D&C/CHURCH HISTORY - LESSON 39
- Introductory Comments.
- Thanks to Brother Bennett for last week's lesson.
- Historical Background.
- As noted in the preface to Section 132, this revelation was recorded
in Nauvoo, Illinois on July 12, 1843. Doctrine and principles involved
in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831.
- B.H. Roberts: "There is indisputable evidence that the revelation
making known this marriage law was given to the Prophet as early as 1831.
In that year, and then intermittently up to 1833, the Prophet was engaged
in a revision of the English Bible text under the inspiration of God, Sidney
Rigdon in the main acting as his scribe. As he began his revision with
the Old Testament, he would be dealing with the age of the Patriarchs in
1831. He was doubtless struck with the favor in which the Lord held the
several Bible Patriarchs of that period, notwithstanding they had a plurality
of wives. What more natural than that he should inquire of the Lord at
that time, when his mind must have been impressed with the fact--Why, O
Lord, didst Thou justify Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as also
Moses, David, and Solomon, in the matter of their having many wives and
concubines? In answer to that inquiry came the revelation, though not then
committed to writing." (DHC 5:29)
- After learning of these doctrines the Prophet taught them to a few
close friends at an early date. Some betrayed the confidence of the Prophet.
Charges of practicing plural marriage were made against the Church as early
as the Kirtland era, though such was not the case.
- Among those taught at an early date were Oliver Cowdery and Lyman E.
- Lyman Johnson entrusted this newly revealed principle to his missionary
companion, Orson Pratt in 1832.
- Summer 1840: An angel of the Lord confronted the Prophet and commanded
him, in the name of the Lord, to establish the principle of plural marriage.
(See CHC 2:101)
- One who he taught the principle to was Joseph B. Noble. After teaching
Brother Noble the principle, he gave him the sealing power. On April 5,
1841, Brother Noble sealed Joseph to Louisa Beaman. Some say that this
was the Prophet's first plural wife.
- One Sabbath the Prophet preached a sermon in which he talked of the
restoration of all things and hinted that the patriarchal or plural order
of marriage would one day be restored. This alone caused such excitement
that the Prophet felt it unwise to pursue further at this time.
- The Prophet had said, "Would to God, brethren, I could tell
you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would
call it blasphemy, and there are men upon this stand who would want to
take my life. If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would
reject through prejudice and ignorance." (Life of Heber C. Kimball,
- When the Twelve returned from their missions in England, the Prophet
taught them the principle and urged the importance of putting in into practice.
- John Taylor wrote: "We [the twelve] seemed to put off, as far
as we could, what might be termed the evil day." (CHC 2:102)
- Brigham Young spoke of his own feelings when he learned of the principle:
"I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing
in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my
life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a
long time." (CHC 2:102)
- The test of Heber C. Kimball.
- Orson Pratt returned to Nauvoo after the Twelve had been taught the
principle. He heard of it from John C. Bennett who deceived him, and his
wife, on the matter. Joseph, Brigham, and Heber tried to teach Orson the
truth of the matter, but he would not listen.
- He and his wife were excommunicated from the Church on August 20, 1842.
After investigating the matter more fully, he learned the truth and exonerated
the Prophet. Joseph rebaptized Orson and his wife early in 1843 and restored
Elder Pratt to his office in the Quorum of the Twelve.
- Among those who had a difficult time accepting the principle was the
Prophet's wife, Emma.
- William Clayton, private secretary to the Prophet, recorded the following:
"On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843, Joseph and Hyrum Smith
came into the office of the upper story of the 'Brick-store,' on the bank
of the Mississippi river. They were talking of the subject of plural marriage,
and Hyrum said to Joseph, 'If you will write the revelation of celestial
marriage, I will take and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince
he of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.' Joseph smiled and
remarked, 'You do not know Emma as well as I do.' Hyrum repeated his opinion,
and further remarked, 'The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable
man or woman of its truth, purity, and heavenly origin,' or words to that
effect.... Joseph and Hyrum then sat down, and Joseph commenced to dictate
the Revelation on Celestial Marriage, and I wrote it, sentence by sentence,
as he dictated. After the whole was written, Joseph asked me to read it
through slowly and carefully, which I did, and he pronounced it correct."
- William Clayton's journal entry for that date reads: "This
A.M. I wrote a revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood,
showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives
& concubines. After it was wrote Prests. Joseph & Hyrum presented
it and read it to Emma who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared
- Discussion of Section 132.
- Introductory Statement (1-2).
- READ 132:1-2. The Prophet asked the Lord as to why early prophets
were justified in having more than one wife.
- Knowledge Demands Obedience (3-6).
- READ 132:3-4. He that is revealed the law must obey or will be damned.
- The Celestial Law (7-14).
- READ 132:7. All covenants (etc.) that are not performed by he who
has the power and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise are void
after the resurrection.
- The Celestial Law Applied to Marriage (15-20).
- READ 132:19-20. The promise to he who abides by the Celestial law
- Obedience Required (21-27).
- READ 132:21-22. Exaltation cannot be achieved except by obedience
to the law.
- READ 132:26-27. Those abiding by the law of Celestial marriage will
come forth in the first resurrection except those that commit the unpardonable
- WHAT ARE THESE VERSES TELLING US? (A key is the marriage that is sealed
by the Holy Spirit of promise).
- Plural Marriage (34-40).
- READ 132:37. Justification for the prophets' plural marriages.
- READ 132:40. Joseph was given an appointment to restore all things.
- DOES THIS VERSE COMMISSION THE PROPHET TO RESTORE THE ANCIENT ORDER
- Marriages as authorized and approved by God are sacred institutions
- This includes plural marriage.
- READ 132:51-55. The Lord counsels Emma.
- Additional Thoughts on Section 132 & Plural Marriage.
- The doctrines regarding plural marriage were not given to the Church
until a General Conference of the Church in 1852.
- In 1862 the first Federal anti-polygamy law was passed and thus began
a battle with the Federal Government that did not end until the Manifesto
was issued by President Woodruff in 1890.
- Brigham Young spoke concerning marriage: "But the whole subject
of the marriage relation is not in my reach, nor in any other man's reach
on this earth. It is without beginning of days or end of years; it is a
hard matter to reach. We can tell some things with regard to it; it lays
the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent
beings to be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. In fact,
it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel
of Salvation -- of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to
eternity." (JD 2:90)
- Plural Marriage & The Family of Heber C Kimball.
- Heber C. Kimball eventually married 43 wives. Not all of these wives
were connubial; they were "wards" whom Heber agreed to support
- 65 children by 17 wives.
- Married 5 sets of sisters.
- 14 wives had been previously married.
- Ages: 9 in teens, 17 in 20s, 5 in 30s, 9 in 40s, 3 in 50s.
- None of his widows remarried after his death.
- Because of deaths, marriages, and separations, it appears that Heber
never had more than 70 in his immediate family at any one time.
- Wives of interest:
- Mary Fielding - widowed wife of Hiram Smith. Married for time 9-14-44.
No children by Heber. Hyrum's son Joseph F and grandson Joseph Fielding
became presidents of the Church.
- Ann Alice Gheen - daughter Ann Alice became 5th wife of Joseph F Smith.
Son Andrew father to Spencer W. Kimball.
- Christeen Golden - son J Golden Kimball, senior president of the 1st
Council of Seventy & one of the folk heroes of Mormon history.
- Vilate Murray - his first wife bore 10 children.
- Son William only 1 of 3 sons to enter polygamy.
- Daughter Helen Mar only 1 of 2 to enter polygamy. Helen Mar 1st married
to Joseph Smith.
- Ellen Sanders - one of the 3 women in the 1st company to enter Salt
Lake Valley and my great-great grandmother.
- Mary Smithies - first child born to Mormon parents in England (1837).
Last wife of HCK and bore his last son & last child.
- Sarah Ann Whitney - daughter of Newel K Whitney, widowed wife of Joseph
- There is a family story that, during the Reformation (1850s), Heber
preached that unmarried women who wanted to get married should seek out
a good man and ask to be sealed to him. It appears that Adelia Wilcox took
his advice; perhaps the Moon sisters did also, since they married Heber
at this time.
- A similar tale has Heber, when two women knock on his door, hiding
in a closet for fear they have come to request that he marry them.
- Heber, a grandson noted, was often heard to declare that the plural
order of marriage, with its manifold cares and perplexities, had cost him
"bushels of tears".
- Quotations from Heber C. Kimball:
- "No man on this earth loves women better than I do."
- "I had rather have one woman that is humble than twenty that
- "I can tell you there are not one-half of the women that are
fit for wives when they are married. They have not been instructed in home
manufacture, and some of them have scarcely learned to wash the dishes
properly or to take care of things about the house; and the young men are
just as bad."
- "I would not be afraid to promise a man who is sixty years
of age, if he will take the counsel of brother Brigham and his brethren,
that he will renew his age. I noticed that a man who has but one wife,
and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while
a man who goes into plurality looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is
this? Because God loves that man, and because he honours His work and word.
Some of you may not believe this; but I not only believe it--I also know
it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business; for
it is as much as we can do now to keep up under the burdens we have to
carry; and I do not know what we should do if we had only one wife apiece."
- Of Heber's 31 sons who lived to maturity, only 3 took plural wives.
- In the household - The cardinal rule was that no one wife under any
circumstances was to reprove, correct, or sit in judgment on another wife.
John Taylor said in regards to correcting polygamous wives: "We
correct them by admonition and with gentleness, and when that does not
suffice we impose a silence, a punishment which we have found to be most
effective with a woman."
- Estimates range from 2-20% of Mormons during those years were part
of polygamous marriages. Leonard Arrington estimates that no more than
5% of men and 12% of women were involved in plural marriages.
- About 10% of the children were born into plural marriages. This is
for the years 1850-1890. Arrington indicates that less than 1% of all Saints
since the restoration were involved in polygamous families (1979). Through
this period all general authorities were polygamists, as well as most stake
presidents, bishops, and their counselors.
- Arrington states: The response of the men who were introduced into
polygamy between 1841 and 1846 was anything but enthusiastic. The same
was true of the women who were offered the chance of becoming plural wives.
Apart from the fact that the new system collided with moral assumptions
they had grown up with, there were practical difficulties that made polygamy
less attractive. For the men to support additional wives was seldom easy.
And for women to be married on this basis without being legally acknowledged
as wives can hardly have been reassuring. It was not the kind of scheme
that aroused cheers and applause.
- Arrington states: Usually a man did not merely decide to take an additional
wife, he was asked to do so by church authorities after being selected
on the basis of religious and economic qualifications. Then, in theory
at least, the first wife was to give her permission before her husband
named anyone else, and generally this sensible procedure was followed.
Sometimes the first wife flatly refused. One Mormon raised the question
with his spouse, who minced no words in replying, "All right Jody--you
get another wife and I'll get another husband!" No one knows how many
of the 95% of Mormon husbands remained monogamists asked for permission
and were refused, or how many sought permission while hoping they would
be turned down, or how many did not bother to ask.
- Next Week.
- Lesson 40: Section 135.