The Irreconcilable Voices in D&C 132

Posted by on October 20, 2010 in marriage | 46 comments

D&C 132 stands as one of Mormonism’s greatest conundrums. In this one section, we have the soul expanding notion of eternal marriage and eternal progression, coupled later with the soul crushing commandment to practice polygamy. Embedded within the text of this section are various ideas and notions that seem simply irreconcilable, many of which surround the issue of gender.

In the first half of 132, equality between the sexes is emphasized. “And again, verily I say unto you that if a man marry a wife… by the new and everlasting covenant….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 fullness 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 they shall be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power…” (19-20).

Note how equitable this language is between the sexes. The inclusive pronoun ‘they’ is emphasized time and time again. There is no hierarchy between the man and woman, no patriarchy. A man and a woman journey into eternity side by side, equal partners as they both guide and shape and wield their godly power.

In the second part of the section, however, the voice changes. As soon as the topic of polygamy takes precedence, mutuality and equality between man and woman are no longer emphasized. In fact, woman is reduced to a possession.

Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him.” (37)

“And if… I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then you shall have power… to take her and give her unto him who hath not committed adultery…for he shall be made ruler over many.” (44)

Alongside all the possessive language of giving and taking women, man alone now has the privilege of ruling. Woman has lost her agency. She is now the passive object, given to and taken by men. She has now become an accoutrement. She is no longer central, standing side by side with man.

Verses 53 and 54 then go on to address Emma, telling her that God has appointed Joseph ruler over many things, and that her duty is to “abide and cleave” unto Joseph, and that if she won’t obey this commandment (polygamy), she will be destroyed. These verses are difficult to read. The promise of mutuality and equality implied in the earlier verses is lost as man acquires a plurality of wives and becomes the lone ruler, and as Emma is placed in an untenable position: accept a principle that violates her conscience, or face damnation.

What can we do with these two vastly different voices and different visions presented in this one section? Is there a way to reconcile them? Can women be gods alongside their husbands, and also their husbands’ possessions at the same time? As my title suggests, I have personally not been able to reconcile the two voices. All I have is question after question, as I wonder if female subordination necessarily results when polygyny enters the equation.

I will end on this less depressing note, however. I think it’s a testament to the breadth and robustness and expansiveness of the Mormon tradition that it can encompass both these conceptions. As it paradoxically affirms in one breath that males preside, it asserts in the other that men and women are equal partners. At various points in our history, one or the other of these visions has taken precedence. I can only hope that as time continues to pass the scales will weigh more and more in favor of equal partnership.

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46 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. These are incisive and important questions, and a great literary critique of D&C 132.

    I just wish I had answers.

  2. Caroline,

    Thanks for pointing out the difference in the two parts of Section 132. I’ve read that many times without picking up the pronoun change which totally changes the place of women.

  3. Conundrum indeed. No answers here. I have my own speculation, of course, but no answers.

  4. Interesting. I always focused on the inequality in the second half, and didn’t consider the inclusive language right next to it. I’m not sure if it makes me feel better or worse. Yes it’s nice to know that the church contains a spectrum, but what does that say for the section being a revelation from God? And if one isn’t, how can another be? Also, it seems just as likely that *man* can use this to go in the direction of the latter half. Hopeful that equality would win out, but it looks kinda 50/50 to me. Sorry, I’m a bit pessimistic lately.

    • “what does that say about the section being a revelation from God?”

      Good question. This is a baby and bathwater situation for me. I’m happy to embrace those things that I find inspired in the section. And those things that don’t? Well, I figure that it’s incumbent on me to think and ponder and pray about the truth of these things. If I don’t get the feeling that it’s the truth, then I don’t force myself to believe in it.

  5. I’ve read these scriptures before, but only recently have I realized the horrible aspects of them. I was shocked to find that our own scriptures did indeed have cringe-worthy verses, just like the Koran does. These are especially troubling to me:

    ” 61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse aanother, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
    62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
    63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
    64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.”

    In the first verse, woman is given a “choice” to allow her husband to practice polygamy. But then as it goes on, you realize, no, she doesn’t, even if she denies him, he can go above her head and do it anyway, and he will be justified, and she will be destroyed. And then it loudly proclaims that women are only here to procreate, now and in the eternities.

