to my house.’…Eliza R. Snow, Eliza
and Emily Partridge, two young sisters named Sarah and Maria
Lawrence, several of the Walker children, including Lucy, William,
and Lorin, and Lucy Mack Smith probably moved with them. …
The issues accompanying plural marriage seemed to disappear
from Emma’s life during the late summer, fall, and winter of 1842
and 1843. Joseph quietly solemnized at least two more marriages
without her knowledge. But the peace was not destined to last.
Whether the new quarters created a false sense of security for Eliza
and Joseph, or whether it simply was beyond their power to remain
discreet indefinitely, Emma somehow discovered the liaison
between the two, probably in February 1843. When the full realization
between her friend Eliza and her husband came to her.
Emma was stunned” (Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery,
Mormon Enigma: Emma Smith, 1994, pp. 132,134. Ellipses mine).

“After Eliza Snow’s abrupt departure from Emma’s house in February
1843, Joseph apparently resolved to pursue the establishment
of plural marriage in spite of Emma’s strong feelings. He approached
Bishop Edward Partridge’s daughters, who had lived for
two years in his home. Emily was nineteen on February 28, 1843;
Eliza would be twenty-three on April 20. ‘The first intimation I
had from Brother Joseph that there was a pure and holy order of
plural marriage,’ Emily wrote, ‘was in the spring of 1842, but I was
not married until 1843.’ Emily recorded the events of that year
in her reminiscences” (Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery,
Mormon Enigma: Emma Smith, 1994, pp. 137-138).

“Descendants of plural marriage tend to agree that a husband had
to obtain the consent of the first wife before he could marry again
and had to be asked by, or at least have the permission of, Church
officials as well. However, no records are known of a set procedure
for obtaining that permission” (Jessie L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous
Families: Life in the Principle, p. 53).

“In the group of Smith’s well-documented wives, eleven (33 percent)
were 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Nine wives
(27 percent) were twenty-one to thirty years old. Eight wives (24
percent) were in Smith’s own peer group, ages thirty-one to forty.
In the group aged forty-one to fifty, there is a substantial drop off:
two wives, or 6 percent, and three (9 percent) in the group fiftyone
to sixty. The teenage representation is the largest, though the
twenty-year and thirty-year groups are comparable, which contradicts
the Mormon folk wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy
as an attempt to care for older, unattached women. These data
suggest that sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation
for Smith’s polygamy. In fact, the command to multiply and
replenish the earth was part of the polygamy theology, so nonsexual
marriage was generally not in the polygamous program, as
Smith taught it” (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 11-12).

“In conclusion, though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages
in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit
or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of
the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a
significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations…Eighteen
of Joseph’s wives (55 percent) were single when
he married them and had never been married previously. Another
four (12 percent) were widows…However, the remaining eleven
women (33 percent) were married to other husbands and cohabitating
with them when Smith married them…If one superimposes
a chronological perspective, one sees that of Smith’s first twelve
wives, nine were polyandrous” (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness,
p. 15. Ellipses mine).

“Even so, nothing indicates that sexual relations were left out of
plural marriages; [Joseph Bates] Noble testified many years later
that Joseph spent the night with Louisa [Beaman] after the wedding.
But there was no ‘mormon seraglio or Nauvoo harem’ as
his enemies charged. Not until many years later did anyone claim
Joseph Smith’s paternity, and evidence for the tiny handful of supposed
children is tenuous” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith:
Rough Stone Rolling, p. 439. Brackets mine).

“The marital status of the plural wives further complicated the issue.
Within fifteen months of marrying Louisa Beaman, Joseph
had married eleven other women. Eight of the eleven were married
to other men. All told, ten of Joseph’s wives were married to
other men. All of them went on living with their first husbands after
marrying the Prophet. The reason for choosing married women
can only be surmised. Not all were married to non-Mormon
men: six of the ten husbands were active Latter-day Saints In most
cases the husband knew of the plural marriage and approved”
(Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith—Rough Stone Rolling, p. 439).
“Joseph told the Twelve about plural marriage soon after their return
in 1841, and they began marrying other women soon after.
Before Joseph died, as many as twenty-nine other men had married
at least one additional wife under his authorization” (Richard
L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, p. 443).

“‘The practice of polygamy is abhorrent, it’s awful, and it drives
me nuts that people who are polygamists keep pretending to use
the umbrella of my church,’ Romney told The Examiner. ‘My
church abhors it, it excommunicates people who practice it, and
it’s got nothing to do with my faith’” (Massachusetts Governor Mitt
Romney, “Meet the Next President: Romney – The Man to Beat?”
September 11, 2006,
the_next_president:_Mitt_Romney.html. Retrieved January 28,

“Question: Is polygamy gone forever from the Church? We only
know what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, that plural
marriage has been stopped in the Church. Anything else is
speculative and unwarranted” (“Polygamy: Questions and Answers
With the Los Angeles Times,” May 31, 2006, Newsroom, http://
Retrieved August 26, 2015).

“To understand polygamy, we must accept that God speaks to man
and that His commandments are important. However, it is always
difficult to know whether such promptings are from God or from
a person’s own desires” (BYU Professor Jessie L. Embry, Setting the
Record Straight: Mormons and Polygamy, p. 108).

“Despite the fact that such relationships are nowhere to be found
in the Old Testament or Book of Mormon; it is undeniable that
between 1841 and 1843, Joseph Smith was sealed to women who
were already civilly married to other men” (Brian C. Hales, “The
Joseph Smith – Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygamy?”
Mormon Historical Studies, Spring 2008, p. 41).

“During his lifetime, he [Joseph Smith] was married to approximately
thirty women. Although conjugal relations were apparently
involved, he spent little time with these women, the need for secrecy
and the demands on his time keeping them apart” (The Joseph
Smith Papers 1:xxx-xxxi. Brackets mine).

“Did Joseph Smith practice plural marriage? Yes. Many church
members don’t know it but the answer is yes. Did Joseph Smith
practice polyandry? The answer is yes” (Richard E. Turley, Jr., Assistant
Church Historian, Q&A session held in Stockholm, Sweden
on November 28, 2010).

“Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the
angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in
Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who
had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith
had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household,
after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents. Little is
known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations
between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the
marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set
the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved
to Nauvoo, Illinois” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,”
Gospel Topic Essay,

“Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40
years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny
Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball,
daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray
Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th
birthday” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topic

“During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day
Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity
and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included
commitments and relationships during this life, generally
including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings
indicated relationships in the next life alone. Evidence indicates
that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact
number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown
because the evidence is fragmentary” (“Plural Marriage in
Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topic Essay,

“Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40
years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny
Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball,
daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray
Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th
birthday” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topic

“Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married
other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of
women who were already married” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland
and Nauvoo,” Gospel Topic Essay,

“You would be amazed at the number of Mormons who don’t
think Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. It just wasn’t talked about.
It was never mentioned in church periodicals. That was policy”
(Richard L. Bushman, “Some Mormons Search the Web and Find
Doubt,” The New York Times, July 20, 2013).

“Joseph took the first of his at least thirty-three documented plural
wives (Fanny Alger) as early as 1836. Notably, nine out of the first
eleven wives Joseph married were already married and cohabiting
with their husbands, most of whom were faithful Mormons. This
means polygamy initially allowed for polyandry, or the marriage
of a woman to multiple husbands (though only one for eternity)”
(BYU Professor Charles R. Harrell, ‘This is my Doctrine’: The Development
of Mormon Theology, p. 319).


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