Communities Are Made Up of Family Organizations—The Marriage Relationship Instituted By the Almighty—Descent of the Human Family From God—Plural Marriage System of Ancient Israel—Potency of Love—Eternity of Marriage Necessarily Leads to Plural Marriage—Polygamic Form of Marriage Most Prevalent in the World—From Whence Monogamy is Derived—Monogamy Sometimes Necessary—Fruits of Monogamy and Plural Marriage Compared—The Marriage Covenant Changed From a Religious Rite to a Civil Contract—Marriage Requires the Sanction of the Holy Priesthood—The Saints Should not Marry Outside the Church
Discourse by Elder H. W. Naisbitt, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, March 8, 1885.
My brethren, sisters and friends: The congregation is large, and I hope to be so directed by the Spirit, that all present who so desire may be enabled to hear and understand.
The Sabbath is the day provided expressly for the reception of spiritual food. The speakers, or those who may be called upon to teach, need all the resources that are within their reach in order to satisfy a congregation of hungry souls, they need particularly the faith and prayers of the Saints, the influence and power of the Holy Ghost, the manifestation of the authority of the Holy Priesthood, so that there may be instruction upon the important topics and principles of the Gospel, not the theoretical ones alone, but those that are interwoven with our daily life.
There is a vast amount of experience in the aggregate among the people. Individual experience forms one of the treasure houses from whence a speaker can draw the supplies that are necessary and advantageous for a sympathetic audience. There is a great deal implied in a congregation like the present one; there is much more implied in the aggregation of congregations forming a community, from communities to nations, from nations to mankind at large. The most narrow as well as most dense communities are made up of the family organization. There is found circle within circle, or as the Prophet had it, “wheel within wheel;” and the homes of a community should be the outgrowth, not of theories alone, but of the faith, knowledge, and understanding of those relationships which exist there. When these family organizations are based upon knowledge they are likely to be more permanent. If they are only thoughtless or theoretical, or if they exist without information, circumstances, pressure, opportunities are very likely to disintegrate them, to break them up, to dissolve them, and so through indifference for each other substitute an anomalous condition of selfishness amongst those members who otherwise should form connected and interwoven circles.
In Christendom the marriage covenant is the foundation of the home. The ideas which men hold concerning it, lay at the foundation of all social order, all unity and all government, and even the welfare of future ages depends upon the theories cherished in regard to home and family associations. The thoughts held and the practice growing out of these, are surely higher than could be possible in the families of a community where the sexual relations remain undetermined, where they are without restraint and without order, there will inevitably be chaos, disruption and contention, and the body politic would speedily and inevitably under loose conditions, degenerate and pass away. But this marriage organization and institution has existed from the beginning. It has been the binding and sealing power of the family; it has perpetuated those families from the time that Eve was given to Adam to the last marriage that took place in our own immediate neighborhood. The Lord said that it was not good that man should be alone. He gave to him as a helpmate one of His daughters by the name of Eve. This relationship was then, instituted by the Almighty, and therefore a man and his wife should really become one; their interests, their labors should be blended; their responsi– bilities should be mutual; and in thus helping and aiding each other they should train the posterity that God might give them in His fear and in the practice of righteousness, so that His rule and Kingdom might exist and prevail upon the earth.
In all nations, from the highest civilized to the lowest tribal relation, among the wanderers of the earth, there is more or less semblance of this organization, this family compact, this united responsibility; garnished in many lands with pomp and ceremony, and with all the appliances and sanctities of religion. In others with less, and still less of this, until we come to where with but little ceremony the dusky Indian captures the maiden of his choice, and takes her to the tent which he has erected for himself.
