Plural marriage is in the news again thanks to the Church’s new Gospel Topics essays. National news organizations have picked up the story and the Church responded with a note of clarification from the Newsroom. The basic idea is this: some news outlets are reporting this as though the Church was somehow denying that Joseph Smith instituted or practiced polygamy. I can’t recall when I first learned that Joseph instituted and practiced polygamy, but it was sometime before my mission. As Kristine just wrote about, some church members, even life-longers, report that they never heard about it, and the new essays come as a surprise to them. It’s worth taking a look at the Church’s handling of polygamy in its official materials to get a sense of why some members never knew about Joseph’s polygamy until this week.
If you don’t have time to read the whole post, let me summarize first:
The Church has not removed all information regarding plural marriage and Joseph Smith’s involvement from its manuals. At the same time, polygamy has clearly not played a prominent role in official LDS literature, sermons, and lessons. It has been discussed much more in “unofficial” writing including Dialogue and even BYU Studies, which has published a few articles about plural marriage over the past few decades, as have other non-official LDS publications such as Sunstone, the Journal of Mormon History, Utah Historical Quarterly, etc. Many active members of the Church do not have a full grasp of polygamy, the extent to which it was practiced, how it began, the sacrifices involved, and the reasons participants themselves—actual women and men—gave for living “the principle.” The new essays are not a new “admission” by the LDS Church as to the existence of polygamy pre-Brigham Young. They are the culmination of a number of historical studies and initiatives by historians who were sometimes seen as enemies of the Church, and now a new effort on the part of the Church to be more transparent when dealing with LDS history.
Now that the conclusion is out of the way, let’s look at the details.
First, let’s back up a few years to the last time polygamy was a hot national news item. The year is 2008. The FLDS practice of polygamy has become an issue of national concern during the Warren Jeffs trial and the invasion of the YFZ Ranch in Texas. The LDS Church used its publicity arm to affirm it no longer practices plural marriage.1 The LDS Public Affairs channel on YouTube posted three videos declaring the Church no longer practices polygamy and that it is not associated with the FLDS church or any other polygamy groups. The LDS newsroom published a package of information and videos to clarify the Church’s role in the FLDS case and in polygamy in general. Included were videos of “Texas Mormons,” to differentiate them from the polygamists seen on television with floor and wrist-length dresses and dusty ranch streets. A few days later another statement declared the name “Mormon” shouldn’t be applied to the FLDS. Then a new website was launched, mormonsandpolygamy.org, with quick answers to questions on polygamy. The approach aimed to disassociate the Church from contemporary polygamy rather than to clarify polygamy’s role in the LDS past. Thus, Joseph Smith is not expressly mentioned as having practiced plural marriage, though it is implied. For example, one press release said:
As an illustration of the lack of proportion in this situation, in a 9 July article by the AP, one scholar who objected to the Church’s efforts to define itself said that Joseph Smith, were he alive today, would be excommunicated by the Church because he practiced polygamy. Hypothetical conjectures of this sort never work in serious discussions.
Another approaches it, but does not explicitly state “Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage.”
The practice began during the lifetime of Joseph Smith…In 1831, [Smith] made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle.
The common points of each statement, video, or press release includes mention that the LDS Church discontinued the practice in 1890, that it differed in many ways from current groups, that current Mormons are excommunicated if trying to practice, and that there are over 12 million Mormons around the world not practicing polygamy compared to the small splinter groups who are.
Compared with the Church’s recent Gospel Topics essays, the polygamy website and press releases did not fully address plural marriage in LDS history. In a USA Today article, Kathleen Flake said “The biggest challenge facing the LDS church is not distinguishing their present from the fundamentalist present, but getting people to understand the difference between their past and the current practice of the fundamentalist groups. This initiative, I believe, is their first attempt to do that.”
In order to truly differentiate the past from present, the past must be better clarified. Let’s look now at books and manuals that discuss plural marriage in order to get a better idea of how members of the Church might grow up in the church and still not know about Joseph’s involvement in polygamy.
