Polygamy Talent

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Brigham Young stated the following in a discourse on 31 August 1873:

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 he 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.

(Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, p.166)

Is this an actual teaching of the church, that monogamous men will have their wives taken from them because they would not marry others?

89 thoughts on “Polygamy Talent

  1. There are at least two ways to read Scott’s use of “often.”

    1. All plural wives were often [frequently] expected to do X.

    2. Looking at the list of all plural wives, you will often find one that was expected to do X.

    I imagine she meant the second but I wish she had said what she probably meant: “Some plural wives were expected to do X” rather than “All [by implication] plural wives were frequently expected to do X.”

  2. In other words, let’s look at just one plural wife chosen at random. Now, Scott’s statement, taken at face value, means that she was often, but not always, required to support herself. But I agree that Scott probably didn’t mean what she said. Instead I think she probably meant that some, but not all, plural wives were expected to support themselves. However, the word “often” is so imprecise, even if accepted in this somewhat twisted usage, that we have no clue what portion of plural wives lived in this way. Does “often” mean one percent? Twenty percent?

  3. My guess is that it is at least over 50%. I think anything less than half (a minority) would have a hard time being labelled as often.

    I should mention, however that the context of the statement was not about whether plural wives supported themselves. The quote Bradley chose was addressing the independence of LDS women in the late 19th century. Had she specifically been addressing the level of influence a father had in the lives of his many families, she may have worded it differently.

  4. I don’t think I follow. Who said “most”? I understand you’re guessing that “most” plural wives had to fend for themselves, but I don’t understand what the basis of that guess is.

  5. No one said most. I’m just saying that when someone uses the word “most” (most women, most birds, most vehicles) it’s a similar usage as when the word “often” is used.

  6. So you’re guessing that when Scott was guessing, she meant “most” when she said “often”?

  7. I don’t believe Scott was guessing.

    You are focusing way too much on this “most” thing. When I said “the same line of reasoning that is used when one uses a word such as ‘most'”, I was referring to the qualifications people apply to the usage of both words. They are similar. Someone doesn’t use the word “most” in reference to 1 out of 100 of something. Likewise, someone does not use the word “often” to refer to something that occurred either once a year or among 3% of a group of people.

  8. OK. That still doesn’t add any specificity to what Scott said, or provide any of the factual basis for her conclusion, or say anything at all about Brigham Young’s parenting.

  9. I didn’t say it does. I was answering your question regarding on what basis I made the assumption that Scott’s statement applied to more than 50%.

  10. Steve: (#19 and #40) “What if he was rejecting extra wives because she didn’t want to share him? Doesn’t she have any say in the matter?”

    The “calling” to enter into polygamy was extended to the existing wife/wives in addition to the husband.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but when the calling came, the man and his existing wife/wives had to choose someone, all the existing wife/wives had to approve the choice, the new wife had to approve of course, and then whoever issued the calling had to approve of the choice for the new wife.

    Is that how it worked?

  11. It was rare— according to Tood Compton—for first or previous wives to have a say in who the new wife will be. It’s been a myth that has been perpetuated for some reason, sort of like the myth that only 5% of the church practiced plural marriage.

  12. Maybe, but don’t they (the first wives) have to agree with the choice? Why should a wife be forced to put up with someone she just CAN’T get along with, if the husband has a choice in the matter?

  13. Well, I have to admit that though I am not comfortable with the whole aspect of polygamy, I believe there is a purpose for it and I trust I will understand it better, because the Lord has never led me wrong yet. So I am patient for that day. However, the way SOME men have practised it, I am not impressed with and I don’t think that it was intended to be so oppressive to women. I believe in some cases it was not either, but since we can’t speak to those who actually practised polygamy we can’t know the true feelings and thoughts of those who participated. So, again, we have to wait. Most of our thoughts and ideas, though somewhat based on recorded history, are speculation. It’s hard to know what THEY really felt about the issue, since we are judging the practice on our own feelings, emotions and experiences. What they said or did is not exactly what we say, do or think. So it’s hard to really judge it fairly. Again, one day we will understand it better.

  14. Hey Mary,
    Have you actually read any accounts of the polygamy experience that sounded like the women were treated like you’d like to be treated?

    I have a real problem trying to envision a scenario where any of the women who I know today would be okay with *any* kind of a polygamous relationship.

    Maybe that’s a just a reflection on the women with whome I associate, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s actually the polygamy that is the problem.

  15. It’s been years since I read anything written by actual polygamous wives.

    But like I said, I can’t really judge it because I don’t know.

    I have talked to some women who don’t have a serious problem with polygamy, but I would guess it might depend on how they feel about their husbands. Again, I don’t know, and not being able to see into their hearts and minds, I can’t fully judge and understand. As well, we seem to focus on the early periods of the Church, but tend to forget polygamy has been practised almost since the beginning of time. I would like to know what the women in Abraham’s time though, or Jacob’s wives (I can guess to a degree. Leah’s solace was her large family).

  16. “…but tend to forget polygamy has been practised almost since the beginning of time”

    Although so has infanticide, so practised through the ages doesn’t always mean it’s okay.

  17. Is it bad that I don’t care? Can honestly say, “I don’t care, not interested.” I’ve thought long and hard on this topic and realize that my current ‘natural woman’ brain refuses to tolerate this idea. Though the concept of a man needing more than one woman to make him worthy to gain the highest exhaltation does cause me to snicker (curse that natural woman brain of mine)

  18. Nikki, I don’t think so. :) This is pretty much where I am at. I don’t like the idea, I don’t fully understand it, and I don’t want to think about it too much, but I know that Heavenly Father has a reason, so I will wait to hear that reason when the time comes.

