The Law of Celestial Plural Marriage

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines— Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.  Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.  (D&C 132:1-3)

Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.  David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.  (D&C 132:37-38)

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.  And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.  (D&C 132:61-62)

God commanded Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law… (D&C 132:34)

They accuse me of polygamy, and of being a false Prophet, and many other things which I do not now remember; but I am no false Prophet; I am no impostor; I have had no dark revelations; I have had no revelations from the devil; I made no revelations; I have got nothing up of myself.  The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on Celestial and plural marriage (D&C 132) and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time hence forth. And they say if I do so, they will kill me. O, what shall I do? If I do not practice it, I shall be damned with my people. If I do teach it, and practice it, and urge it, they say they will kill me, and I know they will. But we have got to observe it.  It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Prophet Joseph Smith, 1843, The Contributor[LDS Young Men’s journal of the late 1800’s], 5:259)

Thursday 9. At prest. Josephs office. Walked out in the P.M. he told me it was lawful for me to send for Sarah & said he would furnish me money. * * * During this period the Prophet Joseph frequently visited my house in my company, and became well acquainted with my wife Ruth, to whom I had been married five years. On day in the month of February, 1843, date not remembered, the Prophet invited me to walk with him. During our walk, he said he had learned that there was a sister back in England, to whom I was very much attached.  I replied there was, but nothing further than an attachment such as a brother and sister in the Church might rightfully entertain for each other.  He then said, “Why don’t you send for her?”  I replied, “In the first place, I have no authority to send for her, and if I had, I have not the means to pay expenses.”  To this he answered, “I give you authority to send for her, and I will furnish you with means,” which he did.  This was the first time the Prophet Joseph talked with me on the subject of plural marriage.  He informed me that the doctrine and principle was right in the sight of our Heavenly Father, and that it was a doctrine which pertained to celestial order and glory.  After giving me lengthy instructions and information concerning the doctrine of celestial or plural marriage, he concluded his remarks by the words, “It is your privilege to have all the wives you want.”  After this introduction, our conversations on the subject of plural marriage were very frequent, and he appeared to take particular pains to inform and instruct me in respect to the principle.  He also informed me that he had other wives living besides his first wife Emma, and in particular gave me to understand that Eliza R. Snow, Louisa Beman, Desdemona W. Fullmer and others were his lawful wives in the sight of Heaven.  (William Clayton’s Nauvoo Diaries and Personal Writings, A chronological compilation of the personal writings of William Clayton while he was a resident of Nauvoo, Illinois, Robert C. Fillerup, compiler, entry for Thursday March 9, 1843)

On the 1st day of May, 1843, I officiated in the office of an Elder by marrying Lucy Walker to the Prophet Joseph Smith, at his own residence.  During this period the Prophet Joseph took several other wives.  Amongst the number I well remember Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, Sarah Ann Whitney, Helen Kimball and Flora Woodworth.  These all, he acknowledged to me, were his lawful, wedded wives, according to the celestial order.  His wife Emma was cognizant of the fact of some, if not all, of these being his wives, and she generally treated them very kindly.  (William Clayton’s Nauvoo Diaries and Personal Writings, A chronological compilation of the personal writings of William Clayton while he was a resident of Nauvoo, Illinois, Robert C. Fillerup, compiler, entry for Thursday May 1, 1843)

She [Emma Smith] told me to sit down on the bed by her and we both sat down on the bed that I was making.  She looked very sad and cast down, and there she said to me, “The principle of plural marriage is right, but I am like other women, I am naturally jealous-hearted and can talk back to Joseph as long as any wife can talk back to her husband, but what I want to say to you is this.  You heard me finding fault with the principle.  I want to say that that principle is right, it is from our Father in Heaven,” and then she again spoke of her jealousy. * * *  “What I said I have got [to] repent of.  The principle is right but I am jealous-hearted.  Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph of that principle.  The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else finds fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.  (Quotation from a signed statement by Maria Jane Woodward describing a conversation she had with Emma Smith, and which quotes some of Emma’s statements.  This statement was attached to a letter from George H. Brimhall to Joseph F. Smith, 21 April 1902, Incoming Correspondence, Joseph F. Smith Papers, Church Archives. Quoted in Andrew Ehat’s Master’s Thesis, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question.” BYU, December 1982, p. 92, ellipses in quote in the thesis document. )

Being thoroughly convinced, as well as my husband, that the doctrine of plurality of wives was from God, and having a fixed determination to attain to Celestial glory, I felt to embrace the whole Gospel, and that it was for my husband’s exaltation that he should obey the revelation on Celestial Marriage [D&C 132], that he might attain to kingdoms, thrones, principalities and powers, firmly believing that I should participate with him in all his blessings, glory and honor.  Accordingly within the last year, like Sarah of old, I had given to my husband five wives; good, virtuous, honorable young women.  This gave them all homes with us, being proud of my husband and loving him very much, knowing him to be a man of God and believing he would not love them less because he loved me more.  I had joy in having a testimony that what I had done was acceptable to my Father in Heaven. (Bathsheba W. Smith, Bathsheba Smith Autobiography:  BYU-A, 11)

