And if the prohibition is based upon the fact that it is a civil crime, what of those in countries where it is not against the law to practice polygamy?
That reminds me, when was the last time anyone ever quoted any portions of D&C 132 that dealt with plural marriage in general conference? I wonder what would happen if someone got up in church during fast and testimony meeting and started reading from those sections and bearing testimony of them? Would they be asked to step down?
I decided to answer my own question and look up on when the last time anyone in general conference quoted any of the plural e across a talk given by Gordon B. Hinckley during the October 1998 General Conference, where he answered some questions that people were typically asking. One question had to do with polygamy:
One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time
We are faced these days with many newspaper articles on this subject. This has arisen out of a case of alleged child abuse on the part of some of those practicing plural marriage.
I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12).
More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that ous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.
I remember sitting through that session and listening to that talk. I forget my reaction to it. But now, 13 years later, I have to wonder if his answer was entirely accurate.
For example, he says that those practicing polygamy are in violation of the civil law. Well, I suppose that would be true of those that get two state marriage licenses (which is illegal), but what of those who do not get state marriage licenses? These people are not violating the civil law. There is no law against voluntarily entering into a marriage contract with multiple spouses by personal covenant without obtaining a marriage license. The law does not recognize such as marriage, but it also, to my knowledge, does not forbid such an arrangement. And if they are not violating the civil law, then they are not in violation of Article of Faith 12, therefore they are not in violation of any church law. (Notice Hinckley is talking of church law, which is contained in the canonized scriptures, not church policy, which is contained in the CHI.)
Why are those citizens also forbidden from practicing polygamy? Hinckley implies that because of what Wilford Woodruff issued, that the principle is now that polygamy is wrong, not just because it’s illegal. But in the Official Declaration 1, Woodruff’s publicly declared advice is for the LDS to “refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land”. I never see it stated that polygamy was discontinued on the basis that it had suddenly become immoral.