I was still an active member of the LDS Church, and I was substituting as the pianist in primary. Singing Time was over for the Junior Primary, so I had a few minutes to relax before the Senior Primary came in.
The Primary President was in charge of Sharing Time, and she was having the children role play some Bible stories.
Since we believe we are Israelites, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) is a key person in our story and covenant heritage. The trouble for a strictly monogamous Church is that Jacob/Israel inconveniently had 4 wives, and each wife was the mother of at least 2 of the sons who would become the namesakes for the “tribes of Israel.”
How does one tell the story of the family and hold Jacob/Israel up as a good example we should emulate without condoning his polygamy???
When trying to role play this awkward marital situation, what is a Primary President supposed to do?
She did what any self-respecting monogamous Primary President would do. She pretended that Jacob had only one wife, giving her the credit for birthing all 12 of his sons (and 1 daughter).
I wasn’t a polygamist back then — in fact, I didn’t even like the idea of polygamy — and yet I was shocked at this blatant mis-telling of the common Bible story.
(Side note: The famous musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatmentions Jacob’s “wives“ and states that Joseph’s mother was Jacob’s favorite wife. As far as I remember, the play leaves it at that; the plural wives are not major characters and they are never explicitly named, so the screenplay skirts around the polygamy issue without either making a big deal about it or being inaccurate.)
Back to the Primary President. She invited 1 boy and 1 girl to the front of the room and let them dress up in some simple homemade costumes. Then she introduced them to the primary as Jacob and his “wife“, who were the parents of the 12 sons we know as the tribes of Israel.
I was stunned. I couldn’t let this error pass without comment, so from the back of the room, I raised my hand and opened my mouth and said,
“Excuse me, ma’am, but Jacob had 4 wives.”
The Primary President blushed and hemmed and stammered and couldn’t find a way to remove herself from the embarrassing situation she’d put herself into. The story was cut short and the children were shooed back to their seats.
I felt bad for correcting the Primary President in front of everyone, and yet, what would you have done?
An hour later, when the same activity was being done with the older age group, I noticed that the Primary President still had children act out Adam and Eve, Noah and Mrs. Noah, Jonah, Daniel, David and Goliath, and so on, but she didn’t dare repeating the Jacob-and-his-monogamous-wife incident, and that story was left out.
This is the first of a series of posts that I am calling, “For Gail“. This series will consist of my answers to a range issues brought up in comments (mostly on this post about the McGees, but also on the Dateonomics post by Taylor) and personal correspondence with a blog reader, Gail, back in April of 2019.
One of the views Gail repeats in her comments is that polygamists must have a sense of satisfaction and happiness that is stunted, malformed, or distorted in some way by their own upbringing in a polygamous family. There is something seriously wrong with them. Thus, they can completely accept the inherent unhappiness and dissatisfaction they experience while interpreting it as its opposite: actual (or full) satisfaction and happiness. Understandably, this makes Gail “sad” and “greatly troubled”. Especially since (at least at the time of her writing) it was, by her own admission, impossible for her to understand things in any other way. She says of my family’s reasons, “I cannot fathom [them] other than its how you were raised to look as marriage”. Here are some longer quotes with more context so that we can better understand the issue at hand. I have included links to the full comments as well, but please note that I will not be addressing every issue in every comment in this post – it is just too much to cover in one sitting (but I will be getting to everything eventually).
Speaking about Christine Brown (from the show, Sister Wives), Gail said:
I am quite sure that Gail is not the only one out there who has difficulty with this concept, and, to be honest, I can sympathize with her and others who can only understand it thru this lens. It is undeniably true that it is difficult (if not impossible) to comprehend something that you have no experience with. In the case of polygamy, this is all the more true when the only reference point you have is what the media has to say about polygamists, which is almost all grossly imbalanced and sensationalized (but further comments on this will have to be its own post). This is the source of most people’s information, and it is almost exclusively about one group of polygamists: the FLDS.
The FLDS undoubtedly have many unique problems all their own, and their leaders have done plenty of things to muddy the public’s perception, but this will have to be its own post as well.
For many people, Gail included, the information they have also comes from reality television. While this is actually much much better than the standard media coverage, it is still only glimpses, is distorted in sometimes surprising ways, and doesn’t really paint the full picture.
To all the people in this camp I would say that the chances are very good that you don’t personally know any polygamists (altho you might be surprised). Therefore, to understand them you can only do so by analogy with your own way of thinking and feeling. I would like to point out that there is nothing wrong with this – there is no other way of understanding things!, and I am not just talking about understanding plural marriage here. No, no, my friends, this is true of all our understanding, and of every branch of knowledge.
When I pointed this out to Gail, she, to her credit, concurred.
