Will Kody Brown help rescind the Manifesto

by: Mormon Heretic

December 26, 2013

While it was ground-breaking, the Kody Brown polygamy lawsuit seems to have been pushed on to the back burner because Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned. However, what does Kody Brown mean for the church?

The wording of OD1 states

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws….I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.

Now that Utah’s cohabitation laws have been struck down, Woodruff’s “advice” means that Kody is not contracting in any marriage forbidden by the law of the land (nor will anyone else that wants to enter into polygamist relationships.) Brown’s marriages while not recognized by the state bear strong similarities to the marriages performed prior to the Manifesto. Obviously the reason for the suspension of the practice in 1890 was because of the laws of the United States. If the practice of plural marriage is now legal, is there any reason why Mormons should be excommunicated for participating in plural marriage?

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19 Responses to Will Kody Brown help rescind the Manifesto

  1. wonderdog on December 26, 2013 at 6:21 AM

    And when your bishop or Stake President call you to marry Sister Sweetspiriit?

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  2. RMM on December 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Utah’s cohabitation laws have not been struck down. The practice of plural marriage is not legal. The state does not recognize plural marriages. What the decision did was decriminalize religious plural cohabitation. That is not the same as legalizing plural marriage.

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  3. mh on December 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    But if it is not a criminal act, then people can participate without fear of jail. The political climate has changed so much since 1890 that congress seems inept at stopping polygamy. If it is a true religious principle, then should it be reinstated?

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  4. New Iconoclast on December 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    I think maybe people aren’t reading the decision and the law carefully. (I know many of our more fervent Protestant brethren, who have been waiting for us to all jump back into plural marriage and are now overdosing on unwarranted “Itoldyaso”, haven’t been reading carefully.) Let’s see if I can summarize:

    * It was illegal in Utah for consenting adults to cohabitate (live together without benefit of legal marriage), whether for religious or for any other reason.

    * The court struck down this portion of Utah law, but left intact the law against actual bigamy, which is (per Jonathan Turley) “the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses for the purpose of entering into more than one purportedly legal marriage.”

    * It is now legal to live with your girlfriend or boyfriend in Utah, whether or not you are married. (And, as of last week, regardless of the gender of the gf/bf.)

    * The Church still holds sex between two persons not married to each other to be adultery and/or fornication.

    THEREFORE: Mormons will still be excommunicated for participating in “plural marriage,” because those marriages are still illegal. What would be occurring would be a married man with one legal wife and one or more live-in girlfriends. Regardless of the consent of the individuals involved, that’s actionable in the eyes of the Church.

    Hopefully that clears up what’s going on. There are plently of things I can do as a Latter-day Saint that won’t land me in jail but would subject me to varying levels of Church discipline. Adding a pseudo-wife in Utah is as fast a way to become a former Mormon as I can think of.

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  5. el oso on December 26, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    I wonder if a civil suit for damages is being contemplated a church HQ? This could be a way to get the law challenged obliquely and probably changed back with the 125+ years of interest on confiscated property, etc, etc.

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  6. dba.brotherp on December 26, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    If the Church went back to polygamy, recruitment (i.e. missionary work) would suffer. The Church is all about growth. Polygamy wasn’t successful the first time around, and I don’t believe it would be successful if tried again.

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  7. Kullervo on December 27, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    el oso, civil suits for damages are subect to statutes of limitations.

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  8. fbisti on December 27, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    RE your logical question; “If the practice of plural marriage is now legal, is there any reason why Mormons should be excommunicated for participating in plural marriage?’

    I once asked, via email, my Stake Pres (and friend of the family) a question using similar logic: If the church deemed unmarried sex as unrighteous (hence married sex is not); and if non-sexually active, unmarried homosexuals were allowed to receive callings, then in the states where same-sex marriage was legal what is the status of married homosexuals that are sexually active?

    He replied that he wanted to sit down and talk to me about this–I declined. From another source, and long experience, I know the answer. Logic does not trump the underlying intent of the church’s human/culturally-driven policies–though they be (later) proven to be untrue, not best, or not eternal.

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  9. Kullervo on December 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    There are already countries where polygamy is legal. What’s the Church’s policy there and why?

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  10. NewlyHousewife on December 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM


    The church’s stance in those countries is that the man has to forgo his other wives before being eligible for baptism.

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  11. Kullervo on December 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    That’s what I suspected. I’m not sure why polygamy being decriminalized–or even recognized–in the US would be any different.

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  12. Douglas on December 27, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    If there’s any change in the status quo re: plural marriage, it won’t be b/c of Kody Brown. Rather, it will be IAW revelation as disseminated through the Prophet, sustained by the governing Councils of the Church (First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), and submitted before the body of the Church at large for sustainment. At this point, I see no reason why the Church would change from the current “default” condition of marriage being between one man and one woman ONLY as spelled out in Jacob 2:22-28. Let offshoot groups do what they may and good luck to them.
    As New Icon again well pointed out, the only thing that was changed was Utah using a law prohibiting co-habitation (since the “plural” wives aren’t claimed under a state-issued marriage license, the crime of bigamy is not an issue) to break up a polygamous relationship. Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn and kids are perfectly able to live as whatever family unit they choose to consider themselves; the “marriages” of Kody to any other than Meri have no legal basis. From what I can see, they see as well-adjusted and their kids as happy as any LDS family that could be cut-and-pasted onto an Ensign front cover.
    Likewise, as fbisti (#8) pointed out, a gay couple (or whatever numbers exist under the same roof) can live together as consenting adult(erers) as they see fit, provided they’re of age and fitness of mind to do so. I’ve only raised a ruckus that they’ve demanded the sanction of the state for their relationship, which as I’ve said ad nauseam, is no marriage at all. If the “polygs” can’t have it, neither ought the LGBT. Other than that, though, they ought to be left alone, and I’m perfectly content to utterly ignore them.

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  13. […] cohabitation were simply brought into alignment with those of the other 49 states — but one can make a strong case that the CoJCoL-dS should bring back polygamy (according to its own […]

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  14. Mormon Heretic on December 30, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    New Iconoclast, I’m sure you indicate the current position of the church, and I don’t really disagree with it. But what I’m asking is this: is polygamy a practice or a principle? If it is a principle, it was discontinued due to the laws of the land. Now that the laws of the land have changed, should it be implemented again?

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  15. New Iconoclast on December 30, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    My computer ate my response, so here goes again. The following is My Opinion, of course, and not definitive.

    MH, I think Douglas hit on the key passage for guidance on this issue, although he didn’t quite go far enough. We’re all familiar with it, but I’ll stick it in here anyway. In Jacob 2:23-28, the Lord condemns the plurality of wives and condemns concubinage, and David and Solomon’s practice thereof, and sets a pretty clear “one man, one woman” standard. He continues, however, in verse 30 to say:

    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.

    He commanded us to practice plural marriage in the 19th century, and commanded us to cease when it stopped being a building exercise and started handicapping the Church’s growth, as President Woodruff’s comments on the Manifesto make clear:

    Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice) . . .

    I think it’s clearly a principle which can be practiced when done in the right time and place at the Lord’s command. Whether or not now would again be the time for us to implement it again would be up to Him. However, in current circumstances, we’re growing fine and we’re getting along with our neighbors as well as ever; this might not be the best time to begin again. I don’t know to what extent that would influence the Lord’s decision, but I suspect we won’t start again anytime soon. I’d be very surprised if President Monson isn’t asking about this issue, however.

    I think many of us believe that the disparity in active, endowed, sweet-spirited single sisters to single brethren means that someday, some of us will be asked to open our homes to additional women. Whether that will be here on Earth, during the Millennium, or celestially is uncertain, but it seems to be the consensus here outside Happy Valley where we seem to be able to discuss these things with a little less baggage – eventually, we’ll get there.

    In short, I think it COULD be implemented again, but given its nature as an exception to the divine rule, it’s by no means certain that it SHOULD be or that it will be. I think it would be perfectly consistent of the Church to maintain a one-man, one-woman marriage stance even if actual, marital polygamy becomes legal (which I think is inevitable), based on our interpretation of God’s law.

    IMHO, the most interesting questions facing the Church in the years to come will be things like “What about sincere, legally-married gay couples who seek baptism? What about sincere, committed families with multiple, legal spouses (in the US or elsewhere) who seek baptism?” Will we continue to insist on the breakup of these families before allowing membership in the Church? How will we interpret “legally and lawfully married” for temple purposes?

    Hold your hats, brothers and sisters; it’s going to be quite a ride!

