Will There Be Polygamy In the Next Life? I Think Not

Heart of God by Gary Rowell

This has been a question I’ve grappled with for over 10 years. When I was younger, my answer was not only a yes, there will be polygamy, but also a belief (fear) that God preferred this type of marital arrangement to monogamy, and that God would ask us to enter into this in the next life.  This resulted in quite a few tearful conversations with my husband.

Now, my question no longer revolves around whether God will honor my monogamous marriage. I believe God will. Now my question is whether God will honor polygamous marriages. I am inclined to believe God won’t. Or at the very least, that polygamy is not the most preferred arrangement.

Here’s my logic.  God is good.  For me, a characteristic of  a good God is one who appreciates and acknowledges the fundamental equality of human souls, who values men and women of various races and classes equally and who wants these diverse people to have equal opportunities to lead, inspire, direct, etc.  Because polygyny makes women expendable members of the marriage, because it entails a woman being cut out from parts of her husband’s heart and life in a way that hers is not necessarily cut off from his, it is not a system compatible with the principle of equality. Therefore, my logic tells me, polygamy will not exist in the next life. *

Other people I know advocate a more libertarian view of God… that God allows for various marital arrangements based on personal preference. They propose that God will honor polygyny, but that God views it as less morally acceptable than monogamy, because of the reasons I outlined above. My response to this is: ok, but if this God allows polygyny, God also needs to allow polyandry. Because equality is central to God’s character. A system in which only men can have more than one spouse does not jive with the principle of equality, I postulate.

In thinking about this question, other Mormons might respond that of course polygamy will exist in the next life. Thousands of Mormon men and women have been sealed into polygamous unions in this life, and those bonds will hold. I can see how that would be persuasive to people, but I view polygamy in this life as the result of a fallen world. I don’t know for sure whether polygamy was inspired by God, but because of sociological reasons, pragmatic reasons, etc. I can envision God allowing these unions in the mid 19th century as an acceptable solution to a bad situation. I just have a harder time envisioning God promoting this kind of union in the next life,  a non fallen world situation.

Where do you stand on the polygamy in heaven debate? Can you conceive of a God who would allow it, let alone command it? Why or why not?

*Eugene England’s seminal essay on this topic points to the core principle of fidelity as being a reason polygamy won’t exist in the next life. I like that a lot, but I think I am even more persuaded by the principle of equality.


Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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49 Responses

  1. Caryn says:

    I have not read about any polygamous relationships where the women were truly happy–either in Old Testament times or in the early days of the Church. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wives and posterity knew great sorrow because of polygamy. Consider the suffering or Hagar and Ishmael, Leah’s sorrow, and Joseph’s rejection by his brothers.

    I feel sad that Joseph Smith felt he wanted to pursue this kind of lifestyle. Clearly, he wanted to do so, for he petitioned the Lord in that regard.

    My polygamous grandmothers suffered terribly. When their husbands died, the first wife received all of the property and they were left destitute. They were not equally loved or cherished in this life.

    I don’t know how the Lord will make things right in the next life. I know I could never happily be a member of a polygamous relationship. Although my mother was my father’s second wife, I know she could not either, although he was sealed to both.

    Perhaps some families will continue in a polygamous relationship. I don’t know. However, I don’t believe it was ever intended by God as the ideal. Clearly, the Book of Mormon does not endorse polygamy nor does Christ in the New Testament.

  2. anita says:

    interesting thoughts. i don’t know how it’s going to work either. what do you do with a situation like my grandfather: married to a woman for 4 years, she died young. married my grandmother, had children, married for decades. sealed to both–now that they’re all on the other side, who are they with? (and there are reverse situations with a woman and husbands.) loved both, sealed to both. never lived polygamy, but now how does he pick?
    when i get hung up on these issues, i just have to remember, like you said, that heaven is a happy place and God is just and merciful. that eugene england article has helped me in the past as well.

  3. jks says:

    My husband can’t imagine polygamy in eternity. It makes him upset.
    My thoughts are that if I spent 20 years with one husband and he died and I spent 30 years with another husband it would be a pretty difficult situation on who would I be with and which loved husband I wouldn’t get to keep?
    I am completely convinced that we will be happy in our eternal circumstances. We are limited right now with our mortal minds and mortal experience, I am sure we will understand far more once we are resurrected.

  4. PaulM says:

    I want to challenge your assertion that “equality” is a value held dear by our Heavenly Father. HF is often described as just but I can’t find a single reference to Him being equitable. Justice requires that equals be treated equally and that un-equals be treated un equally. Justice does not require everyone to be equal.

  5. Starfoxy says:

    PaulM- Have you read that God is “no respecter of persons”? That means that he values equality.

  6. The question is more complicated than you think, because polygamy devalues the importance of men in relations, if women only need fractal shares.

    However, I suspect that we will all be sealed together, that polygamy is a red herring.

  7. isobel says:

    I actually agree with PaulM about the Mormon god and equality. From what I can see in Mormonism today and the Mormonism of our polygamous ancestry, equality between men and women has never been a sound value. So I actually find it rather comical that equality is the issue that convinces you that polygamy will not exist in the next life. I think the literalism of our gender relations as we know them on earth projecting for the eternities is the real issue (problem) here. One of the things I cherish about Mormonism is the emphasis on strong, covenant relationships– relationships of trust, fidelity, honor and love. I think our theology and ritual teaches us to form these relationships, especially within marriage, but I think those truths have application on a much larger scale than we would like to believe. I think the principles of marriage are what bind us together, what make us more god-like. I believe the practice of sealing in Mormonism invests the institution of marriage as a vehicle for binding together all of humanity, not solely man and wife. Whether we in the modern Mormon church like to admit it or not, polygamy is part of our heritage, and embraces all the same family values the modern church teaches. I don’t think we have to hate it so much. It is, just like our marriages, what it is, and at the end of the day what we say does or does not exist in “the next life” is only ever speculation.