    Its just awful. My husband and I are both struggling to understand it and somehow align it with the gospel that we used to know and love. But honestly, I’m not sure we’re going to make it. Either Joseph is a prophet of God, and the scriptures are true…or he’s not, and they’re not. So what do we do???

    I wish I could somehow blame it on the natural man, and assume Joseph was wrong on this one aspect…but the Church and modern revelation have done nothing to assure me that this practice was indeed WRONG and won’t be in the hereafter. In fact, they seem to be purposefully keeping it in the shadows and hoping no one will notice.

    • Olive, thanks for pointing out those other verses. They are indeed troubling – especially that narrowing of the woman’s agency. First it seems like she has a choice, but then it turns out the choice is to do it or be destroyed.

      You wrote:
      “Either Joseph is a prophet of God, and the scriptures are true…or he’s not, and they’re not. So what do we do???

      What has helped me is to not take an either/or approach to this question. It seems to me that if we look at prophets throughout history, particularly the Old Testament, God was constantly using people who had a lot of flaws, who were constantly sinning and making mistakes. I am ok with thinking that our church is the restoration of all things, and that includes the restoration of fallible, human prophets. I’m inclined to think that this second half of 132 was Joseph’s sincere attempt to carry out what he thought God wanted, and that Joseph was therefore pulling out all the stops to get Emma to concede to polygamy. I have my doubts, however, that that second half of 132 is what God really wanted to communicate. It just seems too narrow, too manipulative to me. I suspect the human Joseph crept into this part of the section.

  6. Great Post. Olive, very well stated. I am in exactly that same spot. How do I reconcile the un-reconcilable? I really don’t know.

  7. I don’t think I’ll ever find peace with this issue. Verses 53 and 54 where Emma is told to accept or be destroyed, and the later verses 61-64 quoted here by Olive are extremely difficult for me. Those words to Emma are like a thorn in my mind. It’s pretty hard for us to come to terms with this part of our history, and this isn’t stuff from some obscure journal entry somewhere, it’s right there in the scriptures we keep on the nightstand.

    I’m trying to deal with it by basically ignoring it, the “put it on a shelf” strategy. That leaves thousands of other scriptures that I find faith affirming and inspiring. I know that’s not the an answer but it’s the best thing I’ve got.

    I was reminded of an article I read recently where a rabbi is talking about homosexuality in the Jewish tradition. His advice to these individuals went something like this, “So you aren’t going to obey that particular law. That leaves over 600 commandments to get busy with. Get on with living a good life. Love, serve, keep all the other commandments. There’s nothing stopping you from getting on with the business of living a good life.”

    That’s the approach I want to take with regards to some of these scriptures that cause me pain. I may never accept or understand them. I’ll just try to get on with living the rest of it.

    • I love that rabbi’s advice, Rebecca. That’s the exact advice I would love to see our leaders giving to our homosexual members.

      • Okay, I love that sentiment from the Rabbi. I’m stealing it.

  8. I still remember the first time someone pointed out to me the stark change in tone, and substance within D&C 132. I love the doctrine of eternal marriage and exaltation, but to have it so closely tied with polygamy made me ill. When I realized that it could very neatly be divided into two halves I felt so much better. I felt like I could consider them D&C 132 A, and D&C 132 B, and cherish part A, while putting part B on the shelf.

    • I like your A and B method of categorizing 132, Starfoxy. For a long time, I avoided the whole section because the polygamy sections troubled me so much. I’m happy to classify a part of it that I can really embrace.

  9. It gets more even more fascinating with vs. 41-44, 48 (and possibly 51), with the implied polyandry. One poster, several months ago in the bloggernacle, mentioned how Joseph started with polyandry; then, with increased opposition from his brethren, went with the more conventional polygamy.

    • Yes, I was recently reading In Sacred Loneliness, and discovered to my astonishment that 9 out 12 of Joseph’s first polygamous marriages were actually polyandrous. Astounding.

