Question: Was the only purpose of polygamy to "multiply and replenish the earth" and "bear the souls of men"?

Table of Contents

Question: Was the only purpose of polygamy to "multiply and replenish the earth" and "bear the souls of men"?

Doctrine and Covenants states that polygamy is for the purpose of multiplying and replenishing the earth

Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 states,

But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

The institution of the practice of polygamy was part of the "restoration of all things"

Polygamy was not permitted only for the purpose of procreation. Joseph established the practice of plural marriage as part of the "restoration of all things," (D&C 132: 40, 45) and introduced it to a number of others within the Church. This alone may have been the purpose of Joseph's initiation of the practice. The establishment of the practice ultimately did have the effect of "raising up seed"...just not through Joseph Smith.

As Brian Hales writes:

Joseph Smith dictated what is now Doctrine and Covenant section 132 on July 12, 1843. This revelation, along with his other statements, provide several reasons why he believed plural marriage could be introduced among the Latter-day Saints.

The earliest justification mentioned by the Prophet was as a part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:19–21. Old Testament prophets practiced polygamy, so it could be a part of the restoration of “all things” (see D&C 132:40, 45).

Several members who knew Joseph Smith left accounts of him referring to a connection between the two during the Kirtland period.

Benjamin F. Johnson recalled in 1903: “In 1835 at Kirtland I learned from my Sisters Husband, Lyman R. Shirman,[1] who was close to the Prophet, and Received it from him. That the ancient order of plural marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.”[2]

A few years later in 1841, Joseph Smith attempted to broach the topic publicly. Helen Mar Kimball remembered: “He [Joseph] astonished his hearers by preaching on the restoration of all things, and said that as it was anciently with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so it would be again, etc.”[3] Joseph Smith was a prophet-restorer, which helps to explain why the command to practice plural marriage has been labeled a “restoration,” even though it is not a salvific ordinance.[4]

The institution of the practice of polygamy made available the blessings of eternal marriage to everyone

Brian Hales addresses one aspect of D&C 132 that may be overlooked in casual readings:

The fourth reason Joseph Smith gave for the practice of plural marriage dwarfs the other three explanations in significance because it deals with eternity. The message of D&C 132:16–17 states that men and women who are not sealed in eternal marriages during this life (or vicariously later) “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity.”

In other words, “exaltation,” the highest salvation, requires eternal marriage. No unmarried person can be exalted according to Joseph Smith’s teachings. Doctrine and Covenants section 132 seems to anticipate more worthy women than men as it approves a plurality of wives[5] and disallows a plurality of husbands.[6] Verse 63 states that a plurality of wives is “for their [the wives] exaltation in the eternal worlds.” Section 132 supports that eternity was the primary focus of the Joseph’s marriage theology rather than plurality or sexuality. Eternal, rather than plural, marriage was his zenith doctrine. It appears that the crucial objective of polygamy on earth was to allow all worthy women to be eternally sealed to a husband and thus obtain all the ordinances needed for exaltation. According to these teachings, a plurality of wives in some form may be practiced in eternity, but not by all worthy men and women. We know that polygamy on earth is unequal and difficult, but we know nothing about how eternal marriage or eternal plural marriage might feel in eternity. Brigham Young acknowledged that eternal marriage (not plural marriage) is “the thread which runs from the beginning to the end” in God’s plan for His children:

The whole subject of the marriage [not plural marriage] relation is not in my reach, nor in any other man’s reach on this earth. It is without beginning of days or end of years; it is a hard matter to reach. We can tell some things with regard to it; it lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. In fact, it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of salvation—of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity.[7][8]


  1. Sherman was a close friend and devout follower of Joseph Smith. He was called as an apostle but died before learning of the appointment. See Lyndon W. Cook, “Lyman Sherman—Man of God, Would-Be Apostle,” 121–24.
  2. Dean R. Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 37–38.
  3. Helen Mar Whitney, Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph: A Reply to Joseph Smith [III], Editor of the Lamoni Iowa “Herald,” (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), 11; see also Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, Utah: Bookcraft, 1992), 142–43. See also Joseph A. Kelting, “Affidavit,” March 1, 1894, images 11–16a; see also Kelting, “Statement,” Juvenile Instructor 29 (May 1, 1894): 289–90.
  4. Brian Hales, "Plural Marriage Teachings" <> (accessed 18 December 2018)
  5. See vv. 34, 37–39, 52, 55, 61–65.
  6. See vv. 41–42, 61–63.
  7. Brigham Young, October 6, 1854 Journal of Discourses, 2:90. Important in Brigham Young’s comments is his observation that the “marriage relation,” referring to eternal marriage, not exclusively plural marriage, comprises the “foundation for worlds … and for Gods.”
  8. Brian Hales, "Plural Marriage Teachings" <> (accessed 17 December 2018)