Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eternal Polygamy?

It has been my experience that when the subject of polygamy comes up in conversation among active Mormons, the most commonly expressed perspective is that polygamy (or, more accurately, polygyny) will be the order of marriage in heaven and will be practiced in the celestial kingdom.

It is painful for me to hear this perspective, particularly when it is expressed as though it is the only possible perspective that a faithful Mormon could have. Personally, I do not believe in eternal polygamy, and I find the concept to be horribly demeaning to women. The thought of my daughters spending eternity as polygamous wives breaks my heart. That sounds like hell, not heaven.

I am extremely grateful for those within the LDS tradition who have publicly expressed their faith that polygamy will have no place in the hereafter.  For example:

Terryl Givens: “No, I don’t believe that God has more than one wife. I don’t believe that polygamy has any place in the eternal worlds. I believe it was a temporary provocation that unfolded in this dispensation, and it has no future.”

Joanna Brooks: “[C]ount me among the many Mormons who do not believe that polygamy is an eternal principle, even as I honor all the Mormons who did and do believe this, and the sacrifices they made and make for faith.  I love the idea that none of us enters the heavens singly, that we all must be bound together — across the generations — we all go in together. … But one-man-multiple-woman polygamy is not an idea I can believe in, and it’s not just because I’m seeing with ‘mortal’ rather than ‘spiritual’ eyes:  symmetry, I think, is an eternal principle too.”

Eugene England: “[T]here is, I believe, a serious danger to the ideal of fidelity — and thus both to our sexual morality and to our concepts of ourselves as eternal men and women — in the expectation … that the highest form of marriage in the celestial realm is … polygyny.”

“[T]he devaluation of women inherent in the expectation of polygyny is destructive of their sense of identity and worth now. … [T]he implications [of polygyny] ... diminish women, reducing them, in some essential way, to less than full equivalence with men.”

“[P]olygyny is not a practice to project into the eternities as the basis for a celestial order. … [P]olygyny … is not an eternal principle.”

“[T]he … elements of a complete, married love, including restrictive obligations, covenants of complete and exclusive sharing, and the creative
sexual love that makes new children and universes possible, are not improved by multiplication. In fact, they are usually destroyed or at least weakened by it. Romantic, married love is, I believe, strengthened by being exclusive. … Those who lived [polygyny] best, most devotedly and successfully, apparently found they could do so only by making the relationships more superficial — that is, less romantic, less emotionally intense and focused.”

Stuart Dalton: “I hate polygamy for all the standard reasons: because it fostered one-sided, often-abusive family relationships which helped to sustain a larger patriarchal culture where women were marginalized and men were burdened with an illusion of innate superiority, and because it was disguised by the worst kind of lies and misuse of power, leaving many deceived and damaged people in its wake. But the main reason I hate polygamy is because I don’t like the principal value it represents: that it’s a good thing to be married to more than one person. I like another story far more than that one. This story maintains that the best possible relationship is one of infinite depth with just one person, that people can find their highest enlightenment and happiness in a single relationship that is infinitely deep, rather than through a multiplicity of superficial relationships. This, I think, is a very beautiful story, and, in comparison, the polygamy story is quite ugly.”

Jana Riess: “I don’t believe in polygamy as an eternal principle. It is a historical fact from the LDS past, but not a divine mandate for my life.”

Gina Colvin: “I find [polygamy] a repellent, dehumanizing practice that reduced females to brood mares and turned Utah into a pious stud farm. Furthermore it has historically quashed some of my enthusiasm for a happy afterlife, particularly in contexts when I’ve been told that my husband will be required to pick up further wives as a matter of eternal course.”

“There hasn’t been once in my 39 years of being a Mormon that I have ever had the slightest modicum of spiritual feeling for the practice — other than abhorrence.”

J. Frederick “Toby” Pingree: “I have great admiration and respect for all those who diligently practiced plural marriage. But as an eternal principle, it does not make sense to me — neither common sense nor theological sense.”

“[I]t is my conviction ... that the loftiest relationship that can exist in this world is between two loving spouses — not an unequal number of women tied to one man — who are united in their commitment to one another’s happiness.”

Valerie Hudson: “[N]o woman who has ever felt pain about polygamy is satisfied until her concerns about the hereafter are at least addressed. No woman who has felt pain about polygamy can honestly strive for a place in the celestial kingdom unless she feels that that kingdom is a place in which she would actually want to live.”

“[P]olygamy is … an Abrahamic sacrifice that merits eventual relief and thus does not continue in the hereafter.”

Todd Compton: “I do not think polygamy is an eternal system that needed to be ‘restored’; it is rather a cultural artifact from Semitic culture, resurrected by restorationist enthusiasm.”

Curtis Henderson: “Expectations for future polygamy ... repeatedly manifest themselves in minds of our culture, insidiously infecting marriage relationships.”

“LDS polygamy may have been an outgrowth of culture, time, choice, interpretation, belief, and mortal influence more than heaven’s directives ... God’s role ... may have been ‘justifying’ the practice after the fact more than commanding it before the fact.”

“[I]nformed Latter-day Saints should expect recantation rather than reintroduction.”


  1. It is common for cult leaders to use their power to sow their wild oats! And it's human nature for women to want to be married to the greatest and strongest male in the pack -- common in the rest of nature, too. Let's not kid ourselves that Joseph Smith was simply restoring a practice from the Bronze age the Bible was conceived in! (Take a look at how apes. et Al, and their alpha-male system works in Evolution's procreation. A great metaphor in that.)

    * Note: My comments come from personal experience: Visit my website: I am a writer and poet, presently writing my memoirs: My story of being raised a fourth-generation Mormon Fundamentalist/polygamist. Carolyn Jessop, author of the best-seller, "Escape," is my cousin. Best-selling authors Irene LeBaron Spencer, and Susan Ray Schmidt are my Aunts. So is the TV and YouTube Producer, Rebecca Kimbel --"Evil" Ervil LeBaron was my mother's brother.

    My Great-great-grandfather, Benjamin F. Johnson, was Joseph Smith's personal Scribe. And was sealed to him as a son. I was given as a child bride to an older man and his lesbian-bisexual harem -- in an "arranged marriage" in the name of the 132 Sec. of the Doctrine and Covenants -- ie, Joseph Smith's "revelation" on "Plural Marriage" -- which I suspect was revealed by his small head, not his large. (Sorry, all you who are devout Mormons.) I am now an Ex-FLDS, an escapee from the LeBaron cult in Mexico, and a recovering Mormon.

    My testimony is that Mormon polygamy continues to be sustained only under the umbrella of the Almighty "Religious-freedom's" "rights"!! But there are no rights for the children raised in Polygamy -- a cesspool lifestyle, if ever there was one -- ie; Hell on earth! Sure, there are good things in every bad, but polygamy is mostly bad, especially for the children who did not ask to be born into this crazy, lecherous, backwards an abusive, cult lifestyle.

    Other than the polygamist man, mostly only lesbians may benefit at all from a man having many wives. To be blunt, I'm referring to "love nests." I have known a few lesbian women who swear by polygamy! If you want over-all bad, enter polygamy and find out the hard way -- As many converts to plural marriage have.

    1. Stephany, thank you so much for sharing your perspective. What you said really resonates with me.

    2. Thank you so much for the great article. I don't know who those people are that you cited. I am pretty new to the LDS blogosphere. But I do appreciate the way that they expressed my thoughts so eloquently. As my husband has said to me when we talk about this subject, "why would heavenly father treat his daughters like that? He loves and values his daughters just as much is his sons." Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for the interesting article. I really don't know who all those people are that you cited. But I do appreciate their insight and opinions. They shared, very eloquently, how I feel.

  3. Hi, Tom and KJC, I wrote you a comment but am new to this site. I hit "sign out" as I thought I would be able to still hit "publish." I do not know if my comments were erased, as I don't see them now! So here goes again: I really appreciate Your taking time to thank me and to give me feedback. You two are right on, in my opinion. Keep that open mind and the doing of your own research. I just posted a blog covering more of what I posted on this site. It's on my new website I am still in the process of setting up. I think it would interest you! And I am open to more dialogue as time allows! Happy fourth, and all the best to you.