Latter-day Saints did not accept into their faith and practice the plural wife system idea that it would increase the comfort, or added to the ease of any one.  From the first it was known that it would involve sacrifice, to make a large demand upon the faith, patience, hope, and charity of all who should attempt to carry out its requirements.  Its introduction was not a call to ease or pleasure, but to religious duty; it was not an invitation to self-indulgence, but to self[-]conquest; its purpose was not earth-happiness, but earth-life discipline, undertaken in the interest of special advantages for succeeding generations of men.  That purpose was to give to succeeding generations a superior fatherhood and motherhood, by enlarging the opportunities of men of high character, moral integrity, and spiritual development to become in larger measure the progenitors of the race.  To give to women of like character and development a special opportunity to consecrate themselves to the high mission of motherhood.  The new and everlasting covenant of marriage, was instituted for the fullness of God’s glory.  Under it “if any man espouse a virgin,” to quote the law, “and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent; and if he espouses the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery, for they are given unto him [i.e. under the law of God and by the authority of God’s priesthood]; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth,” according to God’s commandment, and to fulfill the promise which was given by the Father, “before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein,” said Jesus, through whom the revelation was given, “is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.” There is nothing here or elsewhere in the revelation promising ease or happiness or pleasure; there is nothing but an exalted motive presented for this marriage system, the bearing of the souls of men, “replenishing the earth” with the race of men.  Procreation of the race is the first and high purpose of the marriage institution, all else incidental; and procreation under conditions the most favorable to the welfare of the offspring, and hence to the race; first in giving in larger measure progenitors of high character—men who have given evidence of upright, temperate, virtuous lives; women, chaste, noble, and willing to consecrate their lives to the duty of motherhood, to this end sacrificing earthly pleasure, including the exclusive companionship of the husband promised in monogamous marriages.  As some women against the promptings of natural inclinations of the social instincts, of the cravings for wedlock companionship, and the desire for offspring, will renounce the world and the noble office of motherhood itself, and retire into dismal retreats and spend their lives in prayer and meditation, only emerging into the world to render service of teaching the youth, visiting the needy, or nursing the sick; so plural wives among the Latter-day Saints, and first wives who consented to their husbands entering into these relations, accepted the institution from the highest moral and religious motives.  First as being a commandment of God instituted “for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men;” and, second, that they might bear the souls of men under conditions that gave largest promise of improving the race and bringing forth the supermen who shall lead the way to that higher state of things for which the world is waiting; and which the first condition precedent to obtaining, is a consecrated fatherhood and motherhood, such as was contemplated in the plural marriage system of the Latter-day Saints.  The first consideration in this marriage system was not exclusive companionship, pleasure, ease, temporal happiness; but offspring and their physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual welfare, in a word—race culture.  This required self-discipline, always involving sacrifice of self, and living constantly in the truest and highest altruistic spirit.  It was in the name of a divinely ordered species of eugenics that the Latter-day Saints accepted the revelation which included a plurality of wives.  (Brigham H. Roberts, CHC 5:295)

…for the Father of our spirits is at the head of His household, and His wives and children are required to yield the most perfect obedience to their great Head. * * *  Next let us enquire whether there are any intimations in Scripture concerning the wives of Jesus. We have already, in the 9th No. of this volume [The Seer], spoken of the endless increase of Christ’s government. Now, we have no reason to suppose that this increase would continue, unless through the laws of generation, whereby Jesus, like His Father, should become the Father of spirits; and, in order to become the Father of spirits, or, as Isaiah says, “The Everlasting Father,” it is necessary that He should have one or more wives by whom He could multiply His seed, not for any limited period of time, but forever and ever: thus He truly would be a Father everlastingly, according to the name which was to be given Him.  (Apostle Orson Pratt, “The Seer,” October 1853)

One thing is certain, that there were several holy women that greatly loved Jesus—such as Mary, and Martha her sister, and Mary Magdalene; and Jesus greatly loved them, and associated with them much; and when He arose from the dead, instead of first showing Himself to His chosen witnesses, the Apostles, He appeared first to these women, or at least to one of them—namely, Mary Magdalene. Now, it would be very natural for a husband in the resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were his wives. Indeed, the Psalmist, David, prophesies in particular concerning the Wives of the Son of God. We quote from the English version of the Bible, translated about three hundred and fifty years ago:

“All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia: when thou comest out of the ivory palaces, where they have made thee glad, Kings’ daughters were among thine honorable WIVES: upon thy right hand did stand the QUEEN in a vesture of gold of Ophir.” (Psalm 45: 8, 9.)

