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 It was essentially scripture that was now being superseded by a teaching in direct contradiction.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.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:11
To say nothing is found in the scriptures is not rigorously correct.
Thanks for your comment. My post was not intended to leave the impression that there is nothing to the concept of an eternal union of the sexes in eternity. The doctrine is taught in the scriptures and what Paul calls a “great mystery” (see Romans 5:32) What has no support in the scriptures is the doctrine of sealing (families are forever) as currently taught in the Mormon church and the doctrine that you need multiple wives in the eternities in order to receive exaltation. I plan to address the union of the sexes in a future post. I appreciate the clarification.
I don’t believe Abraham was a polygamist. Hagar was givin to him by her owner (she was after all a slave) to have a child but she wasn’t a wife. After Sarah died, Abraham married Katura and had six sons to her. He was a monogamist. So Section 132 was incorrect on that one too. I don’t believe Joseph was a polygamist either and that he was trying to stamp it out among the followers of Brigham. Not only was Sydney kicked out (the last surviving member of the First Presideny) they blamed everything on Joseph and have thrown him under the bus as well. His name is known for good and evil even in the church he founded. It’s true that polygamy will prove the overthrow of this people. But the mistake Jospeh made was not kicking Brigham and his buddies out when he learned what they were up to. The historical records were rewritten to sanction this evil practice as the Joseph Smith papers are showing. Section 132 has caused more damage to the Restored Church than anything else. It’s not from God and it’s not from Joseph.
Thanks for your comment. I understand the desire of many to defend Joseph as never having preached or practiced polygamy and blame it on others. I think however when you understand that the Lord used Joseph to test the people, to see if they would stay true to the purity of his simple gospel, then it is easier to accept the fact that could have indeed sanctioned the practice. The evidence is pretty overwhelming, in my opinion, that he practiced but it doesn’t bother me one bit because I know he was acting in the capacity of an intercessor and as a result was taking upon himself and acting out the sins of the people, including those of leaders in high places within the church.
Having researched this topic from both sides for many years I can say that there isn’t overwhelming evidence on either side. The records were altered and others falsified to justify this abomination to try to protect the Church from governmental persecution. But it didn’t work, and Wilford had to do some backpedaling when push came to shove. On the other side all we have is Joseph’s word along with those who knew him well and consequently didn’t follow Brigham. Who is to know for certain?
But if Joseph did practice polygamy then he is a liar because he stated on several occasions that he was NOT a polygamist. Over 1000 signatures of Nauvoo residents on an affidavit affirmed that same thing (however some of those who followed Brigham later changed their sworn testimony– I wonder why). Regardless, if Joseph was lying about this wickedness, then he was not a prophet in my book, as God hates liars.
Emma stated several times prior to her death that her husband was not a polygamist. So was she lying too? If so why? And when was Eliza Snow lying? When she swore in Nauvoo that Joseph never practiced polygamy, or that later on (when she negotiated with B.Y. for a position of power in SLC) that she was one of Joseph’s wives? Both positions can’t be true. Which is it Eliza? Either way you’re a liar. How many others have lied to perpetrate this fraud?
Was God using Joseph to test the faithfulness of the Church? Absolutely, but not the way implied. God does not work in secret. The test is always: will people follow God and not put their trust in man. If polygamy was a test of faith then Joseph should have published the revelation like he had with all the others and presented it for a vote in conference as stated in the bylaws of the Church (i.e. the D&C). The “law” of plural marriage needed ratification from the members of the Church while Joseph lived, not nearly a decade after he was dead with a dubious copy of questionable origin.
Accepting Joseph as a lying closet polygamist requires us who follow his teachings to do mental gymnastics to make everything fit. And I’m sorry to disagree but there is only one who is our intercessor. And only one who will come to cleanse His church. Joseph had a different mission and he did it the best he could. It’s over. He is not coming back like King Arthur to fix everything. We need to look to the Lord for that.
The sad truth is Joseph was betrayed and set up for death by members of his own Church who formed a secret combination to protect their wicked abominations. All the trouble this Church has suffered since then come from the adulterous “leaders” who took over the reigns shortly after Joseph the Prophet was murdered. Our Gentile Church has been cursed and it will be destroyed (as prophesied) unless we repent and forsake our evil ways including the belief that Joseph was an adulterer.