So, limited understanding, due to naivety on the subject (whatever it may be), is not a hurdle to comprehension. It just calls for a little humility. Problems come when those with zero experience, begin telling those who have experienced something what that thing is all about; and furthermore, wont accept their words as valid if they go contrary to their experience-less understandings. Have you ever had this happen to you?
When my wives and I write about these things it is coming from an entirely different perspective than most of our readers. Our knowledge isn’t second, third, or fourth hand at all. We are living polygamy! and, in addition, we personally know and interact with dozens of other polygamist families as well!
Now we come to the really important thing that I wanted to communicate in this post. I want Gail, and other readers in her boat, to realize that we also know perfectly well where they are coming from, because we were there too! This is probably a difficult thing to wrap your mind around, (and understandably so because it is such a foreign concept), and doesn’t fit at all into your preconceived notions about it. Therefore, just to make this explicit, and I realize this may be a mind blowing realization to some, I want to say: In my family, we were all formerly monogamists, and we were all raised in monogamist families. This has very little to do with the way we were raised.
Anyone who is sincerely curious to know about our family can read about our former monogamy and our mainstream LDS upbringing in one of several posts that we have already written (here,here, here, here, here, here, or here – it does little good to rewrite material that has already been organized and published as a post already). So, when you tell us about the virtues of monogamy, you’re preaching to the choir. We love devoted monogamists, and think the world should have more of them!
I just want you to know that we completely understand your point of view. There is likely nothing that you can tell us about living monogamy that we don’t already know (because we were monogamists, like you), but there are things that we can tell you about polygamy (because we are polygamists, unlike you). Please also know that we fully respect and accept the sincerity of your decision to be monogamist. Please grant us the same sincerity.
Next I’m going to share an even more mind bending fact: We aren’t even close to the only ones. I do know many polygamists who were raised in polygamist families, but I actually know more who weren’t. Dozens of them (both husbands and wives), were raised in monogamist families, and were monogamists themselves for a number of years. Case in point, in the Brown family, which Gail mentioned earlier, Kody was raised in a monogamous, mainstream, LDS family. I have actually visited with Kody’s mother (who was also raised monogamous – as was his father). They converted to fundamentalism when Kody was on a mission for the LDS church! Can you imagine? When he came home his family had joined another church (and one that he had been preaching against). You should hear the things she said about LDS singles wards (haha, this will have to be another post).
It is not an uncommon occurrence within polygamist circles, for monogamists, and people who were raised in monogamy, to become part of a plural family, and I don’t think this fact is commonly known or appreciated by “outsiders”. Rather, my strong suspicion is that that the common perception is that people are born into polygamy and then later flee, leave, or escape polygamy. I’m not sure people realize that there is lots of movement the other way as well. Normal, everyday people leave monogamy to become polygamists regularly. The funny thing is that when people “escape monogamy” they usually just call it “divorce” – because no one (or nearly no one) believes that monogamy is something you need to escape. The common belief is that the specific marriage, or the specific family situation, was bad or abusive and worthy of leaving. This is in contrast to those who leave their plural marriages. They don’t simply get divorced; rather, they “escape”! Why is it so difficult to realize that there are some bad or abusive plural families just as there are some bad or abusive monogamist families? It is because polygamy is unusual in our culture, and therefore easily sensational.
Having said all this, how do you account for this movement of people from monogamy and monogamist upbringings with the axiom that polygamists have a warped “ability to find satisfaction and happiness” because they were raised in a polygamist home? No need to answer that question, because you can’t. Without modification, the axiom does not even allow the situation to exist as a possibility. Nevertheless the situation exists, and has continued to manifest and repeat itself for millennia. Keep reading these posts, and you might gain a glimpse into some of the reasons why. But beware! you may have to modify or discard this axiom.
One more thing, for those who might be interested in learning more (sorry for the short notice), on Saturday, August 3rd 2019 (that is today), session number 358 of the Sunstone Symposium will be titled:
Panel Discussion: Mainstream Mormon Women Go Plural
The brief description given on the website is as follows:
“This session features a panel of women who chose to leave mainstream Mormonism to live the polygamous lifestyle. Panelists include the stars of a popular reality show and women from a variety of polygamous sects.
This is your chance to pick their brains on how and why each came to choose plural marriage, how their family and friends have been affected, and what the various benefits and challenges of the polygamous lifestyle are.”
The session will begin at 2:00 pm in room 300-D of the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. Charlotte and Melissa will be there, as well as several other women. It should be an interesting time.
It will be good now to make a distinction between marriage and sealing. They are different, but not in the sense that they are two similar but different sorts of contracts (or covenants, or relationships) between people. Nor are they different as if they were alternatives to one another. If you have been in the LDS Church a while, you likely have heard people say things like, “People outside the Church have marriages, but we have sealings.” Or perhaps, “In the temple you don’t get married, you get sealed.” Or something else along those lines. They speak of sealing as if it were a different and advanced form of marriage, or a higher type of relationship.