That this passage has express reference to the Son of God and His Wives, will be seen by reading the sixth and seventh verses which are as follows: “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God thy God, hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”  This Being, whom the Psalmist here calls God, is represented in the next verses as having “honorable Wives.” If any should still doubt whether this prophecy has reference to the Son of God, they may satisfy themselves by reading Paul’s application of these passages in the eighth and ninth verses of the first chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews: “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath annointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Paul applies the words of the prophet David to the son of God, to the annointed Messiah, who is called God, and whose “throne is forever and ever.” Let it be remembered, then, that the Son of God is expressly represented as having “honorable Wives.” King James’ translators were not willing that this passage should have a literal translation, according to the former English rendering, lest it should give countenance to Polygamy; therefore they altered the translation to honorable women instead of wives; but any person acquainted with the original can see that the first translators have given the true rendering of that passage. Indeed, the very next sentence most clearly demonstrates this; for the Son of God is represented as having a “QUEEN” standing upon His right hand, clothed “in a vesture of gold.” This Queen is exhorted in the following endearing language; “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for he is thy Lord; and worship thou Him.” (Verses 10, 11.)  (Orson Pratt, “The Seer,”  October 1853)

We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives, one or more being in eternity, by whom He begat our spirits as well as the spirit of Jesus His First Born, and another being upon the earth by whom He begat the tabernacle of Jesus, as His Only Begotten in this world. We have also proved most clearly that the Son followed the example of his Father, and became the great Bridegroom to whom kings’ daughters and many honorable Wives were to be married. We have also proved that both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ inherit their wives in eternity as well as in time; and that God the Father has already begotten many thousand millions of sons and daughters and sent them into this world to take tabernacles; and that God the Son has the promise that “of the increase of his government there shall be no end;” it being expressly declared that the children of one of His Queens should be made Princes in all the earth. (See Psalm 45:16.) (Apostle Orson Pratt, “The Seer,” November 1853)

Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned; and I will go still further and say, take this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord has given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned.  (Brigham Young, July 14, 1855, JD 3:266)

The principle of plurality of wives never will be done away.  (Heber C. Kimball, October 6, 1855, JD 3:125)

You might as well deny “Mormonism,” and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives.  Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.  What are you opposing it for?  It is a principle that God has revealed for the salvation of the human family.  He revealed it to Joseph the Prophet in this our dispensation; and that which he revealed he designs to have carried out by his people. (Heber C. Kimball, October 12, 1856, JD 5:203)

You may sum up the difficulties in families throughout the country, and you will find ten to one more jars in families where there is but one wife, than in families where there are a number. (Jedediah M. Grant, November 9, 1856 JD 4:83)

Mormonism:  A sect whose leading tenet or practice is a plurality of wives.  (Jabez Jenkins, Jenkins’ Vest Pocket Lexicon, Philadelphia:  Lippincott, 1862, p. 315.  This lexicon was a popular dictionary in the United States in the 1860s.) 

Where did this commandment come from in relation to polygamy?  It also came from God.  It was a revelation given unto Joseph Smith from God, and was made binding upon His servants.  When this system was first introduced among this people, it was one of the greatest crosses that ever was taken up by any set of men since the world stood. Joseph Smith told others; he told me, and I can bear witness of it, “that if this principle was not introduced, this Church and kingdom could not proceed.”  When this commandment was given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders of this Church that it was told them if they were not prepared to enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would come in consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be taken from them.  When I see any of our people, men or women, opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down as on the high road to apostacy, and I do to-day; I consider them apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom.  It is so far, then, a religious institution, that it affects my conscience and the consciences of all good men—it is so far religious that it connects itself with time and with eternity.  (John Taylor, April 7, 1866, JD 11:220)

The man that has that in his heart [unwillingness towards the doctrine of plural marriage], and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessing offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.  * * * Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?” If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted. (Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, JD 11:268-69)

The one great institution which God has revealed has done more to emancipate us, and create a difference between us and the world than anything I can conceive of; that is the order of marriage. It creates a complete distinctness between us and the people of the world. We can see how much we are progressing in this direction, and they who are living their religion are making rapid progress. There was a necessity for the revelation of this principle in order that the people of God might be entirely distinct from the people of Babylon. As long as we lived under those old institutions which are so full of rottenness and corruption, we were liable all the time to become assimilated to the world. (George Q. Cannon, March 3, 1867, JD 11:335-336)

