Was ‘Desire For Another Virgin’ The Only Requirement For A Polygamous Mormon?

“Also, the new wife must be a virgin before the marriage and be completely monogamous after the marriage or she will be destroyed (D&C 132: 41 & 63). It is interesting that the only prerequisite that is mentioned for the man is that he must desire another wife…”
(CES Letter)


If a man intended to marry polygamously, his first wife had to give her full consent. There was no allowance in the church for anyone to be forced, coerced, or manipulated into anything. This was one important prerequisite that they don’t mention, along with several others. Personal agency is an important concept that protects members of the church.

“And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery… if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified.”

CES Letter clips out a lot of this verse and it sounds like the “desire to espouse another” was the only requirement. Not true.

Faithfulness To Marriage Required

D&C 132 required both men and women to be faithful to their marriages and avoid adultery. Men were not to be involved with other women unless his first wife consented to their marriage, and women were not to be involved with other men. No sexual relations outside of marriage: this has always been the rule. Polygamy is obsolete today, but the expectation to abstain from sexual intercourse prior to marriage is still very much alive.

CES Letter seems outraged about the expectation to be “completely monogamous after the marriage,” but I don’t see what is so bizarre or unusual about the expectation to abstain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage. I don’t see why this is something to complain about. The church has always expected this from men and women. I think any healthy society expects this. Widows were of course allowed to remarry (CES Letter complains about this as well). But during a marriage, they were expected to be faithful, and I don’t see why this is something to complain about.

Must Keep All Other Covenants

Men and women were to be faithful to all of their covenants in order to enter into marriage. This included baptism, priesthood, and temple covenants. This was a clear requirement. D&C 132 declared one must “abide in my covenant,” referring to all of the covenants required for salvation in the gospel. This is why eternal marriage was performed in the temple. These prerequisites for polygamous Mormon marriage were strictly enforced, as “the conditions of this law are these: All covenants.”

Sealing Keys Required

This is an obvious requirement for anyone who knows anything about the Mormon priesthood. Eternal sealings were an endowment, and you can’t give yourself an endowment. The basic concept of the priesthood is that blessings are bestowed by a priesthood holder to another person. It must be made by “the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power.”

CES Letter says:

“It does not say that the man must get a specific revelation from the living prophet, although we assume today that this is what was meant”
(CES Letter)

Yes! Yes, it clearly does:

“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity… and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred, are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead.”

D&C 132 makes clear that a living prophet controls the keys and the entire system of holy covenanting. The reason for this is to avoid exactly the kind of confusion that CES Letter and Antimormons are trying to cause:

“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.”

Non-Virgins Allowed

D&C 132 states if a man espouses a virgin and seeks a second, and the first consents, then it is not adultery. There was no commandment that only virgins were allowed, however. It never says only virgins may marry. Divorcees and widows were remarrying all the time despite not being virgins. Clearly, the issue here was to marry a woman who was not currently married or living an unchaste life.

CES Letter says verse 41 commands that “the new wife must be a virgin before the marriage,” but it says no such thing. Verse 41 never says this, and Mormons never practiced this. It makes no mention of virginity, only that the woman couldn’t currently have a husband. There was no ‘destroying’ going on, no preventing widows or divorcees from remarrying, and “desire” was certainly not the only prerequisite.

“Open marriage” and infidelity is celebrated in today’s culture, and pleasure is championed over family and raising children. The rules for polygamy in the 1800’s were intended to build families and promote fidelity and love. Today’s doctrine of eternal marriage likewise promotes dedication to family and passing on a heritage to future generations. The LDS church teaches men to love and respect women. This argument stokes competition between the sexes and portrays men as barbarians who take whatever they desire, and women as their helpless victims. The LDS church teaches everyone to exercise free agency and not coerce or be coerced into anything. It is a liberating gospel and empowering for all classes, races, and sexes of people, and we will not be swayed by the lies Antimormons tell. Abuse and manipulation are not tolerated. We must not allow these slanderous lies to split men and women in the church. The principle of eternal marriage is a great blessing to each of us, and it strengthens family and society. We can avoid the pitfalls and perils that plague modern western society if we hold true to these covenants and standards.

Polygamy Banned Today

Polygamy is banned in the Mormon church today, though chastity and eternal marriage are still an eternal principle. It is quite manipulative to use present-tense grammar when discussing this:

“The only form of polygamy permitted by D&C 132 is a union with a virgin.”
(CES Letter)

It was permitted. Not is permitted. Past tense! Additional D&C scripture superseded this polygamy policy, and now it is not permitted in any case, though the general doctrine of eternal sealing for the afterlife is very much alive. D&C 132 talked to men and women equally in regards to polygamy and eternal marriage. Other religious movements of the time introduced polyandry, where men and women were having with multiple people. D&C makes it clear women were to have only one husband at a time in this policy from two-centuries ago.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Falsehood The entire premise of this argument is false. Desire for another wife was not a man’s only prerequisite.