Sealing is not different than marriage in this sense; rather, it is in addition to it. A “sealing” is not a type of relationship. I will go a little farther and say, there is no “sealing” of one person to another where there is no relationship between the parties. Our language is very sloppy. One person does not get sealed to another. As I will show in this post, it is the relationship that is sealed. Sealing is not a stronger kind of marriage; the marriage is the thing that is sealed.
But we must back up a little first. You see, marriage was always intended to be eternal.
In the New Testament we have recorded an instance where some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him about divorce. We have Jesus’ answer to them recorded:
Matthew 19:4-6 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
So it’s not just the Mormons! Even the Catholics and Protestants, who perform marriages “until death”, believe that marriage, at least originally, was intended to be eternal.
Our first parents came to this earth as immortal souls, with bodies of flesh and bone, and while in this state of immortality, Moses records that they were Man and Wife – they were married! They had been joined together by God. If they had remained in the garden they would seemingly have remained wed forever. Thus, the original intent was always an eternal union – an eternal family.
Even upon their expulsion from the garden, there is no indication that the change from immortality to mortality brought a severance of their marriage. They were still Man and Wife. Nor is there any indication that their transition to the next world by death brought any sort of severance of that relationship. Thus the words of Jesus (Matthew 19:6):
“What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.”
Alright then, marriage is supposed to be permanent, and sealing has something to do with that, what then is the meaning of the word, “seal”? And how are we to understand it?
I have heard several different analogies given to describe this concept, maybe you too have heard it explained in one of these ways. One is that sealing is like canning food. When you can peaches, for example, you “seal” them in a jar. Thus, the peaches are preserved, and this is similar to the way a marriage is preserved for eternity. Well, this is interesting, and perhaps there are some things to learn there, but this is not quite right.
Another way to think about it, is pipes, or machine parts, with a gasket between them, and sealing compound, so that the joint is “sealed”. In this way, nothing can leak out; nothing is lost. This is also an interesting analogy, but is still not quite it.
A third way to think about sealing is like “sealing” an envelope. The two sides are stuck together, there is glue between them, and nothing can get in between them or pull them apart. This is probably the most common cultural understanding among Mormons that believe in the concept of sealing which I am describing. It is like a divine glue that sticks one person to another. It is the idea that Joseph Smith had people sealed to him so that he could drag them along to heaven with him. They were stuck to him you see, so they had to be with him wherever he went. What a tacky idea. Sealing does not mean that someone is stuck to you like glue. This idea is not right either.
As I said before, sealing has to do with relationships. It is not the people that are sealed together, it is the relationship that is sealed, and this is an important distinction.
So, in what sense then aught we to understand the word, “sealed”? I have here the definition of the word as found in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language:
SEALED: Furnished with a seal; fastened with a seal; confirmed; closed.
Ah, this is the correct understanding of the word. Let us now read a little farther to discover the definition of, “seal”. Here it is (also from the Webster’s 1828):
SEAL, noun [L. sigillum.]:
A piece of metal or other hard substance, usually round or oval, on which is engraved some image or device, and sometimes a legend or inscription. This is used by individuals, corporate bodies and states, for making impressions on wax upon instruments of writing (a.k.a. documents), as an evidence of their authenticity….
The wax set to an instrument (a.k.a. document), and impressed or stamped with a seal…
The wax or wafer that makes fast a letter or other paper.
Any act of confirmation.
That which confirms, ratifies or makes stable; assurance. 2 Timothy 2:19.
That which effectually shuts, confines or secures; that which makes fast. Revelation 20:3.
To fasten with a seal; to attach together with a wafer or with wax; as, to seal a letter.
To set or affix a seal as a mark of authenticity; as, to seal a deed. Hence,
To confirm; to ratify; to establish.
There are a few other definitions but this will suffice, and this is the correct sense of the word. We ought to understand it in the same sense as a, “Seal of Approval”, or “Stamp of Approval“.
Here are several examples of documents that have seals on them:
A US issued passport with the Seal of the United States of America.
A US dollar bill with the seal of the Federal Reserve, and the US treasury, and also the Great Seal of the United States of America.
My Driver License with the seal of the State of Utah.
My diploma with the seal of the University of California.
My daughter’s birth certificate stamped with the seal of the State of California.
In every case, the purpose of the seal on these documents is to show their validity, and authenticity. You could contact the State of California and they would tell you that my daughter’s birth certificate is valid, it was issued by them, and they will vouch for its authenticity.
The dollar bill has the seal of the United States on it, and it is a valid currency, but what would happen to this money if the United States collapsed and went away? It may well become worthless then, because the authority that issued it, and placed its seal upon it, would be gone. Or, what would happen to my Driver License if the State of Utah seceded from the Union and became the Independent Nation of Deseret? Of course, my license would become invalid. True, they may grant me some sort of grace period, but I would ultimately have to get a new license issued by the new authority – or else stop driving.
All things that exist, will exist for as long as the power that upholds them. This is very clearly expressed in section 132 as well:
D&C 132:7 “And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise… are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”
Notice, it is the relationship that is sealed! It is the covenant, contract, association, connection, etc. which is sealed. Whatever it is that has God’s seal on it, also has his approval. It means that God has placed his stamp upon that thing, that he claims and supports that thing as his, that he will preserve and protect that thing, and that he will vouch for its authenticity. Jumping to verse 13:
D&C 132:13-14 “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God. For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.”
In other words, all things are upheld for as long as the power which upholds them remains. Who then seals? And by what power are eternal, sealed relationships upheld? Ultimately, it is by the power of God’s One Anointed. And who is that? The Anointed in Hebrew is Messiah; in Greek it is Christ. He is Jesus.
People, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by men, and even by the devil:
Alma 34:35 “For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”
And people, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by God:
Mosiah 5:15 “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”
However, everything ordained by men, or by Satan, will ultimately crumble and will not be upheld (D&C 132:13) at the last day.
Alma 30:60 “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”
In contrast, whatever God has placed his stamp, his approval, or seal, upon will be preserved. He claims it as his, he seals it as his, and he will uphold it (D&C 132:14).
Ecclesiastes 3:14 “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.”
If you want your marriage to have God’s stamp of approval upon it, if you want your marriage sealed, then here is my simple advice to you: Make your relationship the kind that God would want to preserve in Heaven, because he finds that it is a small piece of Heaven already. Keep the covenants you have made with each other, and with God. Remain faithful thru both the difficult times and the good.
If your marriage has been neglected, then do what needs to be done to remedy it. Swallow your pride, seek after God to help you first become what you should be, and second to help your marriage become what it should be.
We have probably all caught glimpses of Heaven on Earth at times. Moments when our peace and satisfaction with life and our relationships seem full to the brim and overflowing. And yet, we are very often our own worst saboteurs. When the seeds of Heaven have been cast upon our lives, and upon our relationships, we so easily, and carelessly, let the thorns grow unchecked until they choke the sprouting seeds, or we uproot the tender plants ourselves, just so we can check to see whether they are growing or not.
God will sow the seeds of Heaven on all types of soil. He is very generous and merciful in that way. But we must nourish and protect the seeds in order for them to produce fruit to harvest. Some will return thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some an hundredfold.
In a previous post, I promised to elaborate some more on Adultery. It is among the dirtiest of words in the English language. It conjures up thoughts of the most serious kind of betrayal. There is perhaps no more serious a crime than the treachery of betrayed trust. Indeed, Dante places it at the very bottom of the pit – the 9th and very lowest circle of Hell. In Genesis 20:9 adultery is referred to as, “[the] great sin“. It is important then that we know what constitutes this great sin.
This is especially true perhaps in the case of polygamists, who are accused of committing this heinous sin by virtue of their marriages. For example, the last paragraph under the entry “Plural Marriage” in the book Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, said, “Any who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day [when the President of the LDS Church has forbidden it], are guilty of gross wickedness. They are living in adultery, have already sold their souls to Satan, and (whether their acts are based in ignorance or lust or both) they will be damned in eternity.” These are strong accusations to make.
First of all, let us establish that God has very clearly commanded,
Exodus 20:14 “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
It is the 7th commandment, and violation of this prohibition brought the most serious of consequences. As for punishment, there is no difference between the sexes, it was to be punished by DEATH for both parties (Leviticus 20:10). Certainly then we would want to know what constitutes this grave sin, so that we may utterly eschew it.
What is adultery? The answer to this question may seem simple, and indeed it is. And yet, the answer may nevertheless still surprise many people. Of course, as God is the author of this law, we ought to consult the scriptures for an answer. But first, let us look at the present usage of the word.
Unfortunately, the modern notions of what constitutes adultery have strayed in a very significant way from the original meaning of the word. Of this grammatical apostasy, some will say that the Biblical definitions of words, such as ‘adultery‘, are not as relevant in these modern times, with our modern understanding, and our modern morality. To this I would reply, that the Bible is the very reason that ‘adultery‘ is even in our vocabulary. It is the Biblical teachings on the matter that are the source of our conceptual understanding of this topic. The Bible is foundational to our notions about the immorality of adultery in the first place. Furthermore, no matter what the modern understanding of a word may be, we must understand the original, Biblical meanings of words in order to understand the Biblical stories, teachings, and commandments. As in all things, context is crucial. Let us be faithful to the word.