  8. Corktree says:

    I think I lean toward Stephen’s idea polygamy is a distraction – that we are all meant to be sealed together as God’s family, and that the actual unions may not matter quite as much as we think they do. Not that they aren’t important or that we will be separated from our spouses, but the fact that men can remarry and be sealed again doesn’t bother me if I think of it as a way to connect everyone in the covenant relationship. I think that in the end, it will all be worked out. There will be many single souls that need to join with another in order to live out their eternal progression, so the fact that someone was sealed to someone else on earth won’t really matter, just as long as they were sealed, and that perhaps it is up to us who we remain connected to. Does that make sense? (Of course, I don’t know what happens when two women want one man, but I’m sure by the time we end up in a place where these decisions carry any weight, that we will have better perspective)

    I’ve come to this opinion from conversations with my mother, who is still sealed to my father after their divorce. And even though she loathes the thought of being tied to him in this life, she doesn’t consider it an issue, even if she were to get remarried. She is at peace with the sealing as an ordinance and not a punishment. The more I have thought about this, the more comfortable I am with the belief that (as cliche as it sounds) it will all work out if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be (open to interpretation).

  9. amelia says:

    a couple of things:

    1. on equity: the concept of equity is traditionally included in the concept of justice. The British legal system separates out questions of equity (which historically were heard in Chancery) but justice and equity are both vital parts of that system. That system is the basis of the American system in which justice and equity are even more inseparable as they are both considered in court cases. Given that the scriptures Mormons use were developed in England (King James Version) and the U.S. (BoM, PoG, D&C), I think we can understand that the concept of justice includes the concept of equity. Especially since we are taught that God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful (a word that is often used to describe equity).

    2. On the potential equity/equality within polygamous marriages: I really strongly believe that the reason we perceive polygynous marriages as inherently unequal have to do with two things: 1. that polyandry is not a sanctioned option within Mormonism (as evidenced that a woman cannot be sealed to multiple husbands); and 2. that we harbor very traditional views of monogamy and sexual relationships. I have no trouble imagining a polyamorous relationship in which all of the partners are fully equal. Of course, that imagining also involves imagining a rather untraditional sexual relationship and untraditional sexual identities and roles. The kind of companionate monogamous marriage that we think of as traditional in the early 21st century is a relatively recent historical invention. Marriage has been a great number of things over the course of recorded history. I see no reason to believe it can’t legitimately be any number of things other than we’ve already known. And I don’t think we should limit it by our culture bound imaginations.

    That said, I don’t relish the idea of sharing a partner myself. And I don’t think God would force anyone to do so. I personally don’t think God idealizes one form of marriage over another. Of course I personally don’t think God gives a rat’s ass whether the parties in a marriage are hetero- or homosexual, either. I think God cares more about the quality of relationships than the kind. But that’s all just my own opinion, of course; naturally the church would take issue with that opinion. I happen to think the church is wearing a rather enormous set of historico-cultural blinders. should be interesting to watch them fall away.

  10. Craig says:

    The first thing I have a problem with isn’t the idea of polygamy, it’s the assumption of an afterlife.

    The second assumption is something Amelia mentioned. Monogamy isn’t inherently good or better either. The only reason Mormon polygamy is so bad is because it has always been misogynistic and repressive to women. I think that polyamoury (including polyandry and polygyny) can be very healthy, if they’re done so in a mutually respectful and honest way.

    So if we’re going to assume there is an afterlife, I don’t see why polygamy or other forms of polyamoury couldn’t happen, with whatever combination of genders.

    Indeed, research shows that we as a species are not really programmed to be monogamous. We can certainly choose to be, but a lot if not most of our bias towards monogamous relationships are based not on biology and natural psychology, but on socio-cultural mores and indeed, religious dogma.

    That said, I would find a god who only allowed polygamy, or only monogamy and polygamy to be sexist and unfair. If indeed the orthodox Mormon view of the afterlife is correct, that it’s mainly or entirely polygamist marriages, then the afterlife is inherently misogynistic and something I’d never want any part of.

  11. Caroline says:

    Thanks for sharing your family’s personal experience with polygamy. What a messed up institution it often was. Like your mom, I can’t envision myself happy as a plural wife, nor could I envision myself happy as the spouse of more than one husband.

    That is a tough situation. I suppose I hope that one of those women will get to meet and marry another person up there that she is crazy about. I’m not a believer in “the one” so I can envision multiple people up there who would be wonderful for any given person.

    jks, the situation you mention is a tough one, like Anita’s. I guess it would be a workable solution for some people for you to have both husbands, but that just seems to diminish the men and trap them in a situation that is less than they both deserve. I’m a monogamous romantic, as you can see.

    Interesting. Do you see men and women as unequals? How so? Do you see them as deserving different treatment from God?

    Starfoxy, Yes, it’s phrases like that– “no respecter of persons” –not to mention the references to a just God that leads me to a belief in God’s embrace of the principle of equality.

