Modern-day Mormons often face accusations and rumors surrounding the relationship between their religion and polygamy. But do Mormons believe in polygamy?
No, Mormons don’t believe in or practice polygamy. Original leaders of the Mormon church practiced and indoctrinated plural marriages, or polygamy into their religion in the second half of the 1800s. However, the practice was renounced and is now frowned upon in the modern church.
The practice of polygamy was renounced by the Mormon church in the 1890s.
Yet modern-day members of the religion still face persecution from the outside world.
The stereotype likely comes from their religion’s twisted history with the subject.
History Of Polygamy in Mormonism
The Mormon doctrine didn’t always include the acceptance (or permittance) of polygamy within their religion. But the religion has always offered a unique take on a man’s role and his relationship with women.
Members of Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), will in fact be excommunicated if they’re found practicing or complying in the practice of polygamy.
When the religion was originally founded there was no mention of polygamy or plural marriage anywhere in the doctrine.
However, it’s true that a small group of members practiced polygamy for religious reasons between the 1840s and the 1890s. Including a prominent member and historical figure in their religion, Joseph Smith.
Regardless of the few that were practicing this means of plural marriage. The majority of the members of the Mormon religion are not and were never involved in polygamy.
Where Did The Stereotypes Start?
As mentioned, a small number of members of LDS started to believe in polygamy as part of their religious practice.
This can be traced to 1841 when founder Joseph Smith first began taking on numerous wives.
It’s said that he even took on over 50 wives throughout his lifetime in the church. The religion moved its central hub to Salt Lake City in the 1850s.
It’s then that the church elders even made a public claim that plural marriage is a central belief in their religion.
How Did This Belief Work?
Within this doctrine added to the Mormon LDS faith, it still follows a uniquely male-dominant pattern. Only LDS men can take additional wives. LDS women were not allowed to take additional husbands.
Additionally, very few men were chosen to have the status of an additional wife.
Only those of extremely high spiritual and economic worthiness would be allowed to initiate a plural marriage. Men were even required to get consent from their first wife before taking on another.
Initially rejected by most Western cultures, including those surrounding the centrally located members.
This ideal had been kept a secret part of the mysterious religion for years to avoid persecution.
What began as a secret aspect of this unique religion, became deeply embedded into their religious practice. So much so, that many members still face stereotypes in the modern-day world.
Initially the church chose to avoid speaking about their practice of polygamy within their marriages. But the change to their public opinion on the topic changed in the 1890’s.
It was in this decade that the federal government got involved. Threatening the group that assets and temples would be seized. Only then did the LDS president take a different stance on the topic.
Wilson Woodruff, the fourth LDS president, issued a statement, now known as the Mormon Manifesto, which called for the end of plural marriage. As part of this statement, members had to obey rules named “laws of the land.”
Did Plural Marriages End?
Because of this statement, and the president appearing to follow his own procedure, very few plural marriages took place within the US after this statement in the 1890’s. However that did not mean the practice went away completely.
Marriages outside the United States in places like Mexico and Canada where the “laws of the land” did not apply.
It was only in 1904 that a second “Manifesto” was released which stated any member of the church complying in a plural marriage would be excommunicated.
Members of the LDS offshoot of the Mormon religion did once believe in polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.
The whole religion has a twisted past in relation to plural marriage and how the church views the practice.
But regardless of the stereotypes they face, modern-day Mormons do not practice nor believe in any polygamous practices within their religion.