LDS Church Releases New Statement on Polygamy

In the wake of the polygamy ruling by the U.S. District Court for Utah, and on the heels of a similar post about race and the priesthood, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released a brand new "Gospel Topics" entry dealing with the history of plural marriage as practiced by Latter-day Saints.

A few points stood out after an initial reading by Approaching Justice.

The entry acknowledges that polygamy was still practiced after the 1890 "Manifesto" which declared an end to the practice and a willingness to comply with United States law on the matter. (UPDATE: The original version of this post stated that the statement acknowledged that polygamy was still “taught” after 1890. This was a misreading by the author and has been edited accordingly)

…In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church. In this statement, known as the Manifesto, President Woodruff declared his intention to abide by U.S. law forbidding plural marriage and to use his influence to convince members of the Church to do likewise.

After the Manifesto, monogamy was advocated in the Church both over the pulpit and through the press. On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years. In 1904, the Church strictly prohibited new plural marriages. Today, any person who practices plural marriage cannot become or remain a member of the Church.

The entry also addresses the impact of legal efforts to squash polygamy, something particularly relevant in light of the recent court decision.

The experience of plural marriage toward the end of the 19th century was substantially different from that of earlier decades. Beginning in 1862, the U.S. government passed laws against the practice of plural marriage. Outside opponents mounted a campaign against the practice, stating that they hoped to protect Mormon women and American civilization. For their part, many Latter-day Saint women publicly defended the practice of plural marriage, arguing in statements that they were willing participants.

After the U.S. Supreme Court found the anti-polygamy laws to be constitutional in 1879, federal officials began prosecuting polygamous husbands and wives during the 1880s. Believing these laws to be unjust, Latter-day Saints engaged in civil disobedience by continuing to practice plural marriage and by attempting to avoid arrest. When convicted, they paid fines and submitted to jail time. To help their husbands avoid prosecution, plural wives often separated into different households or went into hiding under assumed names, particularly when pregnant or after giving birth.

The entry only addresses polygamy as practiced in Utah, which might lead one to assume that there will be a future entry on the practice of polygamy prior to the emigration to Utah.

The full entry can be found here.

About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • headonstraight

    Now the Mormons need to explain how their abandonment and prohibition of polygamy can be reconciled with Joseph Smith’s pronouncement, in 1843, that plural marriage is a “new and everlasting covenant” and declaring it to be the duty of every able male Mormon to practice it, else he could not attain the highest glories of godhood and dominion even over angels. In this “revelation,” Smith purports to be quoting extensively from God Himself. Doubt this? Read it for yourself at:

    “New and everlasting covenant”? The “revelation” came in 1843; the Manifesto prohibiting polygamy was issued in 1890. Forty-seven years of “everlasting”? Go figure–but don’t use Mormon math!

  • headonstraight

    “Groups” such as the secretive enclave in that notorious Texas case where the corrupt Fundamentalist Mormon pedophile, Warren Jeffs ruled a bunch of ignorant dupes with his iron hand and sated his lust upon young teen-age children? Seems to me that “siege mentality” for these scumbags was nothing but a cover for licentious perverts masquerading under color of religion. If anyone needs “targeting” it is these kinds of lustbucket charlatans.

  • headonstraight

    Though it was has not been “taught” since 1890, the Mormon Church has not formally repudiated Joseph Smith’s “revelation” as described in his blasphemous statement in Doctrine & Covenants, that God ordained and established polygamy as a “new and everlasting covenant.” They craftily find ways to ‘splain around it, but they dare not revoke the “prophet’s” alleged “revelation”!

    Mormon church history is an interesting subject. It reveals all kinds of embarrassments the the church wishes would just go away. But those early Mormon “prophets” and “apostles” were careful to preserve their nutty “revelations” and declarations, so they will not just go away.

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