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  16. Douglas on December 30, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    New Icon, other than quoting Jacob 2:23-28 as the default marriage mode, while pointing out that it allows for plural marriage as revealed via Priesthood authority, what further could be said? Just b/c the cohabitation statutes cannot be used to persecute, I mean prosecute, Kody Brown and his crew. Plural marriage is to LDS what the King Tiger tank was to armor…they were notorious once, but each has had its day.

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  17. New Iconoclast on December 31, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    Well, Douglas, MH’s question was two-fold (or contingent, I guess): whether or not plural marriage was a principle or merely a practice, and if the first, should we not be doing it again if it’s legal?

    My answer to him (which is only my opinion, I’ll reiterate) essentially answers your question. It is a principle, but one that is only practiced at divine direction. We discontinued it at divine direction, even if the reason for that direction was the likely consequence of continuing to disobey the law.

    I’ll point out here that plural marriage had been illegal for a number of years. The Morrill Act outlawed it (and disincorporated the Church) in 1862, and Reynolds v. US upheld that in 1879. Reynolds was Brigham Young’s secretary and allowed himself to be arrested as a test case. He lost and his conviction by a lower court was upheld by SCOTUS. During President Young’s lifetime, the Feds seemed reluctant to push the Saints too hard on the issue, but after his death, they cracked down. Tighter laws were passed in 1882 (Edmunds, which allowed the removal of civil rights for people who didn’t practice but only professed a belief in plural marriage) and 1887 (Edmunds-Tucker, which allowed the seizure of Church assets). The Saints held out until 1890, and Wilford Woodruff said in OD1, “I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me.”

    Presidents Taylor and Woodruff, and many other leaders and men in the Church, essentially lived underground and on the run to avoid arrest from about 1879 until the Manifesto. It’s not like one day we were fine, the next day it was illegal, and the Church duly knuckled under and issued the Manifesto. Even afterwards, plural marriages continued to be solemnized in Canada and especially in Mexico. In fact, continued opposition to the Manifesto resulted in the resignations from the Quorum of the Twelve of apostles John W Taylor and Matthias Cowley in 1905 (after Lorenzo Snow’s “Second Manifesto”), and to Cowley’s “suspension from the priesthood” and Taylor’s excommunication in 1911.

    To posit, as MH does, that “the reason for the suspension of the practice in 1890 was because of the laws of the United States” might be an oversimplification. It may have been a combination of factors at work, and I don’t pretend to know the mind of God in this – the law finally allowed the government to confiscate the Church’s assets, the practice may have resulted in the “raising up of seed” in adequate numbers for the Lord’s purposes, and we as a people had perhaps been tested enough.

    That’s a long, roundabout way of saying that the removal of the legal barrier is no reason for us to re-start. We seem to be reproducing and baptizing well enough without needing to go there. But if the Lord decides to “raise up seed unto” himself again, I suppose we’ll go there.

    However, I will say that the evangelicals who seem to assume that we’re just waiting for the barrier to drop before we all jump in feet-first have never bothered to talk to any Mormons about it, and especially not to Mormon women.

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  18. ClaireM on December 31, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    The church would never bring back polygamy, there would be a mass exodus of members and I’m fairly confident that those ‘single sweet sisters’ a few of you mention wouldn’t be so sweet in those circumstances

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  19. Douglas on January 1, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    #17 – fairly much sums it up. Of course, we should keep in mind D&C 1:38 … “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself”…ergo, the Lord makes His will known, and doesn’t necessarily feel compelled to explain his reasons why. We can come up with reasons why polygamy was commanded in the first place (the “raise up seed” argument being the best primary reason, the “testing of the Saints” may have also played a role but certainly there would have been opposition to the LDS Church even if polygamy had never been instituted), but unless the Lord, via the proper Priesthood channels, feels a reason to explain the “why”, we simply don’t know. Therefore, we can’t reasonably suppose that President Woodruff’s principal concern in 1890 (the ability of the US Government to deprive the Church of its legal existence and its property, and that no promise of relief by legal means or divine intervention seemed imminent) is germane some 124 years later. All we can go on is that the default mode (one man to one woman) is what’s commanded and there’s no need to speculate on if and/or when it will ever change. Nor, if for some reason there’s a need to ‘raise up a seed’, that polygamy is the only solution. It’s logical if there’s even temporarily a surplus of fertile women to capable men (as has occurred sometimes in the wake of war), but as the Savior Himself said in Matt 3:9, “For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” In the end, it all comes down to current revelation.

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