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Why is polygamy such a hot-button topic?


liz3564

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How do you, as a faithful Latter-Day Saint, come to terms with this principle? Do you compartmentalize it and just assume that "it will all make sense in the next life"?

My personal take is that it was a mistake from the word go and has been an albatross around the neck of the Church.

That said, I have heard LDS women talk about how nice it would be to have a Sister-Wife share the burdens of house work and child rearing as well as be company. The one thing they might not take into account is how well they would relate to a Sister-Wife of a younger generation. In any company of Sister-Wives, there is bound to be an Amelia.

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The next question is how I came to terms with it as part of our doctrine...

It is easier for me now as a husband, a father of a large family, and a friend to many women in fatherless households. My wife has told me that in the eternities she will not feel right about having a good man to herself while her friends do not share that blessing. If the men in the world do not repent and take care of these good sisters, she fully expects me to do my share to make sure they are not neglected.

Currently when I have the time and money we already do yardwork, lend automobiles, share dates and vacations, share meals, watch kids, help through generous fast offerings, and a myriad of things to ease the burden of single motherhood in our friends. The only thing we don't do is share the kind of intimacy reserved for marriage. One thing I can say about these experiences that flies in the face of most arguments, is that when the closeness of family is shared, the attention and love given and received is not divided, it is multiplied. (However as I said I cannot speak for the issue of marital intimacy - and I admit that this seems to be a much more complex part of the equation). However, marital intimacy is not the sum total of marriage.

People multiplying resources, time and familial love by sharing them fits quite well with the doctrines about raising up seed to the righteous annointed of the Lord, through the Principle (which is the biggest single doctrinal reason I have identified). I can see families of complex and large size prospering by sharing their time, talents and energy, in ways that two parents could not do by themselves.

The physical intimacy issue is another matter, and I cannot fully comprehend how that would, or should be handled- other than to assume a great deal of sensitivity, privacy and even charity on the part of all invloved would be needed to handle it.

Dear Dadof7,

I always enjoy your posts. And, once again, you have given a very thoughtful, sensitive answer to my questions.

Thank you for participating in the thread, and for your honesty! <_<

As a family, we have also done our share in helping single mothers by many of the same activities you mentioned. I am continually amazed at how well single parents operate. It is a challenge raising 3 children WITH a partner! :P

The physical and emotional intimacy is the biggest stumbling block for me.

Analytics brought out some interesting points:

Analytics Posted on May 15 2006, 09:37 AM

  When contemporary Mormons think about eternal marriage they think of a romantic relationship that does not end at death. They think about soul mates

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Analytics:

I've never read that monogamous relationships were the highth of Mormondoms marriages, or that polygamous ones were either.

I can not concieve of a Heaven without my Grandparents, my parents, my wife, my children, their wives, and their children. Doesn't sound terribly neuclear to me.

I've read D&C 132 in its entirety many times, and I(and our currant leaders) don't get YOUR interpretation.

One thing I'd like to point out is that in the LDS version of heaven, only your relatives who qualify will be there. It might not seem like heaven at all once you're there.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, compare these two quotes:

One of the most beautiful, comforting doctrines of the Lord
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This may be an interesting way to approach this but in my discipline at University we talk often about post-modern deconstruction and especially the pervasiveness of social conditioning.

There are many things that go against the grain in our culture but which become, in a different context, "normal". For example their is a tribal culture in southeast asia that does not kiss on the lips but only on the neck, they are more comfortable with this arrangement and who can really say.

The point is that most (all) of our perceptions of marriage were constructed by culture not by heaven so one begins to wonder is our "icky" feeling simply a manifestation of cultural condition and if so would we not give up this conditioning and for the greatest culture ever - the culture of God?

There were three talks given at the last conference on the topic of shedding the cultures and attitudes of our society in favor of Gods "culture". Apparently the brothern have put some thought into it.

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I can see two major reasons for Polygamy being such a hot-topic, among LDS and non-LDS as well:

1) The modern practice of polygamy among the apostate groups is absolutely abominable (even if you have no qualms about the doctrine of plural marriage, the idea of grown men thinly veiling sexual abuse of 14 year old girls through their religion is absolutely apalling), and therefore, whenever the topic is brought up, there are so many negative connotations that it's almost like there's a big monster in the corner that nobody wants to confront, but nobody can ignore, either. This leads to tension between members and non-members.

