In Defense of Polygamy

Polygamy gets a bad rap these days: It subjugates women; it creates a hostile environment for families; it is practiced by religious nut jobs; it is often associated with child marriages to older men. . . etc. All of this is utter nonsense.


Polygamy gets a bad rap these days: It subjugates women; it creates a hostile environment for families; it is practiced by religious nut jobs; it is often associated with child marriages to older men. . .

All of this is utter nonsense.

by Jacob Hodgen

The truth is that nothing could be more “traditional family values” than the practice of plural marriage. Polygamy, or more correctly, polygyny–the marriage of multiple women to one man–not only has a long and noble tradition throughout world history, but it is currently practiced in more countries than strict monogamy is. With all the recent talk in Utah of getting back to America’s Christian roots, there is really only one defensible position on polygamy, and everyone is in agreement.

Polygamy Porter
Polygamy Porter by Wastach Brewery asks the timeless question: “Why Have Just One?”

Strange Bedfellows: Support for polygamy is bipartisan and growing

Whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, you can rest assured that plural marriage is based on the firm foundation of written scripture and has the full approval of God. Ancient king-prophets such as the Biblical patriarch Jacob, Islamic founder Mohamed, and the god Vishnu all famously had numerous wives.

Polygamy is not at all about sexual gratification but is viewed as a convenient and pragmatic approach to raising a family by the faithful. In Malaysia, for example, the national Islamic Party calls for men to generously practice polygamous marriage with single mothers instead o f just exclusively with “young virgin girls.”

Some modern philosophers, such as Friedrich Engels, believed that monogamy is oppressive. Considering contemporary divorce and infidelity rates, numerous scientists have also concluded that only having one sexual partner is highly unnatural.

bedouin women
Bedoiun tribeswomen know that God wants them to live up to their full potential by being one of many wives to a righteous man

On the Left, even the ACLU has supported polygamy. “Talking to Utah’s polygamists is like talking to gays and lesbians who really want the right to live their lives, and not live in fear because of whom they love,” said Utah director Stephen Clark. “So certainly that kind of privacy expectation is something the ACLU is committed to protecting.”

The far Right also agrees: Utah’s Libertarian candidate for Governor, Andrew McCullough, supports the decriminalization of both bigamy and gay marriage.

Even local celebrity and polygamy expose author Dorothy Allred Solomon, the 28th of 48 children in a fundamentalist household, still endorses plural marriage. Though her father was murdered by a rival polygamist and she has since converted to the mainstream LDS faith, she says, “I think it’s wonderful that women get to stay home and raise their children. Polygamy was a good thing while it lasted and did what it was designed to do. Today we have the fastest-growing American religion on the planet.”

Mormonism: Big on historically traditional family values

Though Emma Smith fervently denied it and most Mormons won’t talk about it, even Joseph Smith was a highly successful polygamist. In the award-winning book In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, scholar and historian Dr. Todd Compton meticulously documents how the founder of the Latter Day Saint religion had in fact as many as 33 wives, though most of these marriages were kept secret from the public. In fact, Compton book chronicles how Joseph’s covert second marriage to 16-year old neighbor Fanny Alger was so secret that his first wife Emma did not know about until she saw them together and threw her out the house. Joseph’s sudden and secret polygamy, though well within Biblical precedent, contributed to Emma’s infamous apostasy later in life.

Brigham young wives
Just ask Brigham Young: traditional family values sure aren’t what they used to be. (Don’t tell California)

Is this news to you? Dr. Compton is an active and respected member of the LDS faith. Consider the monogamy of Joseph Smith a myth that has been totally busted by Mormons and Gentiles alike.

Utah’s most famous polygamous practitioner, of course, was an unusually maritally prolific icon of local history: Brigham Young.

While Latter Day Saints tend to pride themselves with their genealogical record keeping, Young’s wives had trouble staying on the records for some strange  reason. Modern scholars indicate the tally is now at 55 Contrary to the bizarre myth that polygamy was reserved for widows, only 21 of Young’s wives had never married before; 6 even had living spouses. Most of the marriages were indeed consummated, and about one half of the brides were around half his age or less at the time of the marriage.

Considering the ubiquitous nature of polygamy through history and the clear documentation of its practice by revered religious leaders, it seems odd that modern Christians, especially Mormons, are so shy about their history and frequently cover it up with a clearly mythological monogamistic mindset.  Besides, political maneuvering aside, mainstream Mormonism still preaches that polygamy will be practiced in heaven, so the faithful had better start warming back up to it!

mormon polygamy
Top:  Brave Mormon polygamists serving their time at the Sugar House state jail in days of yore. Bottom: New century; same crazy shenanigans!

Even Mark Twain, who said he wanted to see the LDS church “extirpated” and called the Book of Mormon “chloroform in print,” felt a sense of awe and wonder when he traveled to Utah in the 1870’s and met a polygamist family first hand.  He described the encounter in his autobiography Roughing It:

Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter. I had the will to do it.  With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here – until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, “No – the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure – and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.”

With compelling arguments like these, religion and scripture on your side, ladies, how could one possibly say no?

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