Speeches by Mormon Leaders about Polygamy
The purpose of this page is to serve as a repository for speeches, essays, lectures, quotes, and other primary texts by and from Mormon prophets and apostles with regard to polygamy (”Mormon” refers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Over time, this site will hopefully become quite extensive and all-encompassing. The aim is to present the teachings of the Mormon prophets themselves about polygamy and to let their words stand on their own. The decision has been made to present speeches and letters with the full content, rather than just the snippets referencing Mormon polygamy. This has been done to provide context. As the site progresses, historical information will be added which will detail the historical circumstances of the comments.
Mormons believe in ongoing revelation from God. This has a number of important implications. Firstly, it means that the words of a living prophet are the most important revelation for a person to follow. This also means that, since circumstances here on earth change constantly, God will reveal His will to the prophets as adapted to the circumstances of the people. Mormons believe that some things are eternal truths and will never be changed, but some practices, such a polygamy, are temporal practices that God may either command or revoke. This duality can be seen in the Book of Mormon statements relating to polygamy:
Wherefore, my brethren, 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. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. 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 Emphasis added).
Here the Lord mentions that the Nephites, a people in the Book of Mormon who followed God, may not practice polygamy. However, the Lord also says, “If I will … raise up seed unto me, I will command my people.” This principle of continuing revelation is vital to understanding Mormon beliefs and practices. Brigham Young also referenced this principle when he said:
If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church (see Journal of Discourses 11:266).
This comment, made in 1866, hinted that the Lord might command the Mormons to cease practicing polygamy, as He did through the Prophet Wilford Woodruff in 1890 and finally through Joseph F. Smith in 1904. The following statements are therefore to be read with that understanding in mind, and thus to be read as historical documents whose revelation has been superceded by continuing revelation from God. Though the full text of the speeches have been here reproduced, those passages specifically dealing with Mormon polygamy have been highlighted.
Brigham Young on Polygamy
- Conference Address October 6, 1854
- Speech given July 14, 1855
- Speech given August 12, 1866
- Speech given August 19, 1866
- Speech given May 21, 1871
- Speech given August 18, 1872
- Speech given August 31, 1873
John Taylor on Polygamy
- Speech given November 30th, 1879
- Speech given February 12th, 1882
- Speech given December 9th, 1883
- Speech given February 10, 1884
- Conference Address given October 6 and 7, 1884
- Undated comments