I wrote this blog post out of a sincere love for the Latter-day Saint people, that they may see and believe the real gospel and come to know Jesus Christ in a saving way. If you are LDS and have stumbled upon this blog post I want you to know that I dearly love you, and I am praying for you. I hope you take the time to read this post and consider the implications of eternal marriage. I also wrote this blog post for my Christian brethren that they may know and understand Mormonism deeply and grow in love and compassion for the Mormon people. I would encourage those who are Christians to check out our episodes on Mormonism that can be found here. This post is long, but I hope you read it completely.
May God be glorified
– Hannah Oliver with The Bluestocking Baptists
In 2018 I read a book called The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson. Pearson is a progressive Latter-day Saint (in good standing, as far as I know) who brought to light the loophole in Latter-day Saint doctrine on eternal marriage that allows for the practice of eternal polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom. Her book was extremely informative and interesting. I read it in two days and learned a great deal about the possibility of plural marriage and how it leads to fear, sorrow, pain, and even destroys marriages. Pearson presents the historical background of the LDS Church and how polygamy was practiced and why the Church ceased to practice it on earth. She also discusses how Doctrine and Covenants 132 still remains authoritative to some degree and has not been removed from the D&C. Pearson wrote a wonderful book, but it falls terribly short. Pearson argues that the solution for ending eternal polygamy is for the leadership to listen to the members and create new policy that prohibits eternal plural marriage. Basically, she reasons that if the Prophet has the authority to change Church doctrine and practice – he has a responsibility to change this doctrine to protect Latter-day Saint men and women. This would look like forbidding multiple sealings to more than one woman, and I will explain what this means further down.
You may be thinking, “what is wrong with this solution?”
First, if the LDS Church is true and God cannot change or lie (Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 40:8, Hebrews 6:18) then we have to examine several things to determine the appropriate solution according to the Holy Bible alone. Pearson falls short because she uses subjective reasoning to solve a situation that must be solved by an objective standard, the Bible. (If you wish to learn more about scripture being our ultimate authority you can listen to episode one What is Our Standard? by The Bluestocking Baptists.) Second, if the Church is true a change in this doctrine would not undo past sealings unless all plural marriage sealings were cancelled. Polygamy would be very real in the context of the highest degree of glory for many LDS men and women. If the Church were to cancel the sealings of dead members it could potentially cause chaos in the Celestial Kingdom because it may split up families. Plural marriages will always exist in the context of the eternal marriage because many people in the Church have been sealed to more than one woman. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has to wrestle with the reality that many will be practicing polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom. What is the solution for this, and is eternal marriage biblical?
I am going to explain a brief history of polygamy on earth practiced by the Church, the LDS doctrine of polygamy as practiced today, and the solution according to the Bible.
Doctrine and Covenants 132 was recorded as official church doctrine on July 12, 1843. However, this revelation was known to the Prophet Joseph Smith as early as 1831. D&C 132 teaches, “the eternity of the marriage covenant, as also plurality of wives” (introduction statement found in D&C 132.) The doctrine of eternal marriage is found in this passage, as well as the necessity of marriage in entering the top level of the Celestial Kingdom. The highest exaltation is only possible if a person is sealed in marriage. The text talks about how marriage will not be eternal if the marriage was only civil in nature, and if a couple is sealed in the temple their marriage will last forever. I will not quote the passage in full, but I will link the full passage here.
Doctrine and Covenants 132:3-4 states:
“3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned;for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (emphasis mine.)
This passage starts out with a sharp exhortation to obey or be damned. We also see that according to the revelation given to Joseph Smith this new covenant is eternal and must be accepted. Towards the end of the passage there is even a threat of destruction if Emma Smith, Joseph Smith’s wife, does not embrace eternal and polygamous marriage. (D&C 132:54)
There are several problems we must work out. First, if Joseph Smith has stated this revelation is eternal why does the Church no longer practice earthly polygamy? Second, we are going to explore how eternal marriage results in the practice of Celestial polygamy. I will share a couple of resources to establish the doctrine of eternal marriage.
“In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church.” (source) This was the turning point for the LDS Church. It is important to note that the LDS people suffered a great deal of persecution and scattered throughout Canada, Mexico, and Arizona so that they could continue to practice polygamy without fear of punishment. The United States government was cracking down on the practice of polygamy and even imprisoned and fined Church members for practicing plural marriage. The Church went to great lengths to protect the practice and many leaders went into hiding. It is my opinion that the LDS Church was forced to produce the Manifesto so that they would not lose their assets that would essentially destroy their religion. I believe this because Woodruff addresses this issue when discussing the Manifesto that the Church would lose their assets if they did not consent to the demands of the United States. I do believe the Manifesto was produced to ensure the survival of the Restored Gospel and the Church. I would highly encourage you read about the end of earthly polygamy here. I would also encourage you read the Manifesto, also known as the Official Declaration 1, which can be found here. Polygamy ceased completely after the turn of the century, and it was even made illegal in Utah in 1895.
