Plural & Celestial Marriage

Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standing law of marriage.1 In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman.2 Some early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also received and obeyed this commandment given through God’s prophets.

After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

From him (Joseph Smith) I learned that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle, no man can ever attain to the fulness of exaltation in celestial glory. (William Clayton, Historical Record 6:226)

. . . the great question is this-will we unite with the plurality Order of the Ancient Patriarchs, or will we consent voluntarily to be doomed to eternal celibacy? This is the true division of the question. One or the other we must choose. We cannot be married to our husbands for eternity, without subscribing to the law that admits a plurality of wives. (Samuel Richards, Mill. Star 15:226)

He showed that the revelation that had been the subject of attention (Section 132) was only one published on Celestial Marriage, and if the doctrine of plural marriage was repudiated, so must be the glorious principle of marriage for eternity, the two being indissolubly interwoven with each other. (C. W. Penrose, Mill. Star 45:454)

[184] The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. (Brigham Young, JD 11:268)

If we do not embrace that principle (of plural marriage) soon, the keys will be turned against us. If we do not keep the same law that our Heavenly Father has kept, we cannot go with Him. (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Cowley, p. 542)

Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. . . . The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part . . . . But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it . . . . it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law (polygamy) or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful. Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations. . . . Man . . . cannot receive the fullness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by the proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism. I understand the law of Celestial Marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness, and will not, shall be damned. I say I understand it to [185] mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that. (Joseph F. Smith, JD 20:23-31)

Joseph Smith: (quoted in the Deseret News)

The Prophet did not say that any law passed by Congress is the supreme law of the land. He knew better. He knew Congress would pass laws that would be invalid. What he said was this. . . When a people or a church have received a Divine command and a law is enacted against it, do they not know whether the law is constitutional or not, seeing that Congress is prohibited by that sacred instrument from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion? And if the Supreme Court, yielding to popular clamor against an unorthodox body rules that the unconstitutional law is constitutional, does that alter the stubborn, patient, invincible fact that the law is in violation of the great guarantee of religious freedom? Any man who says that he really and firmly believes a certain law of God binding on him, and who will not obey it in preference to a conflicting law of man or a decision of a court, has either an unsound mind or a cowardly soul, or is a most contemptible hypocrite.

A law has been specially framed against an establishment of their religion. The issue is obedience to God or submission to man; choice between a divine decree about which they have no doubt, and a human enactment that they firmly believe to be unconstitutional and void. It is a matter of conscience. . . . (Des. News, July 6, 1886)


Joseph Smith (1843)

The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time hence forth. And they say if I do so, they will kill me. O, what shall I do? If I do not practice it, I shall be damned with my people. If I do teach it, and practice it, and urge it, they say they will kill me, and I know they will. But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Contributor 5:259)

Heber C. Kimball (1856)

You might as well deny “Mormonism”, and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned. What are you opposing it for? It is a principle that God has revealed for the salvation of the human family. (JD 5:203-204)

Brigham Young (1865)

There is no half-way house. The childish babble about another revelation is only evidence of how half-informed men can talk. The “Mormons” have either to spurn their religion and their God, and sink self-damned in the eyes of all civilization at a moment when most blessed in the practice of their faith, or go calmly on to the same issue which they have always had. * * *

The doctrine of polygamy with the “Mormons” is not one of the kind that in the religious world is classed with “non-essentials.” It is not an item of doctrine that can be yielded, and faith in the system remain. . . . The whole question, therefore, narrows itself to this in the “Mormon” mind. Polygamy was revealed by God, or the entire fabric of their faith is false. To ask them [187] to give up such an item of belief is to ask them to relinquish the whole, to acknowledge their Priesthood a lie, their ordinances a deception, and all they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, prayed for, or hoped for, a miserable failure and a waste of life. (Mill. Star 27:673)

John Taylor (1880)

. . . when they enact tyrannical laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States. And when the Government conflicts with Heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven and against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different. . . . when adulterers and libertines pass a law forbidding polygamy, the Saints cannot obey it. Polygamy is a divine institution. It has been handed down direct from God. The United States cannot abolish it. No nation on earth can prevent it, nor all the nations of the earth combined. I defy the United States. I will obey God. These are my sentiments, and all of you who sympathize with me in this position raise your right hands. (All hands went up sustaining his position.) (S.L. Tribune, Jan. 6, 1880)

Wilford Woodruff (1880 Revelation)

And I say again, woe unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal law of Abraham, which leadeth to Celestial Glory, which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth these things shall be damned, saith the Lord of Hosts, and shall be broken up and wasted away from under heaven by the judgments which I have sent forth, and which shall not return unto me void. (Journal of W. Woodruff, Jan. 25, 1880)

John Taylor (1882 Revelation)

You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law (celestial/plural marriage), for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall [188] preside over my Priesthood. (Messages of F.P. 2:345) (Note: Wilford Woodruff said what was meant by “my law” was plural marriage.)

John Taylor (1882)

We have been told that, “It is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my priesthood,” and yet some people would like very much to do it. Well, they cannot do it. If God has introduced something for our glory and exaltation, we are not going to have that kicked over by improper influences, either inside or outside of the Church of the living God. I see sometimes a disposition to try to ignore some of the laws which God has introduced, and this is one of them. (JD 25:309)

Wilford Woodruff (1882)

The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation, just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign. (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Cowley, p. 542)

John Taylor (1884)

God has given us a revelation in regard to celestial marriage. I did not make it, . . . they would like us to tone that principle down and change it and make it applicable to the views of the day. This we cannot do; nor can we interfere with any of the commands of God to meet the persuasions or behests of men. I cannot do it and will not do it.

