On my LDSFAQ (Mormon Answers) page on polygamy, I mention two important recent contributions from LDS women that help us look at polygamy in a different light. First, let me recommend the work of Valerie Hudson. See V.H. Cassler, “Polygamy,” SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2010), which explores significant but previously overlooked language in the scriptures that helps resolve the tension between the Book of Mormon’s prohibition of polygamy and the revelation in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants that supported polygamy. She argues that God is not indifferent to polygamy and clearly prefers monogamy for his children. She presents a compelling scriptural case that polygamy should be viewed as an Abrahamic sacrifice for those who took on that challenge during the temporary period when that atypical, normally prohibited practice was in force. See also her 2004 book with Alma Don Sorensen, Women in Eternity, Women of Zion. You can also listen to a FAIRMORMON interview with her on this topic.
Second, in a breaking story from the end of 2013 and early 2014, I’m impressed with the work of Meg Stout in her series of essays at the Millennial Star beginning with “A Faithful Joseph.” She finds evidence that polygamy was not about sex, that Joseph was faithful to Emma, and that a possible purpose in having Joseph and others practice polygamy was to clearly establish and demonstrate that the blessings of eternal sealings and eternal family ties were open not just to those who families with only one marriage, but extended to women who were the second or later wife, including polygamous marriages (which have been accepted over the centuries in many cultures) and marriages in which the original first wife was deceased or divorced. That’s something I had never considered, but she presents an interesting case for it. Whether that argument stands or falls, her analysis of the cultural setting in which polygamy was introduced and the details from the life of her polygamous ancestor add several new dimensions to our understanding of polygamy. Her series on the topic is deeply significant, with more to come. Thank you, Meg, for your faith, patience, and research.
None of this removes the pain and tension of polygamy, whether on Joseph’s day or Abraham’s, but it may help us better appreciate those who endured it.
Kudos to Bookslinger for sharing the news of Meg Stout’s new series. Kudos to a terrific mom and thinker in Appleton, Wisconsin for recommending Valerie Hudson’s work to me.