“Unit 31: Day 3, Official Declaration 1 and the Continued Development of Temple Work,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 31: Day 3,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
Plural marriage is authorized only when commanded by the Lord to raise up seed to fulfill His purposes (see Jacob 2:27–30). After the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelation directing him to teach the principle of plural marriage, he entered into numerous marriages, and he authorized some Church members to practice plural marriage in the early 1840s. In subsequent decades, the Church experienced public opposition because of this practice. “After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the … Manifesto [Official Declaration 1], which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church” (Official Declaration 1, introduction). During this same period, the Saints diligently worked to build temples, where they received saving ordinances for themselves and for the dead.
Can you think some examples of righteous individuals who have been arrested or imprisoned for doing what God commanded them to do?
Many Latter-day Saint men were arrested and imprisoned because they continued to obey the commandment to practice plural marriage after the United States government passed laws making the practice illegal. Some women were arrested as well, usually because they would not reveal the locations of their husbands, who had gone into hiding to avoid arrest.
As you read the following paragraph, mark some of the difficulties early Church members experienced as they obeyed the Lord’s direction for them to practice plural marriage:
In August 1852, as part of a conference in Salt Lake City, Church leaders publicly announced that under commandment of God, some members of the Church were practicing plural marriage. Many religious and political leaders in the United States opposed this marriage system, which they considered immoral and uncivilized. Latter-day Saints were ridiculed in public speeches, books, magazines, and newspapers. The United States Congress passed laws that limited Church members’ freedom and hurt the Church economically by restricting the amount of property the Church could own. These laws ultimately led to the arrest and imprisonment of men who had more than one wife. These men were denied “the right to vote, the right to privacy in their homes, and the enjoyment of other civil liberties” (Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 97). By 1890, hundreds of faithful Latter-day Saints had served time in prison for practicing plural marriage. Others went into hiding to avoid arrest and imprisonment. In these conditions, many families suffered from stress, grief, poverty, and hunger.
These difficult circumstances led President Wilford Woodruff to prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance concerning the Saints’ practice of plural marriage. In 1889, President Woodruff instructed Church leaders to discontinue teaching the principle of plural marriage. However, some people published reports that the Church was still promoting the practice of plural marriage. These reports brought further opposition against the Church. In 1890, President Woodruff issued a Manifesto, which is now known as Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants.
In the first three paragraphs of Official Declaration 1, President Woodruff declared that the reports alleging that the Church was still promoting the practice of plural marriage were not accurate.
Read the fourth and fifth paragraphs of Official Declaration 1 (beginning with “Inasmuch as laws”) and the subsequent statement by President Lorenzo Snow, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Look for and mark what President Woodruff instructed the Saints to do.
According to the statement by President Lorenzo Snow, why was it important that the direction to refrain from contracting any more plural marriages came through the President of the Church?
It is important to understand that the President of the Church is the only person on the earth who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances. Plural marriage could be authorized only through the priesthood keys given to the President of the Church (see D&C 132:7, 48).
Read the first paragraph of “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” which follows the text of the Manifesto. Look for and mark a principle President Woodruff taught the Saints.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What principle did President Woodruff teach the Saints?
Why do you think it is important that we have a testimony that the Lord will never permit the President of the Church to lead the Church astray?
Some Church members wondered why they were directed to live the principle of plural marriage but then directed to stop. The Lord directed President Woodruff to ask the Saints a question. Read the third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs of “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff” (beginning with “I have had some revelations”), looking for the question President Woodruff asked the Saints.
The Saints were in danger of losing the St. George Utah Temple, the Logan Utah Temple, the Manti Utah Temple, and the nearly completed Salt Lake Temple. What important work would cease if the United States government seized the temples?
Read the seventh paragraph of “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff” (beginning with “… I saw exactly”), looking for what President Woodruff would have done if God had not commanded him to instruct Church leaders to discontinue the practice of performing plural marriages.
What can we learn from President Woodruff’s statement “I wrote what the Lord told me to write”?
One doctrine we can learn from this excerpt is that the Lord directs His Church through revelation to the President of the Church.
- Complete two or all of the following activities in your scripture study journal:
Think about times when you have witnessed the Lord directing His Church through revelation to the President of the Church. Describe two of the examples you thought of.
Write 2–3 sentences about how your faith in this doctrine has influenced the choices you have made.
Ask a family member or friend how he or she knows that the Lord directs His Church through revelation to the President of the Church. Write about what you learned from the conversation.
A small number of Latter-day Saints continued to enter into new plural marriages after the Manifesto was given. In 1904, President Joseph F. Smith presented an official statement “that all [plural] marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage he will be deemed [considered] in transgression against the Church … and excommunicated therefrom” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1904, 75). This policy continues today. For more information, go to LDS.org, select Gospel Topics, and search for plural marriage.
The following statement, which serves as the introduction to Official Declaration 1 in the 2013 edition of the scriptures, can help you answer questions about Latter-day Saints’ practice of plural marriage in the 1800s.
“The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7–8 and Jacob 2:27, 30). Following a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s (see section 132). From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.”
- Based on what you have learned today, how would you respond if someone asked you if Latter-day Saints practice plural marriage? Write your response in your scripture study journal.
After the Manifesto was given, the threat of the federal government taking the temples and the property of the Church ended. Without that distraction, the Saints were able to give greater focus to temple work. In 1893, 40 years after the cornerstones of the Salt Lake Temple were laid, President Wilford Woodruff dedicated that temple, bringing the total number of functioning temples to four.
In April 1894, one year after the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, President Woodruff announced that he had received a revelation clarifying the practice of the sealing ordinances, or eternal sealings. Before this revelation, Church members, acting according to the knowledge they possessed, often had themselves sealed, or “adopted,” to Church leaders rather than to their own parents. Based on the new revelation, which he testified was “the will of God to this people,” President Woodruff directed the Saints “to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff , xxxiv–xxxv).
Based on this statement by President Woodruff, we learn the following principle: We can be sealed to our family members, including those who came before us and those who come after us, through the sealing ordinance.
- Respond to the following question in your scripture study journal: How can the sealing ordinance be a blessing to you and your family during this life and hereafter?
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied the “Official Declaration 1 and the Continued Development of Temple Work” lesson and completed it on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: