Polygamy and Mormonism

Although in popular culture, Mormonism is often associated with polygmany, its largest denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, does not support polygamy. Some other Mormon sects do however promote polygmany. In recent years in Utah, the main stronghold of the Mormon religion, there have been numerous high profile cases of prosecution of polygamists.

Although the practice of polygamy is not an active doctrine in most Mormon circles today, it set Mormons apart from the rest of the United States during the 19th century. There are accounts indicating that Joseph Smith himself had 27 wives, though he publicly denied this many times. Because of his denials, many of the splinter groups headquartered in the eastern and southern states do not believe Joseph Smith ever taught the practice. If they do acknowledge polygamy as a teaching of Joseph Smith, they claim that it was a sin on Smith's part and was not a true principle given from God. These groups do not believe many of the doctrines taught by Smith in the last few years of his life, claiming that he had fallen away from the truth.

It was Brigham Young (with 56 wives) who, in 1852, first gave polygamy the push to become a semi-regular practice within the LDS Church in Utah. After a series of legal decisions made by the United States government toward the late 1800's, the church issued an official declaration to end the practice of polygamy. The practice continued for several years in Canada and Mexico, but gradually came to an end. Today, members of the LDS Church are excommunicated if they are found to be practicing polygamy. There are several splinter groups in Utah who encourage the practice of polygamy while sharing many beliefs and doctrines with the LDS Church.



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