Here is the modern definition of adultery from some well-respected dictionaries:
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner. – Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. – Oxford Dictionary
Sex between a married man or woman and someone he or she is not married to. – Cambridge Dictionary
Certainly language evolves, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is expected as our world changes. There are constantly new things and new situations that need to be described. Perhaps these definitions wouldn’t bother me so much if they stated that they were strictly modern definitions and that the original meaning of the word was something else. Without this sort of disclaimer, people will interpret ancient occurrences of the word in the incorrect light of a modern definition. Case in point: dictionary.com used to include the biblical definition of adultery on its “adultery” page, but that section was deleted just recently (sometime between March and May of 2017).
Here are some older definitions of the word:
Violation of the marriage bed; a crime, or a civil injury, which introduces, or may introduce, into a family, a spurious offspring. By the laws of Connecticut, the sexual intercourse of any man, with a married woman, is the crime of adultery in both. – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Black’s Law Dictionary (5th ed.) starts with the modern definition, but then adds:
In some [US] states, however, as was also true under the Roman and Jewish law, this crime is committed only when the woman is married to a third person.
I like the wording of these definitions very much. In the Webster’s 1828, it says that Adultery may introduce spurious offspring into a family; thus, adultery requires the woman to be married (i.e. she is part of a family). To adulterate a thing is to corrupt it by adding something foreign to it – to add or mix something with it that would not normally be mixed with it. To do so is to commit adultery. The adulterer is adding his seed to another man’s wife, and potentially his offspring to another man’s family.
Whether or not adultery has been committed depends exclusively on the marital status of the woman. The marital status of the man has nothing to do with it. He may be married or single, divorced or widowed; it is all inconsequential. Let me be very clear and precise: adultery happens when a married (or betrothed) woman voluntarily has sex with a man who is not her husband (or her betrothed). That is the simple, scriptural meaning of the crime of adultery. This does not mean that only women can commit adultery! Both parties are equally guilty, and the punishment is the same for both.
Let’s compare these common definitions with the definitions from a selection of Bible Dictionaries. As you read these you’ll get the impression that one of these things is not like the other…
Conjugal infidelity. An adulterer was a man who had illicit intercourse with a married or a betrothed woman, and such a woman was an adulteress. – Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897)
Adultery was understood as sexual intercourse between a man and another man’s wife or betrothed woman. Similarly, any act of coition between a married woman and a man who was not her husband was also regarded as adultery. – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (1996)
The parties to this crime, according to Jewish law, were a married woman and a man who was not her husband. – Smith’s Bible Dictionary (1884)
The unlawful association of men and women. Although generally having reference to illicit activity of married persons, the scripture often does not distinguish between the married and the unmarried. – LDS Bible Dictionary (1979)
A few things stand out to me as I read these definitions. First, I am very pleased with the descriptions given in the first three dictionaries. And yet, with this correct understanding of scripture, it makes me wonder in disbelief, how there can be such a generally vehement opposition to polygamy from the Christian community at large.
The other thing that stands out to me is the LDS definition. It just makes me shake my head. What are they talking about, “the scripture often does not distinguish between the married and the unmarried”?? Every single instance of adultery in the scripture where the marital status of either party is mentioned makes reference to the marriage or betrothal of the woman. Every single one. Here are several examples:
Leviticus 20:10 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
Proverbs 2:16-19 “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth [i.e. her husband] and ignored the covenant she made before God.”
Proverbs 5:3,20 “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil…Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?”
Proverbs 6:26-32 “For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry…But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.”
Jeremiah 29:23 “Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.”
Ezekiel 16:32 “But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!”
Hosea 3:1 “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.'”
Hosea 4:13-14 “They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills… your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses [feminine noun] shall commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses [feminine noun] when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.”
Romans 7:2-3 “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth… So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
In light of this fact (that every instance where marital status is explicitly mentioned in connection with adultery the woman is married to another man), we can use this as a key to understand two other cases of scriptural references. The first case is when adultery is not explicitly mentioned, and second case is where marital status is not explicitly mentioned. Here is an example of the first case:
Genesis 20:2-6,9 “…Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife…and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?”
No where in these verses is adultery explicitly mentioned, and yet we know this is the sin that both God and Abimelech are speaking of (and the sin which Abimelech was spared from committing) – because of Sarah’s marital status. Abimelech took Sarah with the intention to make her his wife, thinking that she was unmarried. In verse 17 we read that Abimelech was already married, and yet both God and Abimelech knew that what he was planning was with “integrity”.
Here is another example of the first case. What is the difference between these verses in Deuteronomy and this verse in Exodus?
Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman:”
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 “… If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die… so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”
Exodus 22:16 “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.”
The difference between the outcome of these verses is the marital status of the woman. The situations in Deuteronomy are clearly adultery, for the woman is either married or betrothed, and the penalty is correspondingly harsh. The situation in Exodus describes a woman who is neither married nor betrothed, and the consequence is correspondingly light. I don’t know if I would even call this a punishment (altho I did in a previous post for humorous effect). It is also of note that the marital status of the man, in all these verses, is entirely inconsequential. He may be single or married; the consequence is the same either way.
