Classifying them without equal rights to fellow citizens and personal autonomy over their own bodies, women struggle to find a means of true empowerment. Over time, the facets of attempted empowerment changed; yet, various outlets of protest remained the same.
After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates. This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration—for Joseph personally and for other Church members.
Plural marriage tested faith and provoked controversy and opposition. Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. But many later testified of powerful spiritual experiences that helped them overcome their hesitation and gave them courage to accept this practice.
Read More… Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment. Significant social and cultural changes often include misunderstandings and difficulties.
Church leaders and members experienced these challenges as they heeded the command to practice plural marriage and again later as they worked to discontinue it after Church President Wilford Woodruff issued an inspired statement known as the Manifesto inwhich led to the end of plural marriage in the Church.
Many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential.
They did not discuss their experiences publicly or in writing until after the Latter-day Saints had moved to Utah and Church leaders had publicly acknowledged the practice.
The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue.
People who knew Joseph well later stated he received the revelation about that time. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice. Plural marriage was one of those ancient principles. Polygamy had been permitted for millennia in many cultures and religions, but, with few exceptions, was rejected in Western cultures.
Joseph knew the practice of plural marriage would stir up public ire. After receiving the commandment, he taught a few associates about it, but he did not spread this teaching widely in the s. Consistent with this pattern, Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between and and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward.
During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.
Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents.
After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.
Plural Marriage and Eternal Marriage The same revelation that taught of plural marriage was part of a larger revelation given to Joseph Smith—that marriage could last beyond death and that eternal marriage was essential to inheriting the fulness that God desires for His children.
On April 3,the Old Testament prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and restored the priesthood keys necessary to perform ordinances for the living and the dead, including sealing families together.
Parents had the power to arrange marriages or forestall unions of which they disapproved. By the late s, romance and personal choice began to rival these traditional motives and practices. The practice spread slowly at first.
By Junewhen Joseph died, approximately 29 men and 50 women had entered into plural marriage, in addition to Joseph and his wives. When the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley inat least men and women had entered into plural marriages.
Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations.
Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone. Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary.
The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. There are several possible explanations for this practice. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together.
Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages.
Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life. Joseph and Emma loved and respected each other deeply. She may have approved of other marriages as well.
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