We get versions of this question quite regularly at our site, and we’ve addressed the topic of polygamy here before, but between the recent Pew Forum survey results and the fact that Warren Jeffs and the FLDS polygamy/marriage lifestyle recently in the headlines, I figured it was worth addressing again.
As a recent Deseret News article notes (“Mormons say polygamy morally wrong, Pew poll shows“), Mormonism and polygamy are often linked together. Polygamy is, in fact, often the subject of jokes about Mormons, “as though Mormons and polygamy are synonymous in mainstream media.”
But, as the article points out,
Ironically, the practice that’s most linked to Mormons is a practice most Mormons oppose, according to a groundbreaking new study of Mormons in America released Thursday by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Over 1,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were recently polled in this Pew survey, and only 2% of the Mormons surveyed said that they felt polygamy was morally acceptable. 86% of them said they felt that polygamy was morally wrong, and 11% felt polygamy was not a moral issue.
But then why is Mormonism often tied to polygamy in the media or in casual conversation (or jokes) about Mormons? The article explains:
At one point 120 years ago, some Mormons practiced plural marriage, hence the association between Mormons and polygamy. The practice was discontinued in 1890, but the cultural association persists, perhaps in part because Mormons are sometimes confused with members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, a polygamist group not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The article notes that this cultural confusion and desire for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be differentiated from those of the FLDS church may have influenced people’s response in this Pew survey. But I think recent statements from Church leaders and from mormon.org also reinforce and support the moral stance reflected in the results.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, polygamy is “against the law of God.” This is true “[e]ven in countries where civil or religious law allows [the practice of a man having more than one wife] (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 72).
In the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the prophet Jacob “for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife: and concubines he shall have none… for if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things (Jacob 2:27-30). …
The Lord’s law of marriage is monogamy unless he commands otherwise to help establish the House of Israel (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism Vol. 3, pp. 1091-1095).
In other words, even in our history, polygamy was the exception, not the rule. Anyone who practices polygamy now is excommunicated from the Church.