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February 25, 2024

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RaymondSeptember 12, 2017

I have difficulty understanding the worry and even anger that some women have expressed about plural marriages in the eternities. First, they only apply to those who will be in the Celestial Kingdom. I have difficulty seeing how anyone conceives of carrying such resentment into the presence of our heavenly parents for eternity, especially when it appears to be anger toward Heavenly Father for creating the possibility of plural marriage innthe eternities. I am amazed that they are so confident that they will be in the Celestial Kingdom and be eligible to have this issue. Second, eternal life will have none of the limitations of mortal life, health, material resources, knowledge and time that we suffer under now. We will be restored to our full memories as eternal beings who knew each other for eons before our birth into mortality. Our circumstances, our understanding, and our maturity will be thousands of times better than they are now. We will be changed into our best possible selves. Simply projecting the difficulties of plural marriage in the mortal experience into eternity is not logical.

Patricia HMay 22, 2016

I find it odd that so many people would worry about polygamy being practiced again. My family practiced it, my grandmother was the youngest child of a family, and had little to say good or bad, it just was. As for so many of the commentators worrying about polygamy in the eternities, I find that odd. Any worth man who has had his wife die, and remarried is practicing polygamy in the eternities. Do you somehow think that his second wife replaces the first? That somehow his second wife winds up unmarried after she dies, regardless of the sealing she went through in the temple? What will be, will be. We aren't strangers to one another there, we knew each other for eons before this earth was created. Whatever the eternities holds for us, we knew it before we came here, and we will find life there normal and natural. Whatever it is. It doesn't keep me up at night worrying about things I don't know today.

JoanJanuary 18, 2015

Could we talk a little more about the idea of the church apologizing for Section 132, polygamy in general, Joseph's actions in particular, etc.? I don't think anyone is asking for that. I see no point in church apologizing for an individual's actions. All of that could be left "as is," in my opinion. What I can't live with is the ambiguity about polygamy in the here and now. Why won't the church put it to rest? Simply say, We do not and will not practice polygamy. Period.

