Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants has become the centerpiece for the church’s teachings on celestial marriage. It stands as the sole basis for connecting the idea of sealing to a marriage covenant. I have also blogged about this topic in “What it Means to be Sealed” which uses multiple scriptures to prove that the sealing has nothing to do with marriage. Rather it is always used (with the exception of section 132) in the context of being sealed up unto eternal life and having one’s calling and election made sure.
Because section 132 stands as the lone pillar supporting the entire structure of the celestial marriage doctrine, it is important for any student of the gospel to understand the inconsistencies and challenges this section presents in light of other scripture. We will discuss the historical context of it being placed in the LDS canon, how it redefines previously clear and unambiguous terms in the LDS lexicon (creating confusion and uncertainty in the minds of the saints as to the true meaning), as well as point out other problematic and contradictory doctrines taught therein. At the end I believe it will be easy to conclude that this is not sound doctrine, but rather represents the Lord turning over the brethren to their own lustful and covetous desires for a period of chastisement.
So here goes.
1 – Historical Context. The revelation known as section 132 was first published in the Deseret News in August of 1852. This was a full 8 years after the martyrdom and represented Brigham Young and his cohorts in the Twelve coming out of the closet to openly preach celestial polygamy as church doctrine. Subsequently it was placed in the 1876 edition of the D&C one year prior to Brigham Young’s death. Simultaneously, the “Article on Marriage” which previously was Section 101 was removed. It stated as follows:
Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death when either is at liberty to marry again.
This declaration was written by Oliver Cowdery and approved by a general assembly of the church on August 17, 1835. It was essentially scripture that was now being superseded by a teaching in direct contradiction.
There are many aspects of how section 132 came about that raise serious questions and cast doubt on its authenticity. We will not explore those in this posting except to say that the prophet Joseph Smith had ample opportunity to publish the “revelation” and have it canonized as scripture. He never did. Also, we don’t have the original manuscript, only a “copy” supposedly made by an avowed polygamist, Joseph Kingsbury and the corroborating testimony of other polygamists like William Clayton. There is also evidence to suggest that the authorship of Section 132 can be most closely attributed to Brigham’s writing style as opposed to Joseph’s. This link will take you to that study.
Trying to validate or disprove the revelation based upon how it came about comes down largely to who you believe. More salient, in my view, is whether it passes the scriptural smell-test.
2 – Sidney Rigdon never “Proved” this doctrine.
One of Rigdon’s primary responsibilities as enunciated in Section 35:23 was to “call on the holy prophets to prove his [Joseph’s] words, as they shall be given him.” Don’t forget that this is the Lord giving Sidney this responsibility to use the scriptures to prove that Joseph was restoring truth that always existed and revealed to the holy prophets, thus already had in the scriptures.
As I have commented on previously in Latter-day Scapegoat, Sidney Rigdon’s reputation among the LDS people has suffered serious violence at the hands of Brigham Young and the Twelve to this very day. Given the fact that more revelations were given to Sidney than any other person besides Joseph we should not so lightly dismiss Sidney’s unwillingness to sanction spiritual wifery and polygamy. In fact, the very reason he had to be excommunicated by Brigham was his opposition to the practice. Considering how deeply entrenched it was among the Twelve at the time, Sidney’s being led off into the wilderness like a scapegoat (via excommunication) is not at all surprising.
3 – Section 132 violates the Law of Witnesses.
The law of witnesses states that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). When it comes to church doctrine this means that there are multiple scriptural sources for any doctrine being taught. Unfortunately, you will not find anything on celestial marriage or celestial polygamy in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. Plain and simple, it just isn’t there anywhere.
This should be a BIG RED FLAG to modern Mormons considering that the doctrine of celestial marriage consumes so much of LDS theology and practice in our temples today. I haven’t yet written about what the scriptures plainly teach about celestial union of the sexes which shall become the subject of a future post. But as currently taught and practiced, the celestial marriage doctrine is justified based solely upon the shaky foundation of Section 132.
