For NDMormon: How do you justify Joseph Smith polygamy practices?


Joseph Smith married many already married women and many teenage girls, including a 14-year-old. How can you justify this? The details can be found in the book “Mormon Polygamy” by Richard Van Wagoner and in the book “In Sacred Loneliness” by Todd Compton.


I’m not NDMormon, and I’m not LDS, but:

I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s comments after having seen the Mormon women. He changed his mind pretty quickly about polygamy being all about sex. The Mormon women were pioneers and as such tended to be stocky, muscular women due to the hard labor their life entailed.

14 sounds dreadful today, but back then? Heck, I think 14 is still the age of consent in some states today. My Grandma married for the first time when she was 16!

The Mormons had a problem endemic to religious movements anywhere. More women than men. Given there was no welfare, food stamps or other types of assistance, and little female employment opportunities; marriage was the way women survived in those days. Especially in the frontier communities. Oftentimes the year of mourning for widows was suspended because of the need for the field work and building to be done and woman and children needing financial support. So polygamy solved the over-supply of female problem and undersupply of men.

Was it abused on occasion? Of course, show me a perfect community, and I’ll show you Heaven.


Actually, you have bought into a number of common misconceptions. Census figures for the time make it clear that the number of men in Utah outnumbered the number of women in Utah in the 1800s. Many of the women Joseph Smith married were already married to other men. It is one thing for a 21 year old to marry a teenager. Or perhaps a 17 year old to marry a teenager. But a 37 year old who already has a number of wives? And it appears the young women that Joseph married were actually considered physically attractive. Would you defend the society currently existing in Southern Utah in which young women are forced to marry older men while young men are kicked out because they are competition for the older men? I think the question I asked is a legitimate one. It goes to the central question of whether Mormons in the 1800s believed in the family values Mormons now claim to defend.


Smith never made it to Utah. He was killed in IL in 1844.


Obviously, but the reasons Mormons practiced polygamy had nothing to do with an overabundance of females. Joseph Smith married the wives of other men. He married young women who had every prospect of eventually finding a spouse of their own age (and in fact did so after Joseph Smith was murdered). The excuses offered by Mormons for polygamy never hold up in fact.


But you mentioned Utah’s gender balance while talking about Smith. And how was that census taken? The LDS communitiy in Utah had been through a lot and were a very insular community in the 1800’s. And of course the women found spouses after Smith died, like I said, it was women’s lot in those days to marry as supporting herself was really not an option. Older gents were frequently more attractive as spouses too because they tended to be more successful financially. The young men Smith’s wives eschewed when they married Smith were likely more successful by the time Smith died and so had higher worth in the marriage market.

What’s your point anyway? Have you ever known anyone who had a plural wife history? Many LDS today have great-grandmas and grandmas that were plural wives. They certainly don’t remember the women being miserable.


The thing that gets me about the whole polygamy thing is D&C 132 clearly states that polyandry is forbidden, and that Emma Smith would’ve been destroyed if she practiced it. Only polygyny was acceptable, yet Joseph Smith went ahead and married other mens wives while the men were on mission or at times gave their go ahead. Essentially making the women polyamorous at least, and probably practicing polyandry which appears to be explicitly forbidden in D&C 132.

Good call on the “men outnumbering women” thing, I was going to point out the census too.

Also as a side not, D&C 132 claims polygyny was introduce to raise up the rightous seed on the Earth (paraphrasing). Many Mormons claim Joseph Smith never had relations with his plural wives. If that’s the case how was Joseph Smith “raising up the righteous seed”?

BTW a_cermak I believe Christianley is an ex-Mormon priesthood holder. Just an FYI.


You need to read Compton’s book before you say these women weren’t miserable. They really didn’t have much choice but to submit. Those who didn’t were villified in the community (Nancy Rigdon is a good example of this).


The practice of polygamy is a complete abomination to the marriage and unity of man and woman. Since marriage is distinctly recognized by our Lord and consists of unreserved affection of one man and one woman those who practice or practiced otherwise are not filled with the holy spirit. No attention should be given to a religion that has a history of such evil.


Unless Muslims are doing it. Then criticizing them is politically incorrect. :rolleyes:


My LDS friends’ husband told me that polygamy was practiced in order to have more members in the LDS church. That is why God came to Joseph Smith and told him to practice polygamy. When the curch membership started to grow, God came and said to stop the practice. There are many stories to justify and many as to why it was stopped. It seems that the real reson it started was because Joseph fathered the child of a teenager living in the Smith home and the reason it stopped the practice was because the Federal gov. gave an alternative. It is in the history books.

Love and peace,
Mom of 5


I have quite a few friends with polygamy in their histories. I remember two female friends from college who were descendants of the same man but two different wives. In researching their own history the one said, “I am descended from the wife he liked.” The other said, “And I am a descendant of the wife he hated.” Neither wife though, liked the other or the other wives. There was jealousy and back-biting all the time.

I asked them, both faithful LDS, if they could ever accept polygamy if “the covenant” were to be reinstated. They both answered that they hoped it never would. Of course this was 15 years ago. I should ask again.


God came to Joseph Smith and told him to practice polygamy. When the curch membership started to grow, God came and said to stop the practice.

How expedient.
It’s interesting that God “showed up” to tell the mormons to stop being polygamous at the same time the US government told them the same thing or Utah would not be granted statehood. :rolleyes:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit