How Can the LDS Church Clarify Polygamy in Heaven?

An early Mormon polygamist family. From theguardian.com

1. Both Exalted

The simplest way of dealing with the problem would be to declare that both polygamous and monogamous unions can be “exalted,” or meet the requirements for heaven. Thus Joseph’s and Brigham Young’s wives and families were within the bounds of God’s laws, but so are today’s monogamous families. This would not remove the fear of eternal polygamy, nor the sexism [3] inherent in the fact that only men can have multiple spouses, but at least it removes the looming fear that every couple hoping to live with God will have to include multiple wives.

2. Not Yet Revealed

This is the easiest way for the church to handle the problem. It would essentially make more public the statement already in the manual for seminary teachers — that we do not know whether polygamy or monogamy or both will be practiced in heaven. However, I believe this answer would be insufficient to heal the many hearts broken by the fear of eternal polygamy.

3. Only Monogamous Exalted

The most radical move would be a statement that only monogamous couples can be exalted. I consider this unlikely — it would require denying that Joseph Smith was inspired when he instituted polygamy within the church, or perhaps explaining polygamy as an earthly exception to an eternal law. It might require “un-sealing” the wives of Joseph and Brigham and others. But it also has the most potential to reorient LDS theology toward a radical equality of the sexes: neither man nor woman have exclusive privileges in marriage, now or in the eternities. [4]

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Abe Collier

Abe Collier

“I do not understand one thing in this world. Not one.” — Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’