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Yme

What If Polygamy Never Happened

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Perhaps a few too simple questions but: "What if polygamy never happened with Joseph Smith." "What did the Lds church achieve by having polygamy that it would/could not have achieved without polygamy"? "If, as according to Lds Church claims today, so few practiced polygamy, why was it necessary at all"? "If it was so important, why does the Lds Church say so little about it in its official website and distance itself from it"?

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Perhaps a few too simple questions but: "What if polygamy never happened with Joseph Smith." "What did the Lds church achieve by having polygamy that it would/could not have achieved without polygamy"? "If, as according to Lds Church claims today, so few practiced polygamy, why was it necessary at all"? "If it was so important, why does the Lds Church say so little about it in its official website and distance itself from it"?

Maybe its important to the effect of possible "predestination" of some in the premortal excistance? I;E..maybe a woman or man was predestined to have certain things in mortality and polygamy was the path in which for the lord to achieve his plan. as he did in ancient days with concubines and such. Maybe there were things we dont understand right now.

I beleive it was nessacery 1000 percent, but for what reasons we do not know. And its pretty obvious why the church doesnt advertise this issue? if the entire world were L.D.S and understood things a little better, the church could have a lot more open dialouge on this subject.

:P

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For better or worse, it was essential for the survival of the church during that time. It helped establish critical dynastic relationships so the church could get some initial staying traction. The principle that the more children and wives you had, the greater your status in heaven, was a powerful motivator. I think it was literally survival by numbers. My family line initially started during the time of Joseph Smith. There are 40,000 posterity from one man.

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the church distances itself from the current practice of polygamy because Saints no longer practice polygamy, and from waht I've heard, most of the current practitioners are a little bit, oh what shall we call it, APOSTATE?

In what way do you think the church would be better off? Would we be better off if there had never been a Zion's Camp expedition? If the members had never tried to settle Far West? Or Kirtland? Or Nauvoo? Would the church have been better off if Joseph had just taken the faithful directly from Fayette to Utah?

With each time of difficulty there was a winnowing of the faithful. Each time of trial people's faith grew or they let go. Our Father does not promise us an easy path. We are to be burned in the refiner's fire and prove whether we are gold or dross.

Fact is, polygamy is not nearly as bad as some people paint it. I fail to see why polygamy is illegal, when it is perfectly legal for a husband to cheat on his wife. Why don't they throw adulterers in jail?

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Abraham Isaac and Jacob didn't have a problem with it. And who was in their posterity? Jesus Christ.

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I don't know whether the Church would have been better off had plural marriage never happened. I suspect not.

Here's one thought:

By entering into plural marriages and by sustaining a culture marked by plural marriages, members of the Church cut their ties to mainstream American culture more effectively and completely than would have been the case had they not done so. (Moving to the Great Basin also cut those ties, obviously.) It was, thus, much harder for them to simply melt back into surrounding non-Mormon society; their identity was now much more completely and irrevocably Mormon. This created something like a Mormon ethnicity, which is far different from mere denominationalism. Lutherans and Methodists can move back and forth between their churches. Members of the Community of Christ (aka RLDS), lacking a radically non-mainstream social history (and lacking the trek westward) have become much less distinctive and are, in fact, very like certain strands of Protestantism. Mormonism remains a very distinct culture. It might not have survived had this not occurred.

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Fact is, polygamy is not nearly as bad as some people paint it. I fail to see why polygamy is illegal, when it is perfectly legal for a husband to cheat on his wife. Why don't they throw adulterers in jail?

Not 'nearly as bad'? :P Why don't you explain what exactly the difference is?

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If polygamy had not entered the picture, I suspect a lot of LDS theology would have been different.

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Not 'nearly as bad'? :P Why don't you explain what exactly the difference is?

The difference between polygamy and adultery? The polygamist made an honorable contract with his wives (and his wives had choice in the acceptance of a second marriage). The adulterer cheats, lies, and breaks his vows. Sounds like the difference between good and bad to me. Or maybe just the difference between treating women with respect and treating them like things. Oops, that's the same thing, isn't it? ;)

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In reference to what was stated by Daniel Peterson, the Word of Wisdom has the same result. People are always trying to justify the word of wisdom as a brilliant health code and from time they get into trouble as various and sundry studies suggest that a bit of wine or cup of green tea can be good for you. I think that good health is the fortunate side benefit to a cultural trait that sets us apart almost immediately in any given social setting. Every time I am at a social or business function I am given the opportunity to share the gospel. When I say I don't drink tea or coffee, from time to time people ask if I'm Mormon. Ancient Israel was given similar distinctions that made them stand out. They were not allowed to be mainstream, and God has continued this method of building his kingdom.

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Perhaps a few too simple questions but: "What if polygamy never happened with Joseph Smith." "What did the Lds church achieve by having polygamy that it would/could not have achieved without polygamy"? "If, as according to Lds Church claims today, so few practiced polygamy, why was it necessary at all"? "If it was so important, why does the Lds Church say so little about it in its official website and distance itself from it"?