  10. I appreciate all your comments Ben, Course Correction, ESO, and Bones. I like knowing that I’m not the only person who has wondered about this.

  11. This section of the Doctrine and Covenants is also different in that it was recorded in 1843, more than a decade after Joseph Smith first received revelation along these lines. The reason it was written down was due to a discussion recorded by William Clayton, Joseph’s clerk. The discussion was between Joseph and his brother Hyrum about plural marriage and the difficulty Emma was having accepting the practice. Hyrum recommended that Joseph dictate the revelation, believing that if he gave it to Emma she would believe it. Joseph dictated it to William Clayton. It was carefully reviewed and copied. Hyrum took a copy to Emma, who read it and then gave Hyrum what he referred to as a “severe talking to.” (History of the Church, Vol. 5, xxxii-xxxiii)

    So you have a very different scenario in the writing of this revelation than that of a majority of the others in the Doctrine and Covenants. I think that has a great deal to do with the way it is articulated.

    Stephen Robinson and Dean Garrett, in their analysis of this section, actually divide it into three parts:
    Verses 2-32 about eternal law and its application to marriage
    Verses 34-48 about the principle of plural marriage
    Verses 49-66 concerning the practice of marriage by Joseph and Emma in particular

    If that is a correct analysis it leaves me more free to disregard 49-66 as not universal but specifically directed to two individuals and likely reflecting and responding to the immediate distress playing out in Joseph and Emma’s marriage at that time, filtered through the anxiety that Joseph was feeling as he tried to articulate what he felt was being required of them.

    I think Caroline’s comment about the human Joseph creeping into this section has merit when viewed in historical context. Prophets aren’t perfect. I think he was really feeling between a rock and a hard place and anxious about the results, for her, of her resistance and worried about and frustrated with their lack of unity. I read those concerns in these last 17 verses. As a result of that it seems to me that those verses are neither successfully articulated nor completely accurate.

  12. The only peace I have found is NOT TO BELIEVE IT. Not one bit. I just don’t. I don’t believe this was inspired by God.

    There, I said it.

  13. Hi everyone. Just found this blog and I’m lovin it. Thank you all! I love Caroline’s idea that the second half was inspired by Joseph the human and I love Rebecca’s approach inspired by the Rabbi’s quote to get busy with the rest of the hundreds of other commandments. Could you find where that quote was from an what the Rabbi’s name was? I love it.

    • Nichelle,

      I read this in an article from The Wall Street Journal called “My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality” written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. I was paraphrasing in my comment but the that’s the jist of the article. Here’s an actual quote.

      “I tell gay couples they still have 611 of the Torah’s 613 rules to keep them busy…As an orthodox Rabbi, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex and are desperately alone, I tell them, “You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your meals with many guests. Pray to God three times a day for you are his beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.”

      I once asked Pat Robertson, “Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to Church. Whatever relationship you’re in, God wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a godly life…”

      I love it.

  14. Welcome, Nichelle!

  15. Welcome, Nichelle! We hope you’ll come and comment often.

    Here’s a link to the article on the rabbi:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704361504575552203494330686.html

    • Oh, I just saw the link Caroline. Thank you!

  16. Thank you all! I immediately read the entire article. Those are some of the most insightful words I’ve ever read. What a grasp that man has on the concept of God being our Father and we his children. I wish more people could see so clearly.

  17. That’s an inspired leader.

  18. Ah, I’m loving this post and comments as they are addressing two of the biggest issues in the Church that I find myself perplexed over: polygamy and homosexuality. I love what I have learned from you guys and I’m comforted to know that I’m not the only one out there that doesn’t have all the answers, but is searching…

    • Welcome, Sijbrich! I hope you’ll come here often and comment.

  19. Oh, we are a complicated people when it comes to families — from the scandal of polygamy to the flag-bearers against the threats against the nuclear family in the the form of alternative marriage structures. I see different combinations of reactions:

    1) Polygamy was inspired and temporarily suspended; gay marriage is objectively wrong.

    2) I don’t know what to think about polygamy; I don’t know what to think about gay marriage.

    3) Polygamy is objectively wrong; gay marriage is a civil right.

    4) Polygamy is okay; gay marriage is okay.

