Two men for every three women?

In Utah, the issue of polygamy is a very sensitive topic. Should the topic of one man marrying more than one wife somehow come up in a conversation, watch the eyes roll and folks run away from the conversation. So, needless to say, this is not an issue generally dealt with over the picket fence.

However, when a Mormon is willing to discuss the issue, it’s amazing how many folktales are used. For one, it is commonly asserted that polygamy was necessary back in the pioneer days of Brigham Young because there were not enough men for the women. (Note: According to all statistics I have seen, there NEVER was a time when Mormon men outnumbered Mormon women at any time in the Utah Territory.) Thus, having a man take two or more wives is somehow touted as actually being helpful to the women, as otherwise they would have ended up as Old Maids. (In case you’re wondering, being single for many years is NOT a good thing in Mormonism.) The men who sacrificed themselves in this way are almost made out to be heroes, as if they were taking one for the team so that women would have a chance at the celestial kingdom. I once had one Latter-day Saint tell me that the male/female ratios actually became close to 50/50 in the 1890s when the Manifesto abolishing polygamy was given, so the practice had somehow served its purpose and was no longer needed. Really.

Hence, imagine my surprise when I discovered that, according to a recent survey from Trinity College called “Mormons in the United States, 1990-2008” (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/15, p. A1), there appear to be many more Mormon women than Mormon men in the state of Utah. Consider these statistics: In 1990, a total of 53 percent of the Mormons in Utah were females (55% in the rest of the country). Eighteen years later, though, in 2008, there were 60% LDS females in Utah compared to 40% males (52% in the rest of the country).

In other words, if you’re female in Utah, there’s a good possibility you will be sitting home on Saturday night. Imagine, this equals three women for every two men in Utah. Go to a Saturday night dance and there are 60 girls to only 40 boys. Some are getting left out. For returning 21-year-old male missionaries, these are some pretty good odds when coming home. I can only wonder if there will soon be an influx of Mormon males moving to SLC from other parts in the country as well? Even with Vegas so close, these odds have to look pretty good.

Since Utah Mormons have a problem of too many females and not enough males, the question needs to be asked: Should the Mormon Church propose making polygamy legal once more? After all, there are possibly some women who won’t be able to attend the temple as married women unless willing men can lend a hand. There must be some willing married Mormon males out there who might be willing to do their duty and get married to two, maybe even three women. After all, if God intended polygamy back in the old days to provide assistance to the women, it seems like this practice ought to be reconsidered once more.

Of course, this is not going to happen. But the next time a Mormon uses the “too many women, not enough men” argument for support of 19th century polygamy, ask if they believe Mormonism’s prophet will soon be told by God to reinstitute this practice because many LDS women don’t have worthy husbands. Odds are, they’ll say “no.”

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17 Responses to Two men for every three women?

  1. Mike R says:

    Eric, considering how most Mormons are submissive to their leaders guidance in spiritual
    matters I think any excuse to justify the “whys” of polygamy by past members would be
    utilized by today’s LDS. The Mormon people today have really no way of knowing if one of their
    apostles is’nt secretly involved in a polygamous relationship right now. That very scenario was
    accomplished for 20 years , some 30 years after polygamy became “suspended” by Church
    leaders in 1890 . Since Mormon leaders had the temerity to call polygamy a vital part of Jesus’
    gospel in His New Testament church, it is really only postponed for a while . Multitudes of lucky
    Mormon women will experience sharing their husband with other women in the near future !
    The Mormon people have suffered a breech in confidence with their leaders, as these men have
    resorted to distorting the gospel of Jesus Christ . May the Mormon people exchange their
    apostles for more authentic ones—- those that Jesus directed to record His saving truths by
    in the New Testament .