Interestingly, Joseph himself warned the saints 2 months prior to his death not to accept any doctrine that was contrary to the scriptures:
If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter.
Here I should comment that there is a distinction to be made between the doctrines of celestial polygamy (or spiritual wifey) and temporal polygamy. I believe the Lord can sanction anything He wants for His own purposes, including polygamy to “raise up seed unto me” (Jacob 2:30). This is different, however, than the doctrine taught in 132 which essentially states that if you are not a celestial polygamist you will not be “exalted” in God’s kingdom. You will not attain to the “highest level” of the celestial kingdom of God. Section 132 is all about the celestial polygamy which again, has no second witness anywhere in the scriptures.
4- Introduces a New Concept of “Exaltation”
Having heard the word extensively within the Mormon culture you might actually believe that “exaltation” is found throughout the scriptures. It is NOT. Besides Section 132 it is only found in one other place in the D&C and that reference is to the lifting up of Zion and has nothing to do with entering the highest level of the celestial kingdom (D&C 124:9). What I have learned by conducting many word searches is that various passages and doctrines are linked by common words across the books. The lack of corroborating scriptural references is telling.
5 – Redefines the “Everlasting Covenant” and “Fulness”
Ask most Mormons what the meaning of the everlasting covenant is and they will likely reply the covenant of celestial marriage. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that the everlasting covenant refers to the covenant of baptism as clearly taught in D&C 22:1:
Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this (referring to baptism) is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
Note that this section was given in April of 1830. A year later the Lord says this:
Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have lifeand be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old (D&C 66:2).
And a month later this:
And for this cause, that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fulness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity (D&C 133:57).
The foregoing two scriptures which reference the fulness were given after the Melchizedek priesthood was restored at the Morley Farm conference of June 1831. From that time the church had the fulness of the priesthood until it was lost (D&C 124:28) through transgressing the laws, changing the ordinance and breaking the covenant (Isaiah 24:5).
Section 132 completely changes the meaning of the new and everlasting covenant. It promises even more of the fulness, which by definition is impossible. If you are full, you are full. There is no more to be had. The Lord defined everlasting covenant and fulness long before Section 132 made it’s shaky appearance on the scriptural stage.
6 – Heavy Handed Appeal to Authority
No less than 10 times in Section 132 do we come across the phrase “I am the Lord thy God” or some minor variation. In no other chapter or section within scripture do we run across this over-the-top emphasis on who is delivering the revelation. The threatening tone of much of the revelation is also a clue as to its origins. Whatever happened to long-suffering and gentle persuasion? (D&C 121:41)
7 – Holy Spirit of Promise
Verse 7 of Section 132 teaches us:
All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred)
The problem is that BOTH Joseph and his brother, Hyrum had this authority as per D&C 124:124 because they were co-presidents of the church for a time:
First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise…
It is also worthy to note that Section 132 seems to suggest that the Holy Spirit of Promise is dispensed purely by a man who holds the proper priesthood authority. This contradicts other scriptures which teach that the Holy Spirit of Promise is sent forth from the Father (D&C 76:53) and also the Son (D&C 88:3).
8 – The Book of Mormon condemns polygamy
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord (Jacob 2:24, see also Mosiah 11:2)
Jacob’s entire discourse is worth a careful read. His teachings are in direct conflict with D&C 132:1 regarding the Lord justifying Abraham, Issac (who never had a plural wife. oops!), Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon in their taking multiple wives.
9 – The Law of the Celestial Kingdom is monogamy
The Law of the Lord as contained in Section 42 says this with respect to marriage:
Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else (D&C 42:22).
This was further reiterated in D&C 49:16
Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
Pretty clear what the celestial standard is from those two verses. Are we now to believe that after the Gentile saints broke the Lord’s celestial law He is giving them an even higher law of celestial marriage? Would that not be wholly inconsistent with the way the Lord deals with his people? Would it not be much more probable that a cursing would be in order for rejecting His holy laws?