    I think polygamy is problematic for a lot of reasons — including the tone of the second half of 132. But I’m not prepared to say that it is objectively wrong. Because I think it can work for some people. I guess I fall into category 4 . . . depending on the circumstances: healthy relationships, consenting adults, love, mutual respect. Just like I am open to the call to monasticism and celibacy for some people, even if it is not the pattern for most. As Mormons, we don’t have the language of a consecrated celibacy that one of my Catholic friends feels “called” to as a spiritual vocation. But I believe her when she shares this . . . just as I believe a gay friend who feels led to her partner.

    • Interesting, Deborah. I vacillate between three and four. In my super open minded times, I’m open to four – but only if polygamy goes both ways – women having the option for multiple husbands as well as men having the option for multiple wives. That’s the only way I can possibly justify polygamy. Anything less seems to violate the principle of justice to me. Also, exclusive polygyny just seems to inevitably lead to female subordination. That makes me suspicious of the practice.

      And as for gay marriage, I’m all for it. I do consider it a civil rights issue, and I also think that God will look much more kindly on exclusive loving gay partnerships than many Mormons expect. I am drawn to the idea that God is more interested in the quality of the relationship we develop, rather than the kind. And by quality, I mean a relationship based on the the ethical and Christan principles of mutuality, free agency, exclusivity, compassion, etc.

  20. What a remarkable post and enriching ensuing conversation! I just read this section last week in preparation for teaching my Gospel Principals class about “Eternal Marriage.” I was really upset with the way the Church manual refers the class and teacher to select verses from 132 in order to cite scripture about the theological importance and source of the LDS concept of eternal marriage without feeling any obligation to admit or historically situate what these verses were really referring to (i.e. NOT the monogamous, nuclear family the lesson was trying to argue for). I think I’m a 3 or 4 category gal myself though under the same terms Caroline outlines for ways to make polygamy equal to men and women. What I can’t tolerate is how the Church as an institution is hiding from its own history on this matter–how the theology still sends mixed message because we won’t address it–and puts well meaning teachers like me in the uncomfortable and even dishonest position of teaching my class of investigators and newly baptized members a lesson that is historically and theologically (according to verses like these) inaccurate. I can intellectually and spiritually handle flawed, human prophets from 150 years ago–I find myself having a harder time reconciling the dishonesty and fearfulness present in my own institution today.

  21. Maybe this could be our next poll!

    I think we don’t address it officially because we don’t really know what to do with it, practically or theologically. And by mean “we” mean from membership to leadership. I just don’t think there is a consensus about polygamy as past, present, and future doctrine. I know liberal women who are okay with multiple sealings in the temple and conservative women who polygamy was a big fat mistake. Take a look at how everyday Mormons respond this this question on mormon.org :)

    http://mormon.org/searchResults?theme=blue&query=polygamy

    • The responses found on that link are exactly what scares me about the approach the Church is taking on this issue. The responses faithful LDS members are giving on LDS.org would lead me to believe that reading D&C 132 with a full understanding of its historical framework could be faith shattering. When we’ve been reading D&C 132 in Church all these years as revelation about “the true and everlasting covenant of marriage” in terms of monogamy and then find out it really IS about polygamy, it is the institution which is to blame. In my own mind, the fact that Joseph Smith instituted and practiced polygamy is not as unsettling as the fact that he practiced it in SECRET. When the Church chooses to reference D&C 132 in its manuals with the intent to uphold some monogamous notion of eternal families, it feels equally deceptive to me.

      I’m not sure I really want the Church to reach official consensus on polygamy doctrinally (I’m not sure I’d like the consensus and I’m temperamentally okay with ambiguity), but I wish they would come out of the closet in terms of its history. At least in this way you could read D&C 132 and feel like all that patriarchal, sexist, damning language was as applicable to you as the practice of polygamy itself. As a monogamist, this perspective has freed me from spending any time feeling like I have to take the troubling language of that passage seriously.

  22. If anyone hasn’t read it lately I think many would find the following article from Eugene England, entitled, “On Fidelity, Celestial Marriage and Polygamy”, published in Dialogue several years ago, very insightful, affirming, heartening and peace-inducing.