A single and thorough historical book on plural marriage in the Church would greatly benefit all, not only alleviating confusion among non-Mormons, but also helping Latter-day Saints better understand the past practice of plural marriage in their religious heritage. Something like Turley, Walker, and Allen’s quasi-official book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Even Mormons who are aware of the Joseph’s practicing plural marriage still tend to perpetuate errors about the reasons for the practice, including the implication that there were more women than men at the time, or that Mormon widows simply needed help in crossing the plains. Hopefully, the new Gospel Topics essays can help more people understand that these and other assumptions are flawed (that the practiced ceased in 1890, for instance).
No contemporary official LDS book thoroughly explores plural marriage. General history books discussing plural marriage include James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (1976), and Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience (1979), but they do not go into much detail nor were they given the Church’s official stamp of approval. At least three books focused specifically on polygamy have been available through Deseret Book, however, though two of them no longer are. A few are cited in the new Gospel Topics essays. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton is an example. Another book is Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery. Neither are currently carried by Deseret Book. A third book, Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, is not a dedicated study of plural marriage, but is a biography of Joseph Smith which explicitly deals with his instituting and practicing plural marriage. Bushman has since said there are aspects of his coverage of plural marriage he would adjust now.
Another semi-recent book discussing plural marriage is The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle by Kathleen Flake. It explores the “Mormon compromise” wherein the Church disavowed polygamy in the early 20th century. Elder Dallin H. Oaks lauded the book as the “best thing ever written” on the subject of the transition between the pre- and post-polygamy Church:
“I have to say I’ve been a lifetime student and writer of Mormon legal history, at least. I learned many, many things in her book that I didn’t know. She captured it very, very well, and was able to stress also what remained unimpaired by the compromise Other books have been published, but not in a way that would grab the awareness of the average Mormon.”2
Like the other books, this one is not sold at Deseret Book. In short: most of the more specific histories of polygamy are not for sale at the most popular LDS book outlet. Perhaps if Deseret Book expanded its offerings to include more contemporary and responsible academic scholarship on Mormonism they could help get more members up to date in Church history. There is certainly an audience demand for such books. Look at the success of the Mountain Meadows Massacre book, for instance.
A more “mainstream” (as in, sold at Deseret Book) example of a work devoted strictly to polygamy is Setting the Record Straight: Mormons and Polygamy by Jessie L. Embry. It is a brief look into plural marriage including historical data on the practice, and that Joseph Smith initiated it. I do not know if the book covers polyandry.3 Deseret Book also carries the three-volume history of polygamy in the church by Brian Hales and published by Greg Kofford Books, although it may only be available through their online catalog or by special order in most stores. Hales’s books are also cited in the new Gospel Topics essays. This is the most comprehensive work on Mormon polygamy published to date and carried by Deseret Book. As with all such books, interpretations of historical data can vary. Hales provides a good discussion of the overall story even where his interpretation is contestable. He has a website on the topic as well, http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/.
Then there is Gerald Lund’s extremely popular fictionalized history of the Church, The Work and the Glory, which discusses Joseph Smith and plural marriage. This may very well be the place I first learned about polygamy when I read the series at age 16. As the cover synopsis of volume 6 says:
…whisperings reach the ears of some of the Steeds about curious teachings and practices going on in Nauvoo — specifically it is rumored that God may have restored the ancient practice of plural marriage. How will they respond when they find out that at least some of the rumors are true? The issue becomes a trial of faith that shakes the Steed family to its very roots.
The quasi-official Encyclopedia of Mormonism published in the early 1990s has a full entry on plural marriage in addition to other references in various biographical entries. The plural marriage entry says, among other things,
Joseph Smith told Brigham Young that he was determined to press ahead though it would cost him his life, for ‘it is the work of God, and He has revealed this principle, and it is not my business to control or dictate it’ (Brigham Young Discourse, Oct. 8, 1866, Church Archives).4
So much for books.
