Why Did Mormons Practice Polygamy?
Before answering that, let’s deal with the other question that often comes up first. Do some Mormons still live with multiple wives?
The practice of polygamy, also known as plural marriage, is not practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called Mormons, today.
Obeying the Lord’s command, Mormons followed this practice for about 50 years during the nineteenth century, but it is often a misunderstood part of Church history. These early Latter-day saints obeyed revelation to the Lord’s prophet Joseph Smith as it was given, out of their great love for the Lord, and their faith in His eternal plan. Even at the time, it was a very difficult commandment from God and was a great test of faith for many involved.
Polygamy dates back to the Bible. At times and to fulfill His specific purposes, God, through his prophets, sanctioned the practice of plural marriage. Several scriptural figures like Abraham, Jacob, David, Moses and others had more than one wife.
The Lord restored many things through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, including eventually, polygamy, but it was not instituted for the purpose of sexual license as some critics have accused.
It was practiced only by the command of the Lord to bring forth a new generation, as a trial of faith for the saints at that time, and to allow all worthy women the chance to be sealed into eternal families.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, times became extremely difficult politically for the members of the Church. It was then revealed to the prophet Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, that the Church should stop the practice of polygamy in order to avoid more difficulties.
The practice officially ceased around 1890, and has not been practiced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for over a century. At the time, however, some members of the Church did not follow the prophet’s call to end the practice, and started their own churches, often with similar names, which still practiced polygamy. Some of these sects still exist today and may even call themselves Mormons, but these groups have no relationship to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Church today, in accordance with the law of the land, prohibits living in polygamy, and focuses on strengthening families and marriages between one man and one woman. The Church has always taught the supreme importance of the family in God’s eternal plan, and that families can be sealed and live together forever – the highest blessing possible through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.