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Chapter 52: Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1
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“Chapter 52: Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)

“Chapter 52,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual

Chapter 52

Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1

Introduction and Timeline

While the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on the inspired translation of the Bible in 1831, he asked the Lord why some of the ancient patriarchs and Israelite kings had more than one wife. At that time, the Prophet began to receive revelation regarding plural marriage. In subsequent years the Lord commanded the Prophet and several other Church members to live the principle of plural marriage. On July 12, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, in which the Lord revealed truths regarding “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:2). This lesson addresses Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66, which includes the Lord’s teachings about plural marriage and His counsel to Joseph and Emma Smith.

After the Saints migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in the western United States, they began to practice plural marriage openly. From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws against plural marriage. After seeking the Lord’s guidance and receiving His direction, President Wilford Woodruff prepared the Manifesto on September 23–24, 1890, which ultimately led to the end of the practice of plural marriage by members of the Church. The Manifesto, recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1, was issued publicaly on September 25, 1890.

May–July 1843

Emma Smith consented to several of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages but struggled to accept the practice.

July 12, 1843

The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 was dictated.

June 27, 1844

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred in Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois.

July 24, 1847

President Brigham Young and other Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

August 29, 1852

Under the direction of President Brigham Young, Elder Orson Pratt publicly taught the principle of plural marriage.

1860s–1880s

The United States government passed laws to prohibit plural marriage.

September 25, 1890

President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, now contained in Official Declaration 1.

October 6, 1890

During a general conference of the Church, the Manifesto was accepted by Church members as authoritative and binding.

Doctrine and Covenants 132: Additional Historical Background

Although the revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith received portions of the revelation as early as 1831, while he was studying the Old Testament. The revelation states that the Prophet prayed to know why God justified ancient patriarchs and Israelite kings in having many wives. Accounts from those close to Joseph Smith report that an angel of God appeared to the Prophet as many as three times between 1834 and 1842, commanding him to obey the principle of plural marriage. (See “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org.) Eliza R. Snow, who was sealed in marriage to Joseph Smith, recorded teachings on plural marriage that the Prophet gave to her brother Lorenzo Snow: “The Prophet Joseph … described the trying mental ordeal he experienced in overcoming the repugnance of his feelings, the natural result of the force of education and social custom, relative to the introduction of plural marriage. … He knew that he had not only his own prejudices and prepossessions to combat and to overcome, but those of the whole Christian world stared him in the face; but God, who is above all, had given the commandment, and He must be obeyed. Yet the Prophet hesitated and deferred from time to time, until an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword, and told him that, unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his Priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed [or cut off from God]!” (Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow [1884], 69–70).

“Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents. Little is known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org).

In 1841 the Prophet Joseph Smith married additional women in accordance with the Lord’s commandment and introduced the principle of plural marriage to a limited number of other Church members. “This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration—for Joseph personally and for other Church members. Plural marriage tested faith and provoked controversy and opposition. Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. …

“… For Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, it was an excruciating ordeal. …

“… She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org).

On the morning of July 12, 1843, the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were discussing the doctrine of plural marriage in the Prophet’s office above the Red Brick Store in Nauvoo. The Prophet’s scribe William Clayton later recounted: “Hyrum said to Joseph, ‘If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take it and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.’ Joseph smiled and remarked, ‘You do not know Emma as well as I do.’ Hyrum repeated his opinion, and further remarked, ‘The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity and heavenly origin,’ or words to that effect” (in History of the Church, 5:xxxii).

The Prophet consented and instructed William Clayton to get paper and prepare to write. After Joseph had dictated the revelation, he asked William Clayton “to read it through, slowly and carefully, which [he] did, and [Joseph] pronounced it correct. He then remarked that there was much more that he could write on the same subject, but what was written was sufficient for the present” (William Clayton, in History of the Church, 5:xxxii–xxxiii).

Church History Maps: Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-1846

Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–50

The Lord teaches about the sealing power given to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–39. “I, the Lord, commanded it”

The Lord promised the Old Testament prophet Abraham: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; … and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:9, 11).

Abraham on the Plains of Mamre

Abraham on the Plains of Mamre, by Harry Anderson. The Old Testament prophet Abraham and his wife Sarah lived in faithfulness and did all that the Lord commanded them.

According to the Lord’s promises, Abraham’s posterity would be as numerous “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17; see also Genesis 15:5; D&C 132:30). However, Abraham’s wife Sarah was unable to have children. In keeping with the law and custom of the time, Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham as a plural wife in hopes of having children by her (see Genesis 16:1–2). The Lord clarified in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 that He commanded Abraham to marry Hagar and Sarah obeyed the Lord’s will and “gave Hagar to Abraham to wife” (D&C 132:34). The Lord then asked, “Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily, I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it” (D&C 132:35).