As pertaining to official LDS publications that state Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage, I have compiled a brief list of several sources. The LDS Church hasn’t excluded information about plural marriage from all its manuals, but you have to dig. The earliest published mention of plural marriage in the Church was likely Jacob 2:27-30 in the Book of Mormon. This clearly did not “rule out” plural marriage; rather, it taught that it could happen only and if God commanded. The current Book of Mormon Sunday School manual discusses polygamy in the “Additional Teaching Ideas” section for the lesson on Jacob 1-4:
Jacob condemns the unauthorized practice of plural marriage…The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 324). Explain that the Lord gave such direction (see D&C 132), but He later withdrew His sanction of plural marriage when conditions changed (see Official Declaration 1). Emphasize that the law of the Lord regarding marriage today is the same as it was in Jacob’s day.5
At least since 1852 the Church has publicly stated and printed that Joseph Smith instituted and practiced plural marriage. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants had an “Article on Marriage” that denied the Church practiced polygamy. It was taken out in the 1876 edition and replaced by Section 132. This section states that other wives had been “given” to Joseph Smith:
And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God (see D&C 132:52).
The D&C heading of the 1979 edition directed readers to the fifth volume of the History of the Church where plural marriage is clearly discussed (HC 5: 501–507). B.H. Roberts explicitly discussed plural marriage and Joseph Smith in his Comprehensive History of the Church, which was originally published between 1909 and 1915 in the periodical Americana as The History of The Mormon Church, published in 6 volumes in 1930. The new D&C heading for this section does away with the HC reference and just says the revelation teaches the “principle of plural marriage.”
The CES manual for D&C (as of 2008) clearly states Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage. For example, it quotes Wilford Woodruff as follows:
“I bear record before God, angels and men that Joseph Smith received that revelation, and I bear record that Emma Smith gave her husband in marriage to several women while he was living, some of whom are to-day living in this city, and some may be present in this congregation, and who, if called upon, would confirm my words” (In Journal of Discourses, 23:131).6
The CES manual Church History In the Fulness of Times also states that JS practiced plural marriage, naming at least one of the wives, and noting the difficulty in tracking them all due to the records available:
Moreover, Joseph Smith and the Church were to accept the principle of plural marriage as part of the restoration of all things (see v. 45). Accustomed to conventional marriage patterns, the Prophet was at first understandably reluctant to engage in this new practice. Due to a lack of historical documentation, we do not know what his early attempts were to comply with the commandment in Ohio. His first recorded plural marriage in Nauvoo was to Louisa Beaman; it was performed by Bishop Joseph B. Noble on 5 April 1841.12 During the next three years Joseph took additional plural wives in accordance with the Lord’s commands.7
In the official Sunday School D&C manual we read a short note:
In this dispensation, the Lord commanded some of the early Saints to practice plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith and those closest to him, including Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, were challenged by this command, but they obeyed it. Church leaders regulated the practice.8
In 2008 on LDS.org, the “search” feature would yield the “Gospel Topics” section as the first result for the term “polygamy.” It also explained that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage:
After God revealed the doctrine of plural marriage to Joseph Smith in 1831 and commanded him to live it, the Prophet, over a period of years, cautiously taught the doctrine to some close associates. Eventually, he and a small number of Church leaders entered into plural marriages in the early years of the Church (see LDS.org, Gospel Topics, “Polygamy“).
The new essays provide a much-expanded update.
