How Many Wives Can A Mormon Marry?

Have you ever wondered how many wives a Mormon can marry? It’s a question that often sparks curiosity and intrigue. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of Mormon polygamy and shed light on the number of wives a Mormon can have. So, if you’re ready to uncover the secrets behind this age-old practice, prepare yourself for a journey of enlightenment and discovery!

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Mormon Beliefs and Practices Regarding Marriage

Mormonism and polygamy

Mormonism, formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), has a complex history when it comes to the practice of polygamy. While polygamy is often associated with the early days of Mormonism, the LDS Church officially abandoned the practice in 1890. However, certain breakaway groups, often referred to as fundamentalist Mormons, still engage in polygamous marriages today.

Official stance on polygamy

The LDS Church’s official stance on polygamy is unequivocal: it is strictly prohibited. The Church has made it clear that any member found practicing or advocating for polygamy will face excommunication. This firm stance against polygamy is a response to various legal, social, and cultural factors, as well as a desire to distance the LDS Church from the controversial history of polygamy.

Polygamy in the early days of Mormonism

Polygamy has deep roots in the early history of Mormonism. The practice was introduced by the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, in the early 1830s. Smith claimed to have received a revelation from God, known as the Doctrine and Covenants 132, which sanctioned polygamy. Many early Mormon leaders, including Brigham Young, embraced and practiced polygamy, leading to a significant increase in the number of plural marriages within the community.

Changes in Mormon beliefs regarding polygamy

Despite the prominence of polygamy in the early days of Mormonism, the LDS Church eventually underwent a significant shift in its beliefs regarding the practice. This change culminated in the 1890 Manifesto, an official statement by then-President Wilford Woodruff, which announced the end of plural marriage within the Church. The shift was partly driven by external pressure, as the United States government increasingly criminalized and prosecuted those involved in polygamy, threatening the Church’s very existence. It was also influenced by changing societal norms and the desire to be more accepted by mainstream society.

Historical Context of Polygamy in Mormonism

Joseph Smith and the revelation of polygamy

Polygamy within Mormonism can be traced back to the teachings of Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion. Smith claimed to have received a revelation from God in 1831, which authorized the practice of plural marriage. According to Smith, this revelation was recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, which is still considered scripture by the LDS Church.

Polygamy under Brigham Young’s leadership

Following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, Brigham Young became the leader of the LDS Church and played a significant role in expanding and institutionalizing polygamy within the faith. Under Young’s leadership, the practice of polygamy became more widespread, with many Mormon men entering into multiple marriages.

The practice of polygamy in the 19th century

During the 19th century, polygamy was not just a religious practice within Mormonism, but also a cultural and societal norm in Utah, where the Mormons settled. The practice was seen as a way to fulfill religious obligations, build up the kingdom of God on earth, and ensure exaltation in the afterlife. While the number of Mormons engaged in polygamy was relatively small compared to the overall population, it was nevertheless a significant part of the community’s identity.

Reasons for practicing polygamy

Polygamy in early Mormonism was motivated by a complex set of factors. One reason was the belief in continuing the lineage of ancient biblical figures such as Abraham and Jacob, who were said to have practiced polygamy. Mormons also believed that engaging in plural marriage would lead to spiritual growth, eternal progression, and the ability to create large and righteous families. Additionally, the interconnectedness of polygamy with Mormon identity and the concept of building a “Zion society” contributed to its acceptance within the community.

Polygamy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Official abandonment of polygamy

In 1890, under the leadership of President Wilford Woodruff, the LDS Church officially announced the abandonment of the practice of polygamy. The decision came as a response to increasing legal pressure from the United States government, which had passed anti-polygamy laws and threatened to dissolve the Church if the practice continued. The Manifesto, as it became known, played a crucial role in averting this crisis and aligning the LDS Church with mainstream society.

Excommunication of members practicing polygamy

Despite the Church’s official stance against polygamy, some members continue to engage in plural marriages. The LDS Church takes a strong stance against this, and individuals found to be practicing polygamy face excommunication. This measure is intended to reinforce the Church’s commitment to monogamy and distance itself from the controversial history of polygamy.

Doctrine and Covenants 132

The Doctrine and Covenants 132 is a section of LDS Church scripture that contains Joseph Smith’s teachings on celestial marriage, including the principle of polygamy. While the LDS Church no longer practices or endorses polygamy, the Doctrine and Covenants 132 remains part of the Church’s canon and is interpreted within the context of monogamy and eternal marriage.

Current teachings on marriage in the LDS Church

Today, the LDS Church emphasizes the importance of monogamous, heterosexual marriages. Marriage is seen as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman, with the goal of creating a loving and eternal family. The Church promotes fidelity, commitment, and mutual respect within marriages, teaching that these qualities are essential for reaching exaltation in the afterlife.

Modern Mormon Polygamy

Fundamentalist Mormons and polygamy

While the LDS Church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, there are still breakaway groups and individuals who continue to engage in the practice. These groups, often referred to as fundamentalist Mormons, believe that they are adhering to the original teachings of Joseph Smith and consider themselves the true Mormons.

Breakaway groups and their beliefs

Fundamentalist Mormons belong to various breakaway groups that diverge from mainstream LDS teachings. They often practice polygamy, believing it to be an essential component of their religious faith. These groups can vary in their interpretations of doctrine and the degree to which they engage in polygamy, with some maintaining large plural families and others practicing a more limited form of the principle.

Legal status and controversies surrounding modern Mormon polygamy

In most countries, including the United States, polygamy is illegal and considered a criminal offense. As a result, those engaged in polygamy within breakaway Mormon groups face potential legal consequences. Controversies surrounding modern Mormon polygamy often center around issues of consent, age of marriage, and potential abuse within plural marriages.

Modern media portrayals and public perception

Modern media has played a significant role in shaping public understanding and perception of Mormon polygamy. TV shows like “Sister Wives” and documentaries like “Escape From Polygamy” have offered glimpses into the lives of polygamous families, both within and outside the LDS Church. However, it is essential to recognize that these portrayals may not accurately depict the experiences of all polygamous families or reflect the realities of Mormon polygamy today.

The Principle of Celestial Marriage

Understanding celestial marriage

Within the LDS Church, celestial marriage is the concept that marriage can be sealed for eternity, allowing couples to continue their relationship beyond death. It is believed that celestial marriage is essential for exaltation and eternal progression in the afterlife.

Eternal nature of celestial marriage

Celestial marriage is seen as an eternal bond that extends beyond mortality. It is believed that couples who are sealed together in the temple will continue their relationship in the afterlife and have the opportunity to perpetuate their family lineage throughout eternity.

Sealing ceremonies and eternal families

Sealing ceremonies are sacred rituals conducted in LDS temples, where couples are married and sealed together for time and all eternity. These ceremonies are seen as central to the concept of celestial marriage and the establishment of eternal families. Through the sealing ordinance, couples believe that they can be united not only in this life but also in the hereafter.

Role of polygamy in celestial marriage

While the LDS Church no longer practices polygamy, the principle of celestial marriage has historically been closely associated with the practice. In the 19th century, it was believed that plural marriage was necessary to fully participate in the highest blessings of celestial marriage. However, the abandonment of polygamy by the LDS Church in the 1890s clarified a distinction between celestial marriage and the practice of polygamy, allowing for a broader understanding of the principle.

Limitations on Polygamy in Mormonism

Legal restrictions on polygamy

Polygamy is illegal in most countries, including the United States. The legality of polygamy is determined by the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is practiced. Individuals engaging in polygamy within the LDS Church or affiliated breakaway groups can face criminal prosecution and other legal consequences.

The Manifesto and the end of polygamy

The 1890 Manifesto issued by President Wilford Woodruff marked the official end of polygamy within the LDS Church. The Manifesto was a strategic move to avoid government intervention and preserve the standing of the Church. While some members initially resisted the change, the majority eventually accepted the decision, leading to a decline in the practice of polygamy within the Church.

Official Church statement on polygamy

The LDS Church has unequivocally stated that it no longer practices or endorses polygamy. The Church emphasizes its commitment to monogamy and teaches that any members engaged in polygamy will face excommunication. This official stance is reflective of the Church’s desire to align with legal and societal norms, as well as distance itself from the controversial history of polygamy.

Consequences of practicing polygamy today

Individuals engaged in polygamy today, whether within the LDS Church or breakaway groups, face significant challenges and potential consequences. The legal ramifications can include criminal prosecution, family instability, social ostracism, and limited access to various services and resources. Furthermore, the continued practice of polygamy can strain family relationships and create tension within communities.

Perceptions and Misconceptions about Mormon Polygamy

Stereotypes and misconceptions

Mormon polygamy has long been shrouded in stereotypes and misconceptions. Many people mistakenly believe that all Mormons practice polygamy or that polygamy is an inherent part of the LDS Church’s teachings. These misconceptions can contribute to misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the faith.

