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Why did Mormons practice plural marriage? Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
August 15, 2020 7:14 pm

Why did Mormons practice plural marriage? Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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August 15, 2020 7:14 pm

This week we take a look at the July 2020 Ensign magazine and an article on why Mormons practice plural marriage in the early years.

Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever

Viewpoint on Mormonism. The program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints from a biblical perspective viewpoint on Mormonism, is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry since 1979.

Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Our thanks to Adams wrote for that musical introduction. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry. And with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at M or M.. We are going through an article written by a Mormon historian, Kate Holbrook. She works with the Church History Department. It's an article titled Why Did They? Speaking of Latter-Day Saints practice plural marriage in the early days of the church. It's found in the July 2020 edition of Inside Magazine. And today we're going to be looking at the second paragraph that she has in this three paragraph article. And as I mentioned earlier, I don't think you can really tackle the subject of plural marriage in such a short space. But she tries. And so we're going through what she has written and critiquing some of the things that she has said.

Plural marriage practiced officially for about 50 years, was something people could choose. Scholars are still trying to determine how many adult Latter-Day Saints actually were in plural marriages. But we know that it was generally a minority of the saints. And we know that many of them were the most devout stalwart members of our church in 1890. President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that was to end the practice of plural marriage when some people heard this manifesto. They were relieved. Plural marriage had been hard for them when others heard this manifesto. They were devastated. They had sacrificed so much and they had testimonies of this principle.

Let's look at her first sentence here. Plural marriage, practiced officially for about 50 years, was something people could choose.

If you've ever had a Latter-Day Saints say something like that to you, there's a real good response that you can use that hopefully will get them to realize that this choice, if not chosen wisely, could lead to some serious consequences. It's kind of like this. You have a choice as a citizen of the United States not to pay your taxes. But what happens if you choose not to pay your taxes? It comes with a heavy, heavy price. They call it jail or a fine. So, yeah, you can choose not to. But nobody is going to want to suffer the consequences of that choice. And it's the same when it comes to plural marriage. As we've shown earlier in this week, it was something that that you had to engage in if you wanted to be saved. It was absolutely essential, according to Section 132 of the doctrine covenants. But there's an interesting story that Heber C. Kimball, who was a member of the first presidency under Brigham Young, that he tells in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. four, page 209. We've talked about this citation before, but Eric is going to read it again and we're going to tackle it from a different angle. And that is the angle of whether or not people could really choose if they wanted to engage in polygamy or not, he said.

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. Do you think people laughed when he told that story? Very likely, yeah.

Okay. Well, let's think about this. Where are your wives? That's a great question. Where are your wives? Obviously they're not with heavers C. Kimball.

That's for sure. Where are they? Well, where is the Kimballs supposed to be when this alleged conversation, this imaginary conversation takes place in the celestial kingdom?

Exactly. So when the question is asked, where are your wives, it seems pretty clear they're not in the celestial kingdom. So if these women who had the opportunity to become plural wives chose not to become a plural wife, where do they go? At least as it was understood during the 19th century when polygamy was being practiced? It sounds like, according to Hebrew C. Kimbal in this story that he tells in February of 1857, that those wives would not be in the celestial kingdom if they refused to engage in the practice of plural marriage. So technically, you could say that Kate Holbrook is correct, saying that it was something that people could choose, but if they chose not to.

They were going to be consequences and they would not find celestial exaltation as a result of what would be considered a bad choice. Now, when she says that scholars are still trying to determine how many adult Latter-Day Saints actually were in plural marriages, but we know that it was generally a minority of the saints, that's completely irrelevant. I don't even know why that sentences in this article.

Yeah, whether it was 10 Latter-Day Saints who were commissioned to be polygamous or it was required for everybody. It still was a teaching officially of the church in the 19th century. You're absolutely correct.

So it doesn't matter how many actually engaged in it. From what we saw in Section 132 of the doctrine covenants, it sounded like it was definitely a command for everyone to engage in this. And if they did not engage in this, that they would not be saved.

Bill, wouldn't that be an impossible command doctrine and Covenants Section 132, which makes it sound like everybody who's reading this needs to obey polygamy. But what would that look like if everybody were to practice polygamy in the Mormon Church in the 19th century?

It would have been impossible for every Mormon male to practice plural marriage. And this is why, even though many Mormons have been led to believe that there was a shortage of men in this religion, quite the opposite is true.

This is coming from John, a witch. So and this is his book, Evidence and Reconciliation's. He was a Mormon apostle. Page three, 91, the United States Census records from 1858 in 1940. And all available church records uniformally 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 or some prat 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. He's quoting from the Seer page 110. The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female church members fails from lack of evidence.

And I have heard that very argument when touring Brigham Young's home, the Beehive House in downtown Salt Lake City. I had a tour guide actually say that that there were so many women who did not have husbands because of the persecution. She said it was necessary for polygamy to be implemented.

But think about some of the top leaders who had many, many wives. We're not talking two or three. I mean, Brigham Young himself had 55. We have Heber C. Kimball. He had over 40. So right there you have 100 women taken by two men. How many times could you do that and still have enough women to go around for everyone?

That's a great point, because you would think it would be very selfish of those two men to have so many wives to themselves. They didn't seem to have a problem with that.

But yet, if, in fact, the command is for all males to practice this and if they don't, they can't hope to become gods in the next life. It would be impossible during that time period for every Mormon male to do that. There weren't enough women to go around. It would have been impossible. And that's the point.

Go back to our Monday show when we were talking about Jacob, Chapter two in the Book of Mormon. And the purpose of polygamy was to raise up seed. And yet a man like Brigham Young is not having children with most of his wives. I mean, some of them are having children, many of them he's not even having sexual relations with, apparently. So why would you marry these women not to be able to allow them to procreate and bring down spirit? Children, which was the intention of Jacob to if you're going to have polygamy, we have to increase the seed.

Ms. Holberg goes on to say, In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto that was to end the practice of plural marriage. And as we've mentioned several times on this show, though. Yes, the manifesto of 1890 was supposed to do that. It didn't do that. The church has admitted that in a gospel topics essay that is dedicated to this very subject. It wasn't until 1984 that the LDS church decided to get serious about the plural marriage issue. And it was at that point in history where if you were found practicing the the doctrine of plural marriage, you would be excommunicated from the church. A notice, she says plural marriage had been hard for them. When some people heard this manifesto, they were relieved. Plural marriage had been hard for them when others heard this manifesto. They were devastated. They had sacrificed so much and they had testimonies of this principle. No doubt there were two different types of emotions when the manifesto came out. But clearly, it was meant to just get the federal government off the Mormon churches back temporarily, because, as I said, they were still practicing plural marriage, though probably not nearly as many were getting married polygamists early as prior to 1890. But when she says that when others heard the manifesto, they were devastated. Those that were devastated, no doubt included many of those men who broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to found their own movement that they felt was being more true to the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They saw Wilford Woodruff as being some sort of a spiritual traitor to the teachings of not only Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, but also John Taylor, the third president of the church.

Woodruff really didn't have any choice. He admits that. And one of his writings, he he admitted that if he did not sign the manifesto and at least promised the government that they would stop marrying people polygamists early, that the church would have been dissolved and its leaders would be put in jail.

Think about the New Testament, where the apostles were preaching the good news and being arrested. And what did they do? Did they stop doing it because the government said they couldn't do it? No. They said we must obey God rather than men. And so they lived with the consequences. If God really intended for plural marriage to be a part of the LDS church doctrine of the restored church, then you would think that they should have taken the consequences of what or whatever that might have been. But they weren't. They said, no, no more. And we're done.

And when she uses the words, they were devastated. Don't you think that probably part of this devastation was based on the fact that leading up until 1890, knowing that the government was going to start turning its attention to the LDS people because of this practice, which was originally known as one of the twin relics of barbarism, according to the Republican Party, that would be polygamy and slavery. They knew the attention was going to be turned on them. So there were all these speeches being given by various Mormon leaders vowing that they will never get rid of this doctrine. You read one of those quotes yesterday by Wilford Woodruff himself saying that if you did that, you might as well get rid of Mormonism. This was what these people were hearing.

And then all of a sudden, there's a turnabout in Woodroffe signs, the manifesto promising the government that they would no longer engage in the practice of solemnizing plural marriages.

Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Morman is a research ministry. We encourage you to visit our Web site at w w w dot m r m dot org, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.

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