  19. Kim:

    1. What percentage of the Church membership practiced polygamy?

    2. What is the source of your information?

    3. Why do you trust it more than the sources that say about 3% of the males in the Church practiced polygamy at its peak?

  20. Todd Compton, if I remember correctly, says it was as high as 1/5 or 1/4. See here for more information. I trust his information because he is a historian and the other statements have been passing remarks by people I know (family, missionary companions, elders quorum instructors, etc) who have not spent their professional life researching plural marriage in the early church.

  21. Have you seen this article? Looks like a surprisingly high number of Canadians are in favor of accepting polygamy.

    The relevant section is: “In 2003, a survey conducted by Canada’s Vanier Institute found that 20 percent of Canadians (25 percent of younger adults, and 33 percent of secularists) were willing to accept some form of polygamy, even if only 4 percent of Canadians personally approved of such unions.”

    I can’t resist sharing this article as well, about a polygamous marriage in the Netherlands. And here’s a Canadian Government Policy Research Report on recognition of polygamous marriage.

  22. There is a made for TV movie coming out and they are comparing Polygamy to an ‘alternative lifestyle’…I thought that was an interesting comparison…

  23. Nikki, I don’t quite see why polygamy would need to be COMPARED to an alternative lifestyle. It IS an alternative lifestyle.

  24. As far as BYs comment all I can say is that it wouldn’t be the first time that someone in that position put their judgement in and were wrong. Judas Escatiots behavior was most certainly evil. How would the news of today word a story about Peter’s denying of Christ? These are normal men.

    We are promised that if we are faithfull than we will have a “fullness of joy” So much joy that we could not possibly have any more. I don’t know how it will all work out but I do know that it will. Somehow someway the Lord will work it all out.

  25. This is just my feelings on Polygamy and a few other topics. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong regarding polygamy. Here is what I do know.
    I know that A couple of decades ago women started wearing pants and then voting.
    Shortly after that time Big Brother started telling us how to live. What to believe and how to treat and teach our children and what we could teach them.
    They came out with womens rights and legalized abortion the taking of life.
    Next it became a felony to strike your spouse or your child. If your wife hits you and you hit her back you are guilty of spousal abuse and assault on a female.
    If you spank your child then you are guilty of child abuse. Bibles and Christian values were removed from our schools and banned from the institution of learning.
    So not only were we not allowed to discipline our children as we saw fit but they weren’t taught the values in school to shape them as good God Fearing adults.
    But did they remove sex education or the idea that man came from apes? No that was not removed from the school but was encouraged learning.
    This Country is more and more becoming a Country of Total Mind Control. The Politicians lie to us in the news constantly
    The rich in this Country get richer and richer on the backs of the poor and working class. They have politicians in their pockets and this country is run by their rules. The average American has little or no voice in this Country of the USA anymore.
    If we don’t like a presidential candidte such as Bush then even when he doesn’t get the votes of the people he gets the electoral votes. But they are excellent con men anyway. Good Politicians can talk a kid out of their milk money. They do it all the time.
    My point is this Country is going downhill the rights we took for granted are very slowly being removed from us. They are now labeling criminals in our country. Soon they will label every person with a symbol such as 3s on their forehead.
    We all of the decent folks in this country need to take a stand and let them know we are finished. You violate or deny us of our rights and you will never work in politics again in this country. We all need to get together as a Nation and say we are thru. Make the changes the common man or woman is looking for, not what you think will get you funding for your campaign or will give you extra pocket money.

  26. Question – Suppose a man and a woman marry in the temple and divorce and then the man marries a second woman in the temple and they divorce and then he marries a third woman in the temple. When all four of them are in heaven – Will all three women still be married to the same man assuming none of them remarries? Would this arrangement permit a man in today’s world to make it the celestial kingdom of BY’s time frame? Would he be more worthy than a man who only takes one woman to heaven?

  27. Ok lets look at it not from the angle of divorce, but from the angle of death. Lets say a mans wife dies and he remarries. He should still be married to both women in the afterlife.

    As far as divorced couples, the scriptures tell us:

    1 Cor. 7: 10-11
    And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
    But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

    Matt. 19: 9
    And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

    Remember, no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. The SIN of divorce and adultry will be judged by the Almighty.

  28. If a man was a member of the FLDS group and had several wives and then left the FLDS and his wives, would he be allowed to be in full fellowship with LDS?

  29. Maybe we should stop judging ploural marriage off of what Brigham Young says and go back to the scriptures,namely Doctrine and Covenants sect. 132

  30. Interesting concept “Using the Scriptures”. Do you think we can all agree to the meanings or will we need to resort to what the Prophet says?

  31. Any person who follows any commandment of any person, does not honor God, God’s Kingdom. or His Commandments. If God did not write it/say it (through divine knowledge granted Moses), then of what value shall it serve a man wishing to enter into the Kingdom? None!

    Aside from that, it (Old Testament) is old covenant which has passed – it is finished – we are under a new covenant now and washed by the blood of Jesus. There is but one way to the Father, and that is through the Son. And I shall be left wanting for nothing upon entering into the Kingdom.

    There will be no flesh to satisfy, the soul having passed, and my Spirit will reside within He who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. So for what purpose shall I want any wife?

    As for myself, I must look at this issue from a point of view that is other than of the flesh.

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