D&C 132 does not fail to declare a man must get specific revelation from a living prophet. It says this very clearly.

Argument From
CES Letter cherry-picks 11 words from D&C 132 and completely disregards the rest of the chapter which contradicts what they claim it is saying. They ignore all scriptural and historical context and makes it sound like women were oppressed and non-virgins were excluded. Women were not banned from marriage if they were non-virgins, and they could remarry if they were divorced or widowed.
Strawman Argument CES Letter gives a false representation of what Mormons believed and what they currently believe, and Mormon orthopraxy.
Repetition CES Letter repeats this argument on p. 69.

Ad Hominem This entire argument is an attack on the characters of Joseph Smith and Mormons.


It is important to avoid class competition between the sexes by portraying some kind of unfair discrepancy or disadvantage that men had in this two-centuries old system. Dwelling on this divides the Mormon community and fuel class hatred. A belief that D&C 132 gave men so much power with no prophetic oversight could lead to desire for strict control over the people and strict control over their personal relationships.

For all the talk of “equality” and “freedom to marry,” it was Antimormons who banned 19th century Mormon polygamy, the freedom for Mormons to consensually marry whoever they wanted. Progressives today push the federal government to further intrude on the definition of marriage and further control personal relationships, under the guise of “equality.” Think about it. Why complain that there are not enough prerequisites? Why complain that there is not enough modern-day control by the church over marriage? But at least it will save all the helpless women from those horrible Mormon males, right? Do they actually want to tell you who you can or can’t love, just like they did with Mormons in the 19th century and using the same arguments as they did in the 19th century? And do they want to do it in the interest of an “equal” Socialist society?

Antimormon Hypocrisy – Why do so many “pro-equality” activists, good progressives who say people should be free to marry whoever they love, condemn Mormons for their history with polygamy? The same Antimormons who attack us for the old history of polygamy often also tend to endorse “progressive” ideas about marriage and love. Shouldn’t polygamy be on their list of marriages that deserve equality? Well yes, it should, and this is why many Antimormons spin polygamy as something that coerces and manipulates women into subjugation. Lately, this narrative has become even easier as there really are crazy cults that actually do victimize and force people to marry. Interestingly, we only seem to hear about splinter groups in Utah, however.

Opponents in the media have trumpeted this narrative since the beginning. In the 1800’s, American newspapers were putting out story after story about how women in Utah were treated as “slaves.” It led to the federal government for the first time to register all marriages, controlling the definition of marriage, and jailing Mormons who did not fit that definition. Still today, Mormons are persecuted in the media as some kind of oppressive patriarchy that victimized women. This narrative gives opponents justification for attacking Mormons while claiming to be “pro-equality.”

Attack On Marriage – One alternative ideology, for example, that opposes Mormonism is the Marxist ideology. A major part of Marxism is the deconstruction of masculinity. They seek to pick positive masculine traits that propagate the ideology, such as the gusto to fight for the cause, and eliminate “toxic masculine” traits such as the desire to marry and have children in a traditional family. They think traditional families are evil because men contribute labor to the economy while women are “subjugated” as mothers and do not perform labor. The ideal for Marxists is a state where men and women are completely equal working bees and children are grown and raised by the benevolent dictator state. Nobody is preying on anybody. Marxists believe females are oppressed by men in a giant class struggle that hinders their economic output. Polygamy in the Mormon church was problem for Marxists because the higher law of eternal marriage is the perfect example of “inequality” that Marxists hate.

Total Hypocrisy From Antimormons – This issue appeals to a woman’s desire to be “free.” It appeals to a man’s desire to protect women from harm, a very strong instinct in men. Men are highly protective of women and easily shamed for letting women down. Men with weak testimonies tend to be insecure sexually and eager to be empowering. The truth is eternal marriage is the most empowering thing there is for men and women. The arguments are contradictory-they incorrectly complained that Joseph Smith was marrying other men’s wives, but now suggests that only men and not women were allowed to by polygamous. But the narrative doesn’t need to make sense if it is a purely emotional appeal. If a testimony is indeed crushed by new information, it wasn’t much of a testimony to begin with, because truth doesn’t change.

Family is most important, and it is under heavy assault from progressive secularists. With Mormons, this assault began long ago, when consensual, adult relationships were banned by the government and new laws were passed to regulate all personal relationships in the country. It continues today, as mainstream media propagate salacious tales of polygamy that happened two centuries ago. As marriages and birth rates in America fall, it seems like all of this is designed to prevent men and women in the church from joining in healthy romantic relationships. Women are shamed if they choose to stay home and spend time to raise their children, and men are shamed if they “desire” romance with a woman. But it is possible to be part of a healthy traditional family. I promise, it is possible this day and age to love a partner and have joy in your posterity as a mother or father. The doctrine of eternal marriage seals us together and brings joy in our lives and peace to our society, so that we can enjoy eternal life with those we love.

(All claims in this article are personal opinion and speculation. Quotes regarding CES Letter are derived the March 2015 version of CES Letter and may not reflect more recent versions.)

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