2) Even though we don't practice polygamy anymore in the church, the church has never renounced the principle - on the contrary, according to my understanding, we still believe that polygamy is a true principle and TBMs still embrace this principle. Of course, trying to believe in something without experiencing it, it can be very difficult to get a testimony of it. This leads to tension between members.

I think that the first issue grows as a problem the more people associate the fundamentalists ex-Mormons with us, or the more one-sided and one-dimensional the discussion becomes. When the line becomes blurred, the discussions of polygamy become less and less about what it was like back in the 1800s, and more and more what it was like today. The way that modern polygamists abuse plural marriage, compared with the actual way that my ancestors practiced it as recorded in their family histories, I tend to believe that most of these modern polygamists would face church discipline whether or not the church was still practicing polygamy. But it's hard to convey this when you still have barriers of ignorance to overcome.

As for the second reason, I think that this is a product of social conditioning in our monogomous society. I've wondered: if the church brought back polygamy, would I have what it takes to practice it? And also, I've wondered, under what conditions would the church bring back the practice of polygamy, and what would be the reaction? I've always considered myself a TBM, and as such I've hoped that I'd be able to practice polygamy if required to do so - and to do it correctly. So, when I was young, I tried to learn what I could about polygamy, to ask the difficult questions, to make sure that this wouldn't be something that would jump up later and hurt my faith or my testimony. The result was that I came to accept the doctrine of plural marriage before I had fully developed my conceptualization of emotional intimacy, so that this wasn't so much of an issue.

I'm glad of that, now, because I can look at polygamy and see it not as something that's different-bad, or different-gross, but as something that's just different without a qualifier attached to it. And that's the kind of spiritual flexibility that I think we all need to develop as members of the church - the flexibility to accept that maybe the first way we understood the plan of salvation, the image of noah's ark and the pictures in our minds of all the other stories that we've carried since primary may not be totally the same as the reality. Flexibility, with a firmly grounded faith in the basics - Jesus Christ, the Atonement, and the Restoration of the Gospel.

Blah blah. Enough with my soapboxing. It's just a very interesting subject that I enjoy talking about.

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Joshu, I totally agree with you about the social conditioning. It turns out that people keep popping out responses on this messageboard so fast that your response came up while I was typing up my response. But I concur.

An interesting implication of the social conditioning is that the difficulty of so many members to accept the doctrine of plural marriage is not so much a symptom of a testimony issue as one might think. In other words, members who have strong testimonies might still find it hard to accept the doctrine, and shouldn't get too hard on themselves for "doubting their testimonies."

Another implication of this is that, if polygamy "feels" wrong because of social conditioning and not because of the doctrine, it might still be or have been the right thing, even if it doesn't feel right. This is kind of similar to the atonement not "feeling right," because it doesn't feel like "justice." Of course it doesn't feel like justice - Christ didn't save you because you deserved it or earned it, he saved you because he's merciful and he loves you!

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It seems to me that most of our conceptions of love, romance, and intimacy and by tragic implication Eternal marriage are founded and bound securely in the social constructs of our time and place.

Trying to imagine what a family is supposed to look like is akin to conceptualing God himself. We are talking about something that is intrinsically Divine and is therefore, in many ways, beyond our feeble comprehension. All I know is that I want to be careful about believing what is "normal" and "right" based the whims of sociatal fashions.

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It seems to me that most of our conceptions of love, romance, and intimacy and by tragic implication Eternal marriage are founded and bound securely in the social constructs of our time and place.

Trying to imagine what a family is supposed to look like is akin to conceptualing God himself. We are talking about something that is intrinsically Divine and is therefore, in many ways, beyond our feeble comprehension. All I know is that I want to be careful about believing what is "normal" and "right" based the whims of sociatal fashions.

I'm curious...and I'll address both Joshu and onelowerlight.

Your views on social conditioning are compelling.

I'm curious as to how you give this perspective. Are you married?

And....if polygamy was "sanctioned" in reverse, and your wife was allowed to take more than one husband, would your thoughts remain the same?

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Liz - I am currently a BYU sophomore. My mother graduated BYU without getting her M.R.S. and I am proud of her for that. I can't see myself getting married in anything less than a year. As a lonely, relationship-starved geek who tends to be addicted to computer games (most recently FF6), I am in the perfect place to offer an unbiased opinion on the issues of social conditioning. Or something like that...