I find some men try to twist round the principle in any way and every way they can. They want to sneak out of it in some way. Now God don’t (sic) want any kind of sycophancy like that. He expects that we will be true to Him, and to the principles He has developed, and to feel as Job did-“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Though other folks would slay us, yet we will [189] trust in the living God and be true to our covenants and to our God. (JD 25:309)

Lorenzo Snow (1885)

The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a Divine law, obedience to which brought imprisonment or martyrdom.

Though I go to prison, God will not change His law of celestial marriage, but the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown. (Whitney’s History of the Church 3:471)

Heber J. Grant (1885)

No matter what restrictions we may be placed under by men, our only consistent course is to keep the commandments for God. We should in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace. . . . we have but one choice, that is to abide in the law of God, no matter as to the consequence. (Des. News, Apr. 6, 1885)

First Presidency (1885)

While hiding from the Government officers, in order to avoid arrest for plural marriage, the First Presidency sent an epistle to the Saints on this issue:

“Well-meaning friends of ours have said that our refusal to renounce the principle of celestial marriage invites destruction. They warn us and implore us to yield. But they perceive not the hand of the Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, who has made promises to us and who has never failed to fulfill all His words.

We cannot withdraw or renounce it. God has revealed it, and He has promised to maintain it, and to bless those who obey it. . . . Whether it be life or death, we must trust in God.” (Mill. Star 47:707, Oct. 6, 1885)


John Taylor (1886 Revelation)

My son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people.

Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant;

For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated, nor done away with, but they stand forever. Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject?

Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters.

Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law.

And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham?

I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so, Amen.

(Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, pp. 30-31; referred to in Abraham Cannon’s Journal (p. 24) and Douglas M. Todd, Sr.,’s Journal (pp. 10-13); also in the trial of John W. Taylor)

Apostle John W Taylor ( son of the Prophet John Taylor ) Swore that the 1886 revelation is a true and legit ‘ Thus Saith the Lord ‘ revelation that he found among his father’s papers shortly after his father’s death.

( His father the Prophet John Taylor died while hiding in the underground )

Wilford Woodruff had Apostle John W Taylor excommunicated cuz Apostle John W Taylor brought his father’s revelation to Wilford Woodruff and would not submit!

Finally the church grew a conscience and reinstated Apostle John W Taylor’s name back into the church along with all his ‘former blessings ‘ …AFTER Apostle John W Taylor died. – SMH

* see excerpts from Apostle John W Taylors excommunication trial.

The following statements were made in regards to the Church’s defiance of the law of the land over polygamy:

John Taylor said, “We believe in … loyalty to our country, but when they enact laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States; and when the government conflicts with Heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of Heaven against the government… If the United States say different the Saints cannot obey it. … [W]e will worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.” (1/6/1880)

Heber J. Grant: “No matter what restrictions we are placed under by men, our only consistent course is to keep the commandments of God. We should, in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace.” (4/5/1885)

George Q. Cannon: “I admit that those raising children by plural wives are not complying with man-made laws, but in the sight of God they are not sinning, as there is no sin in it.” (Reed Smoot Hearings 1:9)

Wilford Woodruff: “God says, “We shall be damned if we do not obey the law.” Congress says, “We shall be damned if we do.” It places us precisely in the same position that it did the Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the den of lions. … Our enemies have pursued the same course … and made it a law of offense to obey one of the laws of our God. Now who shall we obey? God or man? My voice is that we obey God.” (4/21/1879)

Apostles Penrose & Richards wrote a letter to John Taylor stating: “We then say, we consider the law of God superior to the law of the State, and if we have to break the law of the State to keep the law of God, we will stand by the consequences.” (2/16/1887)

The First Presidency: “God is superior to governments and courts. But he tells his Church to befriend the constitutional law of the land. If it is not constitutional, He says it comes of evil. It must support the principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges; if not, it comes of evil. Who is the Lord directing? His Church. Whatever is contrary to the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution, which includes not mere belief but the “free exercise” of religion, He does not command His people to obey, but says they shall do His will.” (First Presidency 7/7/1886)

John Taylor: “I defy the United States. I will obey the will of God. These are my sentiments, and all of you who sympathize with me in this position raise your right hand.” (1/6/1880)

Whenever the Congress of the United States, for instance, pass a law interfering with my religion, or with my religious rights, I will read a small portion of that instrument called the Constitution of the United States, now almost obsolete, which says—”Congress shall pass no law interfering with religion or the free exercise thereof;” and I would say, gentlemen, you may go to Gibraltar with your law, and I will live my religion. When you become violators of the Constitution you have sworn before high heaven to uphold, and perjure yourselves before God, then I will maintain the right, and leave you to take the wrong just as you please. There are other things, too, that I, as an individual would do. There have been attempts made here to interfere with the trial by jury, a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States as well as by the Magna Charta of England. And we have had cases right in our midst where a judge has told the jury that if they did not bring in such a verdict as he had instructed them to, he would set it aside. Of what use, then, is a jury? Why not let the judge act without them; if they are to be dictated to by him what becomes of our freedom? If my services as a juryman were required, I would give my opinion frankly and honestly, and no judge should control me; but I would try to be a man, and would not be cowed by any man sent among us trying to pervert justice. No man should make a scapegoat of me; if he wished to violate constitutional rights he should do it on his own responsibility. Some men will endure a great deal in matters of this kind, and they will call it humility; but I desire no such humility. I want a principle that will maintain, uphold, and stand by the rights of man, giving to all men everywhere equal rights, and that will preserve inviolate the fundamental principles of the Constitution of our country.” –(John Taylor, _Journal of Discourses_, Vol. 11, p. 343-345, Delivered in the Tabernacle March 31st 1867)

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