Brian HalesJanuary 14, 2015

Hi Samantha, I’m sure you are not the only person with these concerns. There are detailed answers to all the questions at and in my books. Here are some briefs responses. QUESSTION 1. If we believe in the 10 commandments and in exodus 20:17 is says thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife, then why did Joseph Smith take on other men's wives? ANSWER: Keep in mind that most of those sealings were for “eternity only” so if we say Joseph was coveting, he must have been coveting an eternal relationship, not an earthly relationship. Importantly, since none of the participants accused Joseph of coveting a woman, the idea of coveting can only be based upon ASSUMPTION, because it is not documented. Lucy Walker, one of his plural wives remembered that “A woman should have her choice.” These women apparently chose the Prophet over their legal husbands as eternal spouses. It is not coveting or immoral, but it is a little strange. QUESTION 2. In the plural marriage essay is says an angel with a flaming sword commanded Joseph to enter a marriage or he would be destroyed. Doesn't this sound like Satan's plan of having no agency? ANSWER: First, there is no mention of a “flaming” sword in the essay, rather a “drawn” sword. Of the 22 accounts mentioning an angel with a sword, only one says it was “flaming” and that is a dubious secondhand quote from an unbeliever allegedly quoting Eliza R. Snow. The angel came three times and the sword was present only the third time, apparently due to Joseph’s disobedience. Within the context of D&C 132, the word “destroyed” means that they will not be exalted, but will live separately and singly to all eternity (v. 17). They will have an “end” and will not continue (v. 20), meaning that their eternal potential will be destroyed. Joseph always had his agency, but disobedience would have resulted in a loss of exaltation by his own choices. QUESTION 3. In D&C 132:54 Emma is threaten to be destroyed also if she doesn't follow this new "commandment" of plural marriage. This doesn't sound like a God of agency. ANSWER: Again, the word “destroyed” in section 132 means they will not “continue.” They will lose out on the blessings of exaltation, which includes a “continuation of the seeds” and the other benefits mentioned in D&C 132:19-20. Emma needed to obey or she would lose those blessings. It was her choice. QUESTION 4. Why did Joesph take on his handmaid Fanny Alger in 1833 before he received the sealing power in 1836? And oliver cowdrey called this a "dirty filthy nasty affair" in Richard Bushman's book rough stone rolling. Was it an affair? ANSWER: The timing of Joseph Smith’s marriage to Fanny Alger is not known, but the angel came in 1834 commanding Joseph to marry plurally, so placing the marriage earlier is speculation and inconsistent with the Prophet’s strict directives regarding morality. Levi Hancock performed a marriage ceremony, which was corroborated by Eliza R. Snow who was well acquainted with Fanny and was living with the Smiths when the marriage was discovered by Emma. Neither Emma nor Oliver thought the ceremony was valid. Oliver called it a “dirty, nasty, filthy, SCRAPE” and Warren H. Parrish overwrote “affair” for reasons that are unknown. This marriage was not a sealing but a priesthood “time only” marriage Joseph contracted to fulfill the angel’s commandment. QUESTION 5. In D&C 132:61 is says that the women have to be virgins. Then why did he marry other mens wives? These are some of the hard questions I am struggling with as a member. Can anyone help me? ANSWER: Actually, D&C 132:61-63 are the only verses to mention “virgins” and they do not say they MUST be virgins, they only describe virgins. We are not told if the counsel equally applies to worthy non-virgins, like repentant unmarried women or divorcees, or not. The most important verses, D&C 132:19-20, speak of a “man” who marries a “wife.” There is no mention of her being a virgin, but worthiness is clearly required. Joseph’s sealings to legally married women were either non-sexual eternity-only sealings or time-and-eternity sealings to women who effectively had a Church divorce from her legal husband. For a woman to have sexual relations with two men would always have been adultery and never occurred according to available evidences. Thanks for the thoughtful questions.

SamanthaJanuary 14, 2015

I have a couple of questions as a faithful saint: 1. If we believe in the 10 commandments and in exodus 20:17 is says thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife, then why did Joseph Smith take on other men's wives? 2. In the plural marriage essay is says an angel with a flaming sword commanded Joseph to enter a marriage or he would be destroyed. Doesn't this sound like Satan's plan of having no agency? 3. In D&C 132:54 Emma is threaten to be destroyed also if she doesn't follow this new "commandment" of plural marriage. This doesn't sound like a God of agency. 4. Why did Joesph take on his handmaid Fanny Alger in 1833 before he received the sealing power in 1836? And oliver cowdrey called this a "dirty filthy nasty affair" in Richard Bushman's book rough stone rolling. Was it an affair? 5. In D&C 132:61 is says that the women have to be virgins. Then why did he marry other mens wives? These are some of the hard questions I am struggling with as a member. Can anyone help me?

Meg StoutJanuary 14, 2015

Please amend my published comment of 13 January as follows: "[Meg Stout Update: Rachel Kimball's twin, Chase, was born/miscarried in December 1845, not 1846. Also, the individual who conveyed the information regarding Josephine's DNA must have misunderstood Ugo Perego's data. While Josephine cannot be proved to be Joseph's get, neither can she be proved to not be his biological child at this time.]

