On Monday (April 14, 2008) the Salt Lake Tribune ran an interesting article by Michael Nielsen, one of nine on the editorial board of the independent publication Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. The opinion article addresses the query regarding “How the LDS Church could address the polygamy question.” Dr. Nielsen rightly notes,
“To deny polygamy’s importance to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormonism is, well, to be in denial. Many Latter-day Saints prefer to avoid polygamy or to think that it has no bearing on the present, but this is pointless if we are to consider what other people think of the church…
“From my reading of newspaper letters, article comments and blogs, it seems that defenders of the church too often provide information that is clear but inaccurate or incomplete. For example, it strikes an observer as disingenuous when told ‘the LDS Church has nothing to do with polygamy,’ as I’ve read in the comments to several newspaper articles in recent days. Clear? Yes. Accurate? Not so much.”
These LDS members have taken their cue from late President Gordon B. Hinckley. He made a similar statement during the Church’s October 1998 General Conference:
“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy.”
Clear? Yes. Accurate? Not so much, given that the specific religion he refers to is a splinter group with roots in the LDS Church, and the polygamy they practice is in obedience to alleged revelations clearly emanating from Joseph Smith and subsequent LDS prophets.
Dr. Nielsen concludes his Salt Lake Tribune article with several suggestions regarding what the LDS Church could do to address the polygamy issue. These include acknowledging and clarifying the LDS Church’s past history of polygamy as well as encouraging the public to understand past and present polygamy in context. His suggestion that is most likely to draw fire, however, is this:
“Develop a new understanding — a revelation, even — regarding Doctrine & Covenants 132, the section of Mormon scripture that forms the foundation for polygamy and celestial marriage. As part of this, discontinue the policy allowing men to be sealed to more than one woman. Such a change would make it clearer than ever that polygamy is in the past. After all, the LDS hymnal asks, ‘In the heavens, are parents single?’ to which it answers, ‘No.’ That the current policy suggests parents are not only wed in eternity, but are sometimes even wed to more than one spouse, seriously undermines the claim that polygamy is in the past. Instead, it suggests that polygamy is in both the past and the future, and that current policy is the exception rather than the rule.”