    Stephen M,
    “the question is more complicated than you think, because polygamy devalues the importance of men in relations, if women only need fractal shares.”

    Excellent point. And yes, polygamy may be a red herring. But the way Church leaders talk about marriage and family relationships in the eternities propels people to ask these questions, I think. If they focused instead on the idea of binding together the whole human race, we wouldn’t dwell on these problems of polygamy so much.

    I agree with you here:
    “From what I can see in Mormonism today and the Mormonism of our polygamous ancestry, equality between men and women has never been a sound value.”

    But I don’t assume that just because the Mormonism that we see taking place in a fallen world, filtered through various cultural contexts, has not placed a high value on the equality of men and women, that that’s what God wants. I believe in a God that is inspiring God’s people – all people – to embrace the better parts of themselves by including those people who have historically been shut out. I think that teaching is Jesus’ most wonderful legacy of his earthly ministry.

    ” Whether we in the modern Mormon church like to admit it or not, polygamy is part of our heritage, and embraces all the same family values the modern church teaches. ”

    That’s a point I think bears some discussion. I don’t see polygamy as embracing the same family values that the modern church teaches, seeing as fidelity is such an emphasized one, not to mention the value of having active and involved fathers. Polygamy in the 1800s often played itself out with absentee fathers and mothers who were virtually single parents.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I sympathetic to it in a lot of ways.

    You said:
    “but the fact that men can remarry and be sealed again doesn’t bother me if I think of it as a way to connect everyone in the covenant relationship”

    I can go along with you there, but I do have one condition. That women are also free to be married to multiple husbands as well in heaven. That scenario – polygamy, polyandry, monogamy all allowed — I can mentally get behind, so long as they are all options. I feel that that basic principle of equality is violated when it’s only women who are required to share their spouses.

    Thanks for that background information on equity and justice. Very useful.

    And as for the reasons we see polygamy as unequal, I think you make great points. I am far more willing to consider polygyny as an eternal and morally acceptable situation if polyandry were also available to people. And yes, I am certainly an example of someone who is conditioned to believe in the moral superiority of monogamy. However, I actually have less of an issue with polyamorous situations than I do with polygamy since I can polyamory as a situation in which all members are fully equal. For the same reason, i don’t have a hard time believing that homosexual relationships can be sanctioned in the hereafter.

  12. Corktree says:

    Yes, it does get messy from there I suppose. I was looking at it from a mathematical perspective thinking it didn’t matter if one side were sealed to many, and that the perceived inequality was just a way to get the job done. But in the case of a woman who re-marries and marries a man new to the church (or just new to a temple sealing) why should she have to choose between two sealings? So yeah, doesn’t make much sense in that way. I hope there is something yet to be understood about it all…

  13. PaulM says:

    The reference “no respector of persons” is not a reference to equity– it is a reference to and assertion of God’s supremacy and the basis for his judgment. In essence its the antithesis of a claim to equity.  The parable of the talents alone makes it abundantly clear that equity is a non-issue for our HF.  Given God’s general lack of concern for equity I think your objection to polygamy in the afterlife based on an appeal to equity is misplaced.

    As for the relative equality between the sexes, I neither care nor worry about that issue because it’s a meaningless and/or arbitrary metric and totally irrelevant to my (or anyone’s) salvation.  Discussions of equity are base distractions that serve to divide human-kind rather than unite us under Christ.  I think God will treat us all justly in the after-life and that Perfect Justice will result in all of us being satisfied with the outcome.  Will we all be rewarded identically?  No.  He will reward each of us according to our relative return on investment which requires he treat equals equally and un-equals un-equally (again I refer you to the parable of the talents for the outcome).

  14. Emily U says:

    I am repulsed by the idea of polygamy in the afterlife, and I believe that it will not exist there. The idea of equality that Caroline described is part of it, but my main reason comes from D&C 132 itself.

    In the section, God is explaining plural marriage to Joseph Smith, and cites Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar as an example. He could have finished with that example, but went on to remind JS about Abraham’s sacrifice with Isaac (verse 36). Which is interesting for two reasons. One, it emphasizes how polygamy is a stark exception to a commandment. The second and most important reason becomes clear later in the section.

    After discussing the conditions under which plural marriage is acceptable to him, God tells JS this:

    “Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.” (verse 50)

    Now, it’s not explicitly clear which sacrifices God is referring to, but JS had been practicing polygamy for years when this revelation was recorded (1843), and given that the topic is entirely about polygamy, I don’t think it’s a huge leap of logic to assume God is viewing the practice of polygamy as a SACRIFICE. And a sacrifice isn’t a permanent thing. For example, the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus’ atonement, had an end. Abraham’s sacrifice had an end. And I think God is saying here that polygamy will have an end.

    Lots of church members seem to think polygamy is a given in the afterlife. I’ve heard a current apostle talk about how his second wife is “Also my wife for ETERNITY.” It makes me gag. I know people who think there’s a whole harem of Mothers in Heaven, too, and it just feels so wrong I can’t believe it’s true. I think that rather than elevating plural marriage to a status on par with monogamous marriage, I think Section 132 clearly describes it as exceptional. And temporary.

  15. Keri Brooks says:

    Emily U, thanks for that interpretation of D&C 132. I have always viewed polygamy as a temporary exception to monogamy, using Jacob chapter 2. However, I was unsure of what to do with D&C 132, and it bothered me greatly. I’m going to have to think about what you’ve said.

