Friday, June 13, 2014

Mormon Questions: Polygamy

A pregnant lady and her boo hitting up the sites in Washington D.C!

All the time when I tell people that I'm married and Mormon they follow up by asking - very politely - how many wives my husband has. LOL. I get it, it's a unique cultural heritage and Big Love is a popular television show. I explain that I am and will continue to be Carter's ONLY wife.

Polygamy was practiced by my church over a hundred years ago. In the late 1800s polygamy was outlawed in the United States and, in accordance with the new laws, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stop practicing polygamy as well in 1890. There are still polygamous groups of people in Southern Utah and Nevada who may call themselves 'fundamentalist mormons' but these groups are not affiliated with my church. In fact, any person currently practicing polygamy cannot become or remain a member of our church. So in short, no polygamists here.

So - as I imagine some people might want to ask - how can I belong to and believe in a church that used to practice polygamy, even if it was a long time ago? It's a valid question and one I've even wondered myself. After some thought, the answer comes down to the fact that I faith that God commanded it and it was necessary and important at the time. Having faith doesn't mean having all the answers, it just means that I choose to believe despite questions that I can't answer.

Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that marriage of one man to one woman is God's standard, except when God has commanded otherwise, as in the case of Abraham, Jacob, and some of the early Mormons. Somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of the Mormon population (including children) lived in polygamous households. All polygamous relationships had to be approved by church authorities. Women and men were free to choose whether to enter polygamous or monogamous relationships, or none at all. Those who practiced polygamy did so because they believed that they were following a commandment from God and obedience to His commandments would bring blessings. I don't know the particular reasons God asked His people to practice polygamy but the Book of Mormon identifies at least one explanation in Jacob 2:30, "to raise up seed unto [the Lord]" or to increase the number of children born into the gospel. Today, we honor the sacrifices made by these early saints but do not practice polygamy ourselves. If you are further interested in this topic I would recommend this in-depth article written by my church.

In a last interesting note, I am descended from polygamists on my dad's side. One of my ancestors, Edwin Rushton, had three wives married in 1842, 1857, and 1862. He had children with each of his wives for a total of 21 children, though many of them never survived past childhood. I am descended from the third wife. In 1887 he was prosecuted by the United States Government for polygamy and elected to serve a four month prison term rather than renounce his wives and children.