The Polygamy Problem

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
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just me
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by just me » 28 Jul 2009, 20:44

Bruce, I was speaking more to the history of polygamy in the Utah church. I can't speak to its practice today. I'm sure that family is very nice. I have never met modern polygamists so I try not to make any assumptions about them.

Did BY not teach that the more wives you have the larger your kingdom (dominion) would be? I thought he did and that is what I was referring to.
Are the wives of a polygamist his equal? I thought that the woman must be obedient to the husband. This puts her in a lesser role. It makes it incredibly easy (and tempting) for him to practice unrighteous dominion.
In D&C 132 a man is exempt from the "law of Sarah" if the first wife says no! That means she has no say and is not on equal footing.

Power, yes. Who decided who got more than one wife? The man with authority (power). So if there are 120 men and 100 women who gets to be a polygamist? The men with the most authority. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young took the wives of other men-righteous members of the church. I feel like my use of the words power and dominion are appropriate to those times.

I'm sure you are aware that BY taught that women were made to marry and bear children. That is what polygamy is for. Well, where does that leave the infertile woman?
I also have an ancestor who was a polygamist wife of a sterile man (William Horne Dame who was SP during MMM). What was the purpose of him having 6 or 8 wives? Then when he died she got to be a polygamist wife of someone else.

I'm not trying to be inflammatory or rude. These are the complexities that people are dealing with.
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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Bruce in Montana
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Bruce in Montana » 28 Jul 2009, 22:58

Let's see:

"Did BY not teach that the more wives you have the larger your kingdom (dominion) would be? "

Yes he did. He also taught that more would be damned by this principle than saved by it so, I can only assume, that he was refering to those who could manage to live it in a rightous manner.

"Are the wives of a polygamist his equal? I thought that the woman must be obedient to the husband. This puts her in a lesser role. It makes it incredibly easy (and tempting) for him to practice unrighteous dominion."

I don't know that any 2 persons are "equal" but I think I understand your meaning. In priesthood matters, women should defer to the man's judgement, as long as he is a rightous man. In the higher and more difficult callings such as raising children, teaching them proper values, etc., I believe that the man should defer to the woman's judgement.
You are so right that it is a system that would be easy for an unrightous man to abuse.

" In D&C 132 a man is exempt from the "law of Sarah" if the first wife says no! That means she has no say and is not on equal footing."

OK..we have a good man who knows that his exaltation depends upon living this principle and a woman who balks. He has a choice...go behind her back (Fannie Alger comes to mind) or lose his exaltation in the eternities by trying to "get along".
Interesting choice...wanna reach exaltation for the next trillion years or so, or keep the peace for a few?

"Who decided who got more than one wife? The man with authority (power)."

Yep...there is one man one earth at a time that has that authority according to scripture. Yes, he is a man...capable of mistakes...

"The men with the most authority. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young took the wives of other men-righteous members of the church."

Well, "took the wives" might be a bit strong. I don't think there was much "Hey baby, come run away with me". However there were time & eternity sealings to women already civilly (sp?) married to good men. It's speculated by some fundamentalists that Joseph, at least, recognized individuals from the preexistance that he should offer the chance of being sealed to him. I know that sounds like a cheap apologetic cop-out for those who choose to view it that way.

" I'm sure you are aware that BY taught that women were made to marry and bear children. That is what polygamy is for. Well, where does that leave the infertile woman?"

Well, I suppose that leaves her in a wonderful position of being able to devote her time to blessing others. I don't think that BY's ever implied that bearing children was the ONLY reason for celestial plural marriage.

"I also have an ancestor who was a polygamist wife of a sterile man (William Horne Dame who was SP during MMM). What was the purpose of him having 6 or 8 wives?"

Maybe to teach him, and them, selflessness and the order of things in the eternities? I, of course, have no idea.

"Then when he died she got to be a polygamist wife of someone else."

So she wasn't left alone and without support?


"I'm not trying to be inflammatory or rude. These are the complexities that people are dealing with."

Nor are you....These are complexities indeed and deserve to be addressed.

My opinion.....
For the 1 1/2 cents that it's worth....
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-William S.

Poppyseed
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Poppyseed » 29 Jul 2009, 09:32

Bruce in Montana wrote:"The polygamist man is NEVER equal to his women. The more wives you have the more power and dominion you have. How is this a great equalizer? I really can't see how it helps rid people of selfishness."

Let me try it this way. I have a very good friend...let's call him "Jim". Jim is 45ish and a drywall finisher by trade. He has two wives, one 43 and one in her late 30's. His first wife has 9 kids, the other wife has 5. Wife #1 is a reflexologist, she makes good money providing services to group homes...Wife #2 is in real estate. These ladies depend on each other to watch each other's younger children, as well as the older kids, and have more free time than a monogamous couple would with either the 9 kids or the 5....I know it's kinda strange if you've never seen it but it works out that way.

"Jim", on the other hand, works his patoot off. We live in some of the best flyfishing country on the continent and Jim doesn't even own a fishing rod. He simply does not have time. I've never seen a man with as little free time as him.
He gives all he has, and every minute he has, to his wives and children.
It is truly a refiner's fire to learn to understand the wants and needs of another individual as he does in his marriages but he pulls it off.

On the other hand, Brigham Young said that this principle would damn more people than it would save (or something akin to that) It's not easy and it's not for the weak.

Power and dominion? Hardly.
If his attitude was selfish, he could just have a monogamous marriage and a girlfriend or two...or maybe a monogamous marriage and some extra income for nicer cars and nicer homes...or maybe a decent fishing pole and some time to use it. :)

When done correctly, I don't think it's an equalizer at all. It's a liberator for women. Admitedly, there are many who don't do it correctly.
That is the difference between celestial plural marriage and just plain old polygamy/bigamy IMHO.

My 2 cents..
These are all good points. They humble me each time I hear the description.
Yes he did. He also taught that more would be damned by this principle than saved by it so, I can only assume, that he was refering to those who could manage to live it in a rightous manner
.

And maybe this is why only a few in the OT had the practice added to their righteousness.

Thank you for adding these thoughts to the conversation. I think that I can accept all of it. One could be quite refined by the process.....but I think it would have to be a very special man to master his sex drive that much. I wonder sometimes in our modern society if men are able to control their sex drives even with one wife. It seems woman are losing this refinement too.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” --old Chinese proverb

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just me
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by just me » 29 Jul 2009, 10:23

The thing is, we still have the issue of the "law of Sarah." It is a law that only damns the women. In no way does it make her a free agent.
Also, God did not command OT polygamy. He allowed it. Sarah offered her slave Hagar to Abraham as a concubine because she lacked faith in God's promise. And we see how disfunctional that family was. This is not something to model, it is something to learn from, IMO. And the institution of polygamy as practiced in the OT is very different from the doctrine that a man cannot become exalted without "celestial marriage." It is one thing to allow polygamy and another to invent a new ordinance and claim it is required for exaltation or salvation.

Does God command men to take slaves as wives? A slave has no option, btw. Is that what God thinks about women?

Beyond that, why was Joseph so curious about polygamy when the BOM clearly stated that it was an abomination??? It makes no sense to ask the Lord to clarify something He already clarified over and over again in the BOM and D&C.
I find it more than coincidence that polygamy was a hot topic on three continents BEFORE the church started doing it. The East Coast, England and Europe were all talking about it in the early 1800's. The early missionaries tracted into pockets of polygamists on the East Coast and converted some. BY is said to have gone on a mission alone to the area.

D&C 132 condradicts previous revelation. As Bruce quoted in another thread if an angel preaches any other gospel it is NOT from God. This is another gospel. The new and everlasting covenant is baptism.

Bruce, I appreciate you answering all my points in the pp. I think you answered them all well, exept the "law of Sarah." I agree that it is wonderful my ancestor found another husband after the death of her first. My question is-are both the sealings binding? Does she have 2 husbands in the afterlife? If not, why are the sealings for her not binding like they are for a man?
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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Tom Haws
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Tom Haws » 29 Jul 2009, 10:27

@justme, Thanks for saving my breath with your post. I claim the entire thing except the last paragraph, which is okay too, but I have no questions at this time for my friend Bruce.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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Bruce in Montana
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Bruce in Montana » 29 Jul 2009, 12:01

We, of course, disagree on Section 132 which makes further explanation rather fruitless.
I could argue most of the above but I'm not sure anyone would benefit. I'll just defer to answering the questions:

"Does God command men to take slaves as wives? A slave has no option, btw. Is that what God thinks about women?"

Well, I don't see a lot of records of that although He certainly seems to have with Hagar. I'm going to guess that becoming Abraham's wife/concubine actually elevated her status instead of degrading her. I don't know that, of course...just speculation.

"My question is-are both the sealings binding? Does she have 2 husbands in the afterlife? If not, why are the sealings for her not binding like they are for a man?"

As far as I know, neither Church leaders or fundamentalist leaders have ever clarified whether or not a woman sealed to two men would be in a polyandous afterlife. My guess is we just don't know yet.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-William S.

