Question: What do the scriptures say about plural marriage?

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Question: What do the scriptures say about plural marriage?

The only scriptural explanation given from the Lord for approved plural marriage is found in Jacob 2:30

"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things."

Here, the Lord gives only one reason for plural marriage, "to raise up seed unto me." In the only recorded revelation on plural marriage received by Joseph Smith, the Lord further stated (D&C 132:63):

"they [the plural wives] 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."

These scriptural passages suggest to many that plural marriage served at least two reasons: 1) "to raise up seed" or "multiply and replenish the earth," and 2) "that they may bear the souls of men."

It is often not the Lord's pattern to give reasons for His commandments, and we are often left to draw our own conclusions—which may be completely wrong (Moses 5:6-8). We often obey when we do not understand why a command has been given—we only know that it has been given. We should remember the caution of Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

...It's not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we're on our own. Some people [have] put reasons to [commandments] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong.[1]

Plural marriage can be a difficult historical fact for people to understand, both members and nonmembers alike

Trying to fully understand the purposes behind such a commandment in today's mindset can also make this subject difficult. It is important to note that we do not have all the historical information surrounding the inception and implementation of the practice. Rather than trying to understand the Lord's purposes in retrospect on a limited scope, one should remember the above scripture in Jacob. Other benefits, although potentially advantageous, are not given as reasons by the Lord.


  1. Dallin H. Oaks cited in "Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban," Daily Herald, Provo, Utah (5 June 1988): 21 (Associated Press); reproduced with commentary in Dallin H. Oaks, Life's Lessons Learned: Personal Reflections (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2011), 68-69.