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Friday, June 1, 2012

Ever Wondered About Mormon Polygamy?

I just read this.

Polygamy worldwide
Polygamy worldwide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I, too, have a polygamous background, and I bet if you checked your genealogy, you might just have one too. As you can see from the map, there are many cultures that still practice polygamy.  Mormons, however, do not. I thought it was rather interesting that both of our presidential candidates have polygamy in their backgrounds--one much more recent than the other. FASCINATING!

I have often thought that my great, great grandmother must have been a very ornery woman. Could that be where I get it? I come by it honestly? Last time I posted a photo of an ancestor on Facebook, a number of friends said there was a resemblance between her and me. WARNING: Don't even think about it!

Lucinda Wilson Riddle was married five times. Very unusual for that day and age, I would think, but according to Deila's post, Utah was a no-fault divorce state. I didn't know that. Lucinda was first married to her sister's husband but was divorced within the year. Her third and fifth marriages were to the same man--my great, great grandfather, Jeremiah Highsaw Earnest (pictured with her above).

We need to remember that those were different times than ours. Women couldn't just go out and make a living to support themselves or their families. The Saints were being persecuted wherever they went, and their final exodus was inevitable. What were they going to do? Leave the women behind? What would that say about these God-fearing people? Of course they had to take everyone with them. It just makes sense that these women and children should have someone to cling to. Once they had arrived at their destination, they needed families to get things started. Polygamy was a necessary evil. Once they were safely settled in the Salt Lake valley, polygamy was no longer a need and was abolished by the Church.

The LDS Church no longer exercises polygamy and hasn't for generations. There are groups in the United States and Canada that profess to be "Mormon" that practice polygamy, but they are not of our religion. They are know as Fundamentalist Mormons--a totally different bird.
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buzygrizz said...

Interesting, but I wouldn't call polygamy a necessary evil. And it is a bit hypocritical for other Christian churches to condemn it so quickly; they forget about David, Solomon, Issac, Jacob, Moses (presumably), and Elkanah (Hannah's husband and Samuel's father) and others.

The LDS church believes strongly in upholding the law (Article of Faith 12), and not long after polygamy was outlawed (Morril Anti-Bigamy Act in 1862, which ironically doesn't restrict serial marriage so prevalent today), the practice was stopped and officially stopped a bit later.

Polygamy is a practice widely unpopular in our country (even though the husband is expected to take care of the women and children, even when the marriages are sometimes for welfare and not sexual relations), but cohabitating, adultery, etc. are often promoted as as "healthy", and even celebrated in our society. That's what's sick.

Julie said...

I hesitated when I wrote those words, but then decided to keep them. I would say the majority of the members of the church back then didn't want to have polygamy. I know my husband says "One wife's enough." And can you blame him? The reason I kept it was because of Jacob 2:24. That scripture's pretty clear, but I think the Lord directs as is necessary for the greater good--think Nephi and Laban--a necessary evil

vaxhacker said...

I see where you're going with the "necessary evil" term, but I think maybe I'd be more inclined to use that for things we know are wrong but we're justifying to ourselves that we just have to accept under the circumstances. In this case, though, is anything evil when God commands it? I think the verse in Jacob is saying that God sets the boundaries and the evil is when we disobey and take it on ourselves to jump out of bounds. Another example would be normal marital intimacy. Inherently evil? Not at all, but it's a sin before marriage, and encouraged after. The act didn't change, just whether the participants were acting with or against God's laws. A necessary evil you put up with just because you need to raise a family? Not that either.

I don't think polygamy was an easy thing to do for anyone, and there were some survival advantages, but I don't really think it's fair to say that it was all about doing something awful/evil just to survive through the exodus and settling of Utah, to abandon it once we were sufficiently established that we didn't need it.

I think that was a factor, but people have been through those kinds of hazards without using polygamy to get out of them, and the Mormons would have as well, if it weren't commanded to be practiced. (Also it wasn't universally practiced--most marriages were still monogamous.)

I would say it was more of a trial on the level of an Abrahamic sacrifice for the church to go through at that point in time. It wasn't a simple matter or just a quick-fix for an immediate problem.

It also, I suppose must be said, was not at all just about sex (as so many like to assume). Then, just like in our time (obviously) there are lots of ways to collect multiple partners in ways society tacitly allows (or even applauds) without going to the trouble to pledge lifelong support to them as part of your household. Visions of Mormon "harems" full of wives and concubines are ludicrously off-base from the reality of the situation.

Julie said...

Did you read the link at the very top of the post? I was simply adding to her ideas. I wasn't saying what I was saying was all. My intention was that anyone who reads this read that first.

vaxhacker said...

Whoops. I completely missed the link somehow and thought what you wrote was the whole thing you were saying.

Thanks for pointing that out. I really need to read all of Rough Stone Rolling, too. From what I've seen and what I've heard from people I trust in such matters, it's an excellent book. (And not just a little because I chatted with him briefly about it once and used to home teach his son :)

I didn't know Obama's dad didn't tell his second wife he was already married, though... ouch, that's not cool in my book.

buzygrizz said...

One other thing I was thinking about, was that all principles of the gospel of the past need to be restored in this last dispensation (see Bible Dictionary: Restitution, restoration; and Acts 3:21). Plural marriage was restored and practiced for a short period of time and with a small number of people (small compared to the church membership at the time). So it may not have been popular, even among church members, but was a necessary part of a complete restoration. (And thank goodness is was restored and then discontinued in the early days of the church, and not now!)

buzygrizz said...

Sorry, Bible Dictionary under "Dispensations" explains it a bit better than I can.

Julie said...

Please make sure you read this first....


This was what I linked to in the first place. I was in no way taking away from her words. I was just adding my own two cents. I agree with what she's said. My post here is not the entire story.

Deila Taylor said...

Thanks Julie, for the link to my post. I really enjoyed your additions. The map is very interesting. You got some good dialogue going too. Love the little family photo shot, they always looked so unhappy back then, but I heard it was because they had to sit still for so long for the photo.

LeAnn said...

Thanks for your thoughts on a very bold topic. I liked the ongoing convesation, also. Yes, this is a topic that will not go away. It was part of the restoration and only to be practised when called upon to do so by those in authority at that time. The Doctrine and Covenants makes it very clear it's purpose as part of the New and Everlasting Covenant. I really did enjoy your thoughts on this one.
Loved the link article, also.

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