10 – The Threats to Emma
Section 132 is not kind to Joseph’s wife, Emma Smith. Whereas, in an earlier revelation she is referred to by the Lord as “my daughter” (see D&C 25:1), she is now referred to as “mine handmaid” which is essentially a female servant. The Lord calls Joseph his servant many times so that is not such a huge deal, but the threats that she will be destroyed if she does not comply and receive polygamy as a true doctrine are troubling.
And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God (there we go again), and will destroy her if she abide not in my law. (D&C 132:54)
11 – Howlers
In the interest of not making this post too long (it’s already over 2000 words) I will just throw down a list of blunders that should tip off any thinking person to the fact that this “revelation” is the construct of men. We’ve already touched on the reference to Isaac being justified as a polygamist even though he was only married to one wife, Rebekah.
Verse 3: “for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” This means that I must obey this law because it has been revealed. If not I am damned. What about all the prophets and patriarchs who did not abide this law? People such as Joseph of Egypt, David Patten, Edward Partridge, Joseph Smith Sr. and many, many others. Are we to believe that they too will not be “exhalted”.
Verse 29: “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.” The scriptures make clear that the inheritance of being with God doesn’t take place until after the Zion from above unites with the Zion down below. Also, they (the patriarchal fathers) cannot be made perfect without the work that must yet take place. Thus it would be impossible for Abraham to have already received his exaltation and currently be sitting upon his throne. (See D&C 88:107 and D&C 128:15)
Verse 34: “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife.” This statement is inconsistent with the record in the Old Testament. It was Sarah who lost faith and wanted Abraham to take Hagar. There is no record of Abraham being commanded by the Lord, nor did Joseph make any changes regarding this in the Inspired Version of the Bible.
12 – Joseph’s Stumbling Block
So after all that you are still inclined to believe in Section 132 then it most probably is on the basis that it came from Joseph. Well, we don’t know exactly what the revelation was that was read to the Nauvoo High Council. Hyrum presented it to them without Joseph at his side. The high council as a body rejected the revelation. By some accounts it was much shorter than what we have in 132. There is no doubt in my mind that Joseph introduced and practiced polygamy.
So the real question becomes: Was it from God or was it a means to test the people to see if they could be seduced into following a doctrine that was “more or less” than the simplicity of the Lord’s gospel after they had already rejected the celestial law? (See Deuteronomy chapters 13 and 18). Was Joseph acting as a means to turn the people over to a period of chastisement and cursing for their disobedience? I highly recommend reading the second chapter of Malachi which describes a prophet who brings forth the Lord’s law and then causes the people to stumble. His major mistake was “leaving the wife of his youth.”
According to William Marks, Stake President in Nauvoo, Joseph realized before he was killed that he had been deceived regarding polygamy.
When the doctrine of polygamy was introduced into the church as a principle of exaltation, I took a decided stand against it; which stand rendered me quite unpopular with many of the leading ones of the church…Joseph, however, became convinced before his death that he had done wrong: for about three weeks before his death, I met him one morning in the street, and he said to me, “Brother Marks…we are a ruined people.” I asked, how so? He said: “This doctrine of polygamy, or spiritual-wife system, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived,” said he, “in reference to its practice; it is wrong; it is a curse to mankind, and we shall have to leave the United States soon, unless it can be put down and its practice stopped in the church. (William Marks, “Epistle,” Zions Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ 3 July 1853: 52-54)
When you truly understand the concept of an intercessory offering on behalf of the saints that was performed by Joseph and others then the answer to whether Section 132 is a true revelation or not is really quite simple. Unfortunately, we have 4 generations of traditions that teach us otherwise, despite the fact that Section 132 stands alone in changing the simple doctrine of Christ. Don’t take my word for it. But if you don’t believe me then I would suggest that you haven’t delved deeply enough into the scriptures and history. It is not enough to believe the pronouncements of men, no matter how well meaning or intelligent they may be.