Thus far we have seen very nondescript mentions of plural marriage, but the basic fact of it is included in many official Church publications. The Priesthood/Relief Society manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith includes a statement in the introduction hinting at one reason for the limited plural marriage material: the manual is designed for contemporary Latter-day Saints. Official curriculum materials state the primary mission of teaching principles that are relevant to the lives of modern members, thus assuming the historical practice of plural marriage is not relevant. The Joseph Smith manual explains:
This book deals with teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that have application to our day….This book also does not discuss plural marriage. The doctrines and principles relating to plural marriage were revealed to Joseph Smith as early as 1831. The Prophet taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and a number of such marriages were performed during his lifetime…The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices plural marriage.9
This is a slightly different approach than was used in the earlier Brigham Young volume of the series, which excised the word “wives” for “wife” in a chapter in which Brigham is discussing wives in general, not his own plural wives. Standard procedure was followed in that editors employed brackets to identify the change. Nevertheless, other than mentioning his first wife who passed away and his second wife, the Brigham book does not discuss plural marriages. This led to some publicity about the Church trying to hide the past. The next book in the series, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, contained a disclaimer:
This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles as taught by President Joseph F. Smith. However, in order to put the teachings in a historical framework, the following list is provided to summarize some of the milestones in his life that have most immediate relationship to his teachings. This summary omits some important events in his personal life, including his marriages (plural marriage was being practiced in the Church at that time) and the births and deaths of his children, to whom he was devoted.10
The John Taylor edition of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church talks briefly about struggles over the legality of plural marriage. The timeline offers the following:
1882- United States Congress passes the Edmunds bill, making plural marriage a felony and prohibiting polygamists from voting, holding public office, or performing jury duty.
1885- Receives word during a visit to California that federal officials have ordered his arrest for practicing polygamy.11
The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual on Wilford Woodruff contains the most information on plural marriage of the series. Woodruff issued the “manifesto” declaring an end to the practice, which is treated in his historical timeline.12 The historical overview chapter, “The Life and Ministry of Wilford Woodruff,” contains this description under the heading “Issuing the Manifesto”:
Strengthened by the Lord’s guiding hand, President Woodruff led the Latter-day Saints through one of the most turbulent times in this dispensation. In the late 1880s the Church continued to practice plural marriage in obedience to the Lord’s command to the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, the United States government had recently passed laws against the practice, with severe penalties for the violation of those laws, including confiscation of Church property and denial of Church members’ basic civil rights, such as the right to vote. These developments also opened legal channels for the prosecution of Latter-day Saints who were practicing plural marriage. The Church made legal appeals, but to no avail.
These circumstances weighed heavily on President Woodruff. He sought the will of the Lord on the matter and eventually received a revelation that Latter-day Saints should cease the practice of entering into plural marriage. Obeying the Lord’s command, he issued what came to be known as the Manifesto—an inspired statement that remains the basis of the Church’s stance on the subject of plural marriage. In this public declaration, dated September 24, 1890, he stated his intention to submit to the laws of the land. He also testified that the Church had ceased teaching the practice of plural marriage. On October 6, 1890, in a session of general conference, the Latter-day Saints sustained their prophet’s declaration, unanimously supporting a statement that he was “fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto.”13
From these examples it may seem surprising that someone who regularly attended Church or Institute or who has read the Doctrine and Covenants, would be unfamiliar with Joseph Smith practicing plural marriage. Still, there are examples of Church books which state that plural marriage was instituted in the Church without explicitly mentioning that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage. Plural marriage does not play a large role in current LDS teachings. It’s an uncomfortable subject for many. Some teachers may choose to skip over it, and it doesn’t occur frequently or as the central focus in LDS lesson manuals as I outlined above.
The Church is more apt instead to distance itself from the contemporary groups practicing polygamy. For example, see the topic as discussed in the book Our Heritage:
The Prophet prayed for understanding and learned that at certain times, for specific purposes, following divinely given laws, plural marriage was approved and directed by God. Joseph Smith also learned that with divine approval, some Latter-day Saints would soon be chosen by priesthood authority to marry more than one wife. A number of Latter-day Saints practiced plural marriage in Nauvoo, but a public announcement of this doctrine and practice was not made until the August 1852 general conference in Salt Lake City.14
The small book True to the Faith does not mention polygamy, but rather presents a simple account of LDS teachings and how they apply to members today.15 Likewise with the Gospel Principles manual.16 The missionary manual Preach My Gospel only mentions plural marriage once in the section titled “Use the Book of Mormon to Respond to Objections”:
Many people will not believe everything you teach. President Ezra Taft Benson taught how the Book of Mormon can be the central resource in handling objections to the Church: “…All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation…”17
Also, in the old Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Guide it briefly says:
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded the practice of plural marriage in the early days of the Church.18
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is silent on the issue of plural marriage. It states that “families [are to] to be united eternally,” that “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife,” and that “the family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.“19 Ambiguity remains when it comes to current LDS sealing policies. A man may be sealed to more than one women (given that the first wife is deceased, or I believe, civilly divorced from the man) but a woman cannot be sealed to more than one man (or has this changed?). Technically, then, if one takes into account post-mortality marriage, polygamy still occurs in the Church in that regard. Whether these marriages will be honored (or remain unamended throughout eternity) the Church has no current official position.