    In the afterlife, I think that monogamy will be the general condition, but I believe that God will honor all marriages entered into in good faith with the free and informed consent of all relevant parties. So, monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry will all exist. (Deceased women can be sealed to multiple husbands, I understand.)

    However, if I predecease my (hypothetical) husband and he gets sealed to someone else, I’ll come back and haunt them!

  16. BarefootWanderer says:

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter much what we think. If polygamy is what God wants, and we think it is repulsive, it doesn’t matter because our opinions will keep us out of the C kingdom anyway.

    A lot of people here don’t seem to really understand the sealing that takes place during a Temple Marriage. In the end, a Man doesn’t have to call his wife’s name at the resurrection if he doesn’t want to. And if he does, she doesn’t have to answer.

    To me, trying to guess what is going to happen is a total waste of time. It is something akin to having a bunch of 4 year olds explain exactly how a car works. They ride in them all the time, but that doesn’t mean they have any idea how exactly they work.

  17. larryco_ says:

    So you’re telling me that Heber C. Kimball’s assertion (comparing earthly ways with heavenly ways) that each celestial man will have 365 wives is not correct? Well, I guess it’s back to making due with just one.

    Seriously, would I want more that one wife for eternity? Probably not, but since I’m not celestial material it becomes a moot point. Also, PaulM’s arguments seem pretty sound.

  18. Emily U says:

    PaulM and larry_co seem to believe that it doesn’t matter whether women and men are equal to God, so long as God is just.

    Barefoot Wanderer seems to believe it doesn’t matter whether polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife.

    Both of these things matter – a lot. And our understanding of them as mortals matters a lot. I’ll try to articulate why.

    To say that God will treat men and women justly but separately is ludicrous. Either human beings are fundamentally all the same kind of creature or they aren’t. To have separate standards of justice for men and for women would mean they’re fundamentally separate creatures. If the scriptures, the saving ordinances, and the commandments are given to men and women in the same way, it makes no sense to assume men and women be meted out justice in different ways. I understand the parable of the talents to be teaching about people’s response to the light that they’re given in life – and that response is NOT based on gender. I’ve never heard that parable applied to gender differences before, and I think it’s totally inappropriate.

    Regarding marriage, human beings are fundamentally social, and our relationships in many ways define us. I believe this is true in the spiritual realm as well – else why the focus on sealing family relationships? So my status in relationship to men in general and my husband in particular says something about who I am. And something about who men are. If marriage structure can be different for men than for women, that says something about me!

    Our purpose in life is not only to act with right behavior and to participate in saving ordinances, it is to learn truth. I have very little patience with the idea that our understanding of gospel concept X doesn’t matter in mortality because we’ll figure it out later. Sure, we may be 4 year olds compared to God, but we are learning 4 year olds, and learning is a big reason we’re here! Throwing up our hands and saying we’ll figure it out later is lazy and just as wrong as giving up on God because we don’t fully understand his ways. We should never stop seeking and never give up on finding the truth.

    Kerri – I agree Jacob 2 supports the idea that polygamy is temporary. Thanks for pointing that out.

  19. CatherineWO says:

    On a lighter note…
    I was reading the comments on this post last night before I went to bed. During the night I dreamed that multiple spouses (for women and men) had become acceptable. In the dream, my husband (of 37 years) and I went to some other country to find me another husband, someone who would fit into our household. It was really quite hillarious, and very detailed. When I awoke, I started thinking about the ramifications of having more than one husband and became quite terrified.
    Obviously, this discussion really got me thinking.

  20. Andrea says:

    Wow, what a multitude of thoughts! I suspect, along with Stephen M, that polygamy is a red herring.
    What if earthly marriage is just a precursor, a picture, of our true relationship with God? Jesus is portrayed in the scriptures as the Bridegroom. Could it be that we’ll all be just one big family?
    Thanks for stimulating such an interesting discussion.

  21. Syphax says:

    I have also been thinking quite a bit about the afterlife. It seems that some physicists think that time is dimension like the first three, and perpendicular to the first three. What does that mean? I am not sure. Time plays a big part in the Law of Thermodynamics, with entropy increasing over time in any closed system. Some have said that, to God, there is no linear time, that all is one. Perhaps in our Celestial state we will not be beholden to a linear concept of time, and since we will receive bodies of incorruptible matter, it seems that our bodies will not be beholden to entropy either. Which means the Law of Thermodynamics isn’t going to work the same on us. Our consciousness will still exist within an incorruptible matter-body, and presumably we will still experience qualia, but what qualia might exist when we live in a state that does not experience time? What music might exist in a realm with non-linear time? What colors could we perceive with retinas of incorruptible matter? What jealousy could we feel? What anger could we feel? What love could we feel?

    The point is, when people ask me what the afterlife is like, I usually just say “I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA.” Mormons are so pragmatic that I think we like to frame the afterlife in terms that are familiar to us, but sheesh, I don’t know.

