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Is Plural Marriage Necessary for Exaltation?

by W. John Walsh

[Some Church leaders seem to say that plural marriage is required for exaltation and others don't] I am curious about any explanation you may have on this seeming contradiction.

A person must embrace plural marriage as a divine and holy principle in order to receive eternal lifePresident John Taylor noted:

"Where did this commandment come from in relation to polygamy? It also came from God. It was a revelation given unto Joseph Smith from God, and was made binding upon His servants. When this system was first introduced among this people, it was one of the greatest crosses that ever was taken up by any set of men since the world stood. Joseph Smith told others; he told me, and I can bear witness of it, "that if this principle was not introduced, this Church and kingdom could not proceed." When this commandment was given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders of this Church that it was told them if they were not prepared to enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would come in consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be taken from them. When I see any of our people, men or women, opposing a principle of this kind, I have years ago set them down as on the high road to apostacy, and I do to-day; I consider them apostates, and not interested in this Church and kingdom." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.11, p.221)

I am not aware of any member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who has ever said anything contradicting President Taylor's words. However, while the Lord desires us to accept the doctrine of plural marriage, he does not always desire his people to actually practice it.   For example, the Book of Mormon peoples were specifically forbidden to practice plural marriage. (Jacob 2).  Therefore, we know that plural marriage is not an ordinance like baptism that must be practiced in mortality to be saved.  However, it is a celestial doctrine, and those whose hearts are not pure enough to accept the doctrine are not pure enough to dwell in the celestial kingdom as an exalted being.

Those who break the commandments of God cannot be saved.  Since there are times when the Lord commands his people not to enter into plural marriage (e.g., Book of Mormon times; today), we know that there are times when we will be damned for practicing it, even though the doctrine is eternal. Likewise, since there are times when the Lord commands his people to practice plural marriage (e.g., Abraham's time; 1830's-1904), we know that there are times when we will be damned for not practicing it.  The key to salvation on this matter is to always believe and espouse the principles, but only practice it at the command of the Lord, through his appointed prophets.

(See Daily Living home page; Church History home page; Plural Marriage home page; Teachings About Marriage home page)

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