Raise up seed unto me

June 6, 2006 | 38 comments
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I have a couple of theological and historical/statistical questions about the reasons for polygamy.

People who know more than I do have told me that widespread polygamy was not a response to an imbalance between the numbers of men and women. In Deseret the sexes were in roughly equal ratio.

They also say that polygamy was not an attempt to increase the birth rate. Deseret polygamy, like polygamy generally, seems to have lowered the birth rate at least a little. Neither the birth rate nor the sex imbalance are reasons that work.

Jacob quotes a divine reason in his sermon on concubines and whoredoms: “For if I will . . . raise up seed unto me, I will command my people.” Notice that this isn’t just the discredited concern about birth rates. The Lord says he wants not just to “raise up seed,” but to “raise up seed unto me.”

We cannot be sure that this is the reason for polygamy in Deseret times. Jacob was explaining why Abraham and Isaac practiced polygamy, not why Brigham Young and Brother Joe Blow did. And I’m pretty sure that the reasons Brigham Young and Brother Joe Blow gave for polygamy weren’t that it was a temporary thing necessary to raise up seed (though I could be wrong). On the other hand, D&C 130 does tie polygamy to Abraham, whose polygamy the verse in Jacob is explaining. Its probably worth trying to see if “raising up seed unto me” works as an explanation for polygamy in Utah. If we can.

If “seed being raised up unto me” means a greater number of people who are exalted, we have no way of measuring, unless we assume that there’s some here-and-now statistic that’s correlated with exaltation (children being raised in the church, e.g.) or if we adopt some Jan Shipps -style, double theological rimshot where polygamy makes the Church persecuted which in turn keeps it from dissolving which, long term, results in more members and more exaltation.

On the other hand, “seed being raised up unto me” could just mean (1) children being raised in the church, or (2) children who are in the covenant because both of their parents are faithful. If the modern data showing that women who marry gentiles or inactive saints are less likely to raise their kids Mormon applies to Deseret, then the two would tend to overlap considerably, though the Deseret practice of sealing outside family units might complicate this a little. In any case, either should be measurable in theory. At least in theory we should be able to show that while the birth rates over all may have been lower, the number of children raised in the church or with both parents active was higher than it otherwise would have been.

This leads us to an even greater puzzle. Even if we do establish that polygamy effectively “raised up seed unto me,” the reason why it ended in Deseret in particular is still no mystery. The US government had a gun to the Church’s head. That doesn’t explain why we don’t practice polygamy now, when the gun is largely removed. It also doesn’t explain why Jacob (or the Lord speaking through Jacob) would view polygamy as the exception rather than the rule. We would either have to think that there are other considerations that generally override the need for seed (Jacob suggests that the tender feelings of women are one such consideration), or that polygamy only “raises up seed unto me” under specific circumstances that don’t generally hold. A third explanation–that “raising up seed unto me” was only the purpose of Abraham’s polygamy, not polygamy generally–would work for the Church’s unwillingness to return to polygamy now but not the Book of Mormon refusal to do so.

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38 Responses to Raise up seed unto me

  1. Julie M. Smith on June 6, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    Very interesting post; I’m curious to see what others will say.

    I do have one quibble: I’m not sure that “Jacob suggests that the tender feelings of women are one such consideration” is right. They are in sorrow, they are mourning, yes, but it is for something that the Lord labels iniquity, wickedness, and abominable in this passage. I doubt the Lord would go in for language that strong if the problem were simply that their tender feelings had been hurt. I suspect that the Lord is condemning it for other reasons. In other words, the women’s response is based on the Lord’s response; the Lord’s response isn’t based on the women’s response. And v7 does say that those tender feelings are pleasing to God.

  2. Adam Greenwood on June 6, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    My post is pretty dispassionate, so lest people think I’m indifferent I should add that I’m not real keen on the idea of polygamy myself. Its an uneasy fit with my ideas of what marriage is about. But if the data from various places and cultures showing that women are more religious than men correlates with greater spirituality and thus with greater rates of eligibility for exaltation, than some degree of polygamy (or else a truly mono monogamy) may be part of eternity whether I like it or not.

  3. Julie M. Smith on June 6, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    “But if the data from various places and cultures showing that women are more religious than men”

    But this isn’t true for LDS in Africa, where male church members significantly outnumber female ones.

    (That said, I appreciate and agree with your position: whether we like the idea of polygamy or not has nothing to do with its verity.)

  4. Adam Greenwood on June 6, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Julie M. Smith,

    when I say ‘tender feelings’ I’m just quoting Jacob, not being dismissive. I don’t think you have to read him as saying that women are more fragile or easily damaged (though if they were, this would not be a reason to disregard their feelings) but that one’s feelings when it comes to marriage and spouses and other intimate things are necessarily tender. Also, I would not be surprised at all if the Lord went in for language that strong for behavior (done in the absence of some divine command given for overriding practical reasons) that hurt the “tender feelings” of wives. Reason enough, if you ask me.

  5. Starfoxy on June 6, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    I always thought that the consideration ‘against’ polygamy listed in Jacob’s sermon was God’s delight in the chastity of women rather than their tender feelings.

    In verse 27 the commandment to have only one wife and no concubines is given, then verse 28 says “For I, the Lord God, delight in the Chastity of women…”

    That “For” in verse 28 always felt like a “Because.” It makes sense to think of it that way because while polygamy is in practice there is always the extreme risk that an additional marriage will be less like a marriage (committed & loving) and more like sanctioned adultery (purely physical).

  6. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 12:18 am

    Reasonable, StarFoxy, but finding oneself in an unchaste relationship could certainly affect one’s tender feelings.

  7. sue on June 7, 2006 at 12:20 am

    #3 – Just brought up a question – are members in countries where polygamy is acceptable disciplined for practicing polygamy?

  8. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 12:26 am

    I believe so, Ma’am.

  9. sue on June 7, 2006 at 12:31 am

    Hmmm… So I wonder what the justification for that would be. Does the church now feel that polygamous behavior is immoral (I mean, I do, but I didn’t think this was the stance of the church)? I thought it was just legally expedient and necessary. If it is not immoral, why would members be disciplined for living in polygamy if it is legal in their home country?

    Sorry, I know this is a bit afield, but it brings me back to – if it is immoral now, why was it not immoral then – which brings it back to the original point – what is the purpose? Divine principle or simply expedient at the time?

  10. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 12:55 am

    The church does think its immoral. That’s what Jacob thought too, which is why its a little startling in the midst of his talk about ‘whoredoms’ and ‘concubines’ to see a little aside about how it might be OK if the Lord commands it to raise up seed unto him.

  11. Ronan on June 7, 2006 at 12:59 am

    Adam,
    If we want to understand the ultimate reasons for polygamy, should we be looking at Deseret? Aren’t Joseph’s initial explorations in the 1830s where the explanations for the practice will be found? Did Joseph ever use the seed metaphor? Just curious. But I think we should ask him before we ask Brigham.

  12. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 1:12 am

    The explanation in Jacob is made in the context of polygamy being temporary. Since polygamy in this dispensation has turned out to be temporary both in practice and doctrinally, I’m interested in seeing if the effects of early Mormon polygamy fit in with Jacob’s explanation.

  13. Mark Butler on June 7, 2006 at 1:14 am

    The Church definitely holds that polygamy without divine consent is immoral, but the argument that it is malum se, instead of malum jure is much weaker.

    The Jacob scriptures put God in the position of holding his nose while commanding the practice, sort of like the command to kill Laban.

  14. Jeff on June 7, 2006 at 1:18 am

    For a long time the Church taught that polygamy wasa part of the new & everlasting covenant of marriage. I remember my great-grandmother telling me that the Manifesto was hard to accept because they had always been taught that polygamy is a necessary part of Celestial law. As a young woman she had also lived in a United Order community, another necessary element to Celestial law. The United Order is also now not practiced, probably because we are not faithful enough to practice it. Perhaps a community of saints that was selfless and holy enough to practice the United Order would see polygamy very differently. In our present state of moral decay in the world I can only imagine that any attempt to restore either the United Order and/or polygamy would result in greed, stupidity, selfishness, and increased social violence. \”A lesser son of great sires am I,\” and I will not judge them for the law they lived under, since we are probably now too spiritually stunted to understand them. I am happy to obey the prophets today but equally happy to reserve judgment on the practices of our ancestors.

  15. mother of All on June 7, 2006 at 1:31 am

    the other thing Jan Shipps said was that polygamy made us an ethnic culture group in one or two generations, as opposed to in ten or twelve.

  16. Seth R. on June 7, 2006 at 9:17 am

    I’ve also heard that polygamy was sometimes more a privilege/duty of wealthy Mormon men and discouraged for the not-wealthy.