    I know for me, it eloquently put into words much of my own intuition and deep sensing about the topic. Yes, I too, don’t believe polygamy was from the Lord, and that the entire topic was greatly colored by Joseph’s own very human perceptions, needs, and what I would call his shadow side. The later verses in sec. 132 are also strongly colored by 19th century views in general about women.

    Here is the link to the Dialogue essay: https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V20N04_140.pdf

    • Debra, thanks for that link. When I found that essay a few years ago, I, like you, found a peace about the topic that I had never felt before. England’s arguments about why there won’t be polygamy in heaven resonated deeply with me.

  23. I see it much the same way as MB. I still struggle with the last few verses, though, because it sure makes women seem like property.

  24. Alongside all the possessive language of giving and taking women, man alone now has the privilege of ruling. Woman has lost her agency. She is now the passive object, given to and taken by men. She has now become an accoutrement. She is no longer central, standing side by side with man.

    Patriarchy is all over the Bible. Androcacy is, too, in 1 Peter 3: 1-6; Colossians 3: 18; 1 Corinthians 11: 3; and Ephesians 5: 22-24. (Although Paul may be discounted, Peter walked with Christ. Where did he come with androcacy if not from Christ? And if it doesn’t come from Christ, why do we find him teaching it as the gospel?) If a person has a problem with this revelation, then surely he or she would have a problem with the entire Bible, too. If you throw out the Bible, where does that leave our religion? Section 132, then, restores all the biblical concepts, such as biblical polygyny, with the addition of polyandry, making men and women equal again. When one understands it for what it is, a multihusband-multiwife marriage system to fully match mankind’s natural polyamorous state, the genius of it becomes plain. Every LDS should fully embrace this section as divine, for it makes it proper and moral again for a man and a woman to fully develop their capacity to love one another, without shame and with divine approval. Our culture of monogamy is not the natural state, and this is what this revelation is designed for, to bring us back into a state of harmony with nature and heaven.

  25. “Section 132, then, restores all the biblical concepts, such as biblical polygyny, with the addition of polyandry, making men and women equal again”.

    I don’t see polyandry in 132. What verses are you referring to specifically? And how are men and women equal in the depiction of polygamy that we get in 132?

    Personally, I favor monogamy, but I am somewhat sympathetic to polyamory — provided it goes both ways. Equal opportunity for men and women to be united with multiple men and women.

    So let’s say we don’t have a problem with the polygamy of 132. But what about the way it’s linked so tightly to male dominance? This seems to be a stark departure from the way marriage was depicted as a union of equals earlier in the section.

  26. I’ll mention two blog posts, one written by Justin, Tribal Relationships and one written by me, Marriage without a marriage license is ordained of God. Those two blog posts can get anyone started in understanding how D&C 132 is a multihusband-multiwife marriage system that exactly corresponds to the natural multimale-multifemale mating system that has been given to us by nature. I recommend also following the links in those posts, to gain a better understanding of these concepts.

    Joseph began living plural marriage according to D&C 132 by marrying another man’s wife. So, “the principle” began with one woman having two husbands and one man having two wives. It didn’t begin with polygyny. After Joseph’s death, the leadership and saints practiced only polygyny, then later (now) monogamy. But the revelation itself is not polygyny, but multihusband-multiwife. Everything in Mormonism has been reduced over time. The practice of rebaptism and baptism for healing is now just a single baptism done once. The gifts of the Spirit, such as the healing gifts, have been reduced to priesthood ordinances, instead of anyone laying on hands and healing (including women). And the list goes on and on. Mormonism started out with a lot, then got trimmed down.

    Male dominance only occurs in polygyny. When you have men and women marrying whoever they want and having as many spouses as they want, you don’t end up with male dominance. You end up with an egalitarian tribe, which was the goal of D&C 132, to knit us together as a tribal family.

  27. Caroline, you wrote a few weeks ago: “I suspect the human Joseph crept into this part of (the latter 2nd part) of the section.” Or perhaps Joseph had nothing to do with it.

