Despite a century of efforts to distance itself from polygamy, the notion of multiple wives clings to the LDS Church in the popular mind.
That’s because it was once at the heart of Mormon identity — defended from the pulpit, in the courtroom and in Congress. Latter-day Saint leaders forsook the practice only after draconian anti-polygamy measures by the U.S. government left them believing their very survival was at risk.
Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicates anyone who promotes or practices polygamy. Candidates for a temple recommend are asked whether they “support, affiliate with or agree with” any opposition groups, which is often seen as code for polygamists. And the church’s global missionaries cannot even begin to share the church’s message with African polygamists.
“It’s behind us,” LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said in 1998. “I condemn it as a practice. It is not doctrinal. It is not legal.”
Still, it’s not so easy to disentangle the principle of plural marriage from Mormonism.
It is still enshrined in Mormon scripture (Doctrine & Covenants 132) and some believe it will one day be re-established, if not on earth, at least in heaven. In his quasi-official 1966 book Mormon Doctrine, which remains in print, the late LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote that “the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming and the ushering in of the millennium.”
– Polygamy was rejected under the gun By Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 14, 2004
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