In a stunning turn of events, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints publicly endorsed polygamy as genuine marriage and called all civil marriages counterfeit marriage in the April 2017 Ensign.
For perhaps the first time since the second Manifesto, the Church has openly endorsed polygamy as only one of two genuine forms of marriage.
In the 2017 April Ensign, the official publication of the Church, Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy (a governing body of the church) specifically outlined the doctrine of what constitutes a genuine marriage when he was speaking about same sex marriages in his article entitled “The War Goes On.”
“…Same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although his imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.”
In the clearest message to date from the Church, we now have the two criteria of what constitutes a genuine marriage:
- Brings posterity
- Brings exaltation
Since both criteria can only happen in a temple where you, your spouse, and your posterity are sealed together for all eternity, any marriage other than a marriage occurring in a temple is considered counterfeit utilizing these newly published criteria.
The only genuine marriage is a temple marriage.
Although such criteria for a genuine marriage is settled doctrine, the church has tepidly endorsed the counterfeit marriages of civilly wedded opposite sex couples since its founding, allowing those in opposite sex counterfeit marriages full fellowship in the church. Opposite sex counterfeit marriages are not considered apostasy and children living in such opposite sex counterfeit marriages are allowed a name and a blessing, baptism, priesthood ordinations, and mission calls without having to renounce their parent’s marriage.
Because a large number of church members practice counterfeit opposite sex marriage and almost the entire world population practices counterfeit opposite sex marriage, the Church has resisted publicly labeling such marriages in derogatory terms so not to inflame relations with its worldwide neighbors (learning from their Independence and Nauvoo days when such things caused neighborly animosity.)
Currently, because the gays are both in small number and are already being kicked about at large by cultural and societal bigotry, the Church appears emboldened to say what it really thinks about counterfeit marriages. Directing all guns at the gays, the church does not endorse same sex counterfeit marriages and goes as far as to consider them apostasy. Since any posterity of a gay married couple is not real posterity, such can be treated as counterfeit as well. Counterfeit posterity may not receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, receive the priesthood, or go on a mission until they are 18 and only then can they claim genuineness by moving out of their parent’s home and renouncing the counterfeit marriage of their same sex parents.
If it can’t be performed in the temple, it is counterfeit. Period. Depending who you are dictates how much the church will persecute your counterfeit marriage.
This clear binary that a marriage is either genuine or counterfeit (with the temple being the benchmark of a genuine marriage) has inadvertently endorsed polygamy as genuine marriage, embracing a practice most members find revolting. This may be the first time an endorsement of polygamy as a genuine form of marriage has been published in the Ensign.
Even though it is now illegal to physically marry a second wife in the United States while your first wife is alive (this thanks to the Church who practiced and pressed the matter so hard in the late 1800s almost to its destruction), men today may go to the temple once their wife dies and marry again, obtaining a polygamous wife to be exalted with him, his first wife, and his posterity for all eternity.
We have current apostles leading the church who are in polygamous temple marriages. Dalin H. Oaks explains the genuineness of his polygamous marriage so matter-of-factly to BYU students at a devotional in 2002 when he stated:
Both one man/one woman and polygamous marriages performed in the temple satisfy the published criteria of a genuine marriage: They bring an eternal posterity and they bring exaltation.
Because they are illegal, non-temple polygamous marriages are apostasy. However, when the Supreme Court upheld the Morrill Anti–Bigamy Act in Reynolds v. United States in 1879, the chief justice wrote, “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.” Since spiritual polygamy is a religious belief with which the government cannot interfere, not only are polygamous temple marriages completely legal, they are not apostasy.
The real news of Elder Lawrence’s message is not that same sex marriages are counterfeit and one man/one woman temple marriages are genuine. That’s old news. Eyes pretty much roll when we hear this tired mantra. The real news is the official criteria that openly classifies opposite sex civil marriages as counterfeit and publicly recognizes polygamous marriages performed in the temple as genuine.
Legally married opposite sex couples and legally married same sex couples: your marriage is counterfeit because you do not meet the genuine requirements. While it is true that the gay community is harassed continually for having counterfeit marriages, we have lots of company even if the Church will not publicly harass other legal civil marriages for being counterfeit.
Articles like this published in the April 2017 Ensign single out the gay community’s legal civil marriages from other legal civil marriages. Articles like this harshly target the gay community and sends extremely harmful messages to LDS gay youth both in and out of the closet. In the name of religious freedom, I am all in favor of the Church promoting temple marriage as a tenant of the faith, but they do not need to harass the gay community with violent war metaphors and irresponsible language describing fellow children of God who are married civilly as something “which doth not edify[,] is not of God, and is darkness.”
You should not have to degrade another’s marriage to exalt your own.
Eventually, if not this article then sometime in the near future, something so outrageous will be said or written that good rank and file members everywhere will stop and stand and say, “ENOUGH ALREADY!” But for now it’s like everyone is just standing around watching the school yard bully kick the gay kid who is already on the ground.