It would be dishonest and a misrepresentation to falsely accuse the Latter-day Saint people of being polygamous in today’s context. The practice is condemned in the Church and will even result in excommunication if practiced. However, there may be some LDS believers who do not realize the implications of eternal marriage. They may not realize the practice of multiple sealings allows for a man to practice polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom. Some ex-Mormon men have confessed that the concept of polygamy in the next life was something they eagerly anticipated. Others have confessed that they were excited with the possibility of receiving their sister in law or wife’s best friend in the next life because their husbands were not worthy Mormons. Many women live in fear of this possibility. Others may think highly of their husbands and believe they would never enter into plural marriage. Some women may rationalize the situation by believing that Heavenly Father will sort it out. They rationalize that Heavenly Father is good and would only do what is best for them. What if Heavenly Father thinks plural marriage is best? What if a single sister does not have a husband? Would you refuse her the highest degree of glory? If you reject the doctrine of plural marriage as an outworking of eternal marriage you will be damned according to D&C 132. The practice of eternal marriage also does not violate D&C 132 revelation on Plural marriage and it maintains that D&C 132 is an eternal covenant. The implications of eternal polygamy are not condemnable under the Manifesto or the D&C 132 and it brings harmony between the two opposing revelations. If you are LDS you have to weigh the implications of eternal marriage in light of D&C 132 being an eternal covenant. You must wrestle with the reality that the Church allows for multiple sealings to take place resulting in polygamy. Are you ok with that? Are you willing to risk your eternal security on this subject?
I would encourage any sincere LDS believer to weigh very carefully Doctrine and Covenants 132 as well as the doctrine of eternal marriage as a whole. If you are a Christian and are not familiar with the belief click here. If you are a Latter-Day Saint I am not demanding you accept plural marriage as practiced in the early years of the Church. I respect your position in light of the Manifesto, but I want you to understand the implications of eternal marriage – which is a praised and beloved doctrine.
The question I am proposing is “what happens when a man is sealed to more than one woman?” I will explore several scenarios to show the outworking of eternal marriage in light of multiple sealings. I am asking you to reflect very carefully on how this doctrine could potentially affect you. It is possible that this is something that you are already wrestling with and you are set up with the dilemma of spending eternity as a plural wife. It is not my intent to stir up confusion or fear. I hope that you read this whole post and wrestle with the solution I present at the end of this conundrum.
D&C 132:19a: “19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life…”
An excerpt found on LDS.org :
“Our exaltation depends on marriage, along with other principles and ordinances, such as faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that marriage is the most sacred relationship that can exist between a man and a woman. This sacred relationship affects our happiness now and in the eternities.
Heavenly Father has given us the law of eternal marriage so we can become like Him. The Lord has said:
“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
“And if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (D&C 131:1–3)” (emphasis mine)
D&C 132:19a shows us that a marriage performed by the Church in the temple is the correct administration of the ordinance. When it is performed in the sealing room in the temple it is called a sealing and results in eternal marriage. The next paragraph is a direct quote from LDS.org and it expresses the necessity of eternal marriage to enter into the highest glory of the Celestial Kingdom. It also shows us that eternal marriage is a necessary law which must be completed to reach the highest level of exaltation. Single people will be given the opportunity to marry in the next life if they live in obedience on earth.
To show how eternal marriage leads to the possibility of eternal polygamy I am going to give several examples.
Paul is sealed to Karen. Karen dies and Paul never remarries.
In this example there is no eternal polygamy unless Paul later takes another wife in the Celestial Kingdom. It would be up to the sole discretion of Paul in the next life though. This would be the ideal outcome, and I believe is the most common practice in the Church. Meaning, most men are not sealed to multiple women.
John is sealed to Debbie. Debbie dies and John remarries Stacy. John is sealed to Stacy. John will receive both Debbie and Stacy as his wives at the resurrection. All the children bore by both Debbie and Stacy will belong to him in the Celestial Kingdom.