General conference talks (especially as of 2008) only mention plural marriage in passing, almost invariably in the tone of forbidding or denying current practice. Three such examples come from President Spencer W. Kimball, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and Elder M. Russell Ballard.
President Kimball’s 1974 address stated:
We warn you against the so-called polygamy cults which would lead you astray. Remember the Lord brought an end to this program many decades ago through a prophet who proclaimed the revelation to the world.20
President Gordon B. Hinckley discussed polygamy in his 1998 General Conference address after appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live. His talk included some questions King asked, and his answers. In regards to “What is the Church’s position on polygamy?” he said:
I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.21
Finally, and most recently, Elder M. Russell Ballard mentioned plural marriage in conference without addressing many historical details:
…simple statements are helpful to someone who is uninformed but curious about the importance we place on families…as the basic unit of the Church and of society. We have a deep commitment to marriage (defined as a union between one man and one woman). Polygamy, a limited practice in the early pioneer days of the Church, was discontinued in 1890, some 117 years ago.22
I stopped keeping track of this issue back in 2008. I’ve heard that new Seminary manuals talk more directly about plural marriage. I have not investigated the contents of the recent Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals with this subject in mind, but it seems all of the recent books deal with post-polygamy leaders. I have not covered all of the discussions of marriage or Joseph Smith or Emma Smith, etc., which do not talk about polygamy (videos, etc.) because they far outnumber the instances which do. That disparity in volume and attention helps account for the surprise felt by some members of the Church in response to the new Gospel Topics essays.
In other words, it seems reasonable based on this overview to say that plural marriage does not play a large part in contemporary LDS teachings or in official meetings and publications, further than explaining that it was once practiced in the Church. The Church is a world-wide organization with converts from many countries, and the Church’s familial norms no longer support polygamy (except for the big question of post-mortal polygamy, which remains largely unaddressed). This helps explain why so many Mormons say they didn’t learn about Joseph practicing polygamy until now, and there may be many who still don’t know.
It also seems reasonable that some people would like more specific Church-released materials which deal with plural marriage. Perhaps a comprehensive, academic, rigorous, and thorough study on its implementation, practice, and cessation, would do much to clear the air on the Church’s standpoint regarding plural marriage. The new Gospel Topics essays are a huge and unprecedented step in this direction.23 These essays can give average members, media personnel, Sunday school, seminary, and institute teachers a reference point to start from. We’re currently seeing a trend in Church scholarship that seems more willing than the recent past to confront this difficult issue which still flies in the face of our moral sensibilities. This doesn’t mean the Church has denied that Joseph was a polygamist in the past, but that it hasn’t been emphasized.
Finally, it seems reasonable to say that the issue for many disaffected Latter-day Saints has more to do with feeling betrayed or lied to by the Church on this issue due to the Church’s downplaying of polygamy than with being upset about the actual historical fact that Joseph Smith had more than one wife. As this post demonstrates, the Church has included information on plural marriage in many contemporary official Church publications, but on a limited scale.
1. See the USA Today article, “Mormons launch campaign to put distance between themselves and polygamists,” By Eric Gorski, Associated Press, posted 6/26/2008. This blog post is a revision of a post I wrote back in 2008 on my old blog, LifeOnGoldPlates.
2. See “Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary,” LDS.org Newsroom, July 20, 2007. Possibly some of the other works that wouldn’t grab the attention of the average Mormon, and are not found in most LDS bookstores, include Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage and Doing The Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice, and Demise, each by B. Carmon Hardy, Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard S. Van Wagoner, and Kathryn Daynes’s, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System 1840-1910. George D. Smith of Signature Books published Nauvoo Polygamy: “…but we called it celestial marriage” in 2008, which was unfavorably reviewed by Greg Smith, “George D. Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamy,” FARMS Review, 20:2, pp. 37-123. Finally, Martha Sonntag Bradley has written a very useful bibliographic essay, “Out of the Closet and Into the Fire: The New Mormon Historians Take on Polygamy,” available in Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century, from Kofford Books.
3. Polyandry involved the sealing of Joseph Smith to women who were already married to living men. It was explored in Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling as well as Emma Smith: Mormon Enigma and Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness. Polyandry is also discussed on the FAIR website, which is not officially affiliated with the LDS Church. See Sam Kaitch, “A Tale of Two Marriage Systems: Perspectives on Polyandry and Joseph Smith,” and Allen
Wyatt’s “Zina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young,” (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR,
2006 FAIR Conference). The Journal of Discourses also contains declarations of Joseph Smith’s plural marriage, and even proposals to other married women. It is accessible online and on GospelLink.
5. Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teachers Manual (1999), “Lesson 12: Seek Ye for the Kingdom of God,” p. 51-55.
10. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, (Salt Lake City:Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 1998), “Historical Summary,” viii. A similar but more ambiguous statement was included in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant: “This book is not a history, but rather a compilation of gospel principles as taught by President Heber J. Grant. The following chronology provides a brief historical framework for these teachings. It omits significant events in secular history, such as wars and worldwide economic crises. It also omits many important events in President Grant’s personal life, such as his marriages and the births and deaths of his children,” Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, (Salt Lake City:Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2002), “Historical Summary,” viii).
11. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, (Salt Lake City:Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2004), “Historical Summary,” vii. The next chapter, “The Life and Ministry of John Taylor,” provides a little more information on these incidents, though Taylor’s wives and number of marriages are not listed.
12. The time line lists the passing of the Edmunds Act making plural marriage a felony. Two more dates are noted: 24 September 1890, “Having received a revelation from the Lord, issues a declaration stating that the Latter-day Saints should cease the practice of entering into plural marriage”; 6 October 1890, “Members of the Church attending general conference unanimously sustain the revelation President Woodruff received regarding plural marriage,” “Historical Summary,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, (Salt Lake City:Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2004), x.
13. “The Life and Ministry of Wilford Woodruff,” in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, xv. Post-manifesto plural marriages and the excommunication of apostles who dissented from that decision is not discussed.
16. Gospel Principles, see especially “Section Eight: Family Salvation,” with no mention of plural marriage. Thus, the main training book of new converts does not delve into more difficult aspects of LDS history.
17. Preach My Gospel, p. 108. [.pdf] Directing people to the Book of Mormon regarding the issue of plural marriage might actually create confusion, as it approves of the practice if instituted by God.
18. Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Guide, p. 150. The rest of the material deals with marriage as practiced today in the Church.
23. For example, the end of plural marriage was often presented as “officially” occurring in 1890 with Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto. Technically, this official end is accurate, as the official Church disclaimed the practice, but historical records indicate that, just as the beginning of plural marriage was slow and roughly documented, so was the cessation. See D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904.” Dialogue 18 (1) Spring 1985: 9-105, and Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1996). Also, further exploration of polyandrous marriages (being sealed to an already-married woman) would be useful. See Andrea G. Radke, Ph.D. “The Place of Mormon Women: Perceptions, Prozac, Polygamy, Priesthood, Patriarchy, and Peace,” 2004 FAIR Conference. The new Gospel Topics essays directly explain post-manifesto polygamy.