Joseph received a revelation on celestial marriage. . . .This doctrine was explained and many received it, as far as they could understand it. Some apostatized on account of it; but others did not, but received it in their faith. This also is a great and noble doctrine…They say, “this is rather a hard business. I don’t like my husband to take a plurality of wives in the flesh.” Just a few words upon this. …the people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives. The women are entitled to salvation if they live according to the word that is given to them, and if their husbands are good men, and they are obedient to them, they are entitled to certain blessings, that they cannot receive unless they are sealed to men who will be exalted. Now where a man in this Church says, “I don’t want but one wife, I will live my religion with one,” he will perhaps be saved in the celestial kingdom; but when be gets there he will not find himself in possession of any wife at all. He has had a talent that he has hid up. He will come forward and say, “Here is that which thou gavest me. I have not wasted it, and here is the one talent,” and he will not enjoy it, but it will be taken and given to those who have improved the talents they received, and he will find himself without any wife, and he will remain single for ever and ever. But if the women is determined not to enter into plural marriage, that woman when she comes forth will have the privilege of living in single blessedness through all eternity…..

Now sisters do not say, “I do not want a husband when I get up in the resurrection.” You do not know what you will want. I tell this so that you can get the idea. If in the resurrection you really want to be single and alone and live so for ever and ever and be made servants, while others receive the highest order of intelligence and are bringing worlds into existence, you can have the privilege. They who will be exalted cannot perform all the labor, they must have servants, and you can be servants to them. (Brigham Young in discourse at Paris, Bear Lake, August 31, 1873. Journal of Discourses. Vol. 16, p. 165.)

I can deliver a prophecy on it [plural marriage] . . . and I tell you—for I know it—It will sail over, and ride triumphantly above all the prejudice and priestcraft of the day.  (Brigham Young, Millennial Star 15:31 Supplement)

The doctrine of polygamy with the Mormons is not classed with “non-essentials.” It is not an item of doctrine than can be yielded and faith in the system remain(Brigham Young, Millennial Star 27:673)

Plurality is a law which God established for his elect before the world was formed, for a continuation of seeds forever.  It would be as easy for the United States to build a tower to remove the sun as to remove polygamy.  (Heber C. Kimball, Millennial Star 28:190)

God has told us Latter-day Saints that we shall be condemned if we do not enter into that principle; and yet I have heard now and then (I am very glad to say that only a few such instances have come under my notice,) a brother or a sister say, “I am a Latter-day Saints, but I do not believe in polygamy.” Oh, what an absurd expression!  what an absurd idea!  A person might as well say, “I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in him.” One is just as consistent as the other.  Or a person might as well say, “I believe in Mormonism, and in the revelations given through Joseph Smith, but I am not a polygamist, and do not believe in polygamy,” What an absurdity!  If one portion of the doctrines of the Church is true, the whole of them are true.  If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them, because it is utterly impossible, according to the revelations that are contained in these books, to believe a part of them to be divine-from God-and part of them to be from the devil; that is foolishness in the extreme; it is an absurdity that exists because of the ignorance of some people.  I have been astonished at it.  I did hope there was more intelligence among the Latter-day Saints, and a greater understanding of principle than to suppose that any one can be a member of this Church in good standing, and yet reject polygamy.  The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord; those to whom I reveal this law and they do not receive it, shall be damned.  Now here comes in our consciences.  We have either to renounce Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, Book of Covenants, and the whole system of things as taught by the Latter-day Saints, and say that God has not raised up a Church, has not raised up a prophet, has not begun to restore all things as he promised, we are obliged to do this, or else to say, with all our hearts, “Yes, we are polygamists, we believe in the principle, and we are willing to practice it, because God has spoken from the heavens.”

Now I want to prophecy a little.  It is not very often that I prophecy, though I was commanded to do so, when I was a boy.  I want to prophecy that all men and woman who oppose the revelation which God has given in revelation to polygamy will find themselves in darkness; the Spirit of God will withdraw from them from the very moment of their opposition to that principle, until they will finally go down to hell and be damned, if they do not repent.  That is just as true as it is that all the nations and kingdoms of the earth, when they hear this Gospel which God has restored in these last days, will be damned if they do not receive it; for the Lord has said so.  One is just as true as the other.  I will quote this latter saying, as recorded in the Book of Covenants.  The Lord said to the Elders of this Church, in the very commencement as it were, “Go ye forth and preach the Gospel to every creature, and as I said unto mine ancient Apostles, even so I say unto you, that every soul who believes in your words, and will repent of his sins and be baptized in water shall receive a remission of his sins, and shall be filled with the Holy Ghost; and every soul in all the world who will not believe in your words, neither repent of his sins, shall be damned; and this revelation or commandment is in force from this very hour, upon all the sins, shall be damned; and this revelation or commandment is in force from this very hour, upon all the world,” as fast as they hear it.  That is what the Lord has said.  Just so, in regard to polygamy, or any other great principle which the Lord our God reveals to the inhabitants of the earth.

Now, if you want to get into darkness, brethren and sisters, begin to oppose this revelation.  Sisters, you begin to say before your husbands, or husbands you begin to say before your wives, “I do not believe in the principle of polygamy, and I intend to instruct my children against it.” Oppose it in this way, and teach your children to do the same, and if you do not become as dark as midnight there is no truth in Mormonism(Orson Pratt, October 7, 1874, JD 17:224-225)

Hear it, ye elders of Israel, and mark it down in your logbooks:  the fullness of the Gospel is the United Order, and the Order of Plural Marriage; without these two principles this gospel never can be full.  And I much fear that when I am gone this people will give up these two principles which we prize so highly; and if they do this church cannot advance as God wishes it to Advance.  (Brigham Young, Dedication Sermon, St. George Temple Dedication, April 6, 1877)

Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of a superfluity, or nonessential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could get with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part-and is good so far as it goes—and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefore, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it.  Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to the celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. (Apostle Joseph F. Smith, July 7, 1878, JD 20:28)

It is a glorious privilege to be permitted to go into a Temple of God to be united as man and wife in the bonds of holy wedlock for time and all eternity by the Authority of the Holy Priesthood, which is the power of God, for they who are thus joined together “no man can put asunder,” for God hath joined them.  It is an additional privilege for that same man and wife to re-enter the Temple of God to receive another wife in like manner if they are worthy.  But if he remain faithful with only the one wife, observing the conditions of so much of the law as pertains to the eternity of the marriage covenant, he will receive his reward, but the benefits, blessings and power appertaining to the second or more faithful and fuller observance of the law, he never will receive, for he cannot.  As before stated no man can obtain the benefits of one law by the observance of another, however faithful he may be in that which he does, nor can he secure to himself the fullness of any blessing without he fulfills the law upon which it is predicated, but he will receive the benefit of the law he obeys.  This is just and righteous.  If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error, and if I am in error I want to be corrected.

I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that.  But what will become of him that cannot abide it?  Says the Lord, “whoso having knowledge have I not commanded to repent, and he that hath not understanding it remaineth with me to do according as it is written.” In other words he that is without understanding is not under the law, and it remains for God to deal with him according to his own wisdom.  If a man acknowledges that he is incapable, or disqualified by a lack of knowledge, wisdom or understanding to obey this law, when it remains with God to deal with him according to those principles of justice which are written, or are yet to be revealed it is not likely however, that he will take his seat with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or share in their promised blessings.

This law is in force upon the inhabitants of Zion, and he that is qualified to obey it cannot neglect or disregard it with impunity.  But it must be observed in righteousness.  The commandment is “be ye righteous as your Father in heaven is righteous; be ye holy as he is holy.”  (Joseph F. Smith, 7 July 1878, JD 20:29-31)

The great question is this—will we unite with the plurality order of the Ancient Patriarchs, or will we consent voluntarily to be doomed to eternal celibacy? This is the true division of the question. One or the other we must choose. We cannot be married to our husbands for eternity, without subscribing to the law that admits a plurality of wives. (Millennial Star 15:266)

Yes sir, President Woodruff, President Young, and President John Taylor, taught me and all the rest of the ladies here in Salt Lake that a man in order to be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom must have more than one wife, that having more than one wife was a means of exaltation. (Bathsheba W. Smith, Temple Lot Case, p. 362)

The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation, just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation.  Without it the Church cannot progress.  (Life of Wilford Woodruff, p.  542)

Joseph Smith told the Twelve that if the law was not practiced, if they would not enter into this covenant, then the Kingdom of God could not go one step further. Now, we did not feel like preventing the Kingdom of God from going forward. We professed to be Apostles of the Lord, and we did not feel like putting ourselves in a position to retard the progress of the Kingdom of God. The revelation says, `all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.’ Now, that is not my word, I did not make it. It was the Prophet of God who revealed that to us in Nauvoo, and I bear witness of this solemn fact before God, that he did reveal this sacred principle to me and others of the Twelve, and in this revelation it is stated that it is the will and law of God that `all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.’ I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married man that this was to me, outside of the principle, an appalling thing to do. The idea of going and asking a young lady to be married to me when I had already a wife. It was a thing calculated to stir up feelings from the innermost depths of the human soul. I had always entertained the strictest regard of chastity. I had never in my life known a man deceiving a woman, and it is often done in the world, where, notwithstanding the crime, the man is received into society and the poor woman is looked upon as an outcast. I have always looked upon such a thing as infamous, and upon such a man as a villain.

Hence, with the feelings I had entertained, nothing but the knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, should have induced us to embrace such a principle as this. We (the Twelve) seemed to put off, as far as we could, what might be termed the evil day. Some time after these things were made known to us, I was riding out of Nauvoo on horseback, and met Joseph Smith coming in he, too, being on horseback. I bowed to Joseph, and having done the same to me, he said, `Stop’; and he looked at me very intently. `Look here,’ said he, `these things that have been spoken of must be fulfilled, and if they are not entered into right away the keys will be turned.’ Well, what did I do? Did I feel to stand in the way of this great eternal principle, and treat lightly the things of God? No. I replied: Brother Joseph, I will try and carry out these things. So indeed he did.” (History of John Taylor, p. 99.)