In this example eternal polygamy is being practiced. Since the man was sealed to two different women, he will receive both of them in the Celestial Kingdom. The current Prophet, Russell M Nelson, is sealed to two women. Nelson was sealed to Dantzel White on August 31, 1945 in the Salt Lake Temple. His first wife Dantzel White died in 2005. He remarried and was sealed to his current wife Wendy Watson Nelson. Wendy and Nelson were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 2006. Dantzel and Nelson had 10 children together, and Wendy and Nelson have zero. It is important to note that Dantzel had no say in the sealing of Wendy and Nelson. She had passed away and she will now spend eternity as a plural wife with Wendy according to the doctrine of eternal marriage. I share this information to show that this concept is not a foreign practice.
Tom is sealed to Sally.Tom and Sally divorce civilly, but do not cancel their sealing.Tom remarries Jen and can be sealed to Jen if he chooses. Sally remarries Ken, but is not allowed to cancel her sealing with Tom. Sally and Ken have 3 children together. At the resurrection Sally will return to Tom. Tom will have Sally and Jen as his wives as well as the 3 children who are biologically the children of Ken. Ken will be given the opportunity to be sealed to a different wife in eternity and start an eternal family with her.
This is a complicated example, so I hope I can bring more clarity. In this example, Sally is not given the same rights as her ex husband. She is not allowed to cancel her sealing or be sealed to another man. Only men are allowed to be sealed to more than one person. The woman is only allowed one husband. As a result, Sally is stuck with her first husband in eternity unless the sealing is cancelled. Ken will lose his rights to his children and his only wife in the Celestial Kingdom. The implications of this hurt both Ken and Sally. As well as potentially causing harm to Jen and Tom who do not want Sally in their Celestial Kingdom. The children are also harmed because they do not have the right to be with their father in the Celestial Kingdom. Tom could solve this conundrum by cancelling his sealing with his first wife and allowing her to be sealed to Ken.
Linda and Matt marry very young and are sealed in the Temple. Matt dies in a horrific accident after only 6 months of marriage. They have no children together. Linda is now a very young widow and desires to get remarried. She finds it difficult to find a new husband because the young men in her ward do not want to forfeit their children or wife to the deceased husband. She is scorned and may never find a Temple worthy Mormon who is willing to marry her civilly. The Church refuses to cancel the sealing between Linda and Matt because it would revoke Matt of his right to exaltation that he earned. As a result the woman is grieved because she does not wish to harm her dead husband and still loves him. However, she is also longing to be married and wishes to start a family.
In this example you can see how this scenario would deeply harm young widows and young divorced women. It leaves them isolated and often rejected by faithful LDS men. They also do not have the same rights as men as the Church does not often grant a sealing to be cancelled at the request of the woman. This woman would still have the opportunity to reach the highest level of exaltation, but she may have trouble finding an earthly husband. I also want to note that if the young woman does remarry she is now involved in Church sanctioned and approved adultery as her marriage to Matt is still valid.
Tracy is a single woman who dies and never marries. She was a good and faithful Mormon and at the resurrection she will be given to a worthy Mormon man. If there are not enough single men in the Celestial Kingdom she will be given as a plural wife.
In this example, there is actually comfort for the single woman. However, the single woman also has to wrestle with the reality that she may be a plural wife one day.
I hope that these five examples show the many different ways in which eternal polygamy can take place. There are many Latter-day Saint women who live in constant fear that they will be a plural wife. Even in Pearson’s book many women shared how they would pray their husbands would die before them, or they would sin a little here and there intentionally so that they would not make it to the Celestial Kingdom with their husbands. If you want to read personal stories by Latter-day Saint men and women about how this doctrine affects them I would recommend Pearson’s book. Though I disagree with her solutions and her personal beliefs surrounding the LDS Church it really was a fascinating read.
And to my Latter-day Saint friend I hope you continue to read about what Jesus said on the subject of marriage and consider what I will present next with careful reflection and an open mind. If you are currently feeling surprised or shocked by what I have just expressed, I hope my upcoming words are a balm and comfort to your soul. I pray that you will receive my words and accept them with eagerness and humility. To my Christian friend, I hope this next section will be an encouragement to you and will lead you to rejoicing in the wisdom of God and his gospel message.
I want to end this blog post with an examination on the biblical doctrine of marriage and what Jesus said concerning this very issue.
Matthew 22:23-33 (KJV)
“23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.” (emphasis mine)
I want to point out specifically verse 30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” In the context of this situation the Sadducees were attempting to trick Jesus because they did not believe in the resurrection. From their vantage point, the woman would not be given in marriage at all because they rejected the possibility of people being raised from the dead. But, Jesus expressed very clearly that 1. There will be a resurrection and 2. That we (all people) will not be given into marriage after the resurrection has happened.