Brian HalesJanuary 13, 2015

For Meg Stout, she is entitled to her personal views no matter how problematic they are from an evidentiary standpoint. Rachel Hamrick has voiced some heartfelt concerns. We agree that “polygamy is not required for. . . exaltation” so her references to “salvific polygamy” are confusing unless she is speaking specifically of the women who would not be able to be sealed to a spouse if monogamy was the only marital dynamic permitted at the final judgment. D&C 132 describes what would happen to those women without plural sealings: “When they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (vv. 16-17). Obviously it takes faith to believe that a plural wife in the Celestial Kingdom is eternally better off than an unsealed woman who receives lesser glory. I appreciate Rachel’s statement: “I believe we have a very limited knowledge about the nature of relationships in the next life.” But I must confess that her criticisms seems to reflect just that knowledge, which can only be based upon assumption. Joseph Smith encountered a woman who thought she knew what was best. Brigham Young reported: “I recollect a sister conversing with Joseph Smith on this subject [plural marriage]. She told him: ‘Now, don't talk to me; when I get into the celestial kingdom, if I ever do get there, I shall request the privilege of being a ministering angel; that is the labor that I wish to perform. I don't want any companion in that world; and if the Lord will make me a ministering angel, it is all I want.’ Joseph said, ‘Sister, you talk very foolishly, you do not know what you will want.’ He then said to me: ‘Here, brother Brigham, you seal this lady to me.’ I sealed her to him.” The woman was Brigham’s sister Fanny Young, one of Joseph’s plural wives. When I say that I believe that no eternal polygamous wife feels any different from an eternal monogamous wife, I am speculating. But we are told that God is merciful, loving, and JUST and according to that reasoning, a JUST God could not give a worthy woman less than any other worthy woman or man in eternity, despite how it might appear in mortality. That is really the faith we need, to believe that God is loving and fair. Possibly that faith could allow us to withhold judging Him and/or His doctrines until we can see as He sees. To exalted beings, God promises “to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom.” Thanks, Brian Hales

Meg StoutJanuary 13, 2015

I really shouldn't post when I'm not near my sources... Rachel Kimball (Lucy Walkter's daughter) died on Dec 29, 1847 The burial record states: "Rachel Kimball; age 1 yr., 11 mos., 4 days; daughter of Heber and Lucy Kimball; deceased Dec. 29, 1847; disease canker; birthplace Nauvoo, Ill.; birthdate Jan 28, 1845; grave no. 147, footnote states grave 147 is the 1st in row thirteen.” Rachel's brother, Chase, died the day he was born, in December 1845. If Rachel was a few days shy of 2 years old when she died, she could not have been Joseph's child. This would make her a fraternal twin who survives the miscarriage of her sibling. If Rachel was born January 1845, then she would have almost certainly been Joseph's daughter.

JoanJanuary 13, 2015

I'm really happy that Meridian Magazine is willing to have this conversation, btw. Bro. Hales suggests looking at human history and calculating the odds that the church would practice earthly polygamy again. Then Rick points out that, you never know, we might. And then some LDS women say, No thanks. I don't want to be part of a church that won't assure me that "human history" doesn't repeat itself on this matter. They say this for their own sakes and for the sake of their daughters. Teaching girls that this is an outside possibility does great damage.

Meg StoutJanuary 13, 2015

I am so glad for the amazing research Brian has done! While I am happy to consider that Joseph may have had sexual relations with various of his plural wives, I do find that there is intrigue that I haven't yet seen Brian acknowledge. And though there are statements that descendants (such as myself, frankly) might wish to interpret as implying physical intimacy, the lack of biological get must be accounted for. With respect to Olive Frost, she died sufficiently long after Joseph's death that the child she bore could have been engendered by the levirate husband who married her after Joseph's death. That said, I don't think it would have been "wrong" had Joseph lain with Olive, but it's hard to imagine that Emma approved this activity. Thus it actually would not have been acceptable, given that Olive became Joseph's wife after D&C 132 made Emma's concurrence with the marriages mandatory. I have heard that Ugo Perego has found three DNA mutation instances in the DNA for descendants of Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr. that are not present in the DNA for descendants of Josephine Lyon Fisher. I was fascinated by the reproductive history of Lucy Walker. Either her daughter Rachel was engendered by Joseph (Rachel was reported to have been born January 1845 in the Winter Quarters record of her death) or she was a fraternal twin who managed to remain unaffected when her twin miscarried in December 1846 (as suggested by the Winter Quarters record stating she was 1 year 11 months and 4 days old when she died in 1847). As for the fiction aspect, it is unfortunate that my first correspondence with Brian was when I had no particular plans to write anything other than a plausible midrash (aka fictional account that explores morality). That said, I'm interested to know if there is any data that fundamentally disproves what I've been saying. I think an objective historian (see Irving v. Penguin) is required to take the motives of historical actors into consideration. All Joseph's plural wives had motive to present him as a practicing polygamist by the time they made the statements they did. (I do wish line breaks could be included in these comments - they become so unreadable when the space between paragraphs are eliminated. I suppose I could just write a pithy statement prone to be misunderstood, but that is not my style.)

