What About Polygamy?


Polygamy was practiced by the early LDS church and continues in certain LDS groups today.  It is illegal in the United States and is not condoned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City. 

Argument for:

The problem with polygamy is that it is very hard to rationalize in a civilized society.  As LDS people we deal with polygamy by saying, “God has the right to command what He will.”  This argument sidesteps the whole problem as to whether the concept is rational, moral, or defensible.  Alternatively, one could argue that it may have served the purpose of caring for numerous widows and otherwise husbandless women in the early church.  Finally, if God wanted to establish his people in society, polygamy would help to increase numbers.  Evolutionary biology has taught us that the selective advantage of a population or species is directly related to its birthrate.  More children in the church help to establish the church as a strong community in an otherwise hostile environment.

Argument against:

Polygamy is fundamentally sexist and is often downright abusive.  Is it possible that God commanded and condoned such a practice?  I would say that based on the Old Testament, yes, it is consistent with His past record.  Is it morally defensible?  I’m not sure it is.  The fact that it was practiced in the Old Testament does not really add credibility to the practice.  Crucifixion, stoning, genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, and human sacrifice and numerous other barbaric and primitive practices are also noted in the Old Testament.  So at very least, maybe we just don’t agree with gods tactics for solving problems.

A few facts that are not widely known are that 1) Joseph Smith took numerous wives that were not widows or husbandless, 2) he took several women to wife who were already married to other living men (polyandry), then sent the men on missions to get them out of the picture, 3) some of the women he took to wife were as young as 14 years old, 4) he also is alleged to have had adulterous affairs with several women without marrying them.  It is very hard to believe that God would command such behavior, but we can assume He did.

But if there is no God, then what explanation do we have?  Indeed, the only explanation is an ugly one.  We are left to assume that Joseph Smith used “revelation” regarding polygamy to establish institutionalized womanizing.  Would there have been a way to care for women and their families without taking them to wife?  I would submit that there could have been.  Women and children can be provided for without bringing sex into it.  In the absence of a divine mandate (which we must assume he did not have), polygamy serves only to increase a powerful man’s opportunity for sex, and to relegate women to a second-class status. 

Conclusion:  Is this proof against the existence of God?  No. However, polygamy does nothing but hurt the argument that Mormonism is of divine origin.  Either Joseph Smith was not a prophet, or God is not what we think He is, or He does not exist at all.

For an enlightening discussion on polygamy and polyandry visit:


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