    One thing we have to understand in our modern LDS organization: Just because a revelation in the D&C says it was revealed in 1843 doesn’t mean it saw the light of day in 1843. Many revelations were backdated. Others were significantly altered from one edition to the next (case in point: look at Section 101, especially what it said about marriage, from its first appearance in the 1835 Book of Commandments to how it reads today).

    What if it were true that no one had heard of Section 132 during Joseph Smith’s lifetime? What if it were true that Section 132 never came into public view until 8 years after his death? And the most preposterous question of all: What if Joseph Smith never actually practiced polygamy? I know these questions seem to be absurd to anyone who is a student of LDS history (as I considered myself to be in some modest fashion). But given that the Church today is perhaps as much the legacy of Brigham Young as of Joseph Smith, these questions merit a read of this blog:

    http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-im-abandoning-polygamy.html

  28. I have studied and prayed about the concepts discussed here. I have read all the LDSA is referring to in his links. I have searched my heart and realized it is a good heart, that all I ever want is to do good to others. But being raised in the church I was taught to repress so many of my feelings. The truth is how can I not love other people? The closer I draw to God the deeper this desire becomes. As we think of what the scriptures say about the nature of God and the celestial world it is impossible to deny that monogamy can not square with the Celestial world. The principle of monogamy is ownership of our spouse. And that is completely foreign to the reality of being made equal in might, power, dominion and seeing as they are seen and knowing as they are known. How can a woman be equal in dominion to men and yet forbidden to procreate with more than one man? And we can easily see that men only having multiple wives is in complete opposition to the promised and stated equality in that world. And this equality is what we all feel must be in order for God to be just, for the whole plan to be just. It is one thing to choose not to live it. God and none of the Gods ever force other people to do anything. But to forbid a woman to have multiple husbands can not coexist with allowing a man to have more than one wife.
    The possession tone is strong in section 132 and the Old Testament. But the actual practice of Joseph was not so. The scriptures are written by men under the influence of the Spirit of God. But who can deny that a man’s culture and upbringing will influence the way he explains these things to another man of like culture. And section 132 is explaining things to men in concepts which they can grasp.
    We have the story that Brigham Young said when plural marriage was explained to him he saw a hearse passing with a dead body inside and he said he wished at that moment that he could change places with the deceased. It makes no sense that he would have such a reaction upon being told that it was a principle of the gospel to practice what Brigham certainly knew was practiced in the Bible ie men having more than one wife. But if the version he was taught explained the multiple husband concept then to some one with his New England religious background the desire for death first is completely plausible. I believe scripture is inspired. But the Lord has always allowed certain errors into the scriptures Moroni said they were in the Book of Mormon and that he could have written the whole thing out perfectly from the sealed portion. But the Lord said, No I will try the faith of my people.
    For myself I must prove all things. That means I take what I know personally of Heavenly Father and other principles of truth confirmed through the Spirit to my heart and if a scripture violates those principles then the writing or translation of it must be wrong. I believe this is what Joseph Smith did in his inspired Translation of the Bible. Yes he had more revelation and the Urim and Thummin available but see something that violated his understanding surely was the motivation to seek a better translation for it.
    So in the end it is simply the willingness to share our love with everyone which drives the order of a society where all are equals.

  29. It’s nice to have found The Exponent, and this post in particular, just to be able to relate with others like me. I’ve struggled with these questions for a long time too, and I feel I’ve received my own personal “for now” answer, which is now reinforced by Caroline’s observation of two distinctly different tones in the D&C revelation on marriage and polygamy.

    My doubts about polygamy being legitimately from God stem from several things.

    *The subject has made me sick to my stomach even when I was a kid.
    *In the current LDS church lesson manuals the subject is glossed over or avoided like a skeleton in the closet.
    *The actual revelation commanding it used the threat of destruction for the women who would reject it.
    *Accounts of Joseph Smith publicly denying and condemning the practice of polygamy while secretly practicing it.

    Each of these go against what I’ve so far accepted to be the nature of God and Truth. I was only bothered by the first two points when I was younger, and the second two, I only realized recently.

