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New Mormon Essay Discusses Polygamy

Courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new essay Wednesday on the practice of plural marriage during the church’s early history.

The essay, called “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” discusses LDS Church founder Joseph Smith’s marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball.  It claims that, at the time, such marriage practices were not unusual. Newell Bringhurst is the author of Scattering of the Saints: Schism Within Mormonism.

“People who are more on the conservative—or, you know, want to defend Joseph’s Smith’s practice of doing that say he wasn’t out of the norm, and that’s kind of the argument that’s made in the document itself,” says Bringhurst.

Todd Compton is a historian who has written about plural marriage in the Mormon Church. He told KUER that, in fact, it wasn’t common for older men to marry underage women at that time, in the part of the country where the Mormons were settled.

The essay also claims that God “commanded plural marriage so His people could ‘raise up seed unto [Him]’. Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents”. But Bringhurst says polygamy is not actually an effective way to produce greater numbers of children. 

“Look at Brigham Young for example. He married a total of 55 wives, but out of those 55 wives, only 18 bore him children—bore him a total of 57 children. 57 Children by 55 wives is, you know—it’s not the most effective way to propagate the race or the righteous seed, so to speak,” says Bringhurst   

Bringhurst praised the essay, though, for openly discussing one of the Mormon Church’s most controversial issues. The complete essay was released on the Church’s official website.   

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