Being from England, we do not really have a Polygamous Pioneer heritage like some from the US. However, we do have something a little more contemporary. A few months ago I was speaking to a single woman, who had a few children and had been divorced for some time, about the Church’s history regarding polygamy. It was fairly routine until she began explaining some of her past experiences with people who had approached her regarding whether she wanted to practice Polygamy, but in a slightly different way.
When her children were smaller she had some good friends, a married couple, who had come to her with an offer of a polygamous marriage in the next life, if she wanted it. They assured her that this would not involve any physical relationship in this life. However, this couple would support her financially by paying her mortgage and offering other parental help, if she ever desired it. Because this couple were good friends of this woman she was not offended but did feel a little uncomfortable and therefore politely turned them down.
This reminded me of another conversation I had with a friend who had a girlfriend who was a significant influence on his life and lead him to serve a mission for the LDS Church. She died shortly after he arrived in the mission field. He felt that he wanted to marry this girl in the life to come so that he could offer her the highest blessings of the Celestial Kingdom. He was so convinced of this that he felt that he would expect any future wife to understand and accept this before they were married. He is currently married although I am unsure of how he feels about this now.
I offer these examples not as illustrations of Church wide practices but as a move to understand how this ‘doctrine’ still permeates LDS thought and practice, despite President Hinckley saying this practice was not doctrinal.
These stories have something in common; I think they are both rooted in the commonly held misconception that polygamy was practiced as a means of financially supporting single women. This seems to me as though it could be a form of ‘benevolent polygamy’.
My initial response was surprise. In the first story I am surprised at the faith of this couple and their concern for the eternal welfare of this woman and her children. Secondly I feel a sense of wonder and interest in the ways that polygamy may be still being practiced celebately and in private. She honestly did not feel that there was any physical motive behind the offer, and that interests me. I am certainly not advocating this, or any other form of polygamy, but am more interested in people’s impressions about this.
My questions are these:
What are your intial reactions to these variations of polygamy?
Would such people be subject to Church Discipline, if discovered?
Is this practical (in the first example)? How would the woman break the marriage if she met someone? Would this lead to some physical expectation down the line?
In the second story, there is a strong sense to me that this would be barrier in his current relationship; how do other people feel about this idea? Is this a reasonable request?