The Lord explained to the Prophet Joseph Smith that He commanded others in Old Testament times to have more than one wife. Only in those instances in which His servants had wives and concubines who had not been authorized by the Lord did they commit sin (see D&C 132:38). The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob condemned the unauthorized practice of plural marriage among his people (see Jacob 2:22–30). Apparently, some Nephites used the scriptural examples of King David and Solomon to justify sexual immorality. Through Jacob, the Lord declared that “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me” (Jacob 2:24). The Lord clarified in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 that when King David took additional wives, “in none of these things did [David] sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife” (D&C 132:39). Thus, David’s sin was in coveting another man’s wife, committing adultery with her, arranging for Uriah to be killed, and taking Uriah’s wife to be his own wife (see 2 Samuel 12:9). Solomon’s sin was in loving and marrying “many strange women” not of the house of Israel, who “turn[ed] away [his] heart after their gods” and away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:1–2; see also Deuteronomy 17:14–17). We learn from the teachings of Jacob and the Lord’s revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that plural marriage is acceptable only when the Lord commands it. Otherwise, those who engage in its practice commit sin and are under serious condemnation.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:36. “Abraham … did not refuse”

The Lord’s commandment to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is one of the most severe tests of obedience found in scripture (see Genesis 22:1–14). Isaac was the only son born to Abraham’s wife Sarah, miraculously in their old age (see Genesis 18:9–14; 21:1–5). Before Isaac’s birth the Lord had promised Abraham that through his posterity he would become “a father of many nations” (see Genesis 17:1–8) and Sarah would become “a mother of nations” (see Genesis 17:15–16). The command to sacrifice his son Isaac, for whom he and Sarah had waited so long and whom they loved dearly, must have severely tested Abraham’s faith. Early in Abraham’s life, his “fathers, having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them” had given him to an idolatrous priest to be offered as a human sacrifice, and Abraham had barely escaped being sacrificed when the Lord sent an angel to save him (see Abraham 1:7, 15–16). This experience likely made the Lord’s command to sacrifice Isaac even more repulsive and agonizing to Abraham. He must have wondered why the Lord would command him to sacrifice his son in what seemed to be a direct contradiction of His law forbidding human sacrifice and murder (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 9:12–13 [in the Bible appendix]). The Lord acknowledged this contradiction in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, yet He explained that even though Abraham was not ultimately required to take the life of his son, Abraham’s willingness to obey “was accounted unto him for righteousness” (D&C 132:36). Similarly, the Lord explained that Abraham’s marriage to more than one woman “was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law” (D&C 132:37).

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “At times the wisdom of God appears as being foolish or just too difficult, but one of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right” (“Willing and Worthy to Serve,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 67).

It is important to remember that if God were to command His people to do something contrary to current commandments, such direction would come through His living prophet. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught: “When there is to be anything different from that which the Lord has told us already, He will reveal it to His prophet and no one else. Do you suppose that when the Lord has a prophet on the earth, He is going to take some round-about means of revealing things to His children? That is what He has a prophet for, and when He has something to give to this church, He will give it to the president, and the president will see that the presidents of stakes and missions get it, along with the General Authorities, and they in turn will see that the people are advised of any change” (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 159).

The early Latter-day Saints who were directed to practice plural marriage experienced a test of their faith. The principle ran counter not only to prevailing marriage practices and laws in the United States, but also to the moral standards of Latter-day Saint men and women. Lucy Walker, who was one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s plural wives, spoke about her struggle to accept this principle: “When the Prophet Joseph Smith first mentioned the principle of plural marriage to me I felt indignant and so expressed myself to him, because my feelings and education were averse to [against] anything of that nature. But he assured me that this doctrine had been revealed to him of the Lord, and that I was entitled to receive a testimony of its divine origin for myself” (Lucy Walker Kimball, affidavit, December 17, 1902, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Lucy agonized over this decision. As recorded in a biographical sketch, she later told Joseph, “I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light.” She then explained:

“He … said, ‘God Almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew.’ Oh, how earnestly I prayed for these words to be fulfilled. It was near dawn after another sleepless night. While on my knees in fervent supplication, my room became filled with a hol[y] influence. To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sunshine bursting through the darkest cloud.

“The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of … plural marriage. Which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the temptations and trials of life” (Lucy Walker Kimball, biographical sketch, pages 10–11, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling and punctuation standardized).

