Sunday, January 18, 2015

Do Mormons Still Believe in Polygamy?

A casual scan of the public face of Mormonism, as shown on their websites and through their many apologists, would indicate that they do not still believe in polygamy. Any more, they are very careful to try to cover up and hide the history of their polygamous past. That's understandable. It was polygamy that prevented Utah from becoming a state in the late 1880s, and the Federal Government had worked hard to disband the church by taking its assets and arresting many polygamous church leaders.

The issue of polygamy, understandably, was a Very Big Deal to the other Christians in the country -- it was seen as immoral, base, evil, irreligious, and generally just a nasty business all around. They said this even as they exhibited a morbid fascination with it. Because, you know, human nature...

Finally it came down to this: The church was going to have to stop the practice or face extinction and have its leaders spend years in prison. Plus Utah was not going to become a state -- and therefore it would miss out on the many monetary opportunities that statehood would provide.

So in 1890,  the "Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church", Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto that advised church members not to enter into any marriage "prohibited by the law of the land". That essentially ended all polygamous marriages -- but only the ones that had been planned. Existing church polygamists could still keep their wives intact, and most of them did. Several families stole away in the night to settle in Alberta, Canada, and across the Mexican border where they set up many Mormon colonies, including something called "Colonia Ju├írez" in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, in the totally mistaken belief that neither Mexico nor Canada had laws against polygamy. Mitt Romney's grandparents were in the group that went to Juarez, where his father, George, was born. In 1968 the question came up as to whether he was a Constitutionally-required "natural-born" citizen of the United States when he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

The Mormon Fundamentalist movement said that Woodruff got no such revelation and was therefore a "false prophet" -- anathema to Mormons -- and they split off from the One True Church, and eventually splintered into several offshoots, the most noteworthy of them being the one headed by the notorious Warren Jeffs.

Later on, though, the pre-manifesto marriages to multiple wives had to stop as well. The church members, who always choose to follow the "Prophet", had divested themselves of the supernumerary wives, mostly by attrition, by the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, and the church joined the rest of society on the "one woman one man" bandwagon. To the point that it became Holy Writ  by the time they were campaigning for the passage of Proposition 8 outlawing gay marriage in Califormia -- "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

But, since the Prophet did not issue this as a "divine revelation" but rather as a "manifesto", the question remains as to whether The Lord commanded it, or did he just make it as a suggestion. None of the passages in the Doctrine and Covenants, LDS scripture authored by Joseph Smith himself, were altered to remove the whole "plural marriage" revelations by The Prophet in the 1830s. But True Believers naturally think that their Prophet is more infallible than the Pope, and many took the manifesto as though it were a new commandment.

But polygamy still exists in the church in a weird kind of way. In order to get into the top tier of Heaven (the "Celestial Kingdom") a person has to be married. And not just married -- they have to be "sealed" together in a Mormon Temple so that they will be husband and wife not only here on earth but also for "time and all eternity". Those who do not receive this "sealing" will not get to go. Sorry.

But there is a loophole. A man who is already on his way there (i.e., a good Mormon who obeys the commandments, upholds The Prophet and the General Authorities, exalts Joseph Smith, and has already been sealed to one wife) can, out of the goodness of his heart (or for a monetary consideration), take on many more women to be sealed to him. By the time he gets to the Celestial Kingdom, he can have a virtual harem of women who are his "wives". Of course those women also have to be good Mormons -- not just any Jane Doe/Street Ho will do. Usually these are women who didn't manage to snag a husband while they were trying to get their MRS degree at BYU, or women who married shiftless "Gentile" (i.e., not Mormon) louts outside the church, etc. Weirdly, woman can also get themselves "sealed" to a man who is already dead (well, the Mormons baptize for the dead anyway; why not get them married off as well? It's not like they are going to complain about it...).

And that still sounds a lot like polygamy to me. It just happens on a different plane.

I am not making this up. And I wonder if I am on that Mormon blacklist yet.

BTW, if you are a Mormon who is questioning your continued belief in the church, you don't have to suffer your spiritual crisis alone. There are people over at PostMormon.org who can help you.  Drop by and see what they have to offer.

1 Comment:

One Fly said...

To answer your query I say yes.

A couple times pretty nasty posts about Mormony men and their relationships with young women got many very riled up next door in Utah. Tough shit.

Over the years there were maybe 6-8 young Mormon men who entered my world of "Caddyshack" and when they moved on to college and such - trust me they were never going to be the same.

I asked everyone of them after we got to know each other if polygamy was still part of it all and across the board they all answered yes.

Don't mean shit - just saying.