Many fear that polygamy may be practiced (or even be required) in the afterlife. This video discusses the doctrine in the revelations along with modern day prophets to hopefully bring much more clarity to this issue and provide some refreshing thoughts and peace of mind if this is a worry.
On this video, this is part three of polygamy. This is where I specifically talk about the afterlife and if we will have polygamy being practiced in the afterlife, just some of those issues. I know this is a very sensitive topic and I hope I’ll do justice to it. I’ve got a lot of great stuff to share.
Let me just start, though, by sharing something from the worldwide devotional just a few months ago with Elder Cook at the launch of the new church history book, Saints. While he was speaking, Elder Cook said that, about polygamy, he said, “In the senior councils of the church, there is a feeling that polygamy as it was practiced served its purpose and we should honor those saints, but that purpose has been accomplished.”
Now Kate Holbrook who was there, from the church history department, she said in this Face to Face Devotional, this broadcast from the Nauvoo Temple, she said, “Monogamy is the rule, plural marriage is the exception, and our church leaders have taught us that plural marriage is not necessary for exaltation or for eternal glory.” But challenges and fears still exist, and I’m hoping this video can help to alleviate some of these. Some of these fears may be unspoken, but I want to go in to start with right into the doctrine itself from the revelation that Joseph Smith received, D&C 132, and look at the verses. I think it’s very comforting to look at the actual words, how they’re spelled out.
If you look in D&C 132 at the beginning, verses four, six and seven. We talked in the original video on polygamy that one of the reasons was a restitution of all things. Well, the restitution of polygamy actually was a restitution of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and the sealing power. As a segment of that, if God allowed it to be practiced or commanded it be practiced for a time was polygamy. But what was really restored, the great joy, the crowning part of the Restoration, was really the sealing power in eternal marriage.
Let’s start by looking at D&C 132, verses four, six and seven. If you look at those underlying parts there, “I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant.” Look at verse six. And by the way, notice if there’s anything in here about plural marriage. You’re not seeing anything about that at this point at all. Verse six, “As pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, he that receiveth a fullness thereof must and shall abide the law.” Now, verse seven says, here’s the conditions of this law.This is what it is, that these covenants are to be bound and they’re to be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise of him who is anointed.” It says the keys are with the prophet, only one man at a time on the earth will hold all the keys there, and that “all contracts that are not made into this and have an end when men are dead.”
So the seal by the Holy Spirit of Promise is a stamp of approval by the Holy Ghost through our faithfulness and the sealing to be done by him who was anointed through the keys. So that is the conditions of the law. Now if we go to the law of the new and everlasting covenant marriage, go forward to verses 18 and 19. “If a man marry a wife, which is my law, and if he doesn’t do it through the anointed appointed that power then is not valid neither a force when they are out of this world, they cannot hear it, my glory.” Verse 19, “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed into them by the holy spirit of promise by him who was anointed unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood, they shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers, dominions, all heights and depths to their exaltation in glory and all things and have been sealed upon their head.”
This is the crowning blessing of the gospel. Notice there is nothing about plural marriage in any of this. Now finally you get to verse 32. This is the verse to where it’s beginning to talk about Joseph being commanded to practice plural marriage here. Now, this was knowledge to Joseph in 1831 as he was doing the inspired version of the translation of the Bible. This is where he received this beginning knowledge of this. It was recorded in 1843 this section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but this is back when the knowledge started in 1831. “Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved. But if ye enter not into my law, ye cannot receive the promise of my father, which he made to Abraham. God commanded Abraham and Sara gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law.”
Now If I can break for a minute and say in their culture they practiced polygamy back then at that time. So this would have been a natural thing for them to do. But God’s law at that time is always monogamy unless God commands. So that’s why it had to be commanded for them to do this and it was the law for them at that time as it was commanded. So back to this, “And from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say to you, nay, for I the Lord commanded it. Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it is written: Thou shall not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Abraham received concubines,” like Hagar, “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 thing 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.”
Now this is not us. We are not commanded to do this, but if we were commanded to do this specifically, then we would be required to practice that. So D&C 132 verse 50 then. This is the one I really want to hone in on. “Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins.” Remember, this is 1843 what had transpired to that point with Joseph. “I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.”
And here’s where the magic happens in my mind, the peace that can be found right in the revelation, the ram in the thicket, so to speak, in the Abrahamic sacrifice. I’m going to recommend to you if you have even the slightest fear about polygamy in the afterlife, to spend one hour, I’m going to put it at the top of my resources, of an interview with Dr. Valerie Hudson. She was a professor for 24 years at BYU. She’s written a lot. In fact, her book, Women in Eternity, Women in Zion, fantastic book she coauthored with Alma Don Sorensen. I’m going to share a quick quote in a minute from that.