Bishop Newel K. Whitney and his wife Elizabeth also struggled initially to accept the principle of plural marriage before gaining their own confirming witness. “Bishop Whitney was not a man that readily accepted of every doctrine, and would question the Prophet very closely upon principles if not made clear to his understanding. When Joseph saw that he was doubtful concerning the righteousness of this celestial order [plural marriage] he told him to go and enquire of the Lord concerning it, and he should receive a testimony for himself” (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Scenes in Nauvoo after the Martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch,” Woman’s Exponent, March 1, 1883, 146). Elizabeth Whitney recounted: “Joseph had the most implicit confidence in my husband’s uprightness and integrity of character. … He therefore confided to him, and a few others, the principles set forth in that revelation [D&C 132]. … My husband revealed these things to me; we had always been united, and had the utmost faith and confidence in each other. We pondered upon them continually, and our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was very merciful to us; He revealed unto us His power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision, a halo of light encircled us, and we were convinced in our own minds that God heard and approved our prayers and intercedings before Him.” Elizabeth testified that their “hearts were comforted” and their faith “made … perfect” concerning the principle of plural marriage (Elizabeth Ann Whitney, “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, December 15, 1878, 105).

“Not all [Church members] had such experiences. Some Latter-day Saints rejected the principle of plural marriage and left the Church, while others declined to enter the practice but remained faithful. Nevertheless, for many women and men, initial revulsion and anguish was followed by struggle, resolution, and ultimately, light and peace. Sacred experiences enabled the Saints to move forward in faith” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:37. “They have entered into their exaltation”

“Eternal life, or exaltation, is to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where we will live in God’s presence and continue as families” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 52). Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4 teaches that the “highest” degree in the celestial kingdom is obtained by those who “enter into … the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” Because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “abode in [the Lord’s] law,” or entered into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and “did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation” (D&C 132:37).

While speaking about Doctrine and Covenants 132:37, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received exaltation with their wives: “What we say for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we say also for Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, the wives who stood at their sides and who with them were true and faithful in all things. Men are not saved alone, and women do not gain an eternal fullness except in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Salvation is a family affair” (“Mothers in Israel and Daughters of Zion,” New Era, May 1978, 37).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:39–40, 45. “The keys of this power”

The Lord taught that King David was justified in having additional wives and concubines when authorized to do so by the prophet Nathan “and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power” (D&C 132:39). The keys of the priesthood held by the Lord’s prophet include the power to seal or bind on earth and in heaven all ordinances pertaining to salvation, that they may remain in force and have validity “in and after the resurrection” (D&C 132:7; see also D&C 132:46).

Because the Prophet Joseph Smith held the keys of the priesthood, the Lord “restore[d] all things” through him (D&C 132:40, 45), including the practice of plural marriage. The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) taught: “All the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 511).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:41–44, 48. “As ye have asked concerning adultery”

The text of Doctrine and Covenants 132:41 suggests that the Prophet Joseph Smith had a question or concern about adultery in connection with plural marriage. In response, the Lord explained that adultery is committed when a married man or woman has a sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage (see D&C 132:41–43). The Lord also told the Prophet that if a spouse committed adultery and thereby broke a marriage vow or covenant, the Prophet would “have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood” to seal the righteous spouse in marriage to someone else who “[had] not committed adultery but [had] been faithful” (D&C 132:44). Thus, an unfaithful spouse cannot prevent a righteous spouse from receiving the blessings of exaltation.

The Lord reassured the Prophet that all marriages, including plural marriages, performed according to His law and the sealing power of the priesthood would “be visited with blessings and not cursings, … and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven” (D&C 132:48; see also D&C 132:45–47, 59–62).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:49–50. “I seal upon you your exaltation”

The Lord gave the Prophet Joseph Smith His assurance of exaltation or eternal life as a result of Joseph’s “sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you” (see D&C 132:49–50). Like Abraham, the Prophet Joseph Smith proved faithful no matter the difficulty or sacrifices required to serve and obey the Lord.

For further explanation of what it means for a person to have exaltation sealed upon him or her, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 131:5 in this manual.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:51–66

The Lord counsels Emma Smith and gives instructions regarding plural marriage

Doctrine and Covenants 132:51. “A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith”

Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration Movie Stills

Plural marriage was a difficult ordeal for both Joseph Smith and his wife Emma.

While the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 contains doctrine and principles of general interest and worth to all Latter-day Saints, the more personal instructions to Emma and Joseph Smith were likely not originally intended for the entire Church. In 1877, a year after section 132 was added to the Doctrine and Covenants, President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) explained: “When the revelation was written, in 1843, it was for a special purpose, by the request of the Patriarch Hyrum Smith, and was not then designed to go forth to the church or to the world. It is most probable that had it been then written with a view to its going out as a doctrine of the church, it would have been presented in a somewhat different form. There are personalities [instructions to individuals] contained in a part of it which are not relevant to the principle itself, but rather to the circumstances which necessitated its being written at that time” (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Sept. 11, 1878, 498).

