The Book of Mormon is more specific about polygamy than the Bible and I want to touch on these teachings.  I will share the way I interpret them, but I invite the reader to prayerfully read these verses and come to their own conclusions.  Jacob’s sermon is perhaps the most specific, and I’ll get to it, but I want to start with two other examples in the Book of Mormon first.


We’ll start with an example in Ether chapter 10.  We don’t know a lot about Riplakish save what is told in three verses:

And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.

And he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death.

Wherefore he did obtain all his fine work, yea, even his fine gold he did cause to be refined in prison; and all manner of fine workmanship he did cause to be wrought in prison. And it came to pass that he did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations.

From this example we learn that:

  • Having many wives and concubines is not right in the sight of the Lord.
  • Heavy taxes, especially for the purpose of building beautiful large buildings and finery is not right in the sight of the Lord.
  • The heavy tax burdens, including prison labor camps, were an affliction to the people.
  • The whoredoms (aka, wives and concubines) were also an affliction to the people.

Fortunately there’s a happy ending to the story, in a manner of speaking.  After 42 years of oppression, the people rose up, killed him, and presumably restored peace.
My takeaway?  God doesn’t approve of polygamy.

King Noah

The story of King Noah can be found in Mosiah chapters 11-17.  King Noah was very similar to Riplakish in that he did “walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines.”  He had many fine buildings built, a beautiful throne, and comfortable seats where his priests could judge the people.  He spent his time in riotous living.

King Noah’s wickedness goes a step further than Riplakish, however.  Riplakish was a tyrant, but at least the people saw his actions for what they were.  King Noah on the other hand was  more clever.  Not only was Noah wicked, but he caused his people to be wicked too.  Noah replaced the leaders his father had chosen with wicked men who would support his iniquity.  Noah AND his priests had many wives and concubines, and together they changed the affairs of the kingdom.

How did they do it?  In verse seven Alma tells us:

Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them.

As the story continues, the Lord sends a prophet named Abinidi to prophecy to the people and tell them to repent or the Lord will destroy them. The people turn Abinidi in to King Noah. The priests bring him to trial, thinking to trick Abinidi into saying something that they could condemn him with, but he withstood all their words boldy.  He taught them the ten commandments.  He asks the Priests, why they spent their strength with harlots and caused the people to commit sin?  He says that if they believe in the Law of Moses, why do they not teach and practice what it says?  The story goes much deeper, but in the end, Abinidi is burned to death, valiant to his testimony.  The people are captured by their enemies and live in slavery for a time before being delivered.  However, one priest named Alma is converted and he and the people who were converted to the Lord escaped.

My takeaway?  Not only is polygamy a whoredom, but teaching the practice and causing others to participate is even worse.

Early Nephites

In Jacob chapter two we have the most poignant example in all of scripture concerning polygamy, the grief and pain it causes, and how abominable it is in the sight of God.  This is Jacob’s sermon to the Nephites.  In the first part of the chapter he expresses his concern for how they are beginning to love riches and are neglecting the poor, but if that was all they were guilty of doing, it wouldn’t be so bad.  Isn’t it interesting that in every example of polygamy in the Book of Mormon, those practicing it had also set their hearts on riches?  Regardless of whether there is a correlation, these are the words of Jacob to the Nephites:

23 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 they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

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

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I 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.

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

27 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;

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

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

My takeaway?  Polygamy is synonymous with whoredoms, which is an abomination in the sight of God.  Furthermore, the Nephites were wicked in their attempts to justify their sins based on accounts in their records equivalent to the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament it is alluded to that God gave David his many wives, but here in the Book of Mormon we learn that not only did God not approve of David and Solomon’s wives, but that it was an abomination in his sight.  We learn that God delights in the chastity of women, that monogamy helps preserve their chastity, and that men who engage in this practice violate women.  He tells that the Lord of Hosts commands them not to engage in the practice.

“If I will raise up seed, I will command my people.”