George
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by George » 29 Jul 2009, 12:21

Oddly enough, I have always understand Bruce in Montana's position. As I read in church the life stories of Brigham Young, John Taylor, Woodruff, Snow, etc., I was OK with polygamy. It seems much more honest/positive/doable when it was being openly declared by the church. I guess I thought that everyone, husbands and wives, knew what they were getting into accepting the principle, that agenda was practiced. However in recent years as excellent books have detailed Joseph Smith's own path in polygamy, I have been shocked. Both by his coverup to Emma, and to the General Church. It has darkened the practice in my mind, by added a demand for immediate acceptance and the use of family and church leaders to prod the young women into marriages which sent them back to their parents home a few hours later, hence to be visited only in the dark of night. I don't find Christian teachings/love in the equation. It is embarrassing to me today.
I can only imagine what Emma must have thought and been put through. If I were to meet Joe on the street today, I could but utter, "What were you thinking?"

Kinderhook08
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Kinderhook08 » 29 Jul 2009, 12:26

The fact that JS lied to Emma, the Church and the public are major problems but the think that started my doubting in the Church was polyandry. The concept blew me away. I couldn't believe I had never been taught that it happened and the more I learned about it the more disturbed I became. The first time I learned about it was by listening to John Dehlin's podcasts with Todd Compton. After the one on JS's polyandry I literally couldn't sleep at night. Everything came crashing down after that. As with most people I started to look into other "rumors" I had heard growing up and found many of them to not be the anti-Mormon trash I had been taught to believe they were. It is really sad that we aren't more open when teaching about our history and unfortunate because it leads to members like myself who are either apathetic toward the Church or leave entirely.

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Heber13
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Heber13 » 29 Jul 2009, 15:41

Kinderhook08 wrote:The fact that JS lied to Emma, the Church and the public are major problems but the think that started my doubting in the Church was polyandry. The concept blew me away. I couldn't believe I had never been taught that it happened and the more I learned about it the more disturbed I became. The first time I learned about it was by listening to John Dehlin's podcasts with Todd Compton. After the one on JS's polyandry I literally couldn't sleep at night. Everything came crashing down after that. As with most people I started to look into other "rumors" I had heard growing up and found many of them to not be the anti-Mormon trash I had been taught to believe they were. It is really sad that we aren't more open when teaching about our history and unfortunate because it leads to members like myself who are either apathetic toward the Church or leave entirely.
I'll admit, Kinderhook, that really threw me for a loop too. It changes how you look at JS, doesn't it?

But you know, even that didn't change how I look at the Book of Mormon. Ok, maybe it chagned some of my prior thoughts of how it came about (there were times JS didn't even have the plates in front of him when he was "translating"-- :shock: nobody taught me that at church!). But I have gone back and read the Book of Mormon...and you know what...it is still beautiful and full of truth to me.

Regardless of what JS did after producing the BoM, it is still a miraculous thing. Did it change your view of that book?
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Pappanoon
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Re: The Polygamy Problem

Post by Pappanoon » 30 Jul 2009, 02:52

just me wrote: But when I read the accounts of the sister wife locked out in the snow who froze to death, or one of Parley P. Pratt's wives whose sister wives refused to share with her (she taught all the Pratt children and never received payment) or the wives of BY whose hearts were broken because they were neglected or Jacob Huntington who felt like he had to give up his wife to 2 prophets and was so lonely or the man who was made a eunich because a leader wanted his beloved it paints a pretty sorry picture. Add that to the fact that only the first/legal wife has any legal recourse in case of divorce and Utah had like the highest divorce rate in the country.
With all due respect, I think you may be looking at this very one-sidely. Yes, the types of things you talk about above have occurred...no doubt. But again, that's no different than monogamy. For every bad story you have about polygamous marriages, I bet I can provide ten equally bad stories about monogamous marriages. (Then again, I would have more to choose from.) However, and here's my real point, I'll bet you that for every negative story you have about a polygamous marraige I can provide a positive story about a polygamous marriage. It's just not as one-sided as you claim. There are some great horror stories and there are some great success stories as well...just like in monogamy.

The real issue in either polygamy or monogamy isn't the form of marriage itself. Rather, it's how the people involved practice that form of marriage. If they do it the way it was intended to be done, with love, parience, understanding, unselfishness, etc. then I'm guessing things tend to work out pretty well. If they do it with selfishness, unrighteous dominion, jealousy, cruelty, etc. then I'm guessing there will be problems. But this is true for either polygamy or monogamy.

If you haven't done so before, you may have a real eye-opening experience if you were to visit a few different polygamous families I know. However, I would definitely recommend some more than others. I doubt that you would be "converted" but I'm guessing your opinion about the practive in general might change dramatically.
I maintain ‘simple faith’...which is faith without understanding of the thing believed, is not equal to intelligent faith,...hence the duty of striving for a rational faith in which the intellect as well as the heart has a place. B.H. Roberts

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