Because Joseph and Emma Smith’s personal circumstances are not fully known or understood, the meaning of some verses is not clear. For example, the Lord commanded Emma to “stay herself and partake not of that which [the Lord] commanded [Joseph] to offer unto her” (D&C 132:51). We do not know what the Lord had commanded Joseph to offer Emma. However, the revelation suggests that the Lord intended the “offer”—whatever it was—to serve as an Abrahamic test of faith for both Joseph and Emma: “For I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice” (D&C 132:51).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:52–56. “Abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph”

For a time, Emma Smith accepted the principle of plural marriage and gave her consent for Joseph to marry additional women (see “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org). However, by the summer of 1843, when the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132 was written, Emma struggled to accept these plural marriages. In the revelation the Lord instructed Emma to “receive all those [women] that have been given unto my servant Joseph” and to “cleave” unto her husband (D&C 132:52, 54). The Lord warned that if she did not obey His commandments, she would be “destroyed” (D&C 132:54)—meaning she would be cut off or separated from God (compare Acts 3:22–23; 1 Nephi 22:20; 3 Nephi 21:11). This warning is similar to the one the Lord gave Emma in a July 1830 revelation when He said, “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come” (D&C 25:15). The Prophet Joseph Smith had received a similar warning when “an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword, and told him that, unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his Priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed!” (Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 69–70).

In contrast to the warnings the Lord gave Emma as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132:52, 54, the Lord also promised that if she would accept this commandment and also “forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; … then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice” (D&C 132: 56).

After the Prophet dictated the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, his brother Hyrum took it to Emma to read, believing he could “convince her of its truth” and help her accept the principle of plural marriage (William Clayton, in History of the Church, 5:xxxii). When he returned to the Prophet’s office in the Red Brick Store, “Joseph asked him how he had succeeded. Hyrum replied that he had never received a more severe talking to in his life, that Emma was very bitter and full of resentment and anger.

“Joseph quietly remarked, ‘I told you you did not know Emma as well as I did’” (Clayton, in History of the Church, 5:xxxiii).

“Joseph and Emma loved and respected each other deeply,” which made the Prophet’s obedience to plural marriage all the more difficult for Emma. “She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org). An account by Maria Jane Woodward, who worked in the Smith home, reflects both Emma’s conflicted feelings over plural marriage and her efforts to believe and accept the practice. Maria recalled a conversation Emma had with her the morning after Maria overheard an emotional exchange between Emma and Joseph regarding plural marriage: “[Emma] told me to sit down on the bed by her and we both sat down on the bed that I was making. She looked very sad and cast down, and there she said to me, ‘The principle of plural marriage is right, but I am like other women, I am naturally jealous hearted and can talk back to Joseph as long as any wife can talk back to her husband, but what I want to say to you is this. You heard me finding fault with the principle. I want to say that that principle is right, it is from our Father in Heaven’, and then she again spoke of her jealousy. Then she continued, ‘What I said I have got to repent of. The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph of that principle. The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else finds fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it” (“Statement of Sister Maria Jane Woodward of Huntington, Emery County, Utah, Maiden Name, Maria J. Johnston,” enclosed with letter from George H. Brimhall to Joseph F. Smith, Apr. 21, 1902, 2–3, in Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

On or before September 28, 1843, Emma received her temple endowment, after which “she administered [temple ordinances] under Joseph’s direction to many other women” (see Gracia N. Jones, “My Great-Great-Grandmother Emma Hale Smith,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 34, 37).

Emma Smith

Emma Hale Smith, 1804–1879

Shortly before the Prophet’s martyrdom, in June 1844, Emma wrote the blessings she desired most from her Heavenly Father. Among her list of blessings, she wrote the following:

“I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself, that I might be able to overcome whatever of tradition or nature that would not tend to my exaltation in the eternal worlds. I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting. …

“I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side” (“Emma Hale Smith Blessing,” 1844, typescript, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Until her death in 1879, Emma continued to share her testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and the prophetic mission of her husband Joseph Smith (see Jones, “My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother,” 36).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:52. “Those that have been given unto my servant Joseph”

The Lord instructed Emma Smith to “receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph” (D&C 132:52), meaning that she should be accepting of her husband’s plural marriages. Some of these marriages were for time and eternity, while others were for eternity only.

“During the era in which plural marriage was practiced, Latter-day Saints distinguished between sealings for time and eternity and sealings for eternity only. Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone.

“Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings. The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown because the evidence is fragmentary. Some of the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith later testified that their marriages were for time and eternity, while others indicated that their relationships were for eternity alone.

“Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, … who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens. Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being ‘for eternity alone,’ suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations. …

“… Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married. Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone. Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

“There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church. These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. …

“These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships. This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having ‘demurred’ on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice. After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.

“Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages. Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life.

“… After Joseph’s death, most of the women sealed to him moved to Utah with the Saints, remained faithful Church members, and defended both plural marriage and Joseph” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:58–63. “If he have ten virgins given unto him by this law”

The word virgin can refer to any unmarried woman who is chaste. This definition corresponds with what President John Taylor (1808–1887) taught when he said that “none but the more pure, virtuous, honorable and upright” were to practice plural marriage (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Apr. 26, 1882, 212). Though it is not clear why or how the word virgin is being used in Doctrine and Covenants 132:61–63, plural marriage as practiced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the early Saints did not exclude widows or women who had previously been married. The passage seems to illustrate that plural marriages performed according to God’s law and by His authority and direction were acceptable to Him.

It is important to remember that the Lord gives revelations “unto [His] servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (D&C 1:24). Doctrine and Covenants 132 contains traditional marriage language used during the Prophet Joseph Smith’s time. For example, it was common in the Prophet’s day to say that a bride was “given” in marriage. When the revelation states that wives are “given” to a man (D&C 132:61) or that they “belong” to him (D&C 132:62), this does not mean that women were to be considered as property or that they were to have little or no say regarding whom they married. “Women [in the Church] were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org). In the context of this revelation, wives “given” unto a man refer to marriages authorized of the Lord and sealed by His priesthood authority (see D&C 132:61; see also D&C 132:39).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:63. “To multiply and replenish the earth”

“Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century” (“Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” topics.lds.org). However, in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that one of the purposes of plural marriage is “to multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63; see also Genesis 1:28). The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob explained that the Lord sometimes commands His people to practice plural marriage so that they can “raise up seed unto [Him]” (Jacob 2:30). To “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” means to “bring up … children in [the] light and truth” of the gospel (see D&C 93:40). Thus, the Lord has at times established the practice of plural marriage to provide His people with further opportunities to raise children in the gospel covenant. The practice of plural marriage in the Church in the 19th century “did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes” (“Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” topics.lds.org).

The practice of plural marriage “also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in other ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; per-capita inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households; and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population” (“Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” topics.lds.org).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:63. “For their exaltation in the eternal worlds”

Many of the early Church leaders and members did not distinguish between celestial marriage and plural marriage when discussing the requirements for exaltation. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, the Lord taught that “if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed,” they will receive “exaltation and glory in all things,” and “then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:19–20). Thus, “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:2) is the eternal, or celestial, marriage of one man and one woman. The Lord extended the same promised blessings of “exaltation in the eternal worlds” to faithful Saints who lived the principle of plural marriage (D&C 132:63; see also D&C 132:55), but celestial marriage—not plural marriage—is required for exaltation.

In 1933, President Heber J. Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency explained that the term “celestial marriage” does not imply plural marriage: “Celestial marriage—that is, marriage for time and eternity—and polygamous or plural marriage are not synonymous terms. Monogamous marriages for time and eternity, solemnized in our temples in accordance with the word of the Lord and the laws of the Church, are Celestial marriages” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1971], 5:329).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that monogamous marriage—marriage between one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standard for celestial marriage: “Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman. (D. & C. 132:1–28.) Thereafter he added the principles relative to plurality of wives with the express stipulation that any such marriages would be valid only if authorized by the President of the Church. (D. & C. 132:7, 29–66.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 578–79).

Doctrine and Covenants 132:64–66. “The law of Sarah”

The instructions recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132:64–66 apparently related to Joseph and Emma Smith’s specific circumstances. The Lord refers to a man “who holds the keys of this power” and the man’s wife (D&C 132:64; see also D&C 132:7 and the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 132:7 in this manual). The Lord explained that after the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught Emma “the law of my priesthood” regarding plural marriage, she had an obligation to “believe” and support Joseph as he obeyed the Lord’s commandment to marry additional women (D&C 132:64). In so doing, Emma would follow the example of Sarah, “who administered unto Abraham according to the law when [the Lord] commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife” (D&C 132:65; see also D&C 132:34).

Official Declaration 1: Additional Historical Background

When the Prophet Joseph Smith established plural marriage according to the Lord’s commandment, relatively few Church members knew of the practice. “Plural marriage was introduced among the early Saints incrementally, and participants were asked to keep their actions confidential” (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” topics.lds.org). After the Saints moved to the Salt Lake Valley and other areas in the western United States, more Church members openly practiced plural marriage, and obedience to the principle became widespread. During a Church conference held in Salt Lake City on August 29, 1852, Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, acting under the direction of President Brigham Young, taught about the principle of plural marriage and stated that “the Latter-day Saints have embraced the doctrine of [plural marriage] as part of their religious faith” (in “Minutes of a Special Conference of Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Assembled in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, August 28, 1852,” The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, Supplement, 1853, 18). In the years that followed, religious and political leaders in the United States opposed the practice, calling it immoral and uncivilized. However, Church members defended plural marriage, testifying that God had commanded it through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

“Beginning in 1862, the [United States] government passed a series of laws designed to force Latter-day Saints to relinquish [cease] plural marriage. …

“This government opposition strengthened the Saints’ resolve to resist what they deemed to be unjust laws. Polygamous men went into hiding, sometimes for years at a time, moving from house to house and staying with friends and relatives. …

“This antipolygamy campaign created great disruption in Mormon communities. The departure of husbands left wives and children to tend farms and businesses, causing incomes to drop and economic recession to set in. The campaign also strained families. New plural wives had to live apart from their husbands, their confidential marriages known only to a few. Pregnant women often chose to go into hiding, at times in remote locales, rather than risk being subpoenaed to testify in court against their husbands. Children lived in fear that their families would be broken up or that they would be forced to testify against their parents. Some children went into hiding and lived under assumed names” (“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” topics.lds.org).