  2. falcon says:

    My understanding is that Mormon males cannot reach the highest level of exaltation unless they practice “the principle”. So we have both a spiritual and practical reason (not enough males) for the LDS church to re-institute this practice. Personally I don’t think I’d be very good at polygamy. I want every thing in my life to be low maintenance and that includes any relationships I have. I’m sorry if this offends anyone but I know my limitations. Seeing to the emotional needs of a whole flock of women would be beyond my abilities. I don’t know the dynamics of these multi-wife organizations so perhaps the women bond and see to each others emotional needs. And then there’s the kids. Do the women discipline the kids and then just send the really bad cases to the old man?
    There must be a head wife who kind of acts like the foreman/forewoman/foreperson and keeps everything organized and on track.
    Look, we know why Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and it had nothing to do with an angel with a sword appearing to him threatening him with death unless he took on more wives. It had nothing to do with men needing a bunch of wives in the Celestial Kingdom in order to procreate a bunch of spirit children who eventually will obtain human bodies and populate the man-god’s planetary system. Smith wanted to have sex with as many women as he could and the way to cover himself morally was to call it marriage and provide a spiritual rationale for it.

  3. falcon says:

    I’m thinking that polygamy wasn’t and isn’t a very good idea. One has to wonder what the motivation is for those who practice it. Some of the stories that come out of polygamous cults don’t paint a very favorable picture of the dynamics of the relationships which develop within these “families”.
    The testimonies of those who were once trapped within the structure of these groups are heart breaking. The lost boys of polygamy reveals what happens to boys who are seen as a threat and competition for females by the older members of these groups. The boys are often jettisoned and left to fend for themselves in a world that is unfamiliar and strange to them. They have neither the knowledge or skill-set to function outside of the polygamy colony.
    The purpose of plural marriage was supposedly to foster a familial organization in the after-life that would allow the Mormon male entry into the highest level of Mormon heaven, the Celestial Kingdom. As ideas go, the deification of man to god and the necessity of plural wifery to make this happen, were among Joseph Smith’s worst (ideas).
    Smith was a religious entrepreneur in an age of religious entrepreneurs all vying for attention. Smith never met a creative religious idea he didn’t like and, filled with the notion that he was receiving revelation from God, his imagination concocted all sorts of novel practices and beliefs.
    The legacy of Smith’s notion of polygamy and its supposed purpose has caused untold heartache and dysfunction that continues today.
    In order to hold on to their faith in Mormonism and Smith, Mormons have to make all sorts of concessions to their personal integrity and grab-hold of explanations for Smith’s ideas and behavior that are far fetched and laughable.

  4. Mike R says:

    Falcon, you asked the question as to why Mormons were motivated to practice polygamy.
    I think the answer lies with submission to a prophet. Once a person has been convinced that
    they must submit to a “modern-day” prophet claims that God will only extend salvation to
    those who follow him , then people believe and do whatever the prophet teaches.
    This can be a recipe for spiritual deception. Concerning Mormon prophets we see the Mormon
    people loyally follow the counsel of these men. For the Mormon male the reason to embrace
    polygamy was all about what he could attain to : man’s glory, man’s power, man’s kingdoms etc .
    Mormon author Todd Compton states: ” ….in Smith’s Nauvoo theology, a fullness of salvation
    depended on the quantity of family members sealed to a person in this life. This puts the number
    of women Joseph married into an understandable context. This doctrine also makes it clear that
    though Joseph’s marriages undoubtedly had a sexual dimension, theological concepts also
    drove his polygamy, as well as the related purpose of gaining the highest possible exaltation by
    linking elite families to him for both earthly and eternal reasons.” Joseph Smith’s friend, and
    brother of one of his plural wives, Benjamin Johnson records : ” ….the prophet taught us that
    Dominion and power in the great future would be comensurate with the number of wives
    children and friends that we inherit here and that our great mission to earth was to organize a
    nucleus of Heaven to take with us. To the increase of which there would be no end.” After
    Smiths death his apostles passed on his doctrinal innovations : ” In 1849 Herber Kimball
    advised his son-in-law to build up his eternal kingdom by taking another wife.”