Note:  The following statements were made by LDS leaders or authoritative LDS sources after the January 6, 1879 “Reynolds” Supreme Court Decision (the decision of the “Court of Last Resort” to quote Wilford Woodruff in the Manifesto) which upheld the “constitutionality” of the anti-polygamy laws. Yet the following statements still reflect the absolute necessity of the principle of Plural Marriage, and of not compromising with the world on this principle—in spite of the January 1879 pronouncement of the United States “Court of Last Resort.”

Full well do they know that the saints cannot give up plural, or rather the Celestial Order of Marriage without relinquishing their religion. (Millennial Star, 41:24, January 13, 1879)

And as he [William Clayton] has here stated [in a testament written shortly before his death], as having come from the mouth of the Prophet, this doctrine of eternal union of husband and wife, and of plural marriage, is one of the most important doctrines ever revealed to man in any age of the world. Without it man would come to a full stop; without it we never could be exalted to associate with and become gods, neither could we attain to the power of eternal increase, or the blessings pronounced upon Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the fathers of the faithful.

There are but a few witnesses now living in relation to the coming forth of this revelation; there never were many that were intimately acquainted with the prophet and his teaching upon this subject. I look around me and see a number of persons in this assembly whose hair has grown grey in the service of God, and who had an intimate acquaintance with our martyred prophet; but few, if any of them, were so closely identified with him in this matter as Brother Clayton.

There are, however, enough witnesses to these principles to establish them upon the earth in such a manner that they never can be forgotten or stamped out. For they will live; they are destined to live, and also to grow and spread abroad upon the face of the earth, to be received and accepted and adopted by all the virtuous, by all the pure in heart, by all who love the truth, and seek to serve Him and keep His commandments; they are bound to prevail, because they are true principles. (Joseph F. Smith, December 7, 1879, JD 21:10)

If plurality of marriage is not true, or in other words, if a man has no divine right to marry two wives or more in this world, then marriage for eternity is not true, and your faith is all vain, and all the sealing ordinances and powers, pertaining to marriages for eternity are vain, worthless, good for nothing; for as sure as one is true the other also must be true. Amen. (Orson Pratt, July 18, 1880, JD 21:296)

The nation cares no more about our practicing the order of plural marriage than any other principle of the Gospel; it would make no difference with us today.  Were we to compromise this principle by saying, we will renounce it, we would then have to renounce our belief in revelation from God, and our belief in the necessity of Prophets and Apostles, and the principle of the gathering, and then to do away with the idea and practice of building Temples in which to administer ordinances for the exaltation of the living and the redemption of the dead; and at last we would have to renounce our Church organization, and mix up and mingle with the world, and become part of them(Wilford Woodruff, April 3, 1881, JD 22:146)

We have been taught and conscientiously believe that plural marriage is as much a part of our religion as faith, repentance and baptism.  ***  We solemnly and truthfully declare that neither we nor our mothers are held in bondage, but that we enjoy the greatest possible freedom, socially and religiously; that our homes are happy ones and we are neither low nor degraded; for the principles of purity, virtue, integrity and loyalty to the government of the United States, have been instilled into our minds and hearts since our earliest childhood.  (1882 “Memorial” drafted by the Young Women of the LDS Church, sustained with 14,152 signatures, petitioning the government to cease persecution of the Saints in Utah for plural marriage—Life of John Taylor, B. H. Roberts, p. 357, deletion [***] is in source quoted)

If the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated so must be the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissolubly interwoven together. (Charles W. Penrose, July 16, 1883, Millennial Star 45:454)

Father Abraham obeyed the law of the Patriarchal order of marriage. His wives were sealed to him for time and all eternity, and so were The wives of the Patriarchs and Prophets that obeyed that law.  I desire to testify as an individual and as a Latter-day Saint that I know that God has revealed this law unto this people. I know that if we had not obeyed that law we should have been damned; the judgments of God would have rested upon us; the Kingdom of God would have stopped right where we were when God revealed that law unto us. (Wilford Woodruff, July 20, 1883. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 24, p. 244.)

