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.”