By Marvin W. Cowan
Mormons often boast that they are the only church that is led by a living prophet and by current revelation. But, no new revelations have been added to their scripture since Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 “vision of the redemption of the dead” and it didn’t become LDS scripture until 1976 when LDS Prophet Spencer W. Kimball added it to the Pearl of Great Price and later it became Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 138. Before that “vision”, the most recent addition was D. & C. 135 containing Brigham Young’s 1847 instructions for the LDS move to Utah. Although Mormonism has had 14 “prophets,” since Brigham Young, the one and only new revelation they have added to the D. & C. is Joseph F. Smith’s “1918 vision.” Is that really “constant, current revelation”? There are two “Official Declarations” in the back of the D. & C. after the “revelations.” Those “Declarations” changed Mormon doctrines in 1890 and in 1978, but they are not actual “revelations” but statements about revelations.
Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, said he received D. & C. 132 as a revelation from God commanding him and other Mormons to have a plurality of wives. That “revelation” is still in the current edition of the D. & C. because Mormons believe it came from God even though they aren’t living as polygamists now. That revelation begins, “Verily, thus saith the Lord…” But polygamy caused so many problems for the Mormon Church that in 1890 the “Woodruff Manifesto” or “Official Declaration-1,” was given to abolish it. The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual lists some things on page 361 that influenced Woodruff to make his “Declaration” to stop LDS polygamy. It says, “The first legislation against plural marriage (polygamy) came ten years after the doctrine had been officially announced on 29 August 1852 by Elder Orson Pratt…The bill was signed into law 8 July 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. The Anti-Polygamy Act of 1862 defined plural marriage as bigamy, and made the contracting of such a marriage punishable by a fine of five hundred dollars and imprisonment for a term of five years…Once the constitutionality of the act of 1862 had been upheld by the highest court in the land persecution (prosecution) of those who practiced plural marriage became more severe. In March 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Bill. This law disenfranchised those who practiced plural marriage, making it illegal for them to hold any office or place of public trust. Five years later, in March 1887 Congress passed the Edmonds-Tucker Law. This Law dis-incorporated the (LDS) Church, dissolved the Perpetual Emigration Fund, gave the property of the Church to the government for the benefit of the common schools of Utah, and put a stop to female suffrage.”
The same Manual also says on page 362, “On September 24, 1890 President Wilford Woodruff met with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his two counselors ‘upon an important subject.’ On the twenty-fifth President Woodruff recorded: ‘I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the Church. The United States government has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the subject of polygamy, or the patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the following proclamation which is sustained by my counselors and the Twelve Apostles.’” The proclamation that followed that statement is “Official Declaration-1” or the “Woodruff Manifesto.” In it Woodruff said, “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, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise…And 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.” Mormons voted unanimously to accept that proclamation at their Semi-annual Conference on October 6, 1890.
In order for Utah to become a state in 1896 the U. S. Government required the state constitution to prohibit polygamy. Even though that was done, many Mormons, including their prophets, apostles, and other leaders continued to live as polygamists. Sixteen years after 1890, LDS Prophet, Joseph F. Smith, was tried and convicted of polygamy. After that the LDS Church began to enforce the Utah State law against polygamy. Even though most Mormons today aren’t polygamists, there are more polygamists now than there were in Brigham Young’s day! Most of the current polygamists are members of polygamous sects that split off from the Utah LDS Church because they believe and practice Joseph Smith’s doctrine of polygamy.
Some Mormons today refer to Woodruff’s 1890 “Declaration” as a revelation, but does LDS Prophet Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto sound like God revealed it or that it was the result of government pressure? If God really commanded Joseph Smith and the Mormons to live as polygamists, should they have stopped it when they were pressured by men to do so? In Acts 5:17-29 Peter and those with him were put in prison and commanded not to teach about Jesus, but as soon as they were released from prison they taught about Him. And when they were questioned about it, they said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Shouldn’t the Mormon Prophet’s response have been similar if God actually told them to be polygamists? Brigham Young even said, “The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter polygamy” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269). Godhood is the goal of all devout Mormons, so polygamy is very important unless LDS Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught false doctrine!