Time and season for everything under the sun.

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:P lol.

I can think of another dozen excuses that the enemies of the church can conjure up other than polygamy, which seems to the be at the top of the list.

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Perhaps a few too simple questions but: "What if polygamy never happened with Joseph Smith." "What did the Lds church achieve by having polygamy that it would/could not have achieved without polygamy"? "If, as according to Lds Church claims today, so few practiced polygamy, why was it necessary at all"? "If it was so important, why does the Lds Church say so little about it in its official website and distance itself from it"?

I am curious whether people (critic and believer) believe polygamy ultimately helped or hurt the Mormon church. The answer probably will depend on what your current view of the LDS church is. Here are some effects I think that polygamy had on the LDS church:

1) As DCP pointed out, it removed the LDS further from the mainstream of American society. While polygamy was being practiced and for a long time thereafter, it was THE identifying characteristic of Mormonism in the public mind. This probably really only began to change after WWII, as most commentators agree that Mormonism has since that time become considerably more mainstream. This past separateness probably radicalized both Mormons and non-Mormons.

2) It increased the power of certain LDS families. Even today I would say that a very large portion of upper-echelon LDS leadership is drawn from a relatively small pool of ancestors. These were men who were able to, because of polygamy, increase their progeny far beyond what would have been possible in a strictly monogamous society. A cynic would say that this was a power scheme to reward one's loyal supporters, a believer would say that an increase in righteous posterity was the Lord's plan.

3) As a corrollary to the first point, I think it certainly has made missionary work more difficult. When people's first association of Mormonism is with polygamy it can make it difficult to begin to engage these people about Mormonism.

I believe that polygamy ultimately hurt the church; it has been a 100+ year public relations debacle from which it may never be able to dissassociate itself. But as I said, each of the effects I noted above could also conceivably be interpreted as a positive by the faithful.

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Would the world be a better place if Christ had not given the Sermon on the Mount? Would George Washington have been a better president if he had been able to keep all his real teeth in his mouth? Would I be a better person if my first wife had stayed with me in spite of her mental problems?

I really don't know.

Yme, would you be a better person if you were a devout Mormon or Catholic? How about if you looked like me?

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Well, alex71va wouldn't be here is so. Is that good or bad? You decide. ;):P

Many of us likely wouldn't be here, but that's just my guess.

-=-=-=

2) It increased the power of certain LDS families. Even today I would say that a very large portion of upper-echelon LDS leadership is drawn from a relatively small pool of ancestors. These were men who were able to, because of polygamy, increase their progeny far beyond what would have been possible in a strictly monogamous society. A cynic would say that this was a power scheme to reward one's loyal supporters, a believer would say that an increase in righteous posterity was the Lord's plan.

So it splits all the wealth and makes for great dissension, too. Is it really a power scheme?

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I don't know whether the Church would have been better off had plural marriage never happened. I suspect not.

Here's one thought:

By entering into plural marriages and by sustaining a culture marked by plural marriages, members of the Church cut their ties to mainstream American culture more effectively and completely than would have been the case had they not done so. (Moving to the Great Basin also cut those ties, obviously.) It was, thus, much harder for them to simply melt back into surrounding non-Mormon society; their identity was now much more completely and irrevocably Mormon. This created something like a Mormon ethnicity, which is far different from mere denominationalism. Lutherans and Methodists can move back and forth between their churches. Members of the Community of Christ (aka RLDS), lacking a radically non-mainstream social history (and lacking the trek westward) have become much less distinctive and are, in fact, very like certain strands of Protestantism. Mormonism remains a very distinct culture. It might not have survived had this not occurred.

The same can be said of Warren Jeffs and his church (FLDS?) so I'm not sure I follow your point here. If you are saying that it was a positive influence on getting the Lds Church where it is today, why is so little said about it publicly by the Lds church today? If it was so important in creating a distinctive "culture", should it not be an important issue to be discussed and explained openly to existing members and potential members in official church sources?

When one goes to the "History of the Prophets" page of the Lds Church website, not one of the wives from prophets who practiced polygamy is mentioned (except for Emma Smith) while all of the monogamous marriages are set out as a "special event" in the lives of prophets who did not practice polygamy. It seems, at least in an official capacity, the Lds Church seems to take an opposite view and would rather distance itself from this heritage. It would seem more logical to conclude that, because of this, the Lds church does not see it as benefiting a "distinctive culture".

Also, what about the distinctive nature of the RLDS (Church of Christ?). They seemed to survive and become their own distinctive culture without practicing polygamy.