  5. Mike R says:

    Once a man has been misled into embracing false doctrine , a doctrine that focuses on him
    what he can get, what he can accumulate , what others will render unto him in the after-life
    it makes man higher and God smaller . This is never more evident than in classic Mormon
    doctrine. God is but an ” exalted” man , one of a myriad of such men in the heavens above,
    each being worshiped and ruling in power over those in his own kingdom, his progeny from His
    wives . Mormons in the hay-day of Mormon polygamy taught that God is actually living out
    the “patriarchal order of heaven ” with His wives. He has merely traveled the same path to
    His present position that every worthy Mormon male is traveling , so Mormons who embraced
    polygamy could have a larger kingdom than those who did’nt . This doctrine is
    downplayed or dodged today by most Mormons , nevertheless I have actually had Mormons
    admit that the same picture we see of the Lord in Rev.4:8-11 , will also one day on a
    distant world be their experience . This is so far removed from what the Bible teaches about man
    and His Creator . Mormon leaders elevated polygamy to be a vital part of Jesus’ gospel , this
    was the gospel of Mormonism , the gospel that Jesus Himself personally directed them to teach
    for years. Yet just like prophets in the past who claimed to have an authentic message from God,
    but who were only delivering their own ideas, the Mormon prophets likewise only spread their
    own ideas — Jer 23:21 records this behavior .
    [ above quotes from, In Sacred Loneliness, by Compton p.10,11,512 ]

  6. falcon says:

    Mormons like to justify the practice of polygamy by pointing to men in the Bible who had multiple wives. Chief among these, I suppose, was David. In fact his son, Absalon, committed some nasty with David’s wives on the roof of a building so that all the folks in town could see. Do we ever read in the OT why these guys married multiple wives? I’ve never seen anything in the Bible that condones polygamy and there’s certainly nothing in God’s Word that even hints that a man can become a god and that having multiple wives is one of the major components for human deification.
    I hate to break the news to devoted Mormons but Joseph Smith just made it up and called it revelation. There are no limits of man’s imagination to create what he desires to believe. I can actually see the attraction the becoming a god, having a lot of wives etc. can have for some men and women for that matter. I can see the attraction of being “ordained” in the priesthood with all of the supposed power, authority and influence that comes with it. I know what the power of belief can create in the emotions/soul of people. It doesn’t have to be true or grounded in reality. Desire is a powerful emotion. Couple it with the potential of mental imagery and a spiritual experience is created.
    God is speaking and revealing and the person just “knows” that it is all true. It’s even better if it’s convoluted, nonsensical and beyond reason.

  7. Brian says:

    Here is an interesting quotation. As you read it, ask yourself who might be its author:

    “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. That empire was founded on the banks of the Tiber by wandering brigands. When these robbers founded the city of Rome, it was evident to them that their success in attaining a balance of power with their neighbours, depended upon introducing females into their body politic, so they stole them from the Sabines, who were near neighbours. The scarcity of women gave existence to laws restricting one wife to one man. Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.”

    Who said this? It was Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 322).

    I am not going to comment on what he said, as I think it speaks for itself.

  8. falcon says:

    I think that was just BY’s opinion, it’s not revelation. It goes under the “counts doesn’t count” clause of Mormon doctrine, teaching, practice and of course “real” revelation. The way it works is if Mormons want something the prophet proclaimed to count, they just say “counts”. If they don’t want it to count they just say “doesn’t count”. Mormonism is a very fluid and subtly nuanced religion. It has a very unique form of logic.
    The bottom line is, if someone prayed about the BoM and got some sort of confirming feeling about it then they develop this “Mormonism, the Church, the prophet can never be wrong” mindset. If something appears patently false then there must be an explanation that is yet forthcoming that will clear the whole matter up. Even if someone is sure that Mormonism isn’t what it’s advertised as being, a person will be encouraged to stay with it.
    Strange but it’s a form of thinking that’s pretty common within legalistic religious cults.

  9. falcon says:

    In one of my posts yesterday I said that David’s son Absalom committed sexual immorality with David’s wives. Actually Absalom committed sexual immorality with David’s concubines! Well that little fun fact opens up all sorts of speculation. Based on this I’m wondering if concubines, unsealed mistresses, would be counted in a Mormon man’s organization when he enters the Celestial Kingdom? The other issue, of course, is that based on this practice of having concubines, is this an endorsement of the practice? Is it OK for a man to have a group of women who are committed only to him basically to satisfy his sexual urges? David, after all, as king was a powerful man. A man of his status it seems, had a lot of perks. Given the fact that David is used by Mormons as an example for the practice of polygamy, might he also serve as an example for a man having concubines?
    Joseph Smith’s “wives” were little more than concubines since it doesn’t appear that he had any sort of relationship with them except that which was sexual. He didn’t live with them or support them financially. At least a few of these women were married to other men. A least a couple were adolescent girls which raises all sorts of other issues. These things ought to be a tip off as to the purpose these women served in Smith’s life.
    There is no limit to what the human imagination can create in order to condone what would normally be considered deviant behavior. In the case of Smith his creation was a system of “marriage” with a supposed spiritual outcome.