Here are some snippets that I wanted to share from Dr Hudson’s interview by Fair Mormon. She said, “The Lord has apparently chosen to explain his reasoning and reveal his mind on polygamy in terms of a specific analogy between two situations that occurred to one man, Abraham. His commandment to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and his commandment to Abraham to marry Hagar polygamously.” And then it quotes that verse 36 we just read.
“This is not an arbitrary analogy being made and since it is the only analogy being made, we must pay attention to it and try to understand why that analogy was chosen. God wants us to see how and why he views those two situations as analogous. Sacrifice Isaac, take Hagar to wife. By choosing the story of Isaac to be the analogy of the story of polygamy, the Lord reveals his mind to us. The Lord is telling us that the term Abrahamic sacrifice refers not only to the story of Isaac, but applies to the story of Hagar as well. Of all the possible analogies of sacrifice that God has commanded in the history of the world, God chooses the most wrenching sacrifice that he has ever commanded to serve as the analogy wherewith to instruct us concerning polygamy. The sacrifice of one’s own innocent child by one’s own hand. This choice of analogy by the Lord is meant to reveal to us that in the Lord’s eyes, the Hagar situation is no light matter or run-of-the-mill sacrifice, but rather as likened to the heaviest and most heart wrenching of all sacrifices God has ever required of man.”
Then she continues. She says, “This is to me the strongest possible scriptural evidence that D&C 132 is in complete harmony with Jacob 2 and that, therefore, the general law of rule of marriage is monogamy and the lawful exception is polygamy. And God maintains as strong a discrimination between the two forms of marriage in this dispensation as he did in Jacob’s time. We can now say why it is that God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy. In the Lord’s eyes, monogamy is not a sacrifice, it’s a blessing. But polygamy is a sacrifice and not just any sacrifice. The Lord tells us it is an Abrahamic sacrifice.” And remember he told Joseph there would be an escape. “However, as with Abraham’s sacrifice, which points to the sacrifice of the innocent Son of God in the Atonement, sometimes Christ-like suffering is the greater good and the most loving course of action. Thus in a sense despite the suffering involved in a Christ-like sacrifice, or Abrahamic sacrifice, there is a joy which comes from knowing that sacrifice is, in God’s eyes, the right and loving thing to do.”
Then in this interview, I would highly suggest, she goes through and debunks many other small reasons sometimes given for why polygamy will be needed in Heaven. For the Cliffs Notes version of this, I don’t want to take the time to do that, but I highly recommend you listen to it. But this is the meat right here with this Abrahamic sacrifice discussion. Now I want you to think of this about would polygamy be practiced in Heaven if it was an Abrahamic sacrifice on a daily basis. When you think of this scripture, 1 Corinthians 2 verse 9, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Or how about this one? Revelations 21:3 and 4, “And he will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God, himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
So maybe sometimes people struggle because they’ve heard leaders say things and it’s throwing them off and there’s fear, concern. I’m going to share a couple of quotes here from… Let’s start with Joseph Smith. If you go to the Hales’ website, josephsmithspolygamy.org, a couple of snippets here in yellow. “There is no record of Joseph Smith or any other priesthood leader stating that all exalted men are polygamous.” Here, President Woodruff said, “I don’t know that I ever heard him make use of that expression or use that form of expression of it being required.” Here’s Bathsheba Smith, apostle’s wife. She said, “I had never heard of that.” Joseph Kingsbury said, “No sir. He did not teach me that. He did not say anything about that.” And he recalled, “I heard it preached from the stand that a man could be exalted in eternity with one wife. Despite these clear statements, the folklore persists.
How about other leaders? Now this is great. This is really important. This is a snippet from the LDS Perspective Podcast on polygamy with Brian and Laura Hales and they said, “With the heightened dialogue, you have more people researching the topic, bringing up issues. One thing they do is quote mine in the journal discourses. Now you know what quote mining is, right? You’re looking for something specifically, so you find what you want and you go, ‘Aha, I’ve caught it.’
Well, the Fundamentalist sects of Mormons have done this for years to justify the continued practice of polygamy. The same quotes keep coming up over and over and over again. There’s a couple by Brigham Young and another one by Joseph F. Smith. What it seems like they’re saying that polygamy is required for exaltation. If you read those quotes in context, you will either read from the speaker themselves that they’re simply opining on the topic. This is something they personally believe, even though it hasn’t been revealed or as simply being quoted out of context. But these quotes have been exploited as more and more people are learning about polygamy. I think to incite fear. Just to say ”This is a really horrible thing, and look, these people say we have to do it, so now this really is something we need to worry about, because it is our problem because our theology teaches this.’ When actually our theology does not teach that. No prophet has ever said that polygamy is required for exaltation. Joseph Smith didn’t say it and President Thomas S. Monson hasn’t said it, either.” He was the prophet at the time.