The laws that were created to deter plural marriage denied men who practiced plural marriage the right to vote and hold political office; repealed, or canceled, the right of women to vote in the Utah Territory; dissolved the Church as a legal institution; and authorized the government to seize all Church properties valued at $50,000 or more, including the temples. The Church challenged this law as being unconstitutional, but it was eventually upheld by the United States Supreme Court. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism [1992], “History of the Church: c. 1878–1898, Late Pioneer Utah Period,” 2:625–27, eom.byu.edu.)

MANTI UTAH TEMPLE

Antipolygamy actions taken by the United States federal government threatened the loss of the Church’s temples, including the Manti Utah Temple, which was dedicated in 1888.

In August 1890, Church leaders learned that the United States government intended to seize the Logan, Manti, and St. George Temples (see Abraham H. Cannon, Candid Insights of a Mormon Apostle: The Diaries of Abraham H. Cannon, 1889–1895, ed. Edward Leo Lyman [2010], 124; see also In the Whirlpool: The Pre-Manifesto Letters of President Wilford Woodruff to the William Atkin Family, 1885–1890, ed. Reid L. Neilson [2011], 91). This led President Wilford Woodruff to counsel with other Church leaders and earnestly seek the Lord’s will regarding the practice of plural marriage. On September 25, 1890, he recorded the following in his journal: “I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church. The United States government has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the subject of polygamy, or patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the following proclamation which is sustained by my counselors and the twelve apostles” (in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency [1966], 3:192). President Woodruff’s proclamation, recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1, “was released to the public on September 25, and became known as the Manifesto” (“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” topics.lds.org). It “was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890” (Official Declaration 1, heading).

Official Declaration 1

President Wilford Woodruff issues the Manifesto, which leads to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church

Official Declaration 1, paragraphs 1–3. “We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice”

In the years leading up to the issuing of the Manifesto, Church leaders prayerfully made changes in the practice of plural marriage in hopes of reducing hostilities against the Latter-day Saints. They counseled men in plural marriages “to live openly with only one of their wives, and advocated that plural marriage not be taught publicly. In 1889, Church authorities prohibited the performance of new plural marriages in Utah” (“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” topics.lds.org). President Wilford Woodruff also had the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, taken down after hearing of a plural marriage performed there without his knowledge (Official Declaration 1, paragraph 3). For over 30 years, the Endowment House had served as a temporary temple where Church members performed temple ordinances, including marriage sealings. In June 1890 the First Presidency instructed Church leaders not to perform any new plural marriages in the United States, while still allowing for it on a limited basis in Latter-day Saint colonies in Mexico and Canada (see Thomas G. Alexander, “The Odyssey of a Latter-day Prophet: Wilford Woodruff and the Manifesto of 1890,” in Banner of the Gospel: Wilford Woodruff, ed. Alexander L. Baugh and Susan Easton Black [2007], 301). When President Woodruff declared that the Church no longer officially taught the principle of plural marriage, “nor [permitted] any person to enter into its practice,” he was referring specifically to reports of new plural marriages contracted in the Utah Territory (Official Declaration 1, paragraph 2).

Endowment House

The Endowment House served as a “temporary temple” from 1855 until 1889. It was located on the northwest corner of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

How did Church members react to the Manifesto?

For half a century, Church members had practiced plural marriage because they firmly believed God had commanded it. Many who had sacrificed so much to obey this commandment reacted to the Manifesto with astonishment and some uneasiness. Lorena Washburn Larsen recounted the wrestle she had after learning of the Manifesto and the confirmation she subsequently received:

“I had gone into that order of marriage … because I believed God had commanded his people to do so, and it had been such a sacrifice to enter it, and live it as I thought God wanted me to. And as I thought about it, it seemed impossible that the Lord would go back on a principle which had caused so much sacrifice, heartache, and trial. …

“My anguish was inexpressible, and a dense darkness took hold of my mind. … I fancied I could see myself and my children, and many other splendid women and their families turned adrift, and our only purpose in entering [plural marriage], had been to more fully serve the Lord. I sank down on our bedding and wished in my anguish that the earth would open and take me and my children in. The darkness seemed impenetrable.

“All at once I heard a voice and felt a most powerful presence. …

“There was a light whose brightness cannot be described which filled my soul, and I was so filled with joy and peace, and happiness that I felt that no matter whatever should come to me in all my future life, I could never feel sad again. If the people of the whole world had been gathered together trying with all their power to comfort me, they could not compare with the powerful unseen Presence which came to me on that occasion. …

“In the trying years which followed, often a glimmer of that same light came to me again” (Autobiography of Lorena Eugenia Washburn Larsen [1962], 105–6).

When the Manifesto was first announced, Elder Brigham H. Roberts, who was then serving as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, was on a train heading to Salt Lake City along with several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. During their journey Elder John W. Taylor of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came across a copy of the Deseret News Weekly, the headlines of which announced the Manifesto, and showed it to Elder Roberts. Elder Roberts later recalled:

“I read [the newspaper headlines] with astonishment. But no sooner had I read them, than like a flash of light all through my soul the spirit said—‘That is all right,’ so it passed. Then I began to reflect upon the matter. I thought of all the Saints had suffered to sustain that doctrine; I remembered my own exile [to England], my own imprisonment; I thought of that of others. I remembered what sacrifices my wives had made for it; what others had made for it. We had preached it, sustained its divinity from the pulpit, in the press, from the lecture platform. Our community had endured every kind of reproach from the world for the sake of it—and was this to be the end? I had learned to expect that God would sustain both that principle and his Saints who carried it out, and to lay it down like this was a kind of cowardly proceeding that the more I thought of it the less I liked it. … I was in quite an exasperated mood, and felt crushed and humiliated. …

“… This matter continued a trial to me through the year 1891, and plagued me much, but I said little about it; and by and by I began to remember the flash of light that came to me when first I heard of [the Manifesto], and at last my feelings became reconciled to it. Perhaps I had transgressed in pushing from me the first testimony I received in relation to it, and allowing my own prejudices, and my own short-sighted, human reason to stand against the inspiration of God and the testimony it bore that the Manifesto was alright. When this fact began to dawn on my mind I repented of my wrong and courted most earnestly the spirit of God for a testimony and gradually it came” (quoted in Ronald W. Walker, “B. H. Roberts and the Woodruff Manifesto,” BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 22, issue 3, article 10 [1982], 364–65, scholarsarchive.byu.edu).

While some Church members reacted with concern to the Manifesto, others were overjoyed and relieved by President Woodruff’s announcement.

Did the practice of plural marriage end immediately with the Manifesto?

“Like the beginning of plural marriage in the Church, the end of the practice was a process rather than a single event. Revelation came ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ [D&C 98:12]. …

“… Many practical matters had to be settled. The Manifesto was silent on what existing plural families should do. On their own initiative, some couples separated or divorced as a result of the Manifesto; other husbands stopped [living] with all but one of their wives but continued to provide financial and emotional support to all dependents. In closed-door meetings with local leaders, the First Presidency condemned men who left their wives by using the Manifesto as an excuse. ‘I did not, could not and would not promise that you would desert your wives and children,’ President Woodruff told the men. ‘This you cannot do in honor’ [in Abraham H. Cannon diary, Oct. 7, 1890, Nov. 12, 1891].

“Believing that the covenants they made with God and their spouses had to be honored above all else, many husbands, including Church leaders, continued to [live] with their plural wives and fathered children with them well into the 20th century. …

“… Under exceptional circumstances, a smaller number of new plural marriages were performed in the United States between 1890 and 1904, though whether the marriages were authorized to have been performed within the states is unclear.

“The precise number of new plural marriages performed during these years, inside and outside the United States, is unknown. …

“… Overall, the record shows that plural marriage was a declining practice and that Church leaders were acting in good conscience to abide by the terms of the Manifesto as they understood them” (“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” topics.lds.org).

While speaking about the complex choices the Saints had to make regarding the practice of polygamy and its discontinuance, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

“It is … clear that during the federal prosecutions of the 1880s, numerous Church leaders and faithful members were pursued, arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for violations of various laws forbidding polygamy or cohabitation. Some wives were even sent to prison for refusing to testify against their husbands, my grandfather’s oldest sister being one of them.

“It is also clear that polygamy did not end suddenly with the 1890 Manifesto. Polygamous relationships sealed before that revelation was announced continued for a generation. The performance of polygamous marriages also continued for a time outside the United States, where the application of the Manifesto was uncertain for a season. It appears that polygamous marriages also continued for about a decade in some other areas among leaders and members who took license from the ambiguities and pressures created by this high-level collision between resented laws and revered doctrines” (“Gospel Teachings about Lying,” Clark Memorandum [Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School periodical], Spring 1994, 16).

In April 1904, President Joseph F. Smith issued a statement, known as the Second Manifesto, declaring that all new 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 in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1904, 75).

