Redefining Marriage (Jacob 2)
Polygamy — the practice of being married to more than one person at the same time — is something that was practiced and even encouraged by a particular church in the 1800s. Since this teaching is not found in the Bible, many people assume that the Book of Mormon, which is also used by that particular church, must be the book that teaches that polygamy is acceptable. Since The Church of Jesus Christ also uses the Book of Mormon, we want to make sure to set the record straight on this matter.
In reality, Jacob 2 is the only chapter in the Book of Mormon that discusses this subject, and the instruction is clearly opposed to this practice: “Hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife” (Jacob 2:27).
You may wonder how the leadership of the church referenced above could have allowed polygamy when the Book of Mormon is so clearly against it. The answer is that they found what they felt was a loophole in verse 30: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” Although this verse is meant to explain why the Lord tolerated this practice in the time of David and Solomon, as referenced earlier in the chapter, the leadership of that church took it as an opportunity to have God give them a “revelation” to go against the instruction of this chapter. Some years later, when the geographic area dominated by this church sought to become a U.S. state, another “revelation” revoked the first one, eliminating church support of polygamy, allowing the church to comply with the laws of the United States and become a state in 1890.
This is not, however, the end of the story regarding polygamy. There are still people today (not necessarily associated with any particular church) who practice polygamy. It is currently illegal in all 50 states, but there are movements that are seeking to change that. People who are in favor of such a change point out that marriage has already been redefined in the past couple of years, no longer matching the scriptural definition, so why stop there? Who (other than God) says that marriage has to be limited to a single partner? Don’t people have a right to be married to people who they love?
This is the problem that arises when people “redefine” what God has established. Once you modify the Lord’s precepts to suit yourself or your personal views, how do you then oppose someone else’s desire to do the same?
If you choose to live completely according to the Word of God, then you have an absolute standard by which to measure whether any behavior is appropriate. If you decide that 98 percent is good enough, then how much of a leap is it to 97 percent or 95 or 90? And, who decides which 5 percent or 10 percent can be redefined?
The Church of Jesus Christ upholds the scriptural definition of marriage. Although sympathetic arguments can be made for redefining it to suit various types of people, we do not feel it is within our rights to redefine what God has established — be it marriage or anything else.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.