Questions to Gospel Answers

Comments and questions about plural marriage.

I'm sure that I will cover no new ground here. Most of what we now know about Joseph Smith and plural marriage have come to us courtesy of Brigham Young's efforts to convince the sons of Joseph Smith that their father had not only instituted the practice but was its leading practicing example. Plural Marriage led to the murder of Joseph Smith as well as to the mental breakdown of David Hyrum Smith (Joseph's youngest child) when he could not reconcile the man he believed had been his father with the man he really had been. David died in the Elgin Mental Hospital, in Illinois, not far from where I live right now.

Polygamy not a New Testament Doctrine
Polygamy does not appear to be part of the New Testament gospel. It is in direct conflict with Paul's teachings. It does not agree with the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. It appears that man is not complete without a woman, nor is a woman complete without a man: 1 Corinthians 11:11, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." Man and woman become one flesh (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:5, Mark 10:8, Eph 5:31). Paul even teaches (his own opinion) that remaining unmarried like he was is the best condition given the nearness of the end and the fact the he felt that those that were unmarried could best worship God without the worry of pleasing a spouse. Polygamy even appears to be a contradiction of D&C 49:15-16 which was a command for man to have only one wife: "And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;" (italics added.)

Is it true that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball, the daughter of Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Kimball, a girl "who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer"? According to Helen's 1881 autobiography, Joseph had promised eternal salvation for her and her parents if she would become his wife. She recorded that she gave herself "willingly to purchase so glorious a reward". Is it true however, that she had thought that her marriage was only to be a ceremony and nothing more and that later she would tell her mother, "I would never have been sealed to Joseph, had I known it was anything more than a ceremony". Apparently, Joseph insisted on a full conjugal relationship with his plural wives, which leads to my next question...

What happened to the children that were conceived from the many relationships that Joseph Smith had entered into? He obviously was capable of fathering children through his first wife Emma, his last child, David Hyrum, born just five months after his death.

How many wives did Joseph Smith really have? How many did Emma know about? Why did Emma teach her sons that Joseph had not practiced plural marriage? What was the role that Elizabeth Durfee played in the process of finding women for Joseph Smith? Do you see any parallels in the sexual behavior of Joseph Smith and David Koresh, formerly of Waco, Texas? Do you believe that Joseph really used the story that an angel of the Lord stood ready with a drawn sword to kill him if he refused to take more wives? (What a pick-up line!)

The patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
I do not believe that the polygamy practiced by Joseph Smith and the early leaders of the church was patterned after Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob (Israel) but appears from its inception to be patterned after King David and King Solomon both maligned by the Book of Mormon for this practice. Abraham was given Hagar by his wife only after years and years of infertility. Abraham also listened to Sarah and sent Hagar away after Sarah was able to have her own son.

Such was not the case with Joseph Smith who had children by his first wife Emma and then resisted Emma's attempts to stop the practice when she found out about it.

Abraham did take another wife and possibly others (Gen 25:6), but only after the death of Sarah. Isaac appears to have had only one wife, Rebekah. Jacob (Israel) had two wives when he only wanted one (Rachel). He was forced to marry Leah through the deceit of her father. Rachel only gave her handmaid (Gen 30:3) to Jacob when it had become apparent that she, like Sarah before her, was barren. Leah then, not to be outdone by her resourceful sister, gave Jacob her handmaid for the purpose of having more children.

The scriptures do not indicate that any of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob) initiated polygamous relationships with women, it was always the wife that made this decision to give another women to her husband and always for the purpose of having sons by her and through her. It appears that the man's role is to seek the first wife. It appears to be the prerogative of the wife to give her husband other women if she decides to do this. This is not the pattern that was followed by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young.

The Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster
The scriptures show us that it is kings, not God, who take women and initiate polygamous relationships. To this point we can all learn something from history. In 1534-1535 the Anabaptists (radical Protestants) established the Kingdom of Munster in Munster, Germany. Anabaptists, believing that Munster would become the future New Jerusalem, moved into the city in large numbers and were able to vote their own members onto the city council and thus legally take over the city. Their leader Jan Matthijs preached of the coming apocalypse which would come at Easter 1534 and had identified Munster as the future New Jerusalem. He also instituted communal ownership of goods and property. On his death in April of 1534, the next leader, Jan van Leiden, ruled as an absolute prophet/king. Jan van Leiden instituted polygamy, legitimated with reference to the Old Testament patriarchs and a 3:1 surplus of women to men in the town. He believed that 144,000 would be saved and polygamy was God's way of rapidly increasing the population of Munster to that number. He had 15 wives, more than his far share I might add but that is what kings and rulers do! Jan van Leiden continued to teach that Jesus was going to return soon even after several other dates given by former leaders had proven false.

Does this all sound just a little too familiar?

Munster fell under siege in 1535. Most of the inhabitants were killed and the leaders were executed. The Kingdom of Munster was regarded as a shocking scandal and had deep and long consequences in Europe. Anabaptists would forever be viewed with suspicion.

What is the lesson of Munster? The lesson is that heresy leads to political subversion and to moral decay.

Back to Questions List Page