“Church members who rejected the Second Manifesto and continued to publicly advocate plural marriage or undertake new plural marriages were summoned to Church disciplinary councils. Some who were excommunicated coalesced into [became members of] independent movements and are sometimes called fundamentalists. These groups are not affiliated with or supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the administration of Joseph F. Smith, Church Presidents have repeatedly emphasized that the Church and its members are no longer authorized to enter into plural marriage and have underscored the sincerity of their words by urging local leaders to bring noncompliant members before Church disciplinary councils” (“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” topics.lds.org).

While speaking about the Church’s position on polygamy, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) declared:

“There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction to use the two words together.

“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 marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71–72).

Official Declaration 1, paragraph 6. “We consider [President Woodruff] fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto”

Plural marriage can only be authorized through the priesthood keys held by the President of the Church (see D&C 132:39, 45–48). President Joseph F. Smith taught: “[The] President is the mouthpiece of God, the revelator, the translator, the seer, and the Prophet of God to the whole Church. It is he who holds the keys of this Holy Priesthood—the keys which unlock the doors of the Temples of God and of the ordinances of His house for the salvation of the living and the redemption of the dead” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 141). As President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff was “fully authorized” to receive the Lord’s will for the Church to end the practice of plural marriage (Official Declaration 1, paragraph 6).

For additional explanation regarding how the practice of plural marriage was governed by the priesthood keys held by the President of the Church, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 132:39–40, 45 in this chapter.

Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” paragraph 1. “The Lord will never permit … [the] President of this Church to lead you astray”

Some Church members struggled to accept the Manifesto as the Lord’s will. In a general conference address given less than two weeks after issuing the Manifesto, President Wilford Woodruff testified to Church members: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles [revelations] of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” paragraph 1).

Portrait of Wilford Woodruff ca. 1898

President Wilford Woodruff, 1807–1898

President Woodruff’s teachings should not be misunderstood to mean that prophets are perfect or infallible. For example, on several occasions the Lord acknowledged the Prophet Joseph Smith’s weaknesses and imperfections (see D&C 3:1–10; 64:3–7; 124:1), but He also affirmed that the Prophet had successfully fulfilled his divinely appointed mission in spite of these imperfections (see D&C 136:37–39; see also D&C 135:3–7).

While speaking about the necessity of continuing revelation, President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency taught:

“We have been promised that the President of the Church will receive guidance for all of us as the revelator for the Church. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel. …

“How can we be so sure that, as promised, the prophets, seers, and revelators will never lead this people astray? (See Joseph Fielding Smith, [“Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,”] Ensign, July 1972, p. 88.) One answer is contained in the grand principle found in the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same’ [D&C 107:27]. This requirement of unanimity provides a check on bias and personal idiosyncrasies. It ensures that God rules through the Spirit, not man through majority or compromise. It ensures that the best wisdom and experience is focused on an issue before the deep, unassailable impressions of revealed direction are received. It guards against the foibles of man” (“Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 10).

Church members have the privilege and responsibility of knowing for themselves that the Lord inspires and directs those called to lead the Church. After the Manifesto had been presented in general conference for the sustaining vote of Church members, President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901) of the First Presidency addressed the Saints. During his remarks he extended the following invitation to those with questions concerning the Manifesto: “Go unto God yourselves, if you are tried over this and cannot see its purpose; go to your secret chambers and ask God and plead with Him, in the name of Jesus, to give you a testimony as He has given it to us, and I promise that you will not come away empty, nor dissatisfied; you will have a testimony, and light will be poured out upon you, and you will see things that perhaps you cannot see and understand at the present time” (in Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, comp. Brian H. Stuy [1988], 2:133).

Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” paragraphs 4–7. “The God of heaven commanded me to do what I did”

A year after issuing the Manifesto, President Wilford W. Woodruff spoke to Church members gathered at a stake conference in Logan, Utah. He said, “The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the Church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of [the Manifesto]” (“Remarks Made by President Wilford Woodruff,” Deseret Evening News, Nov. 7, 1891, 4). He invited the Saints to reflect on the same question he had pondered, discussed with other Church leaders, and then taken to the Lord in fervent prayer: “Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of this nation against it … or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses,” paragraph 5). He then testified: “The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners.” Yet, he declared his willingness to continue the practice of plural marriage, despite the consequences, “had not the God of heaven commanded [him] to do what [he] did” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses,” paragraphs 6–7).

One truth that we can learn from President Woodruff’s teachings is that the Lord gives continuing revelation to His prophets according to the needs and circumstances of His Church and people. President John Taylor taught:

“From the time that Adam first received a communication from God, to the time that John, on the Isle of Patmos, received his communication, or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed.

“Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor [2001], 158).

Thus, new and changing circumstances require additional revelation from God. While external events, such as intense opposition against plural marriage, can create the need for new revelation, ultimately it is the Lord who directs the Church and its members through revelation.