    Our current conceptions of equality and justice are so tied up with our cognitive faculties (in our brains) that I’m not sure our intuitions there would be helpful either. When some people say they abhor the idea of polygamy and some people (like my Mother) say they would accept it in a heartbeat, I think it says more about the way our brains are wired and the way we were raised than anything. Wanting a person all to yourself seems like a function of the way our brains evolved. Thinking that a person’s love is a kind of quantifiable thing, and that dividing it between people is like some kind of division equation is problematic in my opinion. I have to “share” the love of Jesus Christ with 7 billion+ people, yet that doesn’t diminish it for me. One might counter and say that our love for our spouse is a different KIND of love. Well, what’s different about it? Intimacy? Closeness? Sex? Partnership? Dual natures? The potential for procreation? What will those things mean in the next life? I sure love my wife and wouldn’t want to share her with 10 other men, but why? Because in life, we have a limitation on time due to it being finite and linear for us, and primitive, utilitarian conceptions of possession. As a result, we desire to possess something, like a hammer, and keep it away from other people because multiple people can’t use the same hammer at the same time, and if anyone is going to use it, it’s me. Speaking of “possession” or “commitment” out of these sorts of Earthly contexts seems pretty abstract and almost nonsensical to me.

  22. Craig says:

    “To me, trying to guess what is going to happen is a total waste of time. It is something akin to having a bunch of 4 year olds explain exactly how a car works. They ride in them all the time, but that doesn’t mean they have any idea how exactly they work.”‘

    Or alternatively, it’s like arguing about what the one correct way is to appropriately categorise the different types of leprechauns. Or unicorns.

  23. Caroline says:

    Craig, thanks for your comments. Do you think that polygamy can foster equality between spouses? That’s the crux of my problem. I just have a fundamentally hard time seeing how that’s possible. I suppose that’s because tied up in my idea of equality is mutuality, and mutuality seems lacking in polygamy.

    I imagine there are several ways to interpret the parable of the talents. I don’t read that parable as proof that God does not value equity. I read it as different people are born into different situations in life, some advantageous and some not as advantageous and that we need to do the best with the hand we are dealt. But I attribute that to a fallen world. It’s hard for me to transfer that idea to heaven and see God givng more “talents” to men than women in the next life.

    “As for the relative equality between the sexes, I neither care nor worry about that issue because it’s a meaningless and/or arbitrary metric and totally irrelevant to my (or anyone’s) salvation. ”

    This is where we really disagree. I don’t think equity is irrelevant or meaningless. The quality of my salvation is important to me – it’s my eternal future. How can I not care?

  24. Caroline says:

    I love that interpretation of D&C 132 as well!

    In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I talked long and hard about the idea of me dying. We decided that he would try to find a widow who’s already sealed, and that he is to avoid sealing himself to someone in the temple. But if I come to him in a vision and tell him it’s ok, then he might seal himself to another woman. That pacified me in our early years. 🙂

    I think these questions are important, if you are interested in the nature of God and the nature of your own exaltation. If not, you’re right. No reason to dwell on them.

    Well, it might be a moot point for me as well, but I’m still interested. 🙂

  25. larryco_ says:

    But Caroline, you’ve hit on the core of the problem, my dear. By my observation, there are vastly more women (which I have no doubt include yourself) who have the Christlike characteristics requisite to spend eternity with our Father In Heaven than there are men. This is not just idle (idol) banter. Under the definition of “carnal, sensual, and devilish”, you can pretty much post most of our pictures. Which leaves a very lovely celestial kingdom – full of gardens, color-coordinated living rooms, and no clothes on the bathroom floors – but many more sisters than brethren.

    So, if you’re God, how do you populate kingdoms without end with spiritual children procreated in celestial family units, if there is such a disporportionate number of women to men and plural eternal marriage is not allowed?

    I’m not sure where the term “can of worms” comes from, but I may have just opened up a couple.

  26. Starfoxy says:

    Larryco- are you aware of our belief that children who die before age 8 go straight to the Celestial kingdom? And that people with mental disabilities are also on the ‘fast track’ to exaltation?
    Did you know that there are 105 males born for every 100 females, and that by the time those children reach adulthood there are 105 females for every 100 males?
    Did you also know that for every 100 females with mental disabilities there are 138 males with mental disabilities?
    I think your assertion that there will necessarily be more women than men in the celestial kingdom is a just so story designed to make celestial polygamy sound necessary and reasonable.

  27. larryco_ says:

    Starfoxy, very interesting. If I get this right, you don’t dispute the fact that many men who live past the age of 8 and are without mental disabilities are spiritually questionable. It is your belief that boys who die before the age of accountablilty or who were never subject to earthly accountability due to mental impairment will make up the deficit in the Celestial Kingdom and balance out the numbers. That a really unique take on the whole thing. It brings up the question of why such individuals fast-track directly to the celestial realm – whereas the rest of peoplekind who come to earth and don’t hear the gospel go through the spiritworld/vicarious ordinances process that will determine their final abode on a case by case basis – but that leads us off in other directions and is usually answered by “I’m not sure, something to do with righteousness in the premortal existence”.

    Be that as it may, I guess there is now hope for my relief society president wife to get hooked up with some nice guy
    who was able to forego this mortal probation to some extent. I seriously don’t have a problem with that. Very good.

  28. Stephanie says:

    I agree 100% with the OP. I do not believe polygamy is eternal.

  29. Crick says:

    “Where do you stand on the polygamy in heaven debate? Can you conceive of a God who would allow it, let alone command it? Why or why not?”

    1. The first question is “does a God exist?”; if the answer to that is yes, the second question is, “what IS God’s character?” The god’s I conceive of are simply fantasies, like Greek or Olympian ones. The God we should be interested in is the real one who is trying to reveal himself to us. His character, views, opinions, favorite foods and his definitions of what constitutes “good” and “bad” already exist. So yes, I can conceive of a God who allows/commands it just as easily as I can conceive of a God who does not. The answer IS what the answer IS and is not predicated on my or your cultural preferences.

