Mormon polygamy on NPR

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love-times-three-bookThe new episode of NPR’s religion news show, “Interfaith Voices,” features Terryl Givens and yours truly talking about polygamy, Mormon history, and the future of the LDS Church.

Our hour-long conversation has been edited down to 20 minutes, which distills the best of the conversation. The only part I remember that I’m sad didn’t make it into the final cut was my complimenting Terryl on having Jedi mind powers of persuasion in Mormon apologetics. I said that if anyone could make me believe the story about an angel threatening Joseph Smith’s life if he didn’t take up the practice of polygamy, it would be Mormonism’s most effective apologist!

Also in the episode: a fundamentalist polygamous family with three wives and 24 children. The authors of Love Times Three, the four adults reflect on their childhoods and how they came into plural marriage. (All were raised in polygamous homes for at least part of their childhoods.) They discuss the differences between Mormonism and polygamous fundamentalism, their understanding of what it means to be an eternal family, and their standing under the law.

  • kevin JK

    I’ve seen Sister Wives, My 5 Wives, and the Darger’s show. They show normal people doing their best to make their relationships work. All have different personalities. the men as well. They don’t the caricatures promoted by the FLDS.

    There is no objective reason to ban polygamy entered into by adults of their own free will. One’s religion may ban it, but that doesn’t mean that it should be forbidden to the rest of society. Christians and Jews especially have no reason to ban it since the Bible specifically states that God approves of it, though doesn’t mandate it

  • Jen K.

    That was great! Thank you Jana and Terryl.

  • Jen K.

    The sociologist in me couldn’t help but notice it was a male who said polyandry was the most troubling aspect of the new essay. I almost screamed, “Welcome to our world!” at my laptop.

  • Kevin JK

    I have no problem with polyandry. I’d prefer it over polygyny. Let some other guy spend Saturdays at the fabric store with the wife and hold her purse while sitting on some bench outside of dressing room while she tries on clothes. Let me stay at home watching the game or going fishing with my buds. let him do the honey-dos and give me a break for a change.

    Being a polygynist? Forget it. it’s hard enough trying to keep 1 woman happy, much less 2 or more and also trying to referee between them trying to make sure that both see me as fair and loving them equally and putting up with their squabbles and jealousies? Forget it.

  • You obviously haven’t mastered the Jedi Mind Trick for dealing with jealous and tempestuous sister-wives.

  • Kevin JK

    I guess I’ll just have to wait for all to be exalted so that jealousy will be erased from their hearts.

  • louisemichelle

    I have no respect for the Dargers who signed the petition to send the victims of warren Jeffs back under his control.little children who sit and wait for his next edict from prison. Now the AUB leader is outed as a molester too . Rosemary of my 5 wives wrote a blog about it. Darger has joined the ranks of media hungry,bankrupted Dads out to make a buck off his ability to subjugate women.

  • Sorry, I’m dyslexic, but here’s my take on the topic, and I think everyone is missing the real point.

    Polygamy is Not a Sin, Breaking Man’s Laws is
    Recently the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has brought some troubling propaganda to light in an effort to hide the sins of the Church. The lie is as follows:

    “…the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise. Latter-day Saints believe the season the Church practiced polygamy was one of these exceptions.” – LDS Newsroom

    This lie is propagated in Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo and Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah.

    But anyone that knows the Lord’s doctrine knows better. The scriptures are the only things binding to the Church, so I won’t be bothering with arguments made in articles. Let’s start with the scriptures the Church is misquoting.

    “the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son….For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.” – Jacob 2: 23, 31-32

    It is clear here that polygamy wasn’t the sin. The fact that it was used as an excuse to further male lust was the sin. It is true that vs 24 reads;

    “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”

    But we know this isn’t exactly true, after all the Lord told Joseph Smith that they were in fact “justified” in D&C 132: 1.

    “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”

    But thus is NOT a contradiction. After all, the Lord did NOT give David Bathsheba (D&C 132: 39). The fact that he murdered to get her was an abomination. It is also clear that Solomon also took wives that lead him astray in his old age, so they were likely not women/marriages that were pleasing to the Lord (1 Kings 11: 4-13). This is likely why only David and Solomon were mentioned in the book of Jacob and not other polygamists, as we see in D&C 132. After all, D&C 132 8-10 reminds us;

    “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name? Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?”

    Clearly, these marriages were not offerings in the name of the Lord. (Further conditions that the Nephites and kings David and Solomon broke can be found in D&C 132: 26-27, 41-43)

    It could be argued that only dispensations that had/have the fullness of the gospel had polygamy, but this is not true. After all, the Law of Moses was NOT the fullness yet clearly allowed for polygamy. Exodus 21: 10 mentions that a man my take another wife (and the following verse states that she may leave him if he doesn’t care for her financially). Deuteronomy 21: 15-17 is clear what to do with an estate if a man had 2 wives, and only likes one of them. Deuteronomy 25: 5 commands a man to marry his dead brother’s wife, it gives no exception for him if he already married. Thus, polygamy is just an option for the Israelites. Like Latter-day Saints today, there is no commandment from God to be or not be a polygamist.

    While it is true that there are exceptions, kings forbidden in Deuteronomy 17: 15-17 for example, we saw that this Law was not followed, and the Lord stated this was fine in D&C 132. Why? Lets look at the reason behind the band…

    “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” – Deuteronomy 17: 20

    One could conclude that David and Solomon were blessed when they did not lift their hearts above their brethren, then cursed once started seeing themselves as greater than they truly were, a story as old as Lucifer himself.

    Likewise, the New Testaments forbids individuals from polygamy (1 Timothy 3: 2 for example) but does not condemn the practice as a whole. Yet seeing that this is Paul speaking, the same man that stated NO ONE should should marry, unless they could not end their human lusts, I’m not sure how serious to take Paul’s opinion on the matter (1 Corinthians 7:9).

    It is clear that the Lord doesn’t care if we are polygamists of monogamists, as long as we keep His covenants. Monogamy appears to be the rule when men are not faithful to their wives, their covenants or when Paul seems to think it best. (It has also been argued by some that Paul was stating these leaders must have AT LEAST one wife). It also seems to be the rule for men that have too many responsibilities and cannot care for more than one wife (Paul, see above) and it is clear that monogamy is required without the first wife’s permission to enter into polygamy (D&C 132: 61). To state that monogamy is the Lord’s will with exception is simply not the case and I fear that pretending like it is will make returning to polygamy harder when the time comes.


    Knowing Smith had 49 wives isn’t going to get anyone into heaven, knowing Jesus will. That said, the real reason the Church is sharing this information may very well be to hide truth. The fact is that polygamy is still a part of our religion. No man may have 2 wives that are living, but if a man’s wife dies and he marries another he is a polygamist in the next life. yet the Church is putting out these papers to make it seem like polygamy is a sin now for the Lord’s reasons. This is a lie. We clearly only ended the practice because our scriptures tell us to obey the law of the land.

    “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” – Official Declaration 1

    The law of the land made polygamy legal in Utah, so the Church appears to be putting out propaganda to hide their disobedience to the Lord and our religion. One may call it transparency or a revelation, but in truth, it appears more to be a scam.

  • hoffbegone

    TLDR (too long, didn’t read)

  • Sarah

    Jana, I’ve been reading your blog regularly for a few months now. Thanks for all of your insights, common sense, and love. I so appreciate your balanced views. The conversation with you and Terryl was wonderful.

  • Amisoz

    Jana, if you get some time I’d be interested in that part about Teryl being the one to change your mind about the angel and the sword.