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That said, I have heard LDS women talk about how nice it would be to have a Sister-Wife share the burdens of house work and child rearing as well as be company. The one thing they might not take into account is how well they would relate to a Sister-Wife of a younger generation.  In any company of Sister-Wives, there is bound to be an Amelia.

I don't know what Amelia you're referring to, but one great thing about Relief Society is that it teaches us to relate to any other sister, whatever her age. I'm 32, my mom is 52, but we both relate quite well to the other sisters in our branches, whether it be the 20-somethings, the 50-somethings, or the 70-somethings.

The only problem I could see arising out of such a situation would be if the husband became completely fixated on his youngest wife and completely abandoned the other ones.

Maybe you meant problems of jealousy, but those are not dependent on age, only on perceived advantages, whether it be age, beauty, smarts, whatever.

Del

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Liz - I am currently a BYU sophomore. My mother graduated BYU without getting her M.R.S. and I am proud of her for that. I can't see myself getting married in anything less than a year. As a lonely, relationship-starved geek who tends to be addicted to computer games (most recently FF6), I am in the perfect place to offer an unbiased opinion on the issues of social conditioning. Or something like that...

LOL! I like your attitude. I'm married, 42, and still consider myself a computer geek!

My point is...you haven't yet had the opportunity to experience the close relationship that exists between a husband and wife. It will be interesting to see if your thoughts change once you are able to experience it. They may or may not, as has been demonstrated by members of this forum who have expressed opinions on both sides of the issue.

So...in the realm of your unbiased opinion, would you also be accepting of polyandry(polygamy in reverse) if it was sanctioned by God? Would that concept be any more difficult for you to accept?

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Liz - I am getting married this Saturday which is incredibly exciting for me. As for my fiance marrying another man all I can reasonably say at this point is that it would be just as difficult for me to bring myself to marry another as it would be to see her do the same. The question isn't in level of difficulty, God has often told us that we cannot throw off the shackles of man without his help. So from my perspective it would be very hard indeed but with Gods help it would in fact be easy.

Social conditioning is always difficult to overcome, in fact, it is the very struggle of this life. It is what we are here to do, to learn to recognize God and to follow him instead of human structures and fashions. The really interesting thing is just how pervasive and subtle those structures are.

Polygamy would be impossible with my current view of romance and love but I am not so attached to those ideas that my world would crumble if I had to give them up. I know that there is one truth and so everything is relative, which is to say that there is no such thing as moral relativity, only life relative to Truth

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So...in the realm of your unbiased opinion, would you also be accepting of polyandry(polygamy in reverse) if it was sanctioned by God? Would that concept be any more difficult for you to accept?

I don't understand why you're asking this question. I see it as irrelevant.

Marriage is already pretty peculiar when you stop and think about it, aren't we all basically marrying our spirit brother or sister?

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My issue comes with being "commanded" to practice it. This is where I think the heartache comes in.

This is probably the only issue that could drive me from the church.

Being "commanded" is one problem, but the other problem is lack of consent.

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood
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The only problem I could see arising out of such a situation would be if the husband became completely fixated on his youngest wife and completely abandoned the other ones.

This is one of the most oft cited criticisms of polygamy, and there are even cartoons from the late 1800's which show a surprisingly Brigham like man doting over a new young wife while the older one is shown tearfully slaving away at chores in the background. This is the salacious characture part I was referring too.

It does have to do directly with equity and jealousy. Similar problems can arise in more traditional marriages when a new parent focuses so much on a newborn babe that their spouse suffers from feelings of neglect and jealousy. Even without another adult partner involved, feelings of neglect that even affect intimacy can arise. Being partners is never easy in a family.

Even worse there are plenty of monogamists now who after the honeymoon is over, spend more time and enegry on relatively unimportant hobbies, value their career over their family, or even waste their affections on lustful or impure persuits (I hope I don't have to explain that in more detail).

There are specific rules and regulations surrounding the practice of the Principle as outlined in the LDS Church. First it must only be when commanded by God. Even then it is a calling and not something someone just volunteers to do by themselves. The other family members (wife or wives) must agree to it.

Now as far as insuring jealousy and inequity (unequal treatement) does not enter the relationship, there are admonitions that the original wife or wives must not have any of their subsistance taken from them. I think this principle should also apply to attention and intimacy as well as physical goods and services. Understandably there are times when the circumstances of a family require a father spend more time away, or have less wealth, but overall even in monogamy there is a duty to provide for one's spouse and not restrict anything that we have to give.

Our spouse is someone that we are allowed to and encouraged to love "like unto" the way we love God. This should never change because of age, status, stress or circumstance. Polygamy would certainly make this a greater challenge, but perhaps not so much more a challenge than the other stresses and influences of our lives now.

Paradoxically, only the best and most faithful of monogamists would be adequate candidates for polygamy in my view.

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Liz - I am getting married this Saturday which is incredibly exciting for me. As for my fiance marrying another man all I can reasonably say at this point is that it would be just as difficult for me to bring myself to marry another as it would be to see her do the same. The question isn't in level of difficulty, God has often told us that we cannot throw off the shackles of man without his help. So from my perspective it would be very hard indeed but with Gods help it would in fact be easy.

Social conditioning is always difficult to overcome, in fact, it is the very struggle of this life. It is what we are here to do, to learn to recognize God and to follow him instead of human structures and fashions. The really interesting thing is just how pervasive and subtle those structures are.

Polygamy would be impossible with my current view of romance and love but I am not so attached to those ideas that my world would crumble if I had to give them up. I know that there is one truth and so everything is relative, which is to say that there is no such thing as moral relativity, only life relative to Truth

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! :P

I appreciate your honest response.

Nighthawke Posted on May 15 2006, 12:06 PM

  QUOTE (liz3564 @ May 15 2006, 02:59 PM)

So...in the realm of your unbiased opinion, would you also be accepting of polyandry(polygamy in reverse) if it was sanctioned by God? Would that concept be any more difficult for you to accept? 

I don't understand why you're asking this question. I see it as irrelevant.

I disagree. He had previously stated that he could give an unbiased opinion based on social conditioning. I wanted to know if he had thought it out from the perspective of what women have to face involving polygamy.

Marriage is already pretty peculiar when you stop and think about it, aren't we all basically marrying our spirit brother or sister?

I suppose you're right, Nighthawke. It seems that we come from a completely different place as far as how we view the marriage relationship. As I stated to Charity who feels very similarly to you, I suppose we'll simply have to agree to disagree.

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1) The modern practice of polygamy among the apostate groups is absolutely abominable (even if you have no qualms about the doctrine of plural marriage, the idea of grown men thinly veiling sexual abuse of 14 year old girls through their religion is absolutely apalling)

If God commanded a 46-year-old-man to wed a 14-year-old girl and get her pregnant, would it be wrong for the man to do so?

Our spouse is someone that we are allowed to and encouraged to love "like unto" the way we love God. This should never change because of age, status, stress or circumstance. Polygamy would certainly make this a greater challenge, but perhaps not so much more a challenge than the other stresses and influences of our lives now.

But God seems to get pretty upset with the idea of someone loving something other than Him. I don't think He would be very open to the idea of us loving 3 or 4 other Gods in addition to him, even if we promised that it wouldn't change the way we felt about Him, and that He would still be the most important God because He was the first one we loved.

If God demands He be the only one we love in a theological sense, why is it wrong for a woman to demand she be the only one a man loves in a marital sense?

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If God demands He be the only one we love in a theological sense, why is it wrong for a woman to demand she be the only one a man loves in a marital sense?

Thank you! :P

You phrased this question so much better than I have managed to.

This is my issue as well.

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Nighthawke Posted on May 15 2006, 12:06 PM

  QUOTE (liz3564 @ May 15 2006, 02:59 PM)

So...in the realm of your unbiased opinion, would you also be accepting of polyandry(polygamy in reverse) if it was sanctioned by God? Would that concept be any more difficult for you to accept? 

I don't understand why you're asking this question. I see it as irrelevant.

I disagree. He had previously stated that he could give an unbiased opinion based on social conditioning. I wanted to know if he had thought it out from the perspective of what women have to face involving polygamy.

The whole point here is that social conditioning is inexcapable. You cannot, by definition, be "unbiased", you are always, in some way, only representing reality based on your own paradigmatical understanding. We are in "bias" as a condition of life, once you escape it you will be like God.

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That said, I have heard LDS women talk about how nice it would be to have a Sister-Wife share the burdens of house work and child rearing as well as be company. The one thing they might not take into account is how well they would relate to a Sister-Wife of a younger generation.
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