Ah yes, then there’s Jacob chapter 2, verse 30.  If you were to ask the typical member of the LDS church what the Book of Mormon says about polygamy, you would probably get the response that it says that we shouldn’t do polygamy unless the Lord commands it.  The source for this philosophy comes from a possible interpretation of this verse.  In short, verse 30 is often used as a kind of loophole for polygamy.  Let’s look at the verse first:

30 “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.”

The common interpretation of this verse is that when the Lord wants to raise up righteous seed, he will command them to practice polygamy, but otherwise, they should hearken to the rest of Jacob’s sermon and practice monogamy.

Assuming this interpretation was true, it still leaves a lot of confusion over the way polygamy was practiced in the Utah LDS church, and leaves me with a few questions, namely:

  • If the purpose of God commanding Joseph Smith to enter into polygamy was to raise up righteous seed through polygamy, why didn’t Joseph Smith’s plural wives produce any offspring?
  • If monogamy is the standard rule, why were the early saints taught that the only way to enter into the Celestial Kingdom was through the practice of plural wives?

Also, If God’s way of quickly populating a land with righteous people, the key times in history when this would have been necessary would be at the creation (Adam and Eve), after the flood (Noah and his three sons each had one wife), or in the case of the Book of Mormon, when Lehi first came to the Americas.  Yet Lehi and his sons each had one wife too.  So I don’t think God is talking about quickly populating a people through polygamy.  That interpretation doesn’t add up for me.

A closer examination of this verse within the context of the chapter leaves me with a different interpretation of verse 30.  To reach my conclusion, I simply asked- “What does it mean to raise up righteous seed?”, and, “What is God commanding?”  Let’s back up a little and re-read Jacob 2:25-26:

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I 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.

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

As far as I can tell, in this chapter God is saying- look, these people in Jerusalem do polygamy, and it’s an abomination. I need righteous seed who will not practice polygamy, and I have commanded your family and these people (the Nephites) NOT to practice it. Why? Because I have separated you and I command you not to sin as the people of old did.

In other words, it’s the people God hopes will be righteous seed that are especially COMMANDED not to practice polygamy.  Otherwise, even if not specifically commanded to only practice monogamy, stay away from these “things”, aka, abominations.
Isn’t it sad, and ironic that we have in verse 23:

“…they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written…”

…and yet, today we use another verse by the same author in the very same chapter to excuse polygamy in our day.  During the polygamy years in Utah, the preface to this chapter stated that the Nephites were commanded not to do polygamy “because they were wicked”.  I don’t see it that way.  Their wicked deed was nothing less than polygamy!

Is God referring to multiplying and replenishing the earth (aka, having lots of kids), or is it referring to raising children to be righteous?  I know I want to raise up righteous seed!  Do I have to enter into polygamy to teach my children the ways of the Lord?  Lehi was commanded to have his sons each find one wife in Ishmael’s family for the purpose of raising righteous seed in 1 Nephi 7:1:

And now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.

Further insight on raising righteous seed can be found in 1 Nephi 15:14

14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

Edit:  Yet another interpretation of verse 30 pointed out to me may be the best one, one that again can be drawn by asking “What is God commanding?”, given the context of the chapter.  “If I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people (to only have one wife), otherwise they will hearken to these (philosophies of men).”
I was unaware of a similar post on Book of Mormon polygamy until it was pointed out to me here.  I find the “thing 1 and thing 2” analogy to be very insightful- so check out his post for further reading.

Polygamy = Captivity of Women

Before I let Jacob finish his sermon concerning polygamy, I will close my own remarks with an observation that polygamy was bringing great sorrow and suffering to the Nephites, especially the women.  Many tender hearts were broken because of polygamy.  Daughters and wives who had hoped to be comforted by the pleasing word of God were instead told that their family relationship was scorned by God.  How many of them continued to suffer after this talk?  How long did polygamy continue?  And despite the twisting of scripture to justify polygamy, Jacob reminds them that they knew better.  Lehi was commanded not to allow his seed to practice polygamy (vs 34).  Really any justification of polygamy from Old Testament sources is refuted by the following verses.  I end my own thoughts and will let Jacob have the last word.

31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.