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Polygamy in the Scriptures

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Kevin Prince

Source Expert

Kevin Prince serves as the Source Authority at Mormonism Explained. Mr. Prince is a religious scholar as well as a technology industry CEO and entrepreneur.

Updated July 3, 2024

Polygamy is discussed in the Bible as well as Mormon scripture, including the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. In the Bible, polygamy was practiced by the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Although polygamy might have caused familial problems, the practice of polygamy was approved by God. Both King David and King Solomon had many wives, but their practice of polygamy brought them under God’s condemnation. David was condemned because he murdered Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in order to marry Bathsheba as a plural wife. Solomon was condemned for marrying foreign women who turned his attention to the worship of other gods.

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord’s standard of marriage is monogamy. However, the prophet Jacob testifies that there are times when the Lord authorizes polygamy (or plural marriage), to “raise up seed” unto the Lord (Jacob 2:27-30). This caveat is often cited by Mormons as one of the reasons that Joseph Smith implemented polygamy during the 1800s. 

In the early 1830s, Joseph Smith received a revelation from God that he should implement the biblical practice of polygamy. He did so, but after his first plural marriage ended, he did not seek to practice it again until the 1840s. Smith’s revelation about polygamy, or plural marriage, is contained in Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 132.

  • References
    1. 2 Samuel 11-12
    2. 1 Kings 11:1-8