“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” —Genesis 2:24
Editor’s note: This article contains topics of a more sensitive nature discussing sex and sexuality. Reader discretion is advised.
From the moment the Lord called me to start working on the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship, one of the questions I have been asked over and over has been marriage. More specifically, polygamy. It took months before we received the first revelation on the topic, and even this felt to me more because people were pushing for it than the Lord saw we were ready for it. Later that same day we were given the second revelation, on how marriage should work in the Fellowship. This too felt premature, as we were not yet in real need of it.
Three years later, I’ve seen numerous people in a variety of different denominations fight and argue over this topic. Why is something so personal such a great source of contention among the Saints? How can we have Zion if we’re so busy judging our neighbors based on how or why or who they love? I see now this is an issue we must address head on. And all discussions must focus on obeying the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors. These are what the Law and the Prophets, and Mormon Kabbalah, rest upon (Matthew 22:36-40).
Before entering a discussion on this topic, for simplification, the Fellowship defines marriage with multiple spouses polygamy (see notes below). There is no technical term for group marriages, but we are including these as a form of polygamy. It should be understood that polygamy is not fornication, open marriages, “swinging,” or the like with individuals having side relationships for sexual pleasure. These are emotional bonds of marriage where all involved enter into eternal covenants with the Lord.
The Arguments For and Against
The reality is that we don’t need a new revelation to know God’s will on polygamy. Rather than cherry picking the scriptures that tell us what we want to hear, we need to look at all of the scriptures and put them in context as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The two scriptures I have seen used the most in these arguments appear to be from the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon and The Church of of Latter-day Saints (CJCLdS) Doctrine and Covenants (DaC) 132. Let’s look at Jacob in the Book of Mormon first:
“the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son… For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.” – Jacob 2:31, 40-41 RAV, 2:23, 31-32 OPV
The entirety of what we’re discussing can be found in verses 30-47 RAV, 22b-25 OPV. The “contradiction” between this scripture and CJCLdS DaC 132 seems to be between the following two passages:
“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” -Jacob 2:33 RAV, 2:24 OPV
“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines…” -DaC 132:8 CJCCF, 1 CJCLdS
Not a Contradiction
Reading both of these with an open mind and understanding of the story of David in the Old Testament make clear these are not actually in contradiction. The Lord did NOT give David Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). The fact that he murdered to get her was an abomination. It is also clear that Solomon also took wives that led him astray in his old age, so they were likely not women or marriages that were pleasing to the Lord (1 Kings 11: 4-13). This is likely why only David and Solomon were mentioned in the book of Jacob and not other polygamists, as the revelation tells us;
“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name? Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?” -16-17 CJCCF, DaC 132:8-10 CJCLdS
Clearly, these marriages were not offerings in the name of the Lord. (Further commandments that the Nephites and kings David and Solomon broke can be found in CJCCF vs 40-44, 67-39, CJCLdS DaC 132: 26-27, 41-43.)
It could be argued that only the dispensations that had or have the fullness of the gospel had or have polygamy, but this is not true. The Law of Moses, as we understand, did not contain the fullness; yet clearly allowed for polygamy. Exodus 21:10 mentions that a man may take another wife. And the following verse states that she may leave him if he doesn’t care for her financially. Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is clear what to do with an estate if a man had two wives, and only likes one of them. Deuteronomy 25: 5 commands a man to marry his deceased brother’s wife, it gives no exception for him if he is already married.
Polygamy is clearly merely an option for the Israelites. The same is true today, there is no commandment from God to be or not be a polygamist.
“And also know this: a man may have one wife or one hundred wives; this does nothing to bring them closer unto me or to unto my Father.” –Revelations of David 10:10
Be Ye One
While it is true that there are exceptions, such as kings forbidden in Deuteronomy 17:15-17 for example, we saw that this Law was not followed, and the Lord stated this was fine in CJCLdS DaC 132. Why? Lets look at the reason behind the band:
“That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” – Deuteronomy 17: 20
One could conclude that David and Solomon were blessed when they did not lift their hearts above their brethren, then cursed once started seeing themselves as greater than they truly were, a story as old as Lucifer himself.