There is hope said:
Thank you so much for this blog! It has been most enlightening and has been instrumental in bringing me closer to my redeemer and the truths restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. However I want to say amen to JimP. My searching has been leading me to almost an identical conclusion. I’m not convinced Joseph was a polygamous either based on his repeated denials. God condemns liars and hypocrits repeatedly. My question for onewhoissearching is what exactly was the endowment received by Joseph Smith in Kirtland? You say it was an endowment of power but what exactly did it entail? Can you tell me where to look to find the information? I really need to know because I was raised in a polygamous culture where my whole life I have been raised to believe that the endowment as we currently know it was a fundamental doctrine taught by Joseph Smith himself and to deny it is to bring upon yourself damnation. As was polygamy. Trouble is that my mother was sexually molested by a man who is now in a leading position. That situation has raised all sorts of questions in my mind such as what exactly is the truth as revealed by the Prophet Joseph himself? I don’t give a hang for the doctrines of men any more. Any insight would be most helpful particularly in regards to the endowment.
Wow. Thanks for sharing. As I have been blogging about for some time, one has to take teachings of Joseph’s with a grain of salt and search for corroborating evidence (law of witnesses) during the second half of his ministry. The endowment of power was meant for the elders and high priests who were to go forth and preach the gospel for the last time preparatory to the return of the Savior. Much of the information is scattered throughout the History of the Church in the lead up to the Kirtland Temple dedication. Another resource has been books written by Karl Ricks Anderson (known by some as Mr. Kirtland for his deep knowledge of what happened there). The two books are entitled “Joseph Smith’s Kirtland” and “The Savior in Kirtland”. The Lord tells us in D&C 124:39 what the temple is for. The endowment spoken of there is clearly an endowment of power, not of secret information. In Kirtland, Joseph also said (it’s in the history of the church but I don’t have the reference handy) that all necessary ordinances had been introduced to the church. At that time, the washing, anointing and ordaining rituals had been introduced, but no masonic-based temple endowment. Do a search in church history for “endow” and “endowment” up through and including the Kirtland period. Very enlightening. Best of luck!
There is hope said:
Thank you for responding! I will look up those two books and continue searching.
There is hope said:
After rereading the comments on this article: Anyone heard of Judus Iscariot? Perhaps the reason Joseph didn’t remove the offending lot was because Joseph couldn’t kill himself. Just speculation.
That’s not a bad theory, it is certainly one possible explanation.
An associate recommended your blog and I’ve found some thought-provoking things. I’ve come to many of your conclusions on my own so that has been interesting. I noticed that you quoted Jacob 2:30 in support of the idea that “raise up seed” is connected to polygamy. I used to believe that as well until I spent the better part of a year researching the context of that verse. I no longer believe that the traditional interpretation is correct and I have posted my research with all the associated scriptures here:
I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are, I think that it adds to this discussion.
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Sorry, don’t mean to double comment here but I had some other thoughts. First off, your domain name “onewhoissearching” caught my eye because I named my blog oneClimbs.com back when I started it in 2001. Perhaps we are kindred spirits.
Secondly, there is this verse in Jacob 1 that I never see mentioned but I think it is very important. This is Jacob writing about his people and note what he says about desiring many wives and concubines specifically as being a wicked practice.
“And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old DESIRING many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.” (Jacob 1:15)
Compare with D&C 132:51 which states, in part:
“if any man espouse a virgin, and DESIRE to espouse another…”
The plural marriage argument typically involves language that suggests that God will be the one to COMMAND this practice to be so. Yet 132 suggests that a man can take another wife if he desires to, which strikes me as a little odd.
In the Book of Mormon, the word polygamy is never used, it is always the phrase “many wives and concubines.” Abraham had one concubine, Hagar, and Jacob had two, while Solomon had 300. If we are restoring ALL things, then where do concubines fit into the gospel plan? Why only allow many wives but no concubines when the Book of Mormon seems to include them together?
mormons son said:
onewhoissearching…..>>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…Well there is if you will take this as a “witness”?
(Old Testament | Isaiah 4:1)
AND in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.
(Old Testament | 2 Samuel 12:1 – 12)
MY point in pointing this out is this, do we believe the Bible or not? Do we believe the BoM or not? Do we believe modern scriptures D+C? Do we draw a line or do try to compliment all together and make sense of it?
I see where you are pointing this at and I can understand what you are doing….. The law of witnesses are good but if NO corroborating evidence to the contrary then it should be left open till I suspect the archives are fully opened up for all investigators to see?
I personally believe in our reach [someone’s attic or trunk lost to memory] there is some letters or paperwork proving to be lost information [scripture] we do not have as yet in our possession?
As I say normally, think before saying…If in doubt ask God?
mormons son said:
I forgot to add this one in while commenting on the previous one…..What happens when a woman dies and the man remarry’s? What would happen if this one also died? And he again remarry’s…to whom would these belong to in the eternities? Seeing these women had no other?
(New Testament | 1 Corinthians 11:11)
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord….This [pun here] marry’s into Isaiah 4, does it not?
