Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Book of Mormon Denounces Polygamy as an "Abomination"

Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me in light of Mormon history, The Book of Mormon denounces polygamy in terms even more direct than the Bible does. From Jacob 2:23-28 in The Book of Mormon:

"But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for the seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

"Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

"Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, KI have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

"Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do lie unto them of old.

"Wherefore, my brethern, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

"For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women, And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts."

As I said, this is a more direct condemnation of polygamy than the Bible includes. (In the Bible, OT kings were prohibited from multiplying wives, and NT bishops needed to be the husband of "one wife." But beyond that, strictures against polygamy for the laity are deduced rather than explicit. I've written about the New Testament prohibition on polygamy here.) So it seems all the more surprising that a few years after Jacob was written down, Mormon leaders began to practice polygamy. I am sure that they have an explanation for why God would allow a practice that he had pretty clearly prohibited in a text ostensibly revealed anew just a few years beforehand (and then why he would change his mind again a few decades later on, and prohibit polygamy again). Nonetheless, re-authorizing a practice that you called an "abomination" would seem to take some explanation.

Of course, in main-stream Mormonism, the Book of Mormon is not God's last word. Unlike the vast number of Pentecostals and others who also believe in continuing revelation from God, Mormons enscripturate their prophecies. I don't know if they treat all of their revelations as new Scripture, or just some. But they have a lot of additional revelations that they have enscripturated. Nonetheless, it seems surprising that a new revelation would permit one day what it prohibited in stark terms as an "abomination" only a short time beforehand.


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