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History of Polygamy in the Mormon Church


Polygamy is a complex and historically significant aspect of the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon or LDS Church. Rooted in the early teachings of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, polygamy has left an indelible mark on the religion's history and cultural identity. Understanding Mormon polygamy requires delving into its origins, its practice in the 19th century, its eventual renunciation by the mainstream LDS Church, and its contemporary manifestations within various Mormon fundamentalist groups.

Joseph Smith introduced the concept of polygamy to his closest followers in the 1830s, teaching that it was a divine commandment. The Joseph Smith polygamy timeline is muddied by a lack of sources. It appears that Smith did not want to follow the command from God, married a plural wife in the mid-1830s, but did not marry anyone else for many years. While in Nauvoo, Smith introduced the commandment to church leaders, who began to practice polygamy, along with Smith. Polygamy became more widely practiced among early Mormons under the leadership of Brigham Young, who succeeded Smith as president of LDS Church after Smith's assassination in 1844.

During the mid to late 19th century, Mormon polygamy was a contentious issue in American society, leading to conflict with the U.S. government. The practice was seen as morally objectionable by many Americans, and it played a central role in the federal government's decision to punish the LDS Church and its followers. This culminated in a series of laws, that sought to outlaw polygamy and limit the political and economic power of the Mormon community in the Utah Territory.

Despite legal and societal pressure, polygamy remained a core tenet of Mormonism until 1890 when the LDS Church officially renounced the practice. This declaration, known as the Manifesto, was motivated in part by a desire to secure Utah's statehood and to bring an end to the persecution of Mormons by the U.S. government. However, polygamy did not disappear entirely from Mormon communities.

Some people, known as fundamentalists, continued to practice polygamy in defiance of the church's teachings and leadership. These groups are not members of the LDS Church but do see themselves as preserving the original teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

The LDS Church has worked to distance itself from its polygamous past while also acknowledging its historical significance. For many Mormons, Joseph Smith’s polygamy as well as the generalized practice of polygamy are complex and sometimes uncomfortable aspects of their religious heritage. 

In conclusion, Mormon polygamy is a multifaceted phenomenon with deep historical roots and ongoing implications for the Latter-day Saint movement. From its origins in the teachings of Joseph Smith to its renunciation by the LDS Church and its continuation among fundamentalist groups, polygamy has played a central role in shaping Mormon theology, culture, and identity. Understanding Mormon polygamy requires grappling with its complex legacy and its ongoing relevance in contemporary Mormonism.

Do Mormons believe in polygamy? Do Mormons still practice polygamy? Why do or did Mormons believe in polygamy? What is the history of polygamy in the Mormon Church? Who is Joseph Smith? Faith, Religion, Lifestyle choices


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