If I could ask them one question about
the Church’s Book of Mormon, Come Follow Me, Lesson 11
For March 9-15, 2020
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Polygamy, which way is it?”
Things to consider:
- Book of Mormon:
“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord” (Jacob 2:24).
- Doctrine and Covenants:
“David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me . . . and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife” (D&C 132:39).
- Which way is it?
- The only purpose for polygamy allegedly given by God is to raise babies unto Jesus:
- “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things [not having many wives and concubines]” (Jacob 2:30).
- “For they [polygamous wives] are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth . . . that they may bear the souls of men” (D&C 132:63)
- This seems to be so important a principle to defend, that the Church said, “Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents” (Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo).
- In fact, that last statement refers to a footnote that has a reference to footnote 6 in a different essay, Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, which says, “Studies have shown that monogamous women bore more children per wife than did polygamous wives except the first. Fertility at the societal level, however, was enhanced because of the near universality of marriage among women and the abundant opportunities for remarriage among previously married women of childbearing age.”
- But, “The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey the usual population law — a slight excess of males. Orson Pratt, writing in 1853 from direct knowledge of Utah conditions, when the excess of females was supposedly the highest, declares against the opinion that females outnumbered the males in Utah. (The Seer, p. 110) The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence (Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 391)” (Was polygamy necessary in the 19th century because there were more women than men?
- So, we see that the “near universality of marriage among women and the abundant opportunities for remarriage among previously married women of childbearing age” did not require polygamy. With the surplus of men, the Church could have given* women who wanted to be married to a single man instead of giving* them to already married men. With the higher number of average offspring from monogamous women, Jesus could have been much more successful raising up seed unto himself this way.
- Also, according to the Church, “genetic testing has so far been negative,” but the Church hedges saying, “though it is possible he [Joseph] fathered two or three children with plural wives” (Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo). But, Joseph was certainly fertile, having nine children with his only legal wife, Emma, four of which lived to adulthood.
- So, which way is it? For Jesus to raise up seed unto himself? Or, to have fewer children than those plural wives probably would have had in monogamous relationships?
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
* I find the idea of “giving” a woman to a man objectifying, belittling, and misogynistic. I used it in a bullet point above because that is the language used in D&C 132:63 and because I was referring to how the God of that scripture could have commanded monogamous marriages to raise up seed to himself if he was intent on “giving” women to men. I count at least seven times that women are “given” in marriage or concubinage in D&C 132.
A Deeper Look at Mormon Polygamy
Because of my focus on the Book of Mormon, I barely scratched the surface of Mormon Polygamy. The subject is so riddled with theological, legal, and moral concerns that you should probably check out these posts at the LDS Discussions Blog if you’re at all interested in Mormon polygamy.
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 11