Nauvoo, Illinois laid in shambles as the Saints departed for the Rocky Mountains. Gone was the illustrious ideal of a Mormon utopia, and in its stead was a pile of burning embers from what used to be their beloved temple. That was until a tornado came through the valley, sweeping away any salvageable remnants or visible reminders of the town’s history.
It wasn’t until 2002 when the Church purchased the property from a local, before LDS activity was seen in the area. Two years later, the Church rededicated the land in the reopening of the Nauvoo Temple in 2004.
The physical remnants of Smith’s past can be easily verified, but what isn’t so easy to disseminate are the numerous conflicting doctrines of what is, and isn’t held as truth, in Mormon dogma.
Celestial marriage and polygamy were synonymous terms back in Smith’s day, but not so much nowadays.
Today the Church considers polygamy to have been a necessity of their past, but in their reinvention of the term ‘eternal marriage’, not a hint of polygamy can be found in their vernacular.
Today Celestial Marriage is defined as:
“…the gate to exaltation, and exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Exaltation is…the kind of life which God lives” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 257).
“Any young man who carelessly neglects this great commandment to marry, or who does not marry because of a selfish desire to avoid the responsibilities which married life will bring, is taking a course which is displeasing in the sight of God…There can be no exaltation without it. If a man refuses…he is taking a course which may bar him forever from (exaltation).” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:74).
While all this sounds rather mundane, the truth is still untold in the statements of Mr. McConkie and his father-in-law, Joseph Fielding Smith.
The truth is that celestial polygamy is still part of the decorum for LDS doctrines. The statement by Smith belies other comments he’s made in the past. After Smith was widowed from his first wife, he remarried two other times and made the comment, ‘my wives will be mine in eternity…’ Doctrines of Salvation 2:67.
George D. Smith, author of Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the Church is in the “’process of forgetting’ this aspect of their history and the role polygamy played in events in Nauvoo and Celestial marriage was synonymous with plural marriage in Nauvoo”.
The bottom line is this; if you think you’re getting confused by their terminology shifts, you’re not alone. They’ve used celestial marriage, polygamy, and eternal marriage interchangeably over the years, and like everything else in Mormonism, will change its appearance like a chameleon if need be.
Smith’s legacy can best be summed up by stating it’s always good to remember what the Lord said;
“Bad company corrupt good morals” – 1 Cor. 15:33.
We’re wondering how long it’ll take the Church to denounce statements made by earlier leaders and the necessity of polygamy for entrance into heaven. The list is long, which means they’d have to denounce everyone before Heber Grant, and that includes Joe Smith himself.
Check out what two of their beloved leaders had to say about polygamy and salvation –
Polygamy the Only Religion in Heaven
Deseret News, No. 6, Vol. XII, August 6, 1862, p. 41; “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire. . . . Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers. . .
Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. “And is that religion popular in heaven?” It is the only popular religion there . . .” – Brigham Young
Kingdom of God Stops without Temple Marriage Ordinances
Journal of Discourses 23:363; “…[Joseph Smith] revealed unto them the doctrine of celestial marriage, and impressed upon them the importance of their obedience to the same, and made it obligatory upon them that they should obey it and carry it out in their lives, and teach it to others. He taught these brethren that unless they did this the kingdom would stop, it could not make further progress.” – George Q. Cannon, Tooele, Utah, October 29th, 1882