In fact, speaking of the devil, Lucifer commands one of his servants to enter into this abominable version of polygamy in the Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon:
“And it came to pass that… Lamech was born, whom Satan incited to have two wives, Adah and Zillah, and with this, polygamy began among the sons of men, for Lamech had made a covenant with Satan, and to seal this covenant he offered the innocent blood of Gibeah, a righteous man from the lands of Havilah, where there is abundance of gold that is on the banks of the river Pison, and together with this agreement, Satan proposed that he take a second wife to satisfy the diabolical and sensual feelings that permeated the heart of Lamech.” -Sealed Book of Moses 3:77
This is a very clear example of a wrong reason to enter into a polygamist relationship—Ego fulfillment. It is a sin to collect spouses to show wealth, status, or to gain mere sexual gratification.
It should also be noted that the New Testaments may also appear to forbid certain individuals from polygamy, 1 Timothy 3: 2 for example, but it does not condemn the practice as a whole. While looking at the writings of Paul, it should be clear that this is the man that stated no one should marry, unless they could not control their human lusts (1 Corinthians 7:9). This teaching that none should marry contradicts more than polygamy. And, it has also been argued by some that perhaps Paul was stating these leaders must have at least one wife, rather than only one. The New Testament isn’t very clear on this matter.
What is clear however is that the Lord doesn’t care if we are polygamists of monogamists, as long all involved are one with each other and with God, and together they work to keep their covenants with God. Monogamy appears to be the rule when men are not faithful to their wives, their covenants, or (in the New Testament) when Paul seems to think it best. It also seems to be the best option for men with too many responsibilities, that cannot care for more than one wife (again, see Paul above). And, it is clear that monogamy is required without the first spouse’s permission to enter into polygamy.
What then of polygamy?
To start, God desires monogamy first:
“Therefore, I say unto thee: One man and one woman in the Lord, or if they are naturally drawn like unto like, then one man unto one man and one woman unto one woman in the Lord.” -Revelations of David 10:13
This goes for all relationships, straight or LGBTQ. That together these as one may, if so moved by the Spirit of God, take another:
“And if they as one desire to be sealed to another, be it a man or a woman, and they be found righteous, then behold: let them be sealed by my servant as one flesh, thus the three become one; and if these, as one, desire to take another, it shall be as the Spirit shall move them.” -Revelations of David 10:19-20
A Choice, not a Law
Polygamy is not seen as a sexual orientations by law, like heterosexuals or those of the LGBTQ community; but rather as a lifestyle. Thus it is a choice. That said, some psychologists disagree pointing out that there are those that do identify as polyamorous as a sexual orientation, as their sexual orientation. And, they and their partners may choose to live this lifestyle in a way that honors their covenants to and with God in polygamy or in monogamy.
I have spoken to a number of people on this subject. Some had true desire and love for others in their hearts. Some had idle curiosity. Some had prideful, selfish lust. The Lord has shown me that the “why” is far more important than the “how.” In polygamy, a common “why” defense commonly pointed out is the example of having multiple children. With every child a couple has, the love expands, it doesn’t divide or diminish. The same is, or should be, true with multiple spouses.
However, there is also the children’s perspective. Time is divided. With each new child there is less time, less attention, given to each child—even if there is more love. The same is true with multiple spouses. If a man takes more wives, that is less time, attention, and energy he can give to each wife, even if there is more love. The same is true for women taking multiple husbands and couples that add others, same-sex partners, etc to their relationships. And this type of relationship is painful for many. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of work. That work includes trust, honesty, openness, real communication, and understanding of the very real and very natural pain and jealousy it can cause.
I believe this is why the Lord gave Revelation of David 10 to us in the manner He did. We must first have a rock solid foundational relationship with our spouses and together with God. Only then can we, as married couples or groups, be moved by the Spirit to add to a marriage. And again, it’s not for everyone. This is likely why polygamy is not required by the Lord. To do this as a choice, and so polygamy must be an option or opportunity given to and accepted by all involved and from the Lord by revelation. It must never be forced on anyone.
- Monogamy is the practice of marrying only on spouse.
- Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses.
- Polygyny is the practice of a man marrying multiple spouses.
- Polyandry is the practice of a woman marrying multiple spouses.
- Polyculy or group marriage is the practice of both marrying multiple spouses.
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