    As a kid I genuinely trusted my parents and church leaders when told that polygamy was commanded by God, and assumed that my own compass must be broken, or that some fault of mine was making me feel so uneasy about the principle of polygamy. I now feel confident enough to allow myself to trust my own connection with the spirit more than I trust someone else’s. If I’m right in my interpretation of the spirit and the information that I’ve studied then I have peace for myself. If I’m wrong, at least I know that I genuinely tried to discern the answer for myself and I believe that is how God means for us to learn.
    I prayerfully studied what I could on the subject and for a while I’ve wondered if it was possible that polygamy was a mistake. I previously couldn’t believe that a revelation given from God to a prophet could be a mistake. But the thought that kept coming to my mind was the warning in the temple about “philosophies of men mingled with scripture”. The placement of that phrase in the temple tells me it’s not a warning to the world about what the world believes to be scripture, but a warning to the temple-going members of the church and the documents they consider scripture. At this point I believe that’s what polygamy in the early church history was. A result of the natural man in Joseph. Biblical plural marriage also strikes me as more of a law of man than law of God. Perhaps an exception, a sacrifice to overcome a problem relevant to the time, or lesser law like the Law of Moses. I also wonder if the martyrdom of Joseph Smith came as a result of the withdrawal of God’s protection.

  30. Hi Annie B.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Annie. I’ve had a similar journey with the concept of polygamy. I used to be traumatized by the idea that I’d have to live it in the next life. Then I read Eugene England’s (an English prof at BYU) essay on Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage in which he argues that polygamy will not exist in the Celestial kingdom. It gave me a lot of peace. You might like it as well. https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V20N04_140.pdf

  31. Thank you so much Caroline!

  32. I appreciated that analysis. I hadn’t previously thought of of the two voices idea. Sometimes I wonder if William Clayton didn’t take liberties in his writing of the section.

  33. I find it interesting that people are making the analogies between gay rights and polygamy, yet, no one has even touched or broached the subject of polyandry.

    Even more interesting is that the rabbi that you quote supports gay rights, but, not gay marriage. That is a conundrum. How do you have one without the other?

    For what its worth, and I realize that this is entirely my own personal opinion (and I don’t mean to be rude about this) is that I do not believe that polygamy was inspired at all. I based this opinion on the series called “The Forgotten Wives of Joseph Smith,” which has been researched by winterbuzz for FMH followers. How can anything be inspired if the women involved were asked to keep secrets?

  34. Here is an excerpt from the writings of B.H Roberts that I think is very helpful in this discussion. If you want to read more here is the link:

    http://www.gospeldoctrine.com/DoctrineandCovenants/DC%20132.htm

    DC 132:61-65 if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent… then is he justified

    “The first wife’s right to give or withhold consent was the right to be considered and consulted by her husband in taking a second wife. It was also the right to express her judgment about whether her husband had been faithful to his covenant with her, was a true father according to the standard required by the gospel, and conformed to the law of God in the way he was taking another wife. If he did not adequately meet these requirements, his first wife’s refusal to give her consent could prevent him from taking another wife.

    “But a wife could not use this right to prevent her husband from taking a second wife if he was fulfilling his obligations to her and his family, and if he proceeded to take another companion according to the law of God. Her failure to give consent under these circumstances released him from the obligation to act with her approbation. Here was a delicate, but important, reconciliation of authority and consent in the affairs of the home. Orson Pratt explained:

    “When a man who has a wife, teaches her the law of God, as revealed to the ancient patriarchs, and as manifested by new revelation, and she refuses to give her consent for him to marry another according to that law, then it becomes necessary for her to state before the President the reasons why she withholds her consent: if her reasons are sufficient and justifiable, and the husband is found in the fault or in transgression, then he is not permitted to take any step in regard to obtaining another. But if the wife can show no good reason why she refuses to comply with the law which was given unto Sarah of old, then it is lawful for her husband, if permitted by revelation through the Prophet, to be married to others without her consent, and he will be justified, and she will be condemned, because she did not give them unto him, as Sarah gave Hagar unto Abraham, and as Rachel and Leah gave Billhah and Zilpah to their husband, Jacob.” (Doctrines of the Kingdom [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973], 465)

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