    I’ve always preferred to think of polygamy firstly as a divinely instituted test of the Mormons, as a people, and as individuals. A method of creating an unshakeable community of faith. But that’s just my own speculation.

    I think other commonly (and less commonly) cited factors played into it too.

    I try to avoid generalized explanations on this topic. If people ask me about it, my first answer is “we don’t know why.”

  17. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 9:21 am

    But Jacob isn’t just a reason we’ve come up with, Seth R. It’s the Lord’s own explanation for polygamy and, on its face, it appears to be a general justification for the practice, not just something specific to Abraham. So if it holds up empirically for Deseret, I don’t think we could say ‘we don’t know’ in completely good faith.

  18. Frank McIntyre on June 7, 2006 at 11:13 am

    Julie,

    The African male/female ratio is, if I understand it correctly, by construction— the missionaries baptize(d) men preferentially in the early stages to ensure priesthood leadership or something. I doubt that African men are generally more religious than African women.

  19. AudreyTX on June 7, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Everyone always assumes that there will be more women than men in the Celestial kingdom, but has anyone considered that as far back as the 1300′s and most likely throughout history there has been a higher male infant mortality rate than female. Doesn’t that seem like it would produce a slightly higher unknown quantity of Celestial males than everyone assumes?

  20. Julie M. Smith on June 7, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Frank, I’d need more data to believe that. I say that because the disparity still exists today, which says nothing about its origin, but implies that whatever its origin, it is continuing now. If the policy in Africa _now_ is to disproportionataley baptize men, then one wonders why that policy isn’t everywhere if we are that concerned about the raminifcations of celestial gender imbalance.

  21. Adam Greenwood on June 7, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    “Doesn’t that seem like it would produce a slightly higher unknown quantity of Celestial males than everyone assumes?”

    I’ve always assumed that the guaranteed celestiality of children who die before age 8 is guaranteed status as a ministering angel, and that sealed, marital exaltation still requires a choice on their part. What those children will choose in what percentages is something of an imponderable.

  22. Sally on June 8, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Adam,
    I have often wondered about the status of children who die. With the high infant mortality rate in third world countries and during middle ages, it seems suprising that so many millions of people would have no need of being tested, when we are told that is a main purpose of coming to earth. Ministering angel status makes more sense to me- that there is some sort of choice and accountability to progress further.

  23. Sally on June 8, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Adam,
    Sorry, a bit of a side note, butI have often wondered about the status of children who die. With the high infant mortality rate in third world countries and during middle ages, it seems suprising that so many millions of people would have no need of being tested, when we are told that is a main purpose of coming to earth. Ministering angel status makes more sense to me- that there is some sort of choice and accountability to progress further.

  24. Bored in Vernal on June 8, 2006 at 1:31 am

    The Church is still practicing polygyny on a spiritual level, since men can be sealed to more than one wife in the temple. Which makes me very confused as to why the Church is supporting a law that defines marriage as a union between ONE man and ONE woman.

  25. Adam Greenwood on June 8, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Sally,
    my own belief, which I’ve worked towards here and here, is that children who die before the age of 8 are restored to life in the Millennium to be raised by their parents or by adoptive parents, and that such children can choose either the celestial kingdom (being a ministering angel), exaltation in the celestial kingdom, or, if they are very wicked indeed, outer darkness. I’m not very certain about these ideas, but they do seem to help fit together various parts of the gospel.

  26. Ben McGuire on June 8, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    I have a distinctly different reading of the passage in Jacob. I don’t see the references in Jacob 2:30 as dealing directly (or even attempting to deal) with Abraham at all. Since the command for monogamy is given to Lehi (see Jacob 3), it cannot be applied to David and Solomon. But, the assertion that “David and Solomon truly had many wives” being an abomination can be made directly from Mosaic Law. This would be a violation of the kingship code in Deuteronomy 17:17: (trans. NIV) “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”

    This causes a problem in later Judaism (the difficulty associated with David and Solomon having many wives). It is reconciled differently by different groups, but one such reconcilation is particularly interesting to me:

    “And they who came into the Ark, “Two and two went into the Ark” As to the prince it is written, “He shall not multiply wives unto himself” But David read not in the Book of the Law that was sealed, which was in the Ark. For it was not opened in Israel from the day of the Death of Eleazar and Joshua and the Elders who worshipped Ashtareth. And it was hidden and was not discovered until Zadok arose. But they concealed the deeds of David save only the blood of Uriah.”