  10. falcon says:

    An Interesting take.
    Why did monogamy spread?
    …”a plausible answer is that it spread because historically, monogamous groups were advantaged militarily over polygynous groups (Alexander, 1987). The ancient Greco-Roman and medieval European leaders who embraced anti-polygyny laws were heavily invested in the business of war, and their own social status and indeed survival often depended on their ability to maintain large, well-funded armies. And the imposition of monogamy produced bigger, better armies, because monogamous groups can grow larger than polygynous ones.
    Why can monogamous groups grow larger? Because men want wives, and if you need a lot of men on your team, you must offer them something that they want. In monogamous groups, unlike polygynous ones, high status males cannot hoard large numbers of women for themselves. The more equal distribution of women in monogamous groups means that more men can acquire wives, and fewer men have to leave the group to search for wives elsewhere. And the larger the group, the more men there are to fight in battles and to pay taxes for the funding of wars. Socially imposed monogamy, therefore, emerged in the West as a reciprocal arrangement in which elite males allowed lower-ranking males to marry, in exchange for their military service and tax contributions.”
    Why We Think Monogamy Is Normal
    How polygamy became an “exotic exception.”
    Published on September 9, 2011 by Michael E. Price, Ph.D. in From Darwin to Eternity

  11. falcon says:

    It was funny that I ran across this recent article posted above because I was just thinking this morning that polygamy would kill Mormonism and not just because it would be so distasteful for modern Mormon women but also to society at large. Besides that, there would be too much competition for women. The alpha male Mormons would garner most of the babes because they (women) would want to be married to a hard charger who was more likely to become a god.
    I’m guessing that there are a large number of slacker Mormon males who are never going to even be close to being in the god-maker program. However the Mormon women have to marry somebody. So to go for a lower echelon male works under the current monogamy system.
    In the fundamentalist Mormon groups there is competition for women. The teenage boys don’t really have much of a chance because the dominant males are picking off girls as young as thirteen.
    Polygamy would shrink Mormonism. Who would join it? Would a married couple join? I doubt it. It would be a tough sell to a woman.
    The Salt Lake City bunch is very fortunate that polygamy was tubed back in 1890 because to continue it would have been the death keel for the religion.

  12. Mike R says:

    Mormon polygamy : a law, an ordinance, a principle, in the gospel preached by Mormon
    prophets and apostles. It all commenced with practicing it behind the back of the one person
    a Mormon prophet had once swore to love solely — his wife
    It ended in 1890 by the promise of a Mormon prophet but was practiced behind the back of
    the one promised to – —the Government.
    Between this subterfuge by two Mormon prophets were years of preaching by numerous
    apostles said to be directed by Jesus to issue His gospel. However this preaching only revealed
    the work of self appointed apostles who preached another gospel — Rev 2:2 ; 2Cor 11:4,13 .

    Mormon women deserved more reliable spiritual leaders . I tip my hat to these women as
    they struggled to endure this false gospel behavior created by their prophets and apostles.
    If they would have but held onto the gospel teaching from Jesus’ authentic apostles in
    the New Testament . Today’s Mormon women are in for a rough go in the future if they
    fail to do the right thing by dismissing their prophet and apostles and embracing the true
    gospel Jesus gave us all to embrace .

  13. MaM says:

    What I find fascinating is that if you mention even the word “polygamy” in the presence of a Mormon, they immediately have a severe defensive reaction. They get angry, annoyed, and are quick to denounce the notion that they practice it. But why such a strong reaction? If it was commanded by God, why would they see it as negative? If they believe it’s an “eternal concept”, then why the ruffled feathers? Basically, it all boils down to the fact that they (particularly women) have had a hard time swallowing this big ugly pill. They don’t like it any more than the outsiders looking in.