As for the second case, here are some examples where there is no explicit mention of marital status.
However, we must interpret these verses in light of the rest of scripture. By using the term adultery there is an implicit mention of the marital status of the woman. The very word adulteryimplies the woman involved is married (or betrothed) and having sex with a man other than her husband (or her betrothed).
One scripture commonly used to make accusations about polygamy being adulterous is:
Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Those making this accusation feebly reason that a man must have lusted after subsequent wives, and is therefore guilty of adultery. However, they condemn themselves as well since the marital status of the man is not mentioned by Jesus. They fail to grasp that by their own understanding of Jesus’ words, an unmarried man looking for a wife is just as guilty as a married man looking for an additional wife.
Indeed, I have known several monogamous people (both men and women) who have wondered whether they are guilty of committing adultery since they have “lusted” after their own spouse. Of course, they are not guilty of anything (in this regard), but there are several problems with their interpretation that led them to this faulty conclusion:
First, even if they were “guilty” of “lusting”, it would not be of adultery; it would be of “adultery in their heart”, which (altho it is still a sin) is not the same thing as committing adultery with your body. Hopefully this is self-evident to every reader and can be left without further discussion.
Second, the word lust is not merely sexual in meaning. Certainly lusts can include sexual desires, but in this context, and in most other contexts in the scriptures, a better term might be covet. Coveting is all about wanting something that is not yours. It is about wanting your neighbor’s things. This saying of Jesus is as much about the 10th commandment as it is about the 7th. He is reaffirming the command, “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20:17), and, “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife” (Deuteronomy 17:21). Coveting your neighbor’s wife is the adultery in the heart that Jesus is referring to.
But how do we know that the woman he is talking about is a married woman? Because he uses the word adultery, and as we have seen, adultery always involves a married woman. This is the third point of common misunderstanding with these verses.
Many common English Bible translations use the potentially ambiguous term, woman, in Jesus’ saying quoted above, but this word is only ambiguous to our modern understandings. Ancient readers knew that the women Jesus was saying not to lust after were other men’s wives.
Reformation Day was last week, and this year my family studied the life and contributions of William Tyndale. The man was a chosen servant in the hand of God, and his contributions to the world are undervalued by a large margin. He is the man who gave God an English voice, and he did a beautiful job at it. Here are those verses in Matthew from Tyndale’s 1526 translation of the New Testament:
If you had some difficulty reading that “English” text, have no fear, here it is with modernized spelling and punctuation:
Ye have heard how it was said to them of old time, thou shalt not commit advoutry [adultery]. But I say unto you, that whosoever eyeth a wife, lusting after her, hath committed advoutry [adultery] with her already in his heart.
Tyndale hit the nail exactly on the head! Whoever eyeth a wife!
Those who make accusations of adultery had better beware of what they do lest they find themselves in violation of the 9th commandment.
Exodus 20:16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Violating this commandment may be more serious than it seems. The Law requires the false accuser to receive the punishment appropriate to the accused crime.
Deuteronomy 19:18-19 “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.”
In other words, if a person falsely accuses another person of a capital offense, the punishment for the false accuser is also death.
May we all speak with understanding and not with ignorance, and may we be cautious in making accusations of wrongdoing.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. – Proverbs 10:19
About ten years ago, my husband and I bought our first house together. While I lived in that house, I planted trees and gardens. I bought furniture. I hosted events. I had a variety of houseguests. I put up pictures and had pets and houseplants. While I lived there I went from 1 child to 3 children and began homeschooling. I had a variety of Church callings and a good selection of friends and friendly neighbors. I was in living that house when my belief system about the LDS Church crumbled (although I stayed an active member for a number of years). I also gave birth in one of the bedrooms upstairs.
In that same bedroom, my husband and I first discussed the possibility of his marrying my best friend Melissa. (Short version: I could no longer ignore the spiritual experiences I was having regarding God’s will in the matter. Joshua and I had never talked about it before, but I opened the conversation with: “So, Joshua, are you going to marry Melissa?” His answer: “Well, I don’t know.” My shocked reply: “What do you mean you don’t know? I know!” Two days later he had his first conversation with Melissa about it; I think it’s fair to say the latter conversation was far more awkward than the former.)
A few weeks later, in that same upstairs bedroom, I announced to my husband my plan to essentially give the house to Melissa and her children and move with my children more than an hour away, in order for her teenagers to have the space they needed to finish growing up.
That very day, about 5 years ago, we packed up a single carload and I moved away from my trees and animals and gardens, most of my possessions, my friends and neighbors, and the only home most of my children had ever known.