RickJanuary 13, 2015

Joan, What if the Lord commands that this be practiced again? I think most of us hope that never happens but if He does it would have been foolish for the Church to make a statement that it would never do anything again.

DQJanuary 13, 2015

It's a bit strange to acknowledge that some will practice plural marriage in the eternities but not others. I suppose I can see a couple possibilities: God allows it for some but not others (out of necessity of numbers and not so much a question of the individual exalted participants), God forbids it and it's really just 1:1 in Heaven and things will work perfectly.... Or I can't get over the fact that to become one with God is to become like Him. If the theology is correct (and I'm no plural marriage dreamer), but if the theology is correct that to be exalted is to become like God, to receive all the Father hath, to be Fathers and Mothers of spirit children in our own future exalted existence, as God is (for remember he had a Father and so on, and if we are to receive an inheritance it will be the same likewise), then how are we like God without being like God? But the fact of the matter is the questions of eternity are hard ones to wrap your mind around. The most important answers that have come to me is to try to faithfully fill your mind with questions and attend the temple often. Occasionally putting the questions on the shelf, and occasionally dusting them off again (without being consumed). When I've done this, combined with striving to live as a sincere disciple, I've received answers from God. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting I have the answer on plural marriage with this formula. I've received other answers which satisfy my soul and do not cause me discontent on this issue. But I have faith this pattern is a good one to follow.

Brian HalesJanuary 13, 2015

Joan brings up a good point regarding the general distaste women feel (and most men) regarding the practice of polygamy during mortality. And she is accurate that Church leaders have not apologized for the contents of D&C 132 or for the commandment given to Joseph Smith that required plural marriage between 1840s and 1890. When practiced on earth, polygamy is unfair. Some observers (not necessarily Joan) have intimated that a true God would never command anything that results in such injustices. Such criticisms seem shortsighted because God may require very different things of each of us. For example, He sends children to be born within such divergent circumstances, but we still believe Him to be loving, just, and merciful. Compare a child born in abject poverty in Africa to a child born to a heroin-addicted mother in Philadelphia or to a child born to a wealthy family in Florida or a child born to a middle-income LDS family in Orange County. The birth environments of these infants are so different, but somehow God is just. Can He require the Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage for 40+ years but not to practice it today and be just? Can he require the Children of Israel to obey the Law of Moses with his multitude of restrictions and observances for over a millennium, but not requires us to do so, and be just? In short, God told Isaiah: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Leaders are not inclined to apologize for His actions for obvious reasons. Similarly, can Church leaders assure that plural marriage will not be required in the future? No. But we can all look at Judeo-Christian history and acknowledge that it has only been commanded twice: once to Abraham (D&C 132:32) and then through Joseph Smith in an unwritten revelation given to Church members between the 1840s and 1890. In the 6000-plus year or recorded religious record, monogamy has been the primary commandment with or without polygamy permitted. We can also observe that in Joseph Smith teachings, SOME men will need to be polygamists in eternity, but not all. We can also acknowledge the promises that all exalted beings (whether sealed monogamously or polygamously) will experience “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 51:11) and concentrate on the fact that the important principle is to be sealed to a spouse in eternity. Best, Brian Hales

TJJanuary 12, 2015

One of my middle aged single friends put it very clearly. "I did not wait this long and do without my dreams to end up as someone's second wife in eternity."