    2. God = Good = My definition of Good = My opinions/needs/desires/cultural constructs/political beliefs/preferred marital arrangements/ is no different than thinking God = Good=Pizza with Anchovies ergo God likes pizzas with Anchovies. Look around the world and see that millions have mutually exclusive views on everything from abortion to the environment and sincerely believe that God (or at least morality) is on their side. Neither their education, nor their sincerity, nor their depth of feeling makes any of these people right. Any time you have mutually exclusive propositions, eat least one side and possibly both sides are wrong.

    3. The above point is the central point Joseph Smith realized as a 14 year old boy. That points leads everyone to a big question. Some people don’t ask that question until college and some people never do. It really is an ultimate question of philosophy, morality, ethics and yes–religion: what is right?

    Personally, I think that if polygamy was a fraud, then Joseph Smith is a fraud. Eternal families are central to LDS belief and the membership has sustained D&C 132. We can’t just write off eternal families like having mutual on Wednesdays or another policy. The same goes for the Book of Mormon and Baptism by immersion. Take them out and the whole thing comes falling down.

    4. That said, the fact that God has clearly sanctioned various marital arrangements (all within the framework of the 7th Commandment) may mean that not everyone in Heaven will have a cookie cutter marriage. But I think we do ourselves a disservice to imagine the streets of Heaven are paved with gold just because we happen to like gold or take the “there are no cats in Heaven” view just because we identify with the mice.

  30. Crick says:

    EmilyU: I was really liking your critical interpretation of D&C 132 (my mind was being expanded) until you said that the Apostles words “made you gag”. I happen to know that particular Apostle has read and pondered the D&C many times and evidently it did not make him gag.

    I am perfectly willing to view polygamy is “possibly” temporary just as I am willing to view certain modern women’s desire for polygamy as a personal quirk or a social construct. But I think you should also be willing to separate your own personal visceral response to polygamy (i.e. “gag”) with what the truth *might* be.

    I think if the blood sacrifices from the OT were suddenly reinstituted there would be a lot of gagging in this modern, antiseptic world. But the gagging would not be an indicator of the practice being wrong anymore than the possible lack of gagging 3000 years ago made the practice right.

  31. Craig says:


    I think it’s theoretically possible, but practically highly unlikely, even in non-Mormon, secular society because of how pervasive misogyny is in our culture.

    what I support is equitable, fair, respectful forms of polyamoury, of whatever flavour. I also support monogamy. The key is that it has to be freely chosen by all parties, lack any coercion, manipulation or sexism – and this would eliminate all forms of polygamy as they were ever and are practised by any Mormon sect.

    I do believe that many people are best suited to alternate relationships to monogamy. Polygamy might work for some, but I suspect that for most, an open relationship form of polyamoury would probably be better suited, and less prone to abuse and sexism. As I said in my original comment, I oppose “traditional” polygamy as historically practised by the LdS church, and would find any god who commanded such to be sexist and unworthy of worship.

  32. Craig says:


    “By my observation, there are vastly more women (which I have no doubt include yourself) who have the Christlike characteristics requisite to spend eternity with our Father In Heaven than there are men. This is not just idle (idol) banter. Under the definition of “carnal, sensual, and devilish”, you can pretty much post most of our pictures. Which leaves a very lovely celestial kingdom – full of gardens, color-coordinated living rooms, and no clothes on the bathroom floors – but many more sisters than brethren.”

    Your comment is overflowing with sexism, ugly bias, and insanely rigid and unrealistic gender roles. The idea that women are monumentally more spiritual (or likely to decorate well) than men has no basis in fact, and as Starfoxy said, is simply one of those ideas promulgated in the church to make people more amenable to polygamy. Women can and are just as “carnal, sensual, and devilish” as men (though they’re socialised not to be), and aren’t at all the delicate flowers the church makes them out to be. Or in other words, humans of any gender are diverse and very few fit into these types of binary roles. You insult men as being vastly more evil, and insult women by saying they need to be taken care of in droves by the few “righteous” men who are strong enough to overcome their inherent carnal devilishness.

    “If I get this right, you don’t dispute the fact that many men who live past the age of 8 and are without mental disabilities are spiritually questionable”

    And many women aren’t? The differences between the sexes isn’t so great as you suppose. It’s hardly a fact.

  33. Craig says:


    “Personally, I think that if polygamy was a fraud, then Joseph Smith is a fraud”

    What a concept. I think you may be on to something here.

    But why does polygamy have to necessarily be intertwined with the belief in eternal families? Why can you not have one without the other?

  34. Starfoxy says:


    If I get this right, you don’t dispute the fact that many men who live past the age of 8 and are without mental disabilities are spiritually questionable.

    I actually do dispute that, but felt that it would be more productive to point out something that you probably hadn’t considered rather than dispute something you believe to be obvious.

    My main point is that the belief that the Celestial Kingdom will be overrun by single women hasn’t been thought through carefully enough to simply accept it as a foregone conclusion.

  35. Dora says:

    Personally, I cannot ever imagine being happy with a polygamous marriage, either in this life or the one to come. Certainly, I have a great repugnance for how it was practiced and instituted among the early saints. However, I can conceive of some people being happy to do it, if I really stretch my imagination.

    What I cannot conceive of is the idea of loving and omniscient deities requiring it as a general law.

    I also think that those who cavalierly assume that they are up for it as being somewhat delusional.

