Taking All Questions About Polygamy

By October 22, 2014

We at JI were very happy to see the LDS Church’s release of three essays on plural marriage yesterday. The histories of Nauvoo Era, Utah Era, and Post-Manifesto polygamy have not been told by institutional sources in such a clear, open way. Facebook conversations and Twitter dialogues  popped up quickly; many are still ongoing. The Bloggernacle has begun to respond already.

With that said, we at JI couldn’t help but notice that many individuals still had burning questions on plural marriage. Although many of the questions people had were actually answered by the essays, there are still more nuanced questions that were not answered by the essays. There are also questions of a more personal nature that, for obvious reasons, could not be answered by an essay aimed at a western, if not global, audience. Often, the questions asked on social media were not answered by folks with an academic knowledge of plural marriage. While many people know a lot about polygamy and polyandry, many of the responses to people’s questions were not based in history.

Juvenile Instructor wants to try and answer people’s questions about plural marriage with reference to sources, where available. As an academic Mormon History blog, we have a duty to not only analyze the essays themselves, but to engage with those interested in Mormon History and do our best to answer questions about plural marriage. All questions, from academics or non-academics, are welcome.

There are a few ground rules to participating:

  • We are not here to evaluate truth claims or whether or not plural marriage is “true” in any sense. That is not the point of this blog.
  • Be kind. We know that plural marriage can raise a lot of powerful feelings, but there are human beings reading and answering the questions.
  • We do not know the answers to every question.  We cannot make any promises in regards to finding exact sources or firm answers.


Please submit your questions here. You can also ask questions in the comments. We will answer the questions in future posts.



Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I predict that most questions will be not historical, but will concern post-mortal life, especially the current policy of a man being able to be sealed both to his current wife and a deceased previous wife. That’s what happened when I tried to tackle historical polygamy two years ago. Good luck.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 22, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

  2. In looking at my family history, I see two instances of young brides with 21-15 and 28-14 age disparities. It is curious to me that both of these happened in the 1850s (1857 & 1854). Was there an extra push for plural marriage during the Mormon reformation period that resulted in more young brides participating?

    Comment by NorthboundZax — October 22, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

  3. I’m interested in the “eternal only” marriages the church mentioned in their essays. Is there any insight that you can provide on that? Do documents suggest this was the intention of the commandment? Were there children that resulted from the plural marriages,and more specifically the polyandrous ones? Also, did you find the information the church put out to be “white washed”, or did you feel it was a fair representation of the practice?

    Comment by Jodi — October 23, 2014 @ 12:05 am

  4. These are good questions! Thanks for asking.

    Comment by Saskia — October 23, 2014 @ 11:27 am

  5. I’d be curious to know more about what exactly time means in our ceremonies. Does it connotate a responsibility like the article seems to suggest or is it in reference to a present world time experience.

    Also I’d be interested in any commentary written about what the implications of eternity only marriages may be on access to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. (if this is too speculative you can shelf this) Is this an avenue to fulfill that requirement? Or does it make sense to view eternity marriages as a “belt and suspenders” on meeting this requirement.


    Comment by Hess — October 23, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  6. I’m interested in knowing the stories of saints who conscientiously objected to the practice of polygamy, but who remained faithful to the church. I don’t have any polygamous ancestors, despite my pioneer heritage, because my ancestors strongly advised their children to stay out of it. One of their daughters (not my ancestor) became a second wife, a thing that caused them much sorrow. So, with all the numbers that are bandied about of the percentage of saints who actually practiced polygamy, do we have any sense that some of those that didn’t refrained out of conviction and conscience rather than lack of opportunity?

    Comment by Questions — October 23, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

  7. I would appreciate information on the prevalence of polyandry outside of Joseph Smith. In particular, polyandry involving women married or sealed to multiple husbands who were living at the same time.

    Comment by Dave K — October 24, 2014 @ 10:01 am

  8. test

    Comment by Ben S — October 24, 2014 @ 9:28 pm

  9. (odd problems trying to post comments.)

    I couldn?t say definitively what “time” means, but when my grandma died, my grandfather who was a sealer in the Alberta temple remarried a widow. They were married in the temple but for time only, i.e. a civil “temple” marriage without a sealing.

    I have heard indirectly that the strongest evidence for polyandry has actually dried up. It looked quite good at first, but upon closer reading and further discovery, does not indicate what it appeared to initially.

    Comment by Ben S — October 24, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

  10. […] Ben S: Taking All Questions About […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » JI on Polygamy — October 25, 2014 @ 7:00 am

  11. My question is basically which of Joseph’s wives did he have sex with–particularly whether had had sexual relationships with any of the very young or already married women.

    Comment by O — October 27, 2014 @ 9:01 am

  12. Having researched several LDS women’s journals dating around 1850-1890, a question I always had that was never cleared up was they seemed to think that having more wives would get you into the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. That was the motivation a lot of them had when they accepted, as they stated they were taught that 3 wives would get them into the highest order. Do you know where these beliefs would have come from? I never could find if that teaching was taught by a prophet, or if it was coming from within the culture. Thanks!

    Comment by Kennedy H — November 14, 2014 @ 11:59 am


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