Gradually, tediously, over months and many many many trips between the two houses, Melissa patiently helped me finish moving out of the house which was now, bewilderingly, hers. And she made that house her own, changing out the kitchen appliances and paint and window coverings and furniture and animals and gardens to better suit her preferences. She continued the arduous task of parenting children without their father. And she got used to being a plural wife.
Melissa has now lived in that house longer than I ever lived in it.
For 5 years, my children have had just one parent half the time. I tell you, it sure is a special treat for the kids when Baba walks in that front door after they’ve been stuck with only me for a couple of days. Two of our children don’t even remember life before their father was a polygamist. They don’t remember what it was like to eat dinner and have devotional with him every single night. They’ve developed habits such as asking me every couple of hours whether Baba will be here today, and writing things down they don’t want to forget to tell him.
For 5 years, my husband has had more than one carpool to get to his job. (It’s very confusing for his fellow carpoolers.) He’s had multiple houses and yards to maintain. He’s been forced to have duplicates of numerous things (including cars, lawn mowers, and property tax bills) so he can frequently seesaw between his two domiciles. And I can’t even count the number of times he’s needed something but has turned up empty-handed because the tool or other item was in a different county. He’s been like an unlucky stepchild, constantly going back-and-forth between two houses.
Over the last 5 years, all of us have had more difficulties than I care to list right now. We’ve also had a lot of personal growth and character-building, but I’ll save that for another time. I’d rather get to the good news.
For 5 years, Melissa has been finishing the job of turning children into adults. Her youngest is now 18 years old. He recently graduated from high school and is launching out on his own.
We are all ready for a big life change.
Melissa’s time in my old house is coming to a close.
Our husband will no longer need duplicates of so many things. He will get to come home to his entire family every evening. The children will get to see their Baba and their other mother daily. Melissa will have to do a lot less driving. And she and I get to begin a new phase of our relationship.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
What do you think? What big housing changes have you gone thru? If you were a polygamist, would you want to live all together in one house or live separately? Leave your comments below.
When I was a new missionary for the LDS Church, and living at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT (this was back in 1998), I had a Branch President that I quite admired. He was a very wise man. Here is one piece of universal wisdom which he gave, and which I have never forgotten (tho perhaps not always lived):
“The scriptures say that Sampson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and every day at least that number of relationships are damaged with the same weapon… You don’t have to say everything that comes to your mind.”
Plural marriage puts you in impossible situations sometimes; situations where it is impossible to please everyone, or even most of the people. This is most often true for plural husbands. While the difficulties between the Briney women continued to play out in this most recent episode (Seeking Sister Wife, season 1, episode 6), I must say that I was pleased with the involvement that Drew displayed.
Furthermore, I have to offer an apology to Drew. In my last post I did not take into account the very likely truth that TLC is either behind much of the drama portrayed in their family, whipping it up to more than it need be, or else cleverly editing the video clips to show stern looks and eye rolls out of context, as well as leaving out parts of the story that wouldn’t fit the network’s vision for the show. Drew and all good plural husbands are much more involved in settling disputes, and counseling with their wives, than could ever be shown on television.
Note from the blog owner: Taylor is a new contributor to the blog. This is his first post.
The growing dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church is no secret; church leaders have been trying to figure out what to do about it, the single women and men in the church are suffering because of it, and even secular sociologists have taken notice (for example see time.com/dateonomics ). No longer are LDS women being deprived of marriage solely because LDS men are “slacking” in their duty to find a wife and have a family; the solution is no longer as simple as exhorting more LDS men to marry. It is much more insidious yet mundane – it is a simple math problem.
Currently within the LDS church, there are more than 3 single women for every 2 single men. This means that if every single LDS man married a single LDS woman, there would be 1/3rd of the single LDS women left over. One third. Let that sink in for a moment.
This is actually a very predictable consequence within any conservative institutionalized group which encourages members to marry within the group and have large families. When there’s a positive birth rate there will be slightly more 20 yr olds than 19 yr olds, slightly more 25 yr olds than 24 yrs olds, etc. Historically (perhaps even biologically), women on average tend to marry older men and men on average tend to marry younger women; the gap is usually about 4 years. Therefore a 24 yr old man will statistically be more likely to marry a 20 yr old woman compared with a woman his own age, and a 23 yr old woman is statistically more likely to marry a 27 yr old man than a man her own age. The result? If a woman hasn’t married by the age of approximately 25-30, her prospects of finding a husband are disproportionately lower compared with the odds that a man the same age will be able to find a wife.
Bottom line: for a moment, let’s ignore the trend that more LDS men leave the church in adulthood than women; let’s ignore that more LDS men marry outside the church than women, that on average more LDS men delay marriage than women, the possibility that LDS men on average are “less valiant” as a group than LDS women, or any other potential contributing factors – even if we set aside all of that, we can STILL expect to see this disparity between single men and women due to simple math and economics.
This dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church has reached the point of being essentially irreversible. This is why more and more leaders are promising faithful women that even if they don’t have an opportunity to be a wife/mother in this life, they can still lead a happy and productive life and look forward to having those opportunities in the next. While somewhat true, this is a very inadequate “solution” to the people affected so deeply.
Interestingly, another conservative group that noticed a similar trend (Hasidic Judaism) handled it with arranged marriages, and having men and women marry peers of their same age (20 yr old men marry 20 yr old women, 24 yr old men marry 24 yr old women, etc.). This could be a viable solution moving forward if it were institutionally enforced – for future marriage/family relationships; however, in the meantime, there is a huge group of single women that would still not have their needs taken care of. If only there was another option….
The elephant in the room is that there is a solution that doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination considering the historical precedents and doctrinal foundations of Mormonism/LDS theology. What if all single women in the church were to have their marriage prospects immediately expanded to include not just the single LDS men, but also the faithful, married LDS men? Voluntary associations between consenting adults such as this could certainly provide the opportunities for marriage and child bearing that are desired by so many LDS women, who will statistically never have such opportunities otherwise.
I would not encourage the LDS leadership to get involved in arranging marriages etc. as sometimes happened in the early days – too easy to exercise unrighteous dominion and violate agency. However, to remove the severe penalties currently enforced (note: LDS people choose to practice polygyny today are immediately excommunicated as a rule according to the policy in Handbook 1) and allow the biblical principles (ironically, those restored and practiced by Joseph Smith himself) including polygyny to again be accepted by the church, this would result in a grand reunion between the mainstream LDS church and so many fundamentalist break off groups. It would provide the opportunity for people to live according to God’s inspiration and revelation in their marital relationships, a climate which has been absent since 1890. Removing the stigma against polygyny – by removing the extreme penalties enforced by LDS policy currently in place – would be a huge step in the right direction for all of Mormonism/Restorationism.
My parents raised my siblings and me to be faithful, active members of the LDS Church. We were all born in Utah, we attended Church as a family every Sunday, and we accepted every assignment our Church leaders were in the mood to give us. We had Family Home Evening on Monday nights and every morning we read the scriptures as a family. As children we all got baptized at age 8, and as youth we attended all the requisite youth classes and activities. When I was 15 years old my dad became the bishop of our ward (local congregation). All of us married in the temple, and all the brothers and brothers-in-law served missions. Etc. We were “good Mormons.”
I was taught to receive personal revelation, but only in the context of 1. Gaining a testimony, and 2. Making big life decisions such as whom to marry and what career path to follow. Besides those 2 categories of revelation, knowing what to do was a matter of following the commandments and instructions as laid out by the Church leaders, both the local leadership and the General Authorities. It wasn’t until I was married with kids that I finally figured out I had been missing personal revelation category # 3. God’s guidance in the life of the individual, if she’ll only let him lead her down the path he has for her and her alone. (This fact was right in front of me the whole time, since General Conference and General Authorities give general guidelines, not specific directions. Duh. Man, am I slow sometimes.)
I remember when I was a young adult and I started to have questions about the Church and the gospel, my father would answer me by saying things such as, “Well, I’ve never heard that topic talked about in General Conference, so I don’t worry about it.” He genuinely believed (believes) that obeying and following Church leaders defines righteousness. This was what I was taught to believe as well, and that’s how I felt for my entire life up to my mid-20s.
My very limited experience with polygamy and polygamists
When I was a young child, my LDS aunt (my dad’s sister) became convinced that polygamy was required for exaltation (the Mormon name for the highest level of heaven), and when she couldn’t convince her LDS husband to take another wife, she left her marriage, deserted her 4 tiny children (the youngest was 6 months old), and became a plural wife. I would never recommend anyone do this. (Fortunately, my aunt’s amazing ex-husband ended up getting remarried to a wonderful woman who raised the abandoned children with love, and who has earned enough loyalty and respect from them to be called “Mom.”) I believe watching his sister make such a life-wrecking decision was traumatic for my father. I think it’s one of the reasons he rejected my polygamy so vehemently (I’ll share more details about his reaction in the future). He has had a difficult time seeing that in the case of his sister’s polygamy, her children lost their mother, but in the case of my polygamy, my children have essentially gained a mother.
I remember as a child seeing fundies in a grocery store and my mom hissing, “Don’t look at them — they’re polygamists!”
These few memories are all the experiences with polygamy I remember having in my childhood, aside from the confusing stories of polygamy I heard in Church itself, which I never understood but which I knew were controversial. Even in my gospel studies as an adult, I procrastinated looking into “the whole polygamy thing” because I had a vague idea that it was troubling, and I suspected I wasn’t scholarly enough to understand it or even retain my faith if I looked too deeply into it. As you’ll see later in my story, I never did get around to studying the issue, even though in 2013 I had clear enough personal revelation (category 3) to know God wanted me to live it and I plunged right in.