I bear my solemn testimony that plural marriage is as true as any principle that has been revealed from the heavens. I bear my testimony that it is a necessity, and that the Church of Christ in its fullness; never existed without it. Where you have the eternity of the marriage covenant you are bound to have plural marriage; bound to. (Apostle George Teasdale, January 13, 1884, JD 25:21)

From him [Joseph Smith] I learned that the doctrine of plural and Celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation of Celestial glory.  (William Clayton, Sworn Statement, February 16, 1884, Historical Record; 6:226)

God has given us a revelation in regard to celestial marriage.  I did not make it.  He has told us certain things pertaining to this matter, and they would like us to tone that principle down and change it and make it applicable to the views of the day. This we cannot do; nor can we interfere with any of the commands of God to meet the persuasions or behests of men. I cannot do it, and will not do it.

I find some men try to twist round the principle in any way and every way they can. They want to sneak out of it in some way. Now God don’t want any kind of sycophancy like that. He expects that we will be true to Him, and to the principles He has developed, and to feel as Job did-”Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Though other folks would slay us, yet we will trust in the living God and be true to our covenants and to our God. These are my feelings in relation to that matter. We have also been told that “it is not mete that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my Priesthood,” and yet some people would like very much to do it. Well, they cannot do it; because if we are here, as I said before, to do the will of our Father who sent us, and He has told us what to do, we will do it, in the name of Israel’s God-and all who sanction it say Amen-(the vast congregation responded with a loud “Amen.”)—and those that don’t may say what they please. (Laughter.) If God has introduced something for our glory and exaltation, we are not going to have that kicked over by any improper influence, either inside or outside of the Church of the living God.  (John Taylor, October 6, 1884, JD 25:309-310)

The abandonment of polygamy, that is considered by some to be so easy of accomplishment, is more untenable even than fighting.  However much the people might desire to do this, they could not without yielding every other principle, for it is the very keystone of our faith, and is so closely interwoven into every-thing that pertains to our religion, that to tear it asunder and cast it away would involve the entire structure.  (“Expressions from the People,” Deseret News, April 14, 1885)

What would be necessary to bring about the result nearest the heart of the opponents of ‘Mormonism,’ more properly termed the Gospel of the Son of God? Simply to renounce, abrogate, or apostatize from the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage in its fullness. Were the Church to do that as an entirety, God would reject the saints as a body. The authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn, with its gifts and powers, and there would be no more heavenly recognition of the ordinances among this people. The heavens would permanently withdraw themselves, and the Lord would raise up another people of greater valor and stability, for His work must, according to His unalterable decrees, go forward. (Charles W. Penrose, Deseret News, April 23, 1885)

Joseph Smith told the Twelve that if this law [Celestial Plural Marriage] was not practiced, if they would not enter into this covenant, then the Kingdom of God could not go one step further.  Now, we did not feel like preventing the Kingdom of God from going forward.  We professed to be the Apostles of the Lord, and did not feel like putting ourselves in a position to retard the progress of the Kingdom of God.  The revelation says that “All those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” Now, that is not my word.  I did not make it.  It was the Prophet of God who revealed that to us in Nauvoo, and I bear witness of this solemn fact before God, that He did reveal this sacred principle to me and others of the Twelve, and in this revelation it is stated that it is the will and law of God that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.”  I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married man that this was to me, outside of this principle, an appalling thing to do.  The idea of going and asking a young lady to be married to me when I had already a wife!  It was a thing calculated to stir up feelings from the innermost depths of the human soul.  I had always entertained the strictest regard of chastity.  I had never in my life seen the time when I have known of a man deceiving a woman—and it is often done in the world, where, notwithstanding the crime, the man is received into society and the poor woman is looked upon as a pariah and an outcast—I have always looked upon such a thing as infamous, and upon such a man as a villain. * * * Hence, with the feelings I had entertained, nothing but a knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this.  (John Taylor, as quoted in The Life of John Taylor, B. H. Roberts, pp. 99-100, deletion in source quoted)

Up to this time my brother [Lorenzo Snow] lived a bachelor.  The great work in which he was engaged as a missionary of the Gospel of salvation to the nations of the earth,—had so engrossed his mind and engaged the energies of his soul, that virtually he had ignored the first commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth.” To devote his time, his talents, his all to the ministry was his all-absorbing desire; and in consonance with this desire, he had cherished the idea that domestic responsibility would lessen his usefulness; and, until the law of Celestial Marriage was fully explained to him by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in a prolonged interview while the two were seated alone on the bank of the Mississippi river, as before related, he had not conceived the idea that marriage was one of the duties of the great mission of mortal life.

With him, this, as well as every other practical doctrine, was only to be understood to be obeyed.  It is one of his peculiarities to do nothing by halves; and when convinced of the duty of marriage, and that it was a privilege accorded him in connection with his ministerial calling, he entered into it on an enlarged scale, by having two wives sealed to him in the holy bonds of matrimony, for time and eternity, at the same time; and not long after, another was added to the number, and then another.  Thus, all at once, as it were, from the lone bachelor he was transformed into a husband invested with many domestic responsibilities. Probably a realizing sense of the fact that he had arrived at the mature age of thirty-one years in celibacy, suggested to him the propriety of making up for lost time by more than ordinary effort, and out of the old beaten track.

Previous to the administration of those sacred sealing ordinances, he explained to each of the chosen ones the law, obligations and object of Celestial Marriage, and that he might be expected to take others—that the ceremony being precisely the same for each, they would all occupy the same equal position, no one having a higher claim than another.

It was distinctly understood and agreed between them that their marriage relations should not, for the time being, be divulged to the world; but if circumstances should be such that he would wish to acknowledge as wife, before the world either one of them, he should be permitted to do so.

Early in the winter of 1845-6, the Nauvoo Temple was so far completed that the administration of the sacred ordinances of the Holy Priesthood was commenced, and continued until about the first of February thousands of the Saints receiving endowments and sealings My brother and his wives, among the number, had their washings, anointings and endowments, and were sealed at a holy altar, a privilege and blessing which they estimated above all earthly honors. When Lorenzo walked across the inner court of the Temple proceeding to the altar, accompanied by his four wives, all stately appearing ladies, one of the Temple officiates exclaimed, “And his train filled the Temple!”  (Biography of Lorenzo Snow, by Eliza R. Snow Smith, 1884, pp. 84-85)

To “multiply,” was the first commandment given to our first parents.  Purity in matrimonial intercourse, I always believed, should accompany that command, and I have always endeavored to observe faithfully its practice.  I married because it was commanded of God, and commenced in plural marriage.  I contracted marriage with four women about the same time, and with a mutual understanding with each that they were to be equal—neither was to take or assume the status of a first or legal wife.  Two of them were united to me in the sacred bonds of matrimony at one and the same time, by the same ceremony.  The other two shortly after, also at one and the same time and in like manner. (Lorenzo Snow, January 10, 1886, JD 26:364)

The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a Divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom.  Though I go to prison [and he did], God will not change His law of celestial marriage(Lorenzo Snow, 1887, Whitney’s History of Utah, 3:471, Historical Record 6:144)

We won’t quit practicing plural marriage until Christ shall come. (Wilford Woodruff, May 1888, Manti Temple, Utah Historical Quarterly, Fall 1971, 39:359)

Conflicting Statements From More Recent Times:

To be at peace with the Government and in harmony with their fellow citizens who are not of their faith and to share in the confidence of the Government and people, our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they believed to be a sacred principle(Petition for Amnesty, Messages of the First Presidency 3:231)

But of Celestial marriage, plurality of wives was an incident, never an essential(James E. Talmage, Story and Philosophy of Mormonism, p. 89)

We do not understand why the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage(John A. Widstoe, Improvement Era 46:191 )

Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p 578)

Perfect unity is a goal the Church is still seeking. There are today Word of Wisdom faddists who will not use white flour or refined sugar; there are so-called liberals who think the problems of religion can be solved by dialogues and discussions without reference to revelation; there are others who maintain the Church should follow the world’s course of social progress; there are those who try and harmonize the evolutionary concepts of the day with the revealed account of the fall and atonement; and there are others who profess to believe that full salvation is reserved for those who practice plural marriage, and so on. In other words, there are some of one philosophy and some of another, some follow the advocates of this cultish view and some of that.  (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol II, 1 Corinthians, p 313)

Today probably no modern people is more anti-polygamy than the orthodox Mormons.  (Professor Davis Bitton, “Journal of Mormon History,” 1977, No. 4, p. 101)

Inasmuch as plural marriage is no longer a practice of the Lord’s church, there would be little value to an extended discussion of this subject. (Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell, Sacred Truths Of The Doctrine & Covenants, Vol II, 1982, LEMB, Inc., p 357)

The polygamist Joseph Smith or Brigham Young is rarely acknowledged. * * * The concept of plural marriage is not part of the oral or written traditions of the modern-day public church.  (Martha Bradley, “Changed Faces:  The Official LDS Position on Polygamy 1890-1980,” Sunstone, February 1990, p. 32)

In 1890, the Lord, by revelation to His prophet, withdrew the practice of plural marriage and President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto directing that it cease (see Doctrine & Covenants, Official Declaration 1).  Because the Lord has not detailed conditions in the hereafter, it is suggested that you lay aside your concerns about the possible practice of plural marriage in the celestial kingdom.  (LDS First Presidency letter to Barry Holdaway, September 17, 1998, Parenthetical comment was in original letter as above.)

I condemn it [plural marriage] yes, as a practice, because I think that it is not doctrinal, it is not legal and this Church takes the position that we will abide by the law.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, September 8, 1998, “Larry King Live” televised interview)

Polygamy, plural marriage, is not part of the doctrine of this Church. Period!  I don’t know how to state it more strongly than that.  (Lance B. Wickman, Second Quorum of the Seventy, KUTV Interview, September 4, 1998)