Now I want to share this quote. I shared a whole video on this called, it was Doctrines, Opinions, Practices: Sorting it all out. What is church doctrine? Here’s a quote from that video. This is on the Church Newsroom website. Statement on church doctrine from May of 2007. “Not every statement made by a church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in the official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four standard works of scripture, official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.”
Then to finish Dr. Hudson’s interview, the conclusion of it, she did finish with some somber thoughts. She said, “In an informal survey,” she was told and she didn’t conduct the survey, but, “80% of LDS answered said they felt the Lord would restore the practice of polygamy before the second coming.” She says, and this is painful to share, but she said, “I know women who don’t want to go to Heaven because they think Heaven would be hell because they believe they will be commanded to practice polygamy there. I know young girls at BYU, my students, who have called me before their wedding day in the temple and have said, ‘I can’t go through with this. I can’t go through with a temple marriage, because if I marry him in the temple, then he could practice polygamy in the next life.’ But the most heartbreaking of all are the women who tell me that as they kneel across the alter from their husband in the temple in marriage, they promised themselves they would not love him, that they would force their heart not to love him because they knew if he was a good man, he’d be commanded to practice polygamy in the next life.” She says, “I ask you my brothers and sisters who profits from this mischief? Who is it that laughs at the misery and heartache produced. It isn’t God; it is Lucifer.”
Now there is a lot of confusion on sealing rules. It can seem unfair at times. They do change over time and line upon line. In fact, there were these sealing transfers we talked about in Joseph’s day, how they thought of sealing very different than we think of today in many ways and there were all these sealing transfers that happened from Wilford Woodruff, the revelation in 1894 of similar to how we think of it today, but back then. Let me share this little snippet from Dr. Hudson’s book. She said, “Wilford Woodruff had over 400 of his dead female ancestors sealed to him as wives. These practices seem to indicate that the parties involved understood the man in question was more a proxy so the woman could receive the marriage ordinance and thus her exaltation, rather than an understanding that these women were married in some meaningful sense to these particular men for all eternity. What can it mean to have a dead woman sealed to you whom you have never met in this life, who’s will on the matter you cannot possibly know, and who is in fact one of your great, great grandmothers?”
She said, “These marriages make sense best as proxy marriages. Indeed, when President Wilford Woodruff announced in 1894 that women could be sealed to their dead husbands and children to their dead parents, even if the deceased had not been baptized before their deaths…”, which was required back then. “Many thousands of sealing transfers took place to rightfully reorganize family lines. There were over 13,000 sealing transfers that happened. This understanding of sealing transferability in the final welding together of all of those who are worthy to become members of God’s eternal family may help us envision an honorable escape for those faithful men and women who were commanded to depart from the law of marriage and the natural joy that derives from living that law. If God is truly no respecter of persons than the time period in which one entered mortality should not determine one’s opportunity for ending an Abrahamic sacrifice.”
So I love that thought of sealing transferability when if a couple’s divorced, the church doesn’t cancel the sealing. And there’s a focus on the individuality, the faithfulness, that is required for an individual person. They need that sealing ordinance to be exalted, but it’s an individual sealing and the sealing transferability can happen. That’s what will happen in the next life and all will be sorted out. We have to live faithful individually to our covenants. I love this on the lds.org website under the Gospel Topics Essay on plural marriage. It said, “Members are permitted to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased men and women who married more than once on earth, sealing them to all of the spouses to whom they were legally married. The precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known and many family relationships will be sorted out in the life to come. Latter Day Saints are encouraged to trust in our wise, Heavenly Father who loves his children and does all things for their growth and salvation.”
Now will polygamy be allowed in Heaven? Possibly, but it would be not required. We know that for sure. And it would be under a scenario where it would have to be a joy for all that surpasses all understanding and definitely not an Abrahamic sacrifice. So I think that’s what we know, what we know from the scriptures. Now in conclusion, this is the last of these three videos on polygamy and I wanted to share this from the Gospel Topics Essay in the way they conclude. “Plural marriage was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration. For many who practiced it, plural marriage was a trial of faith. It violated both cultural and legal norms, leading to persecution and revilement. Despite these hardships, plural marriage benefited the church in innumerable ways. Through the lineage of these 19th-century Saints, many Latter-Day Saints who have been faithful to their gospel covenants as righteous mothers and fathers, loyal disciples of Jesus Christ, devoted church members, leaders and missionaries, and good citizens and prominent public officials. Modern Latter-Day Saints honor and respect these faithful pioneers who gave so much for their faith, families, and community.” As they performed their Abrahamic sacrifice.
I hope you enjoyed these videos and I hope they helped. Subscribe for more content.
See Polygamy – The Beginnings and The Ending(s) Videos for related resources
Two additional resources for this video specifically:
Polygamy as an Abrahamic Sacrifice – Fairmormon interview with Dr Valerie Hudson: https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2012/…
Women in Eternity, Women in Zion by Dr. Valerie Hudson and Alma Don Sorenson
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.