  36. larryco_ says:

    Ok, Craig & Starfoxy, let’s try this one more time…

    .The 365 wives comment by Heber C. Kimball: he did say it and I mentioned it as a humorous aside.

    .My not making it to the CK: a self-depricating, humorous aside. I only went back to it because Caroline used the “moot” part in relationship to herself, and I didn’t mean for that to happen. So…

    .Without knowing Caroline, I unilaterally placed her in the CK(not a humorous aside). Then…

    .I made the comment that men are poster boys for the definition of carnal, sensual, and devilish. A humorous aside.

    .I made the comment on gardens in the CK (not a humorous aside), color-coordinated living rooms (a humorous aside), and men’s pants on the bathroom floor (a rip-roaring, humorous aside). My wordplay on idle/idol was also a humorous aside.

    .Finally, sensing that Starfoxy was taking my comments waaayy more literal than I intended, I pointed out that her idea was novel…and then I got out of Dodge. (the preceding was a humorous aside).


  37. larryco_ says:

    p.s. I don’t actually live in Dodge

  38. Caroline says:

    You’re my soul mate! You’ve beautifully articulated why I think it’s important to address these issues.

    Ha! I myself have had a few polygamy nightmares, but never one in which multiple husbands were involved. It is pretty terrifying, no matter which way you crack the egg, isn’t it?

    The more I think of the logistics of marriage in the next life, the more attracted I am to the idea of all of us just being one big family.

    Interesting thoughts. I think you’re right that our Mormon pragmatism is a problem. We’re taught that the same type of sociality that exists now will exist in the next life, and people (at least I) have a hard time envisioning that life without space and time.

    That’s the kind of sense of humor that my husband used to use and get a big rise out of me earlier in our marriage. Now I know he knows the ridiculousness of the stereotypes, so I can roll my eyes and smile. From your last comment, I see that’s the spirit you meant your previous comments in. Sometimes it would be much better to have these conversations in person, wouldn’t it? So much easier to read tone. Thank you for kindly assigning me to the CK. That’s more generous than a lot of commenters would be.

    I would have brought up that exact point to Larryco, if you hadn’t – The one about more baby boys dying than baby girls, etc. Great minds think alike!

    “Personally, I think that if polygamy was a fraud, then Joseph Smith is a fraud. ” I know many think like that, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I have no problem envisioning a Joseph Smith who was tapping into God on a lot of levels and simply innovating on others. From what my husband describes about being in a bishopric, I think that’s a common phenomenon – often, you have a strong spiritual experience with some decision, and sometimes you think it’s the right thing, it seems right, you go with it, and hope that that was inspiration. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. I figure there’s a good chance that prophets work in similar ways, and that they can make mistakes.

    One friend of mine thinks of it like this: Joseph Smith brought about the restoration of all things – including gravely fallible and very human prophets, like in the OT.

    Craig, I like your thoughts in 31. I’m much more willing to go with that kind of polyamoury. And I echo your question in 33.

    “I also think that those who cavalierly assume that they are up for it as being somewhat delusional.” I know a guy at school who openly (!) and seriously talks about wanting to be a polygamist. He would be one if “his wife wouldn’t leave him, his church wouldn’t excommunicate him, and if it weren’t against the law.” Holy hell – I think he must be operating under the delusion that polygamy is fun.

    I love it when people agree 100% with me. 🙂

  39. Jettboy says:

    “Here’s my logic.” (paraphrased) “My thoughts of who Heavenly Father is without any evidence from Scriptures or teachings of the Latter-day prophets. He would not allow polygamy because of my personal moral self-projections.”

    Not very good reasoning for deciding what Heavenly Father would do considering time and again He has said that He doesn’t think or act like us humans. His morality is not our morality and His laws are not our laws. If He has allowed for and even created Israel from polygamy, I see no reason why it wouldn’t exist in the eternities. He isn’t going to break up the family unit of his making (no matter how many wives are involved in that unit) just to please your version of marriage, love, and 21st C political puerile ideas of equality.

  40. SteveP says:

    For me, as I argued here<, the probabilities are just against there being polygamy in heaven. Here was the key thought from that post:

    "There are going to be a minimum of about between 2 to 4 billion more males than females in the Celestial Kingdom based on infant mortality differences between the sexes."

  41. Craig says:

    It is established historical fact that Joseph did all of the following:

    1) Told married men that God wanted him to sleep with their wives
    2) Had sex with those women
    3) Had sex with underage girls (in his day a 37 year old man with a 14 year old girl would have been just as shocking as it is today)
    4) Told women that God was going to kill him if they refused to become his polygamous wives, laying an unfair burden of responsibility on these women
    5) Hid his polygamous/extramarital relationships from his legal wife
    6) Had sexual relationships with girls he had taken into his home as hired help or wards
    7) Sold his friends out when they found out he’d been lying to them about polygamy

    I have an actual, serious question for those who don’t believe in polygamy but still believe in Mormonism:

    Why then are you following the teachings/church of a man who is a lying, manipulative, child rapist? And even if it is doctrinal, he still lied to Emma and cheated on her behind her back, and has sex with at least one child.

    In my view, a man who is a serial cheater and liar and uses his authority to manipulate and guilt women, including adolescents, into sleeping with him isn’t someone who can be trusted in other areas. I don’t believe he has any credibility regarding his claims of visions and revelations from god (because those claims can’t be empirically tested). If he can lie and manipulate women into having sex with him behind his wife’s back, certainly he’s also capable of lying and manipulating people into a religion where he has all the power and authority.