    In other words, Deuteronomy (as a text) is claimed here to have been hidden in the Ark (of the Covenant) during the reigns of David and Solomon, only coming to light later when it was discovered at the time of Josiah. The text above comes from the Damascus Document (column 5 of CD taken from the Cairo Genizah). The language however, is interesting because of its similarity near the end to D&C 132:

    “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife.”

    In any case, historically, there have been two defenses in Judaism for polygamy. The first is the commandment to multiply. Eventually, after The Ban was instituted among Ashkenazic Jewry in the 11th century, instead of allowing polygamy in the case of a barren wife, we have legal rulings stating that after 10 years of marriage, if there are no children, the husband is required to divorce his wife so that he could remarry (previously, a Jew could simply take another wife). The other argument against the ban on polygamy involved the one instance where Mosaic Law clearly required polygamy in certain circumstances – Levirate marriage (Dt. 25). This was particularly the basis for denying the validity of the ban in the 13th and 14th centuries among Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Particularly, Speyer, Worms, Mainz, and those in the school of Rabbenu Tam. The practice is referred to in the Old Testament (which is quoted in the New Testament) as necessary “to raise up seed”. Jacob then isn’t dealing with the issue of why polygamy was practiced in the past, he was instead dealing with the same issues which would be later similarly dealt with in Judaism when the practice of polygamy was halted – how to deal with the cultural and even scriptural expectations of polygamy.

    It is also worth noting that Jacob alludes to the authority of the prophet – “hearken unto these things” suggests the elsewhere quoted text of Deuteronomy 18:

    “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”

  27. Adam Greenwood on June 8, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    “Jacob then isn’t dealing with the issue of why polygamy was practiced in the past, he was instead dealing with the same issues which would be later similarly dealt with in Judaism when the practice of polygamy was halted – how to deal with the cultural and even scriptural expectations of polygamy.”

    How is this different? Jacob’s peers would have had scriptural expectations of polygamy because polygamy was in the scriptures they had. Therefore Abraham would have been at least one of, and perhaps the principal, scriptural models of righteous polygamy that Jacob was attempting to explain away.

  28. Jeremiah J. on June 8, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    “People who know more than I do have told me that widespread polygamy was not a response to an imbalance between the numbers of men and women. In Deseret the sexes were in roughly equal ratio.”

    As reported by Kathleen Flake (the Reed Smoot book), it was however, claimed at the time that polygamy addresses the ‘true’ sex imbalance–the imbalance in those in each sex who wanted to marry. The claim involved a massive exaggeration of the men who were “bachelors” as they used to call them (asexual, gay, or otherwise not disposed to marry), while it was apparently assumed that “bachelorettes” numbered zero. (I’ve always wondered how polygamist men delicately made this argument. “Yeah, if it weren’t for polygamy my Lucy would *never* have been snatched up!”) This was part of the whole polemic that monogamous societies were decadent, and cruel to women to boot.

  29. Adam Greenwood on June 8, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    I hadn’t thought of that way of looking at it, Jeremiah J. Perhaps the claim becomes a little more plausible if you think not only of ‘fussy’ bachelors but of ‘swinging’ bachelors? Still seems like that would explain only a minority of the polygamous marriages.

  30. Ben McGuire on June 9, 2006 at 6:23 am

    Adam writes:

    >>How is this different? Jacob’s peers would have had scriptural expectations of polygamy because polygamy was in the scriptures they had. Therefore Abraham would have been at least one of, and perhaps the principal, scriptural models of righteous polygamy that Jacob was attempting to explain away.

  31. Ben McGuire on June 9, 2006 at 6:30 am

    Sorry for the incomplete comments.

    Adam writes:

    “How is this different? Jacob’s peers would have had scriptural expectations of polygamy because polygamy was in the scriptures they had. Therefore Abraham would have been at least one of, and perhaps the principal, scriptural models of righteous polygamy that Jacob was attempting to explain away.”

    But Jacob makes it quite clear that the Nephite group wasn’t using Abraham as a model of polygamy. It couldn’t be said of Abraham that he “truly had many wives and concubines”. And in Jacob 1, when the discussion first begins, he makes it clear that it was specifically about the polygamy of David and Solomon. Nor, I think, is Jacob attempting to explain away earlier polygamy. I think he recognizes in his sermon the fact that God commanded earlier polygamy (in the form of Levirate marriage), that God could reinstate that practice, and that Lehi (as a prophet) superceded the Law of Moses. And it is Lehi’s commandment which is constantly referenced with respect to the righteousness of monogamy and the wickedness of polygamy. And of course, Jacob cannot take any other position, since if God changed the Law (even preventing the practice of part of it), he could do it again if and when he decided to. But until that time, Jacob asserts, there is this necessity of doing what Lehi commanded (as the voice of God).

