Polygamy and the Mormons

By Janet Walgren

My blogging friend, Archana, requested information on my religion and our beliefs concerning polygamy so I am dedicating this post to her.

“Hi Janet,
I have been hearing a lot about the Polygamist sect and the abuses that are being committed. I remembering you mentioning that you belong to the Mormon faith. I heard that Mormon’s also believe in polygamy. I want to understand more about this religion. Can you point me to some sources or would you be able to write to me/do a post on this. I hope you don’t mind me asking.”

Archana,

There is much misunderstanding concerning my faith and what we believe. Some of the misunderstanding is innocent, some is carefully cultivated to promote enmity between other Christians and the Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). You have really asked about two things: 1. Polygamy and 2. Doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I will address each separately.

Facts about Polygamy:

  • Polygamy is a legal marriage between a woman and a man who has multiple legal wives.
  • Polygamy IS NOT found among the citizens of the United States of America because the law strictly forbids the practice. Anyone claiming to be a polygamist is nothing more than an adulterous man or a fornicating woman with the exception of the man’s first and only legal wife.
  • The Holy Bible condemns the practice of adultery and fornication, therefore those engaged in either behavior are committing an abominable sin in the sight of God.
  • Polygamy is presently legal in many nations of the earth and was practiced by many of the prophets of the Bible such as Abraham and Jacob. Polygamy is not and has never been considered a sin in the Christian and Muslim religions.
  • All nations, peoples and religions that sanction or have sanctioned polygamy have had strict laws and guidelines governing the practice.
  • Before Utah became a state in 1896, when there were no laws against the practice, a few (less than 10%) of Mormons practice polygamy. This was mostly done as 1. A welfare practice because there were many widows who were in need of shelter and protection, or 2. To provide husbands for women who had no option for marriage because of the shortage of men.
  • Mormon men who were engaged in the practice of polygamy were called (requested) to do so by their ecclesiastical leaders. They had to have permission from their wife to take another wife. They had to provide separate maintenance for each wife (without diminishing the maintenance of the first wife) and there were no illicit sexual undertones in their relationships. The practice was totally voluntary after being called, but volunteers (= self-called men) were not allowed. It was a calling and only righteous, decent men were called.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints discontinued the practice in 1890, six years before Utah became a state and Utah became the first state in the United States of America to outlaw the practice.

The FLDS group that you read about in the news are: not of my faith. They are not sanctioned by, or associated with my faith in any way. They force the illicit practice of fornication on the girls born into their families and kick their teenage boys out of their society to eliminate competition for the girls. The young girls are not of a legal age to consent to marriage or sexual intercourse so the consummation of the forced illegal marriage (usually to a much older man) is nothing more than statutory rape.

Facts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

1. We believe that the Godhead is made up of three separate individual beings namely; God the Father, Jesus Christ his son and the Holy Ghost.

We believe in a God who is our eternal father who lives in heaven. We believe that he is the father of our spirits and that as spirit children we lived with him in heaven before we came to earth. We believe that after we die we will be resurrected and return to God in heaven to be judged for our works on earth and rewarded accordingly. In the Holy Bible in the gospel of St. John, chapter 20, verse 17 Jesus was talking to Mary after his resurrection when he said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.'”

We believe that Jesus Christ is the spirit son of God and the only begotten son of God in the flesh. Because he was conceived of a mortal mother and a God (our father in heaven), he was a God who had the power to lay down his life and take it up again. This accomplished the grace whereby all people on earth will be resurrected, and the atonement whereby all people may be forgiven of their sins if they will repent.

We believe that there is a third member of the godhead called the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. We believe that he is a testifier, revelator and comforter who can help you know truth when you hear it.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the quorum of twelve apostles in the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, gave a detailed description of this belief in a recent conference address. You can read it in full by clicking on this link.

2. We believe in continuing revelation whereby God speaks to ALL of his children through prophets just as he did in biblical times.

All of the  Christian churches in the early United States were called “reformation” churches meaning that their origins were reformed in nature or broken off from earlier sects. The great reformers had one thing in common, they believed that there was an apostasy from the original teachings of Jesus. The reformers were trying to get back to the original beliefs but never claimed authority from God. We believe that the early reformers were great men who were inspired by God.

In the early 1800’s there was a lot of religious excitement in the United States. A young boy by the name of Joseph Smith didn’t know what church to join. He was reading in the Bible in the book of James chapter 1 verse 5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally. and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.” He concluded that he would pray and ask God which church was right and which to join. He went to a grove of trees near his farm and prayed. As a result he saw a vision where God the father and his son Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that none of the churches were right and that the priesthood authority had been lost through apostasy. Joseph was commanded not to join any of them.

Later, a book consisting of golden plates containing a record known as The Book of Mormon was given to Joseph Smith by an angel to translate and the original church established by Jesus Christ was restored to the earth along with all the priesthood keys of authority. We believe that the prophet and quorum of twelve apostles who head The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hold those priesthood keys today.