    This isn’t rhetorical. I’m actually interested in people’s thoughts on this.

  42. chris says:

    I don’t know. I can see both sides. I don’t see how someone can be so vehemently opposed to it. Rather, I understand some are for very compelling reasons, but if it’s God’s will and it’s just and you have faith in God I’m not sure what the question is, other than just a person trying to understand and accept God’s will.

    But I’d guess it’s probably not at all in the sense like we think of marriage and relationships. It could be… I’d guess not, but I don’t concern myself with that too much considering what I have to deal with here and now.

    Ultimately, I’d say do you think your relationship with Christ is inequitable because he “shares” his “time” with someone else? His is relationship with you diminished because he loves so many others? Paradoxically, I think it is expanded greatly in the more the merrier sense. How great would be your joy if you bring many souls unto Christ. (and how great would His be?)

    Only when we reduce human relationships to the sexual side of the relationship does this begin to fall apart, in which case I’d say to myself why are you making it about sex? — Most likely it’s the natural man in me that wonders that. I very rarely see God focusing on the sexual aspect of relationships other than for the basis of procreation. Please don’t read this as saying it has no value. I think it does. I don’t know if it has the same value in the next world.

  43. Ms. Jack says:

    I actually agree, to some extent, with PaulM (who, btw, is not my husband Paul M.). God doesn’t have to treat anyone equally. God can do what he wants. There is no passage of Scripture that says God has to treat everyone exactly the same, and the Bible (at least) is full of examples of God treating different groups of people differently based on arbitrary characteristics like race, sex, age, nationality, etc.

    I also think (as a non-member who doesn’t believe in eternal marriage) that if eternal marriage exists, then one has to allow for some form of polygamy, if only to account for those who re-marry after losing their spouse to premature death. Take my father. My mother passed away in 2008 from pancreatic cancer, and my father is getting re-married next month to an old friend of the family who has never been married herself. He sincerely loves both women. If eternal marriage is true, why should he be forced to choose between wives? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to spend eternity with both?

    My problem is, I feel exactly the same way about the re-married widow. Why should she be forced to choose between husbands when she sincerely loves both men? Yet, according to current LDS sealing policy, that’s exactly what she must do. Even worse, if she stays sealed to the first husband, any children she has with the second husband will be sealed to the first one. Frankly, Mormon heaven sounds like the re-married widow’s hell.

    Go ahead. Tell me that God’s ways are not my ways and I’m just taking shots at eternal and sacred things that I can’t understand with my puny human mind. Fact is, I’m perfectly confident in my fallible human feelings on this matter, and if God really lets men have all of their spouses while women have to choose one, it doesn’t sound like a God I have any interest in worshiping. I don’t think God is like that though; I think 19th century Mormon polygamists projected their way of life onto God and now the 21st century Mormon church is stuck with it. It’s human nature to create gods who are more like us instead of asking God to transform our hearts so that we’re more like Him.

    I like what people are saying about how the whole human family in heaven will be sealed together so marriages will become irrelevant. This is almost exactly what evangelicals believe: that human marriage is a type for our relationship with God and that it will be fulfilled and replaced by our union with God and each other in the next life. If Mormons want to move in that direction, more power to you.

  44. Olive says:

    Well, polygamy was created by our ‘good God’ and sanctioned by Him on Earth in the 1st place. So He obviously doesn’t have too big of a problem with it and how ‘unfair’ it is to women. I’m not sure there are any solid arguments against polygamy in Heaven, which is why it continues to be so upsetting for so many women.

    All I can say is it better d*&^ NOT be in heaven because if so, I guess I’m doomed to be a ministering angel for all eternity.

  45. Bethany Hull says:

    I just wanted to thank you all for your comments and for this website. The past couple years I have struggled with feeling guilty for me “feminist” ideas about the church. Once in a while I read the posts over at Mormon Feminist Housewives , but it seemed the posts often became angry and criticizing of church leadership and doctrine (Though I do understand where they’re coming from).

    Thank you so much for creating a kind, careful, open-minded environment to share such thoughts and feelings. I feel so peaceful and happy reading your posts rather than frustrated and tearful at our situation.

  46. Caroline says:

    Chris, I see what you’re saying about humans focusing too much on sex in marriage — but I think we’re taught as Mormons to do that. Certainly Mormons and the current incarnation of the Mormon God don’t seem to be very relaxed about the idea of sharing one’s sexuality with more than one person at a time.

    ms. Jack,
    “if God really lets men have all of their spouses while women have to choose one, it doesn’t sound like a God I have any interest in worshiping.”

    I feel the same way.

    Same here – if there’s polygyny without polyandry up there, I’m pretty sure I won’t be a part of that system.

    Your comment made my day. Thank you. 🙂

  47. Erin says:

    I do have ancestors who lived happily in a polygamous relationship for a time. The husband traveled a great deal and the two wives loved having each others’ help and company while he was away. Then the second wife died, and the husband married a third woman, who the first wife despised. That first wife, who had been married for so long to this man, had raised his children, kept his home, cooked his meals– she ended up leaving, which I really think is tragic.

  1. July 16, 2010

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  2. January 15, 2011

    […] happens in the afterlife. But then I wonder…why do people resist the the idea of polygamy in heaven? Is there a fear that the relationships in heaven will mimic the certain failings or limitations of […]

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