I write now specifically to those who are Latter-day Saints. You may be thinking back to D&C 132:15-17 which attempts to refute this passage by claiming that Jesus was referring to marriages that were only binding on earth since the people in this example were not sealed. This means that if a man and a woman are not sealed their marriage will not be binding for eternity and then they will become angels in the second level of the Celestial Kingdom and refused godhood.
I want to encourage you to go back to Matthew 22 and read the whole passage in context. I want you to look at the audience and the doctrine of marriage as taught by Jesus Christ. First, marriage sealings never occurred in the Temple. The Temple was only accessible to the Levite Priests and not the common people. So Jesus was not thinking about eternal marriage when he was speaking to the Sadducees because there is no concept or doctrine of eternal marriage anywhere in the Holy Bible. There was also zero practice of Temple sealings and this concept can not be found in any of the 613 laws contained in the Old Testament. And while LDS believers and Christians would agree that Polygamy is not permissible and marriage is between one man and one woman while on earth. Christianity leaves no room for the possibility of polygamous marriages in the Celestial Kingdom because there is no marriage after the resurrection according to Jesus and there is only one Kingdom according the Bible – Heaven, and only one place of damnation – Hell. There are not many levels of Heaven, and therefore there can not be people who live as angels as Jesus only taught two concepts during his earthly ministry – Heaven (singular) and Hell. The Bible also rejects the idea of becoming gods or angels. We are human beings made in the image of God, we will never be God. We will never be angels. Eternal marriage must be rejected, along with Mormonism as a whole because it rejects the word of God.
Please heed my words and consider the weight of what I am about to share. I have expressed a concept that has many moving parts. I want to point out the most alarming concept that can be found in the teaching of eternal marriage.
Dear friend, LDS.org teaches that marriage is a necessary law that must be kept and observed to make it to the highest degree of glory. If you reject the revelation in D&C 132 it promises only damnation.
I want you to reflect on the fact that you will never be good enough to make it to the Celestial glory. 2 Nephi 25:23 states that God’s grace is only sufficient after all you can do. Do you do your best? Do you keep the laws, and ordinances, and requirements of the Word of Wisdom without stumbling or failing? Do you keep the Ten Commandments? Do you still lie, or hate a brother? Did you know Jesus taught on the sermon on the mount that if you hate a brother you are guilty of murder? Did you know that in the very passage I have been focusing on (D&C 132) it states in verse 19b that if you are a murderer you will never make it to the highest degree of glory? Do you realize that according to Jesus we are all murderers? You are a law breaker, and you cannot keep the law according to the Ten Commandments – or even according to your own theology.
Friend, Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that you can never live, and he never married. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the full penalty for sin. He bore on his body the wrath of God and endured the punishment you deserve. On the third day Jesus Christ rose from the dead conquering sin and death and ascended into Heaven and now sits at the right hand of The Father. Jesus Christ is the only one who can reconcile you to God. You will never be enough, you will never do enough, and you can never make it to the Celestial Kingdom by your own striving and works.
So do not fret about the doctrine of eternal marriage. It is false, conjured up by a false prophet who did not fear God. You do not need to fear your premature death. You do not need to fear the possibility of your husband entering into a new marriage. You do not need to fear being in a polygamous marriage for all eternity. Why? Because Jesus Christ does not lie, and because if you believe in the gospel which I shared with you (this is the true gospel, the Restored Gospel is not truth) you will be justified (this means made right with God) and you will be forgiven of all your sins. Repent of your impossible gospel that is found in the LDS Church and turn to Jesus. Reject the doctrine of eternal marriage, and embrace biblical marriage between one man and one woman that ends at death. Experience and enjoy the free grace of God which is poured out richly on those who believe that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to save them. Consider my words. May the Lord grant you eyes to see, ears to hear, and may you be freed from the bondage of Mormon Doctrine. May you be freed from the horrors of eternal marriage.
Pearson’s solution was not a real solution and keeps a person in bondage. Jesus Christ and his gospel message frees a person from the penalty of sin, and the Bible offers a real solution. The solution is a rejection of eternal marriage, which leads to a rejection of the Mormon Church, which leads to true freedom in Christ when you accept the gospel.
To my Christian friends, please take a moment to pray for any Mormon who reads this blog post. Pray that the Lord will call His sheep and rescue them from deception.
If you are LDS and want to talk with me about Christianity vs Mormonism you are welcome to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook.
Grace and peace, Hannah Oliver
Hannah made a YouTube video as well covering the blog