    I find it interesting that given this 40/60 percent ratio and the current battles for the laws to recognize all different kinds of “families” (ie. gay marriage), why not lobby for the law to include polygamous relationships as legal? That’s why it’s not practiced today, right? Because they are to “obey the laws of the land”? If it can be practiced legally, is commanded by God, and is neccesary for eternal progression; wouldn’t it be logical to fight for it?
    Yes, I’m being a tad facetious. But I think you see what my point here is. Even though their prophet was all for it, the current members don’t agree with it. However, they can’t disagree with it publicly, lest they be thrown out for heresy, so they just ignore the big pink elephant in the middle of temple square. If only they’d follow the God’s already revealed Word instead of false prophets, maybe they’d understand there’s a reason for this innate disgust for the practice. It’s not what God intended marriage to be.

  14. Mike R says:

    MaM, you pose some great questions . It’s my opinion that the main reason that most
    Mormons don’t want to discuss it’s polygamist heritage is that they know their leaders made
    such a mess of it from beginning to end. Since these spiritual leaders seem to be hesitant in
    revealing much about polygamy in Church publications, rank and file members just take the
    hint and follow their example. The really sad aspect of this whole episode in Mormon history
    is the hardship that Mormon women lived . These courageous women put up with so much
    in following their prophets false gospel . One prominent Mormon woman stated that women
    would never have accepted polygamy had it not been for their religion [ Annie Clark Tanner,
    p. 91, Mormon Polygamy , by Richard Van Wagoner]. Fearing God’s displeasure at not
    submitting to His “mouthpiece” , the prophet, is a common trait with those who fall for the
    teachings of false prophets, and so Mormon women simply submitted. Stop and think about
    the danger of this mind-set with those who follow a man , the sole mouthpiece of God on earth
    today: in Mormon Church curriculum it teaches that for a Mormon to claim to have a testimony
    of Jesus but rationalizes that he or she cannot accept direction and counsel from their prophets
    that person is in jeopardy of losing exaltation .
    May the Mormon people find the true gospel this Holiday season, the one that’s been around
    since Jesus appointed His original apostles to spread it to the whole world. It’s saving truths
    did’nt need revising to include polygamy or any other notion that so-called modern-day
    prophets and apostles could add to it.

  15. falcon says:

    So what was the point of polygamy in history? One man with a bunch of wives. Women were considered property. They had no rights of any sort including the ability to inherit their husband’s estate when he died. This was true even in monogamous situations. So women had a real long hard pull to achieve rights enjoyed by men.
    Are women in Mormonism property? What rights do they enjoy within the religion. I hate to say it, but to me it appears that the purpose of a woman in Mormonism is to serve her god-to-be husband and produce babies in this life and spirit offspring in the next.
    From what I read concerning polygamy within the FLDS Mormon cults, the women are subservient and, I would say, brainwashed. If a woman can be convinced that her husband is going to be a god then what is the mind-set of the woman concerning herself and her worth. She has to depend on the guy to make it big in the Mormon program and hope he doesn’t forget her secret name when HE resurrects HER and pulls her through the veil in the afterlife.
    How many wives did BY have? Did he set the record for multiple wifery. The only rights and privileges that these women “enjoyed” were those granted by their god to be BY. Women in polygamy are threatened with hell if they leave the “family”. One women said that she left when she figured hell couldn’t be any worse than what she was experiencing within FLDS polygamy.
    Mormons get upset when asked about polygamy because it’s deviant behavior and exposes the history of Mormonism that they’d like to pretend never happened.

  16. Mike R says:

    Falcon, you asked what was the reason for Mormon polygamy ? See my posts on 12-20 for
    a sampling of comments from Mormon historians on that question. It seems to me that
    Mormon men were trying to build their own kingdoms for the after-life where they would
    be worshiped and rule as Almighty Gods. It’s all about man. You rightly mentioned that it
    is the woman who gets the short end of the stick in this whole scenario .

  17. falcon says:

    Little known fun fact, in the early Utah BY days, Mormon men were having all sorts of people “sealed” to them in order to expand their Celestial organization. We’re not talking about just wives but folks of both genders. The competition became fierce and Big Daddy Young had to finally put a stop to it.

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