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So Many Wives, So Much Religion

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City: Image Mag3737/Flickr

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City: Image Mag3737/Flickr

The issue of Mormon plural marriage, or polygamy is a constant embarrassment to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The LDS is the largest Mormon Church, based in Salt lake City, Utah.

Some smaller groups require at least three wives for a man who wants to achieve the highest level of priesthood. These groups have been accused of criminal abuse, and legal prosecutions in the U.S. and Canada are ongoing. The LDS wants the world to know they are not associated with fringe groups like the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) who practice polygamy.

Outsiders might think any Mormon man can marry more than one woman at a time, but the majority LDS church has banned the practice since 1890. At that time the home region of Utah was permitted to become a state after the Mormons there banned polygamy. The Americans didn’t want the practice to become mainstream.

An official statement is: “In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff received a revelation that the leaders of the Church should cease teaching the practice of plural marriage.”

Woodruff was a Mormon prophet and “a revelation” through him means instructions directly from God.

Also: President Gordon B. Hinckley, prior president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made the following statement in 1998 about the Church’s position on plural marriage:

“This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church … Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.”

Read more here.

That seems clear.

Men in the LDS Mormon church can marry only one woman at a time.

Rachel Bruner is a devout member of the LDS church who promotes her religion through published articles. She is like a missionary on the Internet. Very few people can accurately explain the LDS Mormons with her insight and credentials.

She explains Mormon divorce, which is complicated because of Temple marriages. Couples married or “sealed” in a temple are to stay married for eternity. This complicates divorce because couples may need a religious divorce, a “temple sealing cancellation” after a civil divorce. Catholics and Jews have similar practices with annulments and gets.

Rachel Bruner makes an odd statement:

“Because a man can be sealed to more than one woman he does not need to have his temple sealing canceled to be able to be sealed to another woman, and a request to do so would most likely be refused unless his previous wife is ready to be sealed to another man and requests to have her temple sealing canceled.”

Polygamy was not banned; it was just saved for later, like dessert. In this life, a man can marry only one woman at a time, but in Mormon heaven, “eternity” he can have several wives.

According to Church Apostle Bruce R. McConkie in 1966: “Obviously the holy practice [polygamy] will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition, from

A man might be sealed with several women now, for a plural marriage later. And Rachel Bruner doesn’t explain what relations a man might have on Earth with a “sealed” wife, who is not his legal wife.

So they banned it, but not really. And Utah is now a state.

What shines through this story is human nature in a religious disguise. I have had Mormon friends and we related well, probably because our families were all religious. I learned later in life that “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6): external religion never changes the inner human character, where changes are needed.

My dependence on religion was not better than theirs. I needed a spiritual change, starting from the inside.

Critics of religion probably see this Mormon issue as typical behavior for all religions; say one thing, do another. If you are religious you might cringe, but Jesus was also a critic of religion. The religion of his day was also external, and He preached that change is needed at the foundation of our human nature. He gave us a spiritual relationship with God.

These words are for all of us:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)


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