IF he took them to the Temple each time? If not then it would ONLY BE till death do us part.
YOU could site me Matthew 22 but this speaks of 7 men having the same woman not what I am stating?
What think ye?
My point is that there is no corroboration in other scriptures for the celestial polygamy doctrine or sealing ordinances as taught in Section 132. I am not trying to cast doubt on marriage as an institution for
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 1 Cor 11:11
mormons son said:
i THOUGHT Isaiah 4:1 WAS PLAIN? Is not the Lord just and compassionate? Would HE deny a person [female] eternal life because she had been married to none other?
Monogamy is the law of heaven (D&C 42). The “great mystery” as Paul calls it, is the union of the sexes in the eternities.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
mormons son said:
You are taking out of context Eph 5…Eph 5 is john 17! talks of Christ not us….But it does offer us the opportunity to “one” Christ and with the Father?
D+C 42 doesn’t take into account of virgins betrothed to a man in D+C 132?..scripture cannot be in error? do you agree?
I just discovered your blog and have ordered your book. Thanks for helping to clear things up.
One lengthy disagreement related to this post: the LDS interpretation of Jacob 2:30 makes no sense if we consider the context. in verses 23 to 35, Jacob tells the brethren the Lord is unhappy because of their sins—the sin of pride and the even grosser sin of having more than one wife. He tells them they are trying to excuse their whoredoms, based on the things written concerning David and Solomon who had many wives and concubines, which was abominable to the Lord. In fact, it was so abominable that in verse 25, the Lord says:
“(He) led this people out of Jerusalem so that he could raise up a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.” The Lord warns these people not to “do like unto them of old . . . for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.”
Jacob continues to explain that the Lord requires this people to keep His commandments or the land will be cursed and, in the infamous verse 30, he says,
“For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”
On the Church’s website this verse is explained:
“The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to ‘raise up seed unto [the Lord]’ (Jacob 2:30).”
Considering the context of Jacob 2:23–35 where Jacob describes the pain this practice has brought to families, the Lord’s condemnation of it in no uncertain terms, and that one wife is His commandment, doesn’t this interpretation of verse 30 clearly contradicts its surrounding verses?
So I think this verse means the opposite.
To be consistent, how could “raise up a righteous branch” in verse 25 be interpreted as a commandment to refrain from this abominable crime of polygamy that was practiced in Jerusalem, whereas, “raise up seed unto the Lord” in verse 30 is interpreted as a commandment to embrace this abominable crime?
Then, in verses 31 and 32, the Lord says through Jacob:
“For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
How can the Lord say that He has “seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning” of His daughters in Jerusalem because of their husband’s wicked actions and He “will not suffer” their cries against them, and then state that He will occasionally command His people to live what causes the sorrow, mourning, and suffering of His daughters?
Using the context and content of these scriptures, it makes more sense that in the first part of verse 30 the Lord is repeating what He said in the preceding verses: if He is going to “raise up seed . . . [He] will command [His] people” (and in other words, expect husbands to follow what He is commanding through his prophet Jacob) to have one wife only. Then, in the latter part of verse 30, the Lord is next introducing what He will say in subsequent verses: if the people are not His seed, or choose not to be of His seed, the men will “hearken unto these things”—they will hearken to David and Solomon’s ideas or the polygamous ways of old that will lead to their cursing and cause heartache for their wives and children.
Thus, raising up seed unto the Lord (verse 30) and raising up a righteous branch (verse 25) both refer to following God’s command to refrain from committing the whoredom of practicing polygamy—an interpretation which allows verse 30 to validate the context and content of the surrounding verses. So rather than increasing the number of children born in the gospel covenant through the abominable crime of multiple wives (which only increases the numbers born to polygamist men, but decreases the overall children born, according to studies), instead God is telling his people to obey His commandments and His righteous seed will be raised.
I think your analysis is spot on. We have completely taken Jacob 2:30 out of context.
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When you wrote, “I believe the Lord can sanction anything He wants for His own purposes, including polygamy to ‘raise up seed unto me’”, do you believe He would use polygamy to raise up seed (a righteous branch)?
Using multiple scriptures as witnesses as you suggest, Jacob 2 is the most obvious witness. The commandment to cleave to a wife (one wife) that shows up in the D&C and Old and New Testament, and the Corinthian scripture you site, are others.
Also, if we consider scripture narratives as a way to learn truths, the Old Testament polygamy stories never end well. Rather than an endorsement from God, they read like cautionary tales encouraging us to learn from others’ mistakes.
Perhaps because I’m a woman who has been troubled by the church’s plural marriage mantra—both the historical and the eternal—I read into the scriptures that God tolerated, but never sanctioned, and certainly never commanded it like the LDS church claims.