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THE POLYGAMY DILEMMA AND THE BOOK OF MORMON 


Contender Ministries

Posted:  May 9, 2002                                                                                     Printer Friendly Version


 

I love modern technology.  A lot of real estate websites now have a panoramic camera tool you can use to view areas of a house or apartment.  You can use your mouse to rotate the view a full 360 degrees.  Quite often, you’ll be able to view the yard, the kitchen, living room, family room, and master bedroom.  It’s quite a handy tool to use if you want to know what you’re getting into before you get there.  If only everything in life came equipped with such a tool.  Have you ever been visited by Mormon missionaries?  Through a series of visits they will lead you through discussions about Joseph Smith’s vision and about the Book of Mormon (BOM).  They’ll even give you a complimentary copy of the Book of Mormon.  They will ask you to read it, to pray, and ask God if it’s true or not.  If it is true, they say, God will give you a “burning of the bosom” – a testimony that it is true.  The unsuspecting person may do just that, and be convinced that Mormonism is true the next time they suffer from indigestion.  What the unsuspecting person is unaware of is that there is no real Mormon doctrine in the BOM.  Most LDS doctrine is contained in their other works: Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), The Pearl of Great Price (PoGP), the Journal of Discourses, and current revelations.  In fact, many Mormon doctrines are actually refuted in the BOM.  One of these doctrines is that of polygamy (plurality of wives).

The sin of lust has caused the undoing of many men throughout history.  Joseph Smith, the founding “prophet” of Mormonism was no different.  It was early in the 1830’s, and Joseph found life with only his wife Emma to be somewhat unfulfilling.  He became an advocate of polygamy, but Emma had trouble warming up to the idea.  Joseph used the best tool at his disposal to convince his wife that he should take more wives – he had a “revelation”.  This revelation, and the doctrine that it spawned, are not found in the Bible or in the BOM.  If you want to read up on Joseph’s revelation, you’ll have to refer to D&C, section 132.  Without repeating the revelation in its entirety (Joseph’s King James Version revelations can be longwinded and full of tangents), let me present the key portions:

1        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 –

2        Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. 

3        Therefore, prepare they heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same. 

4        For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

5        For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. 

6        And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness [sic] of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness [sic] thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

Joseph Smith very cleverly laid the groundwork in these verses.  How could Emma, in good conscience, go against his plan now?  After all, this isn’t Joseph’s idea, it’s God’s.  One more point before we move on:  the fact that God tolerated polygamy at one time should not be used as grounds to condone it.  This also brings up some interesting contradictions from the BOM.  Jacob 2:27 (from the BOM) reads, "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."  And Jacob 2:24 says, “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”  Here we have an example of how the BOM tends to take a more Biblical stand than actual Mormon doctrine.  Yet potential converts to Mormonism are asked to read ONLY the BOM, and formulate a view based solely on that work.  Let’s return to Joseph’s vision (lest I take off on a tangent, myself!):

51    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, said the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

52    And let mind 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. 

53    For I am the Lord they God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

54    And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else.  But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law. 

55    But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds. 

56    And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice. 

With this selection of verses, Joseph has made it clear to his wife that if she does not permit him to take more wives, she will be destroyed.  This is the “or else” clause in this revelation.  And remember, this is an “everlasting” covenant.  The second president and prophet of Mormonism, Brigham Young, carried this doctrine a little further.  In 1866, Young said, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of Gods, are those who enter into polygamy.” (Journal of Discourses 11:269).  In 1869 Wilford Woodruff, Mormonism's future fourth president, stated, "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" (Journal of Discourses 13:165 - p.166).

This sounds all well and good, but eternity ain’t what it used to be.  In that late 1800’s, faced with intense pressure from the U.S. government to give up polygamy, the Mormon Church finally relented.  In fact, no less than Wilford Woodruff (quoted above) himself officially rescinded the “everlasting” doctrine of polygamy.  In September of 1890, Woodruff issued the First Official Declaration, also known as The Manifesto.  This declaration can be found following section 138 of the D&C.  It reads, in part:  “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.  There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy…And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Ladder-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” 

Polygamy is not totally dead within Mormon doctrine, though.  While now a forbidden practice in this life, polygamy will be re-instituted when a faithful Mormon ascends to the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven, according to Mormon doctrine). 

While I used passages from the BOM to indicate the contradiction to the teaching of polygamy in Mormon doctrine, I do not hold the BOM to be scripture.  The Bible tells us that marriage is to be a relationship between one man and ONE woman.  The mere fact that in the beginning God created just Eve for the companionship of Adam points to the monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. This is confirmed by such passages as I Corinthians 7:2 where the apostle Paul states that "every man have his own wife," -- not wives. In I Timothy 3:2, monogamy was a qualification for church office, and in Matthew 19:5, even our Jesus condoned monogamy when He stated "they twain (two) shall be one flesh."

Polygamy is one of many doctrines currently or formerly espoused by the Mormon church that are not mentioned anywhere in the BOM.  When potential converts are directed to read the BOM, and base their decision on whether or not to convert to Mormonism on a feeling they get from reading that book, they have been subjected to a deceitful practice.  Only after they’ve been baptized into the cult of Mormonism will they begin to learn the true doctrines of Mormonism.  By that time, they will have already learned to trust their “burning of the bosom” and not question Mormon leaders or doctrine.  If you are in discussions with Mormon missionaries, I implore you to question them in-depth about true Mormon doctrine.  Ask them to give you a copy of the D&C.  And don’t wait for a testimony that could resemble heartburn.  Be like the Bereans, who in Acts 17:11 “…were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  (emphasis mine)

May God bless you, guide you, and lift you up as you contend earnestly for the faith!