    In much the same way, LDS polygamy is fundamentally based on revelation, and not on historical practices. The LDS community does not begin to use Jacob 2 in defense of polygamy until quite some time after the practice had been established publicly, and polemic had been distributed against that practice specifically referring to the Book of Mormon text. At the same time, Levirate marriage wasn’t used as justification for polygamy except in one case that I am aware of (which was post-manifesto).

    The major differences in my approach is that I limit the polemic against polygamy in Old Testament times to this one issue in the Law of Moses. And I also suggest that “to raise up seed” here is a direct allusion to the Old Testament, and shouldn’t be read as having any real application to Mormon polygamy at all. There isn’t any discussion of the polygamy of Abraham, or Jacob (Israel), or Moses, and so on. Jacob’s argument against polygamy is that Lehi, as a prophet, speaking what God gave him, commanded them not to engage in the practice. But he goes on to make it quite clear that the examples the people had been using to justify their practice were unacceptable even under Mosaic Law.

  32. Adam Greenwood on June 9, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    “But Jacob makes it quite clear that the Nephite group wasn’t using Abraham as a model of polygamy.”

    This is probably true, but not in the sense that’s helpful to you. Their polygamy was more like that of David and Solomon but Jacob doesn’t tell us who they *thought* they were following. Jacob condemns the polygamy of David and Solomon, so that’s not who he is referring to when he talks about polygamy being approved from time to time to ‘raise up seed unto me.’ Who is he talking about then? Possibly levirate marriages, as you point out. But Jacob doesn’t give us any reason to exclude Abraham’s marriages or the marriages of the other early Jewish Fathers. Abraham’s taking Hagar as a concubine was clearly for ‘raising up seed unto me’ purposes and helped fit God’s promise of a righteous seed coming through him. Jacob’s seed were the tribes of Israel. So I see no particular reason to think that Jacob is talking about levirate marriages and not Abraham’s. In fact–and this is what got me interested in Jacob in the first place–Jacob presents monogamy as the general rule and ‘raising up seed unto me’ as the general reason that from time to time the Lord commands exceptions to the general rule. I don’t think that Jacob specifically has modern Mormon polygamy in mind, but since he seems to be stating a general rule, I do not see on what basis you say that it has no real application to Mormon polygamy either. It seems to me at least worthwhile to see if empirically Mormon polygamy did ‘raise up seed unto me’ in some sense.

  33. Rob Briggs on June 9, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    “the other thing Jan Shipps said was that polygamy made us an ethnic culture group in one or two generations, as opposed to in ten or twelve.”

    I have no idea what or if the Lord had anything in mind when J.S. started the practice and B.Y. elaborated it.

    But I do think that Jan Shipps is right. The main impact was sociological or, if you will, ethnological. During the 1850s foreign visitors to Utah territory like Jules Remy and Richard Burton were amazed at the diversity they saw in emergent Mormon society. In 1855, Remy noted 17 “nations” from 5 continents on the streets of Salt Lake City . The task of assimilating all the cultural diversity; that is, the task of fusing British choral music & theater traditions with other cultural elements from New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Mid-West, the Upper & Lower South, Switzerland, Scandinavia — was incredibly difficult. It was an amazing accomplishment which we still do not fully appreciate.

    Polygamy was not the only thing that melded and welded 17 “nations” into (more or less) one society & a quasi-ethnic group. But I think we have to credit it for playing a significant role.

    The late 19th century Mormon village was characterized by children living with their father, mother and their “aunts.” So a child might have an English father, a Scottish mother and Swiss, Danish, American, Irish, Canadian or Australian “aunts.” Besides that the other members of their community were their “brothers” and “sisters.” Their success in achieving a sense of unified community from such cultural diversity is, well, staggering.

    (One thinks of other great “causes” of the 19th & 20th century, for instance, the socialists & communists. They, too, sought to break down ethnic & cultural differences in the proletariat to bring it into the Marxist vanguard. For my money, the Mormons were more successful.)

    Currently Mormons criticize their polygamous past because it does not live up to our current individualistic notions of romantic love & emotional self-actualization. That’s missing the forest for the trees. With a few exceptions, marriage, whether monogamous or polygamous, is always fraught with difficulties. Polygamy’s true impact is when we step back from individual relationships and look at the Mormon village and, farther back, the emerging Mormon society in the Great Basin.

