Question: Did other Church leaders believe that plural marriage was a requirement for exaltation?

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Question: Did other Church leaders believe that plural marriage was a requirement for exaltation?

Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor did not believe that polygamy was a requirement for exaltation

When a debate in the School of the Prophets arose when one claimed that "no man who has only one wife in this probation can ever enter [the] Celestial kingdom," both Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor disagreed.[1]

George Q. Cannon believed that there would be men in the Celestial Kingdom with only one wife

George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, noted in 1884 that "he believed there would be men in the Celestial Kingdom that had but one wife," and in 1900 a counselor to Wilford Woodruff remembered Brigham Young "proposed that we marry but one wife."[2] Cannon said that "I am perfectly satisfied there are men who will be counted worthy of that glory who never had a wife; there are men probably in this world now, who will receive exaltation, who never had a wife at all, or probably had but one."[3]

Wilford Woodruff and others claimed that they had never heard Joseph Smith teach that one had to have more than one wife to be exalted

In 1892, Wilford Woodruff and others were asked, in essence, "if Joseph Smith had ever taught you at Nauvoo or anywhere else during his lifetime, that in order for a man to be exalted in the hereafter, he must have more than one wife?"

I don't know that I ever heard him make use of that expression or use that form of expression.
Bathsheba W. Smith
I never heard of that.
Joseph C. Kingbury
No sir. He did not teach me that. He did not say anything about that....I heard it preached from the stand that a man could be exalted in eternity with one wife.[4]

Joseph F. Smith thought that polygamy should be required for exaltation

Joseph F. Smith at one point took a view different from others on this matter:

Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or nonessential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife sealed to him by authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law, or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great a reward, glory, or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful[5]

One problem with this quote is that it stands in conflict with D&C 132 which outlines how exaltation is gained through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (see vv 1-20) not polygamy.

Daniel H. Wells stated the plural marriage was only practiced after one had a thorough understanding of the doctrine

Daniel H. Wells, second councilor to Brigham Young, made it clear that plural marriage was then a commandment, but it was necessary to obey only when they had "a thorough understanding" of the doctrine and "other circumstances [were] favorable" for practicing it:

It [plural marriage] was a doctrine of the church that when male members came to a thorough understanding of the revelation on the principle of plural or celestial marriage, and other circumstances being favorable, if they failed to obey it they would be under condemnation, and would be clipped in their glory in the world to come. The circumstances that would excuse a person would be physical incapacity and the like....The doctrine was enjoined upon all male members of the Church whose circumstances were favorable to their taking a plurality of wives.[6]


  1. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 3: Theology (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 208. citing Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, Minutes (10 February 1873).
  2. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 208., citing Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 8:235 (journal entry dated 9 March 1884). ISBN 0941214133. and John Henry Smith as cited in John P. Hatch, editor, Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund, 1890–1921 (10 January 1900), 72.
  3. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 75. ISBN 0252026810.
  4. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 194., citing Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent's Testimony, Part 3, p. 66, question 698; p. 205, question 600; p. 225, questions 1028–1029; p. 319, questions 590–91.
  5. Joseph F. Smith Journal of Discourses 20:28-20
  6. Daniel H. Wells, "Local and Other Matters... The Reynolds Trial," Deseret News Weekly (15 December 1875): 732, cited in Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 3, 206–207.