Saturday, August 08, 2015
Many Evangelical and Protestant have a hang-up with LDS historic practice of polygamy. When people think of polygamy they immediately think of modern media depictions of the practice by a tiny corrupt FLDS group who chase adolescent boys out their isolated community and brainwash and coerce uneducated young girls into the the practice. But instead of actually supporting these women and their children, FLDS wives collect government welfare as single mothers which is exactly the opposite of why polygamy was ever instituted in the first place. Unfortunately, this hang-up prevents many from taking any type of serious investigation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Book of Mormon.
The Bible warns of false prophets in the Last Days. If there are false prophets, doesn't this suggest there would be true prophets? But the Bible also says that we can differentiate false and true prophets by their fruits. What of the fruits of Joseph Smith? What about Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's practice of polygamy? Was Joseph Smith's implementation of polygamy a clear example of bad fruit? I'm sure reasonable people hear about Joseph Smith and polygamy and instantly roll their eyes and think its exactly the corrupt kind of thing that any corrupt and false, cult-leader, megalomaniac would do. Jesus Christ via Joseph Smith declared in the Doctrine and Covenants:
"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (Doctrine and Covenants, D&C 121:39)
Because polygamy can easily be abused and corrupted, does that make it inherently bad? What does the Bible have to say about polygamy? Let's start with marriage. We read that God performed the first marriage in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden before the Fall saying that it was NOT good for man to be alone. Well if is not good for man to be alone I think we can assume its not good for women to be alone either. And, in the garden we have the ideal union between one man and one woman.
"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. ... Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Old Testament, Genesis, 2:18;24)
So what about polygyny specifically? Admittedly, polygyny is NOT the ideal. But are there conditions where God has allowed, sanctioned or even commanded its practice? What does the Bible say about it? Abraham is the clearest example of polygyny with 2 wives who is considered the Founding Father of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions. Jacob had 4 wives and 12 sons. While Jews historically practiced polygamy; today, only Muslims still consider it acceptable but not recommended. What does Islamic scripture say on the matter?
"If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." (Qur'an, Sura 4, Ayah 3)
These Verses were revealed after the Battle of Uhud, in which many Muslim men were killed, leaving widows and orphans. Thus, many argue that these Verses have been revealed “because of God’s concern for the welfare of women and orphans who were left without husbands and fathers who died fighting for the Prophet and for Islam. It is a verse about compassion towards women and their children; it is not about men or their sexuality.” (Wiki)
Back to the Bible. What does Moses have to say about it? Immediately after giving the Ten Commandments which forbids adultery, God instructs the men of Israel that "If he take another wife for himself; her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish" (Exodus 21:10)
Later, the Bible says, "If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: .... But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Old Testament, Deuteronomy, 21:15-16)
Deut 25:5-10 proscribes the practice of levirate marriage which obligated a man whose brother has left a widow without heir to marry her to continue his brother's name in Israel. According to the Old Testament at least, multiple marriage was considered a realistic alternative in the case of famine, widowhood, or female infertility. (Wiki)
Nominative Case: John 10:16 "mia poimne heis poimen" = "one fold with one shepherd"
Eph 4:5 "heis Kyrios, mia pistis, hen baptisma" = "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"
Polygamy was illegal in the Roman Empire and the Jews were terribly persecuted for practicing polygamy. Yet, at the same time, Roman society accepted adultery, fornication, homosexuality, divorce, concubinage, and prostitution. Doesn't sound too different from today's morality. You can cheat all can get away with but you can't, with full adult consent, take on the responsibility and fully support two households. Not the ideal situation but maybe better than the alternatives in difficult circumstances.
Again, the miracle was the unity of the LDS Church, despite the great personal sacrifice, in following the Lord's prophet when the Lord commanded to practice polygamy and then commanded to discontinue its practice. The LDS Church was unified except for a small handful.
Was there the same kind of miraculous unity in the Catholic Church following the Council of Nicea or in the Presbyterian Church when it was decided to ordain women to the priesthood?