    Do I want it back? No. God (or American Protestants) allowed it to survive long enough to achieve the desired ethnological effects. Then God (or American Protestants) brought it to an end so Mormonism could shed one of its peculiarities and become a new world religion.

    The same thing happened to Christianity when Paul and others stripped much of the Judaism from emerging Christianity. It allowed Christianity to eventually evolve from a tribal religion to a world religion.

    Thank God (or American Protestants) for allowing Mormonism to achieve two incompatible goals, merging that welter of incompatible cultural diversity into a (quasi) ethnic group, then quickly shedding some of its tribal ways to begin to emerge as a world religion.

  34. Hans Hansen on June 11, 2006 at 1:03 am

    I am descended on my mother’s side from an Mormon Englishman and his third French wife who emigrated from their respective countries and were married in Utah under the “principle”.

    **************************************************************

    In his 1943 book, “Evidences and Reconciliations, Apostle John A. Widtsoe explained:

    “Plural marriage has been a subject of wide and frequent comment. Members of the Church unfamiliar with its history, and many non-members, have set up fallacious reasons for the origin of this system of marriage among the Latter-day Saints.

    The most common of these conjectures is that the Church, through plural marriage, sought to provide husbands for its large surplus of female members. The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seem always to have been more males than females in the Church…

    The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey the usual population law – a slight excess of males…

    The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence…

    Another conjecture is that the people were few in number and that the Church, desiring greater numbers, permitted the practice so that a phenomenal increase in population could be attained. This is not defensible, since there was no surplus of women…â€?

    Elder Widtsoe goes on to explain the reason he believes polygamy was practiced: “The principle of plural marriage came by revelation from the Lord. That is the reason why the Church practiced it.� (Widtsoe, John A., “Evidences And Reconciliation�, pgs 307 – 310, The Bookcraft Company, 1943, Salt Lake City, Utah)

  35. Mike on June 12, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Some of the proposed reasons for polygamy are more easily tested and dismissed than others. The theory of a large discrepancy between the number of men and women in Deseret is put to rest with actual census data.

    One idea, “to raise up seed ” or as I think you mean it, to raise up a righteous devoted community of Saints can also be tested. We could look at polygamist families and see how many of them kept their children and grand-children in the faith. We can’t measure their actual religious convictions, but we can look at things like marriages to other Mormons, baptisms of their children and so forth. Then compare them with monogamist families. We would have to be careful of selection bias since families who stayed in the faith probably tended to keep better records.

    I think, just based on my limited knowledge of family history, that polygamy had a strong tendency to set the teeth of the children of the second and third and fourth wives on edge. It promoted conflict and anger within families. Often one wife acquired much more property than another upon the death of a patriarch. Wives found themselves at drastically different life stages ; some with many small children, others with many grown and married children. They had different needs and had to compete with one another constantly. Boundries were not clear. This I know drove many of the offspring away.

    You might not accept this as a legitimate parallel, but contemporary “Mormon” polygamist religious communities are highly fragmented, with over 50 seperate “churches,” or whatever they be. Each funeral of a patriarch is followed by a wild scramble for some of the grieving plural widows and there are bitter losers every time. The forces that fracture churches also fracture families and lead to dissolution.

    In my mind I think it is rather likely that if we measure this effect, it is going to find itself on the same scrap heap of history as the large discrepancy in numbers of males and females theory. I could be wrong, as usual.

  36. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Who knows? Lets do the measurement and see.

    Part of the problem, though, is figuring out when we can know if ‘seed are raised up unto the Lord.’ For instance, if its true that the offspring of faithful parents are themselves saved by virtue of their parents, then maybe we should be measuring something other than activity rates among the offspring. Maybe polygamy is a response not to unequal numbers of men and women, but unequal numbers of committed men and women. But who knows?

  37. Mike on June 12, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    A Protestant missionary from Africa told me something quite ironic:

    Mountain Mormons (LDS) practiced polygamy in the 19th century; they now forbid it among their members in African countries where it is allowed.

    Prairie Mormons (R-LDS, now Community of Christ) forbade the practice of polygamy in 19th century, but now permit it among converts in African countries where it is allowed. (If they are married before conversion, not after.)

    Is this correct?

  38. bbell on June 12, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    #37 correct.

    Also please note that many other churches permit polygamy or at least tolerate it in Africa. My exp is first hand from my mission.

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