By Elizabeth Prata
Yesterday I wrote about polygamy in the Bible. God does not accept polygamy as an appropriate marital configuration. His standard is seen in Genesis 2:24, where he brought one man to one woman and made them as one flesh for life.
This standard is emphasized both positively and negatively throughout the Bible. In the New Testament Jesus re-taught that standard, quoting the Old Testament. The negative examples of what happens to a family when they stray from it is clearly seen whenever polygamy is practiced. Abraham, Solomon, David, Elkanah, Jacob, and others suffered terribly whenever it’s shown they took on plural wives or concubines.
Despite that, there are religions that practice polygamy, which is one person married to multiple other spouses. Usually it’s the man who has many wives, which is technically called polygyny. We rarely see a culture that adopts polyandry, which is women taking on multiple husbands.
There is one cult that claims the God of the Bible and practices polygamy. That cult is Mormonism, or as they refer to themselves, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Many of their historical elders were polygamists, usually in secret, from almost the start of the founding of the cult. Founder Joseph Smith claimed to have had a revelation from Jesus to take plural wives. (Source). Smith did so, and taught the practice to close associates. In public however, they denied the existence of polygamy for a few of those beginning years. One wonders why, if this teaching truly was from God – who is good, holy, and pure – it needed to be a secret…
In fact, the Mormons’ 1835 founding and guiding document, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), banned polygamy and said that monogamy was the only acceptable form of marriage. But men continued to take plural wives, and the practice spread. In 1852 polygamy was announced publicly and finally published in the 1876 version of the LDS Church’s Doctrine and Covenants, the practice became openly public. This caused much controversy between the LDS church and the United States government, which vehemently opposed the practice. Mormons called it having ‘spiritual wives’ or “plural marriage.” The government called it polygamy and against the law.
Recently the LDS church posted documents on their website admitting their early history was rife with “plural marriages”. Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives, the youngest of age 14.
Where do Mormons get that polygamy is biblical? First, this is their reasoning, aside from basing legitimacy on the alleged extra-biblical, direct revelation Joseph Smith allegedly received, Smith then wrote down the revelation and codified it into the documents they vault to equal stature as scripture, for example, their Doctrine & Covenants 132:34 says that God commanded polygamy.
34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. 35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
So, a direct command via revelation, plus an argument from silence. Their argument from silence explains that when Abraham took wives and concubines, since there was no explicit condemnation from God for doing that, it must be OK.
Further, they say that since the Prophet (Smith) was told to do it, and there was NO condemnation to Abraham for taking multiple wives, and further proof of the practice’s acceptability is that he was blessed with children. They say in paragraph 37, “Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him,“.
Fourth, they say that when there is an apparent contradiction between what the LORD had said before in scripture, and the instructions now, obedience is key. The D & C use the example in 132:36 that God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. We know the 5th Commandment says Thou Shalt Not Kill. It is interpreted that Abraham’s obedience to the voice of God commanding him to kill Isaac even though the Commandments forbid it, was accounted to him as righteousness. Similarly was Abraham’s acceptance of plural wives despite an apparent contradiction in Genesis 2:24, and that also was accounted. This interpretation is taught at the churchofjesuschrist.org, the legitimate Mormon website. We read, “It is important to remember that if God were to command His people to do something contrary to current commandments, such direction would come through His living prophet.” So, essentially the living prophet designated by the Mormons as the one to receive revelation, could say anything, claim it was “God told me”, and the Mormons would have to obey. This is so dangerous.
Yet scripture is clear that marriage is one man and one woman. We also read that, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8). And to watch out, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds“. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
We see how easy it is for satan to twist the scriptures. All the most famous false teachers and false prophets we read about in the Bible or hear about in the news, start off with a hefty blend of truth mixed in with lies. That proportion changes as the false prophet’s following grows. His teachings become less truth and more lies. By then, people are hooked, as the frogs in ever-warming water, perhaps not noticing the drift from sacred scripture. Satan deceived Eve simply by insinuations and questions. The Judaizers made sense to the confused Jews coming out of the old covenant and emerging into the new. Cults always begin with truth and lies mixed, expertly proportioned so as to make sense to the people the false teacher or false prophet is trying to deceive.
Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:14-18,
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found spotless and blameless by Him, at peace, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which there are some things that are hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unscrupulous people and lose your own firm commitment, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
From this we learn that:
1. Some biblical concepts are hard to understand,
2. We must be diligent to interpret correctly so as to understand according to the Spirit and not to the flesh,
3. There are unscrupulous teachers coming in the name of Christ. The word unscrupulous means lawless, licentious, and unrestrained,
4. Scripture can be distorted.
Whenever a ‘biblical’ teaching appeals to the flesh, it’s false. And who is unstable? The double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:8). Again, if a teaching appeals to the flesh, it is false.
The beauty of the institute of marriage is that it’s a picture of Jesus and His Bride (the Church). The Church global is one body, (not plural bodies) whom Jesus gave His life for and will be presented to Him by His Father, Yahweh at the heavenly supper as spotless. Marriage is supposed to be instructive to us, where the man is head of the house, women are to submit to His leadership, He is to love his wife even unto death, and as a unit of one man and one woman, go forth to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus while striving for holiness. Just as it was intended in the Garden by God for Adam and Eve.