Media portrayal and sensationalism

The media has often sensationalized and distorted the reality of Mormon polygamy, further perpetuating stereotypes and misunderstandings. Attention-grabbing headlines and exaggerated narratives can overshadow the diversity and complexity of individual experiences within polygamous families, both historically and in contemporary contexts.

Realities and challenges faced by polygamous families

Polygamous families, whether within the LDS Church or breakaway groups, face various challenges and realities that extend beyond the sensationalized portrayals. The dynamics within these families can be complex, with interpersonal relationships, resource management, and emotional well-being presenting unique challenges. The experiences of individuals within these families can vary widely, and it is essential to recognize their agency and diversity of perspectives.

Public opinion on Mormon polygamy

Public opinion on Mormon polygamy is diverse and often influenced by personal beliefs, cultural backgrounds, and exposure to media portrayals. Some view polygamy within the LDS Church and other breakaway groups as a violation of societal norms and a form of mistreatment of women. Others may approach the subject with greater nuance, recognizing the complexities and intersections of religion, personal choice, and legal frameworks.

Women in Mormon Polygamous Marriages

Role and position of women

The role and position of women in Mormon polygamous marriages have varied throughout history and across different groups. In some instances, women may experience a sense of sisterhood and support within the family structure. However, there are also instances where power imbalances, gender inequality, and limited autonomy can be present, particularly in more oppressive or abusive environments.

Choice and agency in polygamous unions

The level of choice and agency women have in entering into polygamous unions can vary widely. While some women may choose to enter into plural marriages willingly, others may be coerced or feel societal and familial pressure to comply. It is essential to recognize that agency within polygamous unions can be complex, influenced by individual circumstances and varying degrees of personal autonomy.

Challenges faced by plural wives

Plural wives in polygamous marriages often encounter unique challenges. Emotional struggles, jealousy, and feelings of inadequacy can arise within complex family dynamics. Additionally, financial and practical concerns, as well as societal stigma, can place additional burdens on plural wives. It is crucial to acknowledge these challenges and support individuals in navigating their lives based on their own values and circumstances.

Criticism and support for women in polygamy

The treatment of women in polygamous marriages has been a topic of significant debate and criticism. Critics argue that polygamy inherently perpetuates gender inequality, exploitation, and potential abuse. On the other hand, some individuals and organizations argue that consenting adults should be allowed to enter into polygamous unions if it is their personal choice and does not infringe upon the rights and well-being of others.

Legal Implications and Controversies of Polygamy

Legal battles over polygamy

The legal status of polygamy has been a subject of ongoing debate and legal battles in various countries. Governments have sought to criminalize the practice due to concerns about exploitation, abuse, and the potential harm to women and children within plural marriage arrangements. These legal battles often involve complex questions surrounding religious freedom, personal autonomy, and the limits of state regulation.

Polygamy and human rights

Polygamy can raise significant human rights concerns, particularly regarding gender equality and the rights of women and children. Critics argue that polygamy inherently limits the agency and autonomy of women and perpetuates harmful power imbalances. Balancing the preservation of individual rights and freedoms with the prevention of harm can be a complex challenge when addressing polygamy from a human rights perspective.

Child marriage and abuse

Polygamous marriages, particularly when practiced in more fundamentalist or unregulated contexts, can raise concerns about child marriage and the potential for abuse. The involvement of underage individuals in these arrangements is a serious human rights violation and is widely condemned. It is essential to distinguish between consenting adults engaged in polygamy and harmful practices that infringe upon the rights and well-being of children.

Recent legal developments and court cases

In recent years, several legal developments and court cases have brought the issue of polygamy to the forefront. Courts have grappled with questions surrounding the limits of religious freedom, the legality of various polygamous unions, and the protection of individual rights. These cases highlight the ongoing legal debates and challenges when dealing with polygamy in modern society.


The LDS Church’s beliefs and practices regarding marriage, particularly with regards to polygamy, have evolved significantly over time. While polygamy played a prominent role in the early days of Mormonism and continues to be practiced by certain breakaway groups, the LDS Church officially abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits its members from engaging in polygamy. The cultural and historical context surrounding Mormon polygamy underscores the complex challenges faced by individuals and communities. Understanding the nuances of Mormon beliefs, the legal implications, and the lived experiences of those involved in polygamous unions is crucial for fostering informed discussions and promoting empathy and respect for all individuals impacted by this practice.