Sister Wives: Are They Mormon?

Oct 20, 2010 by

~by Brenda

We continue to get this question on our website: “Are the people on the new reality TV show “Sister Wives” Mormon?”


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not practiced polygamy (sometimes called plural marriage) for over 100 years. When our church stopped practicing polygamy a century ago, several churches splintered off of the mainstream Mormon or LDS church to continue practicing polygamy. These splinter religions believed (and continue to believe) that practicing polygamy is living a higher law, similar in a way to how Catholic Priests practice celibacy. But practicing polygamists do not belong to the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has over 13 million members worldwide.  If any members of our faith are found to be practicing polygamy they are excommunicated from our religion.

I believe that God’s current and most prevalent command is for marriage to be between one man and one woman. That being said, as I think about my polygamist ancestors, I do understand that God has asked faithful people at all times in human history to do hard things to fulfill His own purposes. The Bible is full of examples of faith-trying experiences: Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and sat in prison for avoiding adultery, Leah felt hated by her husband Jacob because of her father’s deception, Noah was asked to build an enormous ark and fill it to the brim with animals while people mocked him, and so on and so forth. I am glad that I have not been asked to build an ark or prove my faith in a lion’s den. I can feel gratitude for my polygamist ancestors for sacrificing so much without desiring the lifestyle for myself.

We as members of the mainstream Mormon church acknowledge that polygamy is part of our past. But our commitment to obey the laws of the land, our support of the definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman, the belief that a prophet of God ended polygamy more than a century ago, and our belief that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of God today all draw a line in the sand between the mainstream Mormon church and any polygamist offshoots such as the family portrayed in “Sister Wives.”


  1. Thanks for this post.

    A couple of other points come to mind.

    – Part of the mainstream Mormon notion of believing that marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God is also that only in a legal and lawful marriage are sexual relations sanctioned by God. Any relations outside of a marriage between a man and woman are a violation of the law of chastity.

    – In addition, in places where polygamy might be legal, people still cannot be in a polygamous marriage and be members of the Church, so there is more to chastity in the Mormon faith than just a legalized relationship.

    In short, the law of chastity is an important element of our doctrine that is clearly different from the faith that the “Sister Wives” family or other plural families practice.

  2. Jenna

    Okay, did whoever wrote this article seriously compare a Catholic Priest practicing celebacy to a person practicing polygamy as both aspiring to a higher law….seriously….I am Catholic and I can assure you that NOTHING is even similar about the two. Good grief…

  3. mormonwomen

    Jenna, I can’t speak for Brenda, but to me she was *not* suggesting that a Catholic priest’s celibacy is a similar lifestyle to polygamy or that the respective religious traditions would see such lifestyels as comparable within their moral frameworks. I hear her saying that within some different religious frameworks, there are “higher law” behaviors that are held in high regard. So, Catholic priests are highly regarded for their commitment to remain celibate (correct if I’m wrong there — this is what I have been told by a Catholic friend). Within the FLDS religion (which, again, should not be confused with LDS/Mormon perspective), living polygamy is believed to be a higher standard than monogamous marriage.

    But again, I would not confuse that with suggesting that polygamy and celibacy are similar as a lifestyle per se, or that we would expect Catholics to look on polygamy with positive regard as they might celibacy (or vice versa).

    I’m very sorry that this was offensive to you. That was definitely not our intention. Apologies for any misunderstanding.

  4. mormonwomen

    p.s. I just tried to send you an email just in case you didn’t have the chance to see this, but your email address was not valid.


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