Again, Elder Holland spoke on this topic a few days ago. Although his talk has not been published in text format you can listen to the talk by clicking on the following link, scrolling down to the Sunday Afternoon session and clicking on the MP3 icon: http://www.lds.org/conference/sessions/display/0,5239,23-1-851,00.html

You can listen to or read The Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible and other scriptures and learn more about the doctrines of my faith at this website: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=e419fb40e21cef00VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Thank you for asking!

Sincerely,

Your friend Janet

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9 Responses to Polygamy and the Mormons

  1. Thank you so much for your prompt and detailed response, Janet. It was very informative. I had heard so many damaging things about the Mormon faith even before this news item. Honestly, till I met you I never thought normal, decent people could belong to this religion. Now I realize, how lopsided my view was. I realize now that it is best not to form opinions based on what you read and hear. The only way to truly understand a religion or culture is to interact with people who belong to it.

    Thank you once again for responding to my questions with such honesty.

  2. marlajayne says:

    Great post. I like the way you handled this in a calm, informative manner. Some people would get so “bent out of shape” that they’d begin preaching and pontificating angrily to the person who asked the question.

  3. Archana,

    You are very welcome. I appreciate your asking me about this subject and it was a privilege to answer your request.

    When I was growing up, my church youth group arranged for us to go to the Catholic Church and have their Priest tell us about the Catholic religion. Next we went to a Jewish Synagogue and had a Rabbi tell us about the Jewish faith. We went to the Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist churches to have their ministers tell us about their faiths as well. I have had Muslim neighbors and learned of their faith from them.

    I have studied the Bible and other scriptures on a consistent basis for most of my life because I wanted to know what God said without having someone filter his message for me. Mormon youth attend seminary every morning for four years before they go to school each day so they are fairly well versed in the scriptures because the scriptures are their textbook. When you have knowledge it increases your faith, understanding and ability to love those who are different than yourself.

    My knowledge of other religions and cultures has deepened my love and appreciation for all of God’s children. I have found that we are more alike than we are different. My understanding has only deepened my appreciation for the beauty found in the differences.

    I am very much enjoying reading your blog and learning about your country and culture. Perhaps at some time I will be able to visit your land and we can meet. I would like that.

    Marlajayne,

    I think that those who are offended by an honest question are not really offended by the question but rather by the answer they must give if they are honest. That being the case, perhaps they should ask themselves why the answer offends them.

    Questions and dialog are what makes blogging so satisfying to me. There are no filters, just honest inquiries and interesting answers that provide insite to people whom I consider my brothers and sisters throughout the world.

    I considered my life to be richer when I rejoiced in your son’s marriage or enjoyed the beautiful Indian countryside by viewing the photos that Archana’s posted on her blog. My thanks goes out to both of you for participating on my blog. I am so blessed to have gotten to know each of you. I consider myself lucky to have you as blogging friends.

  4. Janet and all,
    Wonderful to read your post and the comments here. Life is so fulfilling when we reach out of our comfort zones, get to know and appreciate each other’s differences as well as similarities, and give support. Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my recent post on these similar subjects(http://mormonsoprano.com/2008/04/17/one-mormon-view-of-polygamy/). All are welcome. I love getting comments (nice to know someone reads)! – MSop

  5. Janet says:

    MSop,

    I loved your post on the subject. It was a very sweet post. I also love the music of the Tabernacle Choir that you post on your blog. It is awesome. I am often in the audience on Sunday morning to hear the choir sing. How is your choir school going?

    Janet

  6. Saraswathi says:

    Hi Janet,

    Really good to read and know about your religion. The best way to world peace in my opinion is through interaction between people of different communities and religions. Before we meet any person we categorize them as being Hindus, Christians or Muslims but once we meet and interact with a person, we no longer categorize them. We start calling them “friends” 🙂

  7. Hi Saraswathi,

    Thanks and welcome to my blog. I visited your blog and look forward to following your posts.

    You make a valid point that people are prone to categorize others before they meet and when they meet, they become friends. That is one of the reasons that I love blogging because I find people to be wonderful and I like being friends. That doesn’t mean that we always agree, but when we don’t agree, we always manage to agree to disagree and respect each other and remain friends.

  8. Saraswathi says:

    Hi Janet,

    Very rightly pointed out. I have made a lot of friends through blogging. It is one medium which connects people from different countries and share their ideas.

    I will also regularly follow your blog. Very glad to have met you here and made your acquaintance:)

    And so good to know that the doctor who delivered your second daughter shares my name. Am so glad you know how to pronounce my name. I actually came to US to do my Masters last year and till now nobody has pronounced my name correctly. But since the people here are so sweet and friendly I let them call me any way they wish me to:)

    And good suggestion about saving the posts of the blog before deleting it. I will try that from next time Janet.

    Have a good day:)

  9. BARLOW says:

    my dad has two wives, my great great grandfather had 8

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