By Ali Younes
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church, has formally acknowledged in a series of essays that the founder of the Church, Joseph Smith, had as many as 40 wives during his life time, some of which were married to other men and one was as young as 14 years old.
The Church disclosed the information in a series of essays published over the last year on the little known past of its founder and prophet Joseph Smith. One Essay asserted that Joseph Smith have had two types of marriages to all of these women. One type is “for time” that is current marriage, or in this life, and “sealed for eternity” that is when a woman is reserved for him in the afterlife. It also revealed that Smith had already married women “sealed “for him in the afterlife. Some women were sealed for Smith for time and eternity while others were sealed for eternity only. Most of the women who were sealed for Smith were between 20-40 years old. According to the document.
The Mormon Church, however, outlawed polygamy in 1890 in order to join the Union of United States in 1896 and becoming a State. The church refers to Polygamy in its literature as “Plural marriage”. “In 1890, President [ of the Church] Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church.”
The essay however, explained that Joseph Smith whom the Mormon Church reveres as a “prophet of God” and a one who has “received revelation form God” that he was reluctant to accept plural marriages at first. The essay argues that Smith was compelled to agree to it after an Angel from God appeared to him three times and on the third and final one the Angel appeared with a drawn sword and threatened him “ with destruction” if he did not practice plural marriage as per God’s instructions.
The essay also reads “After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.”
It also further justified Smith’s actions in terms of social and religious necessities as a way for him to obey God’s commands fulfilling a key tenet of his faith and at the same time help other religious women for legal and social reasons. A story in the New York Times quoted “ Kristine Haglund, the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought” who told the Times “that while she found the church’s new transparency “really hopeful,” she and other women she had talked with were disturbed that the essays do not address the painful teaching about polygamy in eternity.” She added that “These are real issues for Mormon women,” Ms. Haglund said. “And because the church has never said definitively that polygamy won’t be practiced in heaven, even very devout and quite conservative women are really troubled by it.”
The practice of plural marriage is no longer practiced in the Church and no Church leader endorses or practices this kind of marriage. Although the practice still persists in smaller fringe groups that broke out with the main church and formed their Church as in the case of Warren Jeffs who was convicted in Texas in 2011 of child sexual assault.
Meanwhile, the Mormon Church former practice of plural marriage carries a vague resemblance to Islamic law that permits polygamy, because both Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) were born in ancient Middle Eastern cultures that practiced such marriages before religions became an established order and because religious figures found in the Bible and the Quran also practiced polygamy.
The key difference between the Mormon Church and Islam on this issue is that in Islam, polygamy is neither a required tenet of faith nor a mandatory requirement the way it was in the Mormon Church. In Islam God did not command the faithful to use such practice, yet it was permitted but limited to four women at a time but with several key caveats and conditions.
Islamic jurisprudence treats polygamy as a sort of social and economic safety valve, not an article of faith, especially during economic upheavals; sever poverty, wars, and high divorce rate in that taking more than one wife would be in the best interests of society as a whole and to preserve the institution of marriage and family. Tunisia, however, is the only Arab country that outlawed polygamy.
Islamic law, moreover, stipulates that if a man wants to take a second wife, he must be sure that he will be fair and just to the other wife whom he must obtain her permission first. And if he could not be fair and just to both, then he must contend with one.
In the Mormon Church, however, the essays said that “Joseph Smith dictated the revelation on marriage, a lengthy and complex text containing both glorious promises and stern warnings. The revelation instructed women and men that they must obey God’s law and commands in order to receive the fullness of His glory.”
Ali Younes is the Editor of the Arab Daily News. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org, and on twitter @clearali
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