Joseph said to me, “if you take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.” This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.

I had, in hours of temptation when seeing the trials of my mother, felt to rebel. I hated polygamy in my heart.

For three months I lay a portion of the time like one dead…I tasted of the punishment which is prepared for those who reject any of the principles of this Gospel. I fasted for one week, and every day I gained until I had won the victory…I learned that plural marriage is a celestial principle, and saw… the necessity of obedience to those who hold the priesthood, and the danger of rebelling against or speaking lightly of the Lord’s anointed.”

Helen Marr Kimball

To me, the morality of polygamy is really quite a simple issue. It happened. It was wrong. Church leaders shouldn’t have married 14-year-olds. Boom. 

Of course, to accept that when it comes to polygamy would be to recognize that Joseph was no different than many cult leaders who take young girls as their wives. (I.E Warren Jeffs.) So Mormons have come up with all sorts of justifications for polygamy. None of them really make sense when you zoom out from them and look at the entire picture, but they can certainly calm troubled members for as long as they’re willing to limit their research. 

Because polygamy has been so dissected and justified in numerous different ways, it would be impossible for me to write one huge post about it. So here are some questions I think every Mormon should ask themselves when thinking about the ethics of polygamy. If you are a faithful member and would like to provide your answers to any of them, we welcome that in the comments section. But commenters, please stay respectful of everyone, whichever side you’re on. 🙂

1. Regardless of the tactics you think Joseph did or didn’t employ to get women to marry him, how do you think his status as the “prophet of God” affected the decisions of women, especially young girls, to marry him? 

2. How do you think fasting about polygamy for a week, as Helen Marr Kimball did, affects a girl’s conversion to it? Are there any other factors other than “the spirit” that might come into play there?

3. What do you think of Helen Marr Kimball’s depressing account of polygamy?

4. D&C 132 clearly states that polygamy can only occur with the permission of the first wife. Did Joseph Smith and other church leaders follow this rule?

5. D&C 132 clearly states that a man can only take a virgin as a plural wife. Did Joseph Smith and other church leaders follow this rule?

6. Would you be ok with your 14-year-old daughter marrying a 37-year-old man?

7. Why did 10 of Brigham Young’s wives divorce him?

8. Why would God want a woman sealed to someone besides her spouse for all eternity? (Polyandry)

9. Why did Joseph Smith marry Zina Huntington Jacobs, who was 6 months pregnant with her husband Henry’s baby at the time? Why did Brigham Young marry her after Joseph died, having sent Henry on a mission?

10. Why did 7 of Joseph Smith’s wives marry Heber C. Kimball after Joseph died?

11. Why would God be specific about non-commandments such as the rotations of Kolob or the Word of Wisdom, but not about something as huge as plural marriage? 

12. Why do Mormons condemn other religious leaders for having child brides, yet not Joseph Smith and other church leaders who married 14-year-olds?

13. Why would God require Joseph to marry 14-year-olds knowing that it would be morally repulsive to most of His children? Weren’t there other options?

14. Is polygamy representative of a God who is “not the author of confusion”?

15. Why would God require the Saints, at any time, to practise polygamy illegally? 

16. Why did church leaders continue practicing polygamy after the release of alleged revelation saying it was to stop?

17. Why do Mormons refuse to allow presentism when examining church leaders’ polygamy, but use it to justify things like racism in the earlier church?

18. Why would God send an angel with a sword to force Joseph to practice polygamy, but not send an angel for other things? (Preventing the banning of blacks from exhaultation, not giving the 116 pages to Martin, forcing early prophets to obey the WoW, etc.)

19. Why did Joseph lie about it for years? Why did other leaders lie about it?

20. How could polygamy be commanded by God when Joseph started it 2 years before he got the revelation to do so, and before he even had the sealing power?


What questions do you think should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments and yours may be added!


Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.

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