JanetJanuary 12, 2015

I find it very interesting that men always seem to be most disturbed about reports of Joseph sealing other men's wives to him. They are less concerned about his hiding his marriages from Emma, even though Section 132 is very clear on the need to inform the wife and at least attempt to obtain her consent prior to the plural marriages. There are many things I find disturbing about polygamy. Right now, I am finding it most disturbing when people make unjustifiable claims regarding why it was practiced or whether it will ever be practiced again. They often say that this practice was only for a short time so that the restoration of all things could take place, just as recorded in the Old Testament. Slavery is recorded in the Old Testament and practices governing it found in the Mosaic Law. But I will never believe God wanted it! And as for its disappearance, at least two members of the Quorum of the Twelve are currently sealed to two women, a deceased wife and a living one. I also find it impossible to believe polygamy would be necessary in the next world, but polyandry might be. About 40 percent of the children born in this world die before the age of 12. We know those who die before eight are exalted in the Celestial Kingdom. I assume most who died between eight and 12 will be as well. There are many more males in those numbers than females, millions more. Why would any woman be unable to find an unmarried man in the next life?

David ChiuJanuary 12, 2015

The authors seem to have rather frequent difficulty imagining anything other than their decisions. It is very important for investigators to avoid the common trap in our age of denial about the differences in male and female psychology, and presumption that the way commonly attributed to women must be the only way to think about things. Perhaps it would also serve to consider how horrifyingly unimaginable our current culture of premarital cohabitation and multiplicity of divorce would be to most of the people we admire in history. Full disclosure, I am perfectly happy with all my polygamous ancestors, both the pre-LDS, LDS, and non-LDS. My sister Meg Stout's investigations on the matter are impressive, and yet I suppose there will be a great many "Well, if you explain it that way..." revelations beyond this life.

Rachel HamrickJanuary 12, 2015

Brian said: "Perhaps it would be useful to focus on eternal marriage rather than plural marriage. Eternal marriage is Joseph Smith’s zenith teaching. Through it, exalted beings “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths . . . when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power” (132:19–20). Would a woman be willing to be a polygamous wife to obtain these blessings if no monogamous man was available to marry? Would a plural spouse who enjoyed these blessings ever feel that she was less or inferior or compromised? These are questions we can only answer for ourselves." I will answer this question for myself: "Would a plural spouse who enjoyed these blessings ever feel that she was less or inferior or compromised? These are questions we can only answer for ourselves." Yes. And here's why... salvific polygamy, as described in this article and other articles here at Expand, would mean that God values the meaningful and loving relationships and experiences men have here on earth over the meaningful and loving relationships women have here on earth. If salvific polygamy is order of the eternities as some seem to believe and hope it will be, I would apparently be required to choose one husband and family over another husband and family if I had more than one husband in this life, according to current doctrine and sealing policy. A man however can be sealed to a limitless number of women to enjoy in the next life. So for example, let's say I am married in the temple and have children and then my husband dies. I loved him dearly, but I go on with my life and remarry and love my second husband every bit as much as the first, and I forge and loving and meaningful bond with him. Sadly though, I can't be sealed to him while still living, but after I'm dead someone can seal us and then supposedly I'll have to make a choice between the two husbands I love about who I want to be with for eternity. But not my husbands. They'll get to enjoy all they're wives. What the hell? How does that make sense? How could that not fail to not only make me FEEL less than, inferior, and compromised, but how does that not actually MAKE me less than, inferior, and compromised? Salvific polygamy makes me an object to be acted upon eternally by a man for HIS glory, not mine. Not ours. It would mean that both God the Father and God the Mother value their sons and their sons' meaningful relationships more than their daughters and their meaningful relationships. I do not believe in that God. I believe in a just and merciful God. Laura said: "The theology behind the practice is solid in my mind. In order for all righteous women to be exalted, plural marriage will need to be practiced by select individuals. For some reason the Lord commanded the practice among the Saints for a period of time." This theology is not solid in MY mind. Not in the least. The theology described here speaks to a limited Atonement, not an infinite one. I do not believe that Jesus suffered the sins of the world, for every single individual, so that only a "select few" could practice salvific polygamy and be exalted. I do not believe God would ask Jesus to do that, and I do not believe Jesus would volunteer for it. I do not believe that I will only be able to enjoy one meaningful marriage in the next life if I have more than one here on earth. I believe I will be able to enjoy them all. I likewise believe that men will enjoy all of their marriages as well, but that polygamy is not required for their exaltation. They can be exalted with just one! I believe we have a very limited knowledge about the nature of relationships in the next life. Perhaps a "restoration of all" thing will involve more knowledge about eternal marriage and perhaps there are many more things to be revealed. After all, we supposedly believe in the 9th Article of Faith: " We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."

JoanJanuary 12, 2015

"Contextualizing" seems to be the buzzword now in the polygamy discussion. What I wish the church would appreciate is the idea of extrapolating. Women read Section 132. They read In Sacred Loneliness. Then they read the church's essay. They rightly conclude that our leaders see ultimately nothing wrong with what happened. There is no assurance that it couldn't happen again, no unambiguous statement that the church will not (not just does not, but WILL NOT) practice polygamy in the future. We can contextualize all day long and not have addressed the real problem.

R AllenJanuary 12, 2015

I like this discussion and the effort you are making to provide reasoned responses and information for LDS people struggling with tough issues. Some believing, participating LDS people (such as myself) cannot arrive at the conclusions of moral justification for polygamy in general, for what went on in the name of polygamy in Joseph and others' specific cases, or for the accounts given of divine justifications for what went on (flaming swords etc.). For those of us who feel errors were made in these matters, that polygamy was and is morally wrong (especially as practiced in our history), we rely on a different kind of work-through: prophets sometimes make errors, even grievous errors, and including moral errors; the scriptures are replete with examples. Yet we still love the gospel and the church, and the teachings and truths revealed to us through those sometimes erring prophets. It is not necessary to ultimately justify Joseph's actions and words with regard to polygamy in order to believe he was a prophet. Indeed, one can condemn what Joseph did and said regarding polygamy (as I do) and still believe. For many, this is the only way that they can honestly reconcile their faith and devotion with the ugly realities of this chapter of our history; apologetics simply does not work for many, and is only one way to deal with our history, though I am happy if some find solace in the endeavor; each person must work through his/her own faith, and we need all the members of the body with their differing talents and perspectives. I say all this as a descendant of the Smith family and of many polygamists, including some of whom I was privileged to know late in their lives. I understand and am a product of this history. And I condemn polygamy as error, especially in all its truly horrific particulars as practiced. And it's OK for me to think that, and for many other LDS people to think that. And we can still be believing, participating members in good standing. This must also be part of our tapestry of beliefs and conversations if we wish to retain fellowship with the critical thinking, informed AND devoted members (who are multiplying greatly, and whose talents and service we need.) There is room in the church for all of us. I honor and respect the simple believer, as I do those who respond to apologetics; I also honor and respect the wide-eyed frankness of those who cannot justify polygamy but still choose to believe and participate.

Savannah EcclesJanuary 12, 2015

This Q&A on polygamy was very helpful. Polygamy has always been a very difficult issue for me, particularly because I am the product of quite a few polygamous marriages from the pioneer days. Thanks for posting this two part series.

Annette PayneJanuary 12, 2015

Why were women divorcing their husbands so they could be sealed to Joseph Smith?

David ParryJanuary 12, 2015

Hi have enjoyed Brian's previous books. I have found his explanation and scholarship remarkable and look forward to the upcoming book mentioned in the article.



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