Finally, what "specifically" did polygamy provide to the Lds doctrine that would not have been provided via monogamy? Why was it needed in the first place? Everything I have seen and read clearly shows it had nothing to do with there being more females than males in the lds population. It just seems to me, unless you adopt a "persecution complex" perspective, that polygamy only caused problems with respect to the acceptance of the Lds Church (both then and now) without providing it any real doctrinal or reproduction benefits.

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In case you are wondering, Heber J. Grant was the last Church president to practice plural marriage. I believe he had 3 wives.

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In case you are wondering, Heber J. Grant was the last Church president to practice plural marriage. I believe he had 3 wives.

Yes, I figured that out by reviewing the "Significant Events" section of the Past Presidents section at lds.org. Interestingly enough, only monogamous marriages are recognized as significant events in the bios of the prophets. George Albert Smith is the first to have his marriage recognized as a significant event. It seems, on that site anyway, rather disrespectful to the women who were part of plural marriages

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Finally, what "specifically" did polygamy provide to the Lds doctrine that would not have been provided via monogamy? Why was it needed in the first place? Everything I have seen and read clearly shows it had nothing to do with there being more females than males in the lds population. It just seems to me, unless you adopt a "persecution complex" perspective, that polygamy only caused problems with respect to the acceptance of the Lds Church (both then and now) without providing it any real doctrinal or reproduction benefits.

I don't think you've been paying attention to all of the responses on this thread. Staccato stated it very succinctly:

For better or worse, it was essential for the survival of the church during that time. It helped establish critical dynastic relationships so the church could get some initial staying traction. The principle that the more children and wives you had, the greater your status in heaven, was a powerful motivator. I think it was literally survival by numbers. My family line initially started during the time of Joseph Smith. There are 40,000 posterity from one man.

I shall enlarge a bit on what Staccato said.

Raw population figures and male/female ratios, whether in Utah territory as a whole or specifically in the Church, mean nothing in this discussion, as plural marriage was a limited practice engaged in by those who were among the more righteous members of the Church.

Thus, it had the effect, in a relatively short time, of creating numerous faithful households and genealogical lineages through which the restored gospel could be taught and handed down through the generations. This rather quickly brought about a critical mass that not only could ensure the survival of the Church in the face of oppression, but could spread the Mormon faith globally, thus fulfilling the prophecy that through Abraham and his seed (in our day meaning righteous Latter-day Saints) all the nations (families) of the earth would be blessed.

Could plural marriage have continued indefinitely? I'm convinced the answer is no. But it lasted just long enough to bring about this critical mass. To illustrate this, just reflect on the fact that virtually every person today with Mormon pioneer ancestry, including many members of the Church, has descended through one or more polygamous genealogical lines.

In light of this reasoning, the message in Jacob 2:30 makes sense: Monogamy is the default condition among the people of God, but the Lord, at certain times, will decree the practice of plural marriage to "raise up seed unto" him. This is precisely what happened with the Church in this gospel dispensation.

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Abraham Isaac and Jacob didn't have a problem with it. And who was in their posterity? Jesus Christ.

Except, as is all too often pointed out here, JS never sired any children from his polygamous relationships. Which, according to D&C 132, wasn't that supposed to be the point of it all?

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I believe that polygamy ultimately hurt the church; it has been a 100+ year public relations debacle from which it may never be able to dissassociate itself. But as I said, each of the effects I noted above could also conceivably be interpreted as a positive by the faithful.

The Church has never lived or died on its public relations efforts. For most people who investigate and ultimately embrace Mormonism, its polygamous past is nothing more than a curiosity. Those who give it as a reason for falling away probably would have found some other reason or set of reasons to do so if polygamy had not been there for them to latch on to.

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Except, as is all too often pointed out here, JS never sired any children from his polygamous relationships. Which, according to D&C 132, wasn't that supposed to be the point of it all?

Joseph Smith's role as prophet of the Restoration was to receive the revelation instituting plural marriage, teach it to others, and set the example by living it himself.

Hounded constantly by his enemies and cut down in the prime of life, Joseph never had opportunity raise up numerous posterity by means of plural marriage. Had his enemies allowed him to live, and had he gone west with the Saints, there can be little doubt he would have been as prolific as his brethren to whom he taught the principle.

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I'm not convinced he never had children by a plural wife, personally. But as Scott Lloyd pointed out, he taught by example, and his life was ended in martyrdom.

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I'm not convinced he never had children by a plural wife, personally.

Either way, the critics find reason to castigate the Church over the matter. This is a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don't.

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So it splits all the wealth and makes for great dissension, too. Is it really a power scheme?

Well, from an evolutionary perspective there is no greater payoff than having lots of progeny. Strictly biologically speaking, a huge percentage of what males do is ultimately geared toward that single goal of passing along our genetic information. A leader wanting to instill loyalty could do worse than devising a system that rewards his most loyal of followers by marrying them to lots of women and ensuring them an ever-increasing brood. Even if you don't believe it was used that way, do you at least acknowledge that it could be used that way?

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