The Scriptures give an account simply of the woman Eve; declaring that this name was given her of Adam, because she was “the mother of all living;” but outside of biblical record there has been handed down from time immemorial the idea that Adam had two wives, the narrators go so far, or rather so near perfecting the tradition so as to give their names, Lilith being said to be the name of one as Eve was the name of the other, and while it may be difficult to harmonize all the Rabbinical and Talmudic versions of this matter, it is said that Joseph Smith the Prophet taught that Adam had two wives. Without however, assuming or basing anything upon this theory, or upon this tradition—which may be mythical in its character—it is nevertheless, very evident that marriage was ordained of God; and when we take into our hands the record of the Holy Scriptures that have been handed down to us by our fathers, that have been cherished in parts by the ancient people of God, and in latter times consolidated; passing through various channels under peculiar circumstances, and with an apparent special providence continuing and protecting the same—we find throughout the pages thereof that marriage everywhere for four thousand years, at all events, was recognized as of divine origin. One of the latest assertions in regard to it, as addressed to the early Saints by Paul, was, that marriage was honorable in all, and further that it was typical of that union and headship held by Jesus to the Church, and from this comes an added force to the Savior’s words, who, when speaking on this topic said: “what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”
The sanctity of the marriage relation had another feature in ancient Israel: that great family of promise were divided into tribal relations, and by these their genealogical tables were kept perfect. Any marital connection or alliance, outside of that order was visited with indignation, condemnation and punishment. Those who were guilty of violating the order of marriage were looked upon as guilty of something which destroyed the root and foundations of society. They were held to be guilty of introducing things and practices which vitiated the value of genealogical record, and which made the perpetuity of families a comparative impossibility and had it not been for tribal carefulness in this direction, for this supervision which controlled and regulated the people of God, it would have been impossible in the days of the Savior for the Apostles to have traced His genealogy back to the early Prophets and Patriarchs. That which men now apply only as a rule, in regard to stock, or to some of the most ancient families of mankind, by the people of God, was looked upon as the one perfect chain to demonstrate hereditary descent.
We are told in tracing one of the genealogies from father to son—or from son to father, in a backward direction to Adam—that finally Adam was said to be the son of God, and by a close application of the principles of logic, it may be assumed that all the posterity of Adam are by direct descent the sons and daughters of the living God. It will also be found in the prophecies of Isaiah regarding the Savior, that He should be called the “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” When we come to His own conversation, where His Apostles asked Him if He would show unto them the Father, He said: “Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” This statement is reiterated time and again in the Book of Mormon, and in the sacred writings that we have received. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, was not the Son only, but the prophetic declaration was fulfilled in Him—He was verily and indeed the Everlasting Father. So by the same application of logic and inferential evidence from holy writ, wherever you find a man he is the son of somebody, and his existence is perpetual and eternal. Every Father becomes, by virtue of his position, an everlasting father. He in this respect represents the same characteristic as that occupied by the Great Father of us all. And throughout the countless ages of eternity, any man who has ever assumed or occupied the position and continues faithful to its respon– sibilities, will forever remain to his posterity “the Everlasting Father.”
As far as we can glean from the sacred records, we find that this relationship was established for the bringing upon this sphere of action a posterity. The powers and functions which had been conferred upon man and woman were exemplified in this direction, and when a man’s wife was barren, when any of these daughters of Israel in ancient times were childless, it was considered to be a reproach to them, yet in the exercise of faith and by the blessing of the Almighty, and by obedience to the patriarchal order, many of these ancient sisters, the progenitors of the Israel of the latter days, were delivered from barrenness, and became the mothers of a vast and ever increasing host of posterity. Those who are familiar with the sacred Scriptures will remember one of the wives of Jacob; they will remember the case of Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet, and there are others which are familiar to our minds which need not be quoted. The desire for offspring among the wives of Israel was a prevailing feeling, because it was understood that from that lineage should come the Messiah of the latter days, and every daughter of Israel was anxious that in a direct line she might be the honored of God, in being the medium through which should come the Redeemer, the promised Immanuel.
It ought also to be remarked in connection with this question, that marriage was at times polygamic as well as monogamic—that is, right away in the early history of the world there were men who had more wives than one. Lamech was the first who is mentioned in Scripture. And here it might be observed, although probably all understand it, that the Bible does not profess to give a perfect history in detail of the habits and practices of the ancient people of God, for these are only secondary to the ever present assertions of divine interest in and regulation of the human family. There are only revealings or incidental glimpses here and there in regard to the principles of social and domestic life, and hintings of some which have been kept hid from then to now; but that marriage was the heritage of man is certain, and that while under many circumstances it was monogamic, there were also many cases in which it was of a polygamic character, and in both instances it was given by command and then received the approbation of the heavens. It was regulated and sustained by the great lawgivers of ancient Israel, who were inspired to point out in detail the limits of consanguinity, the times and seasons of privilege, and what should be the method of securing posterity under such and such circumstances; until the time came when Israel as a nation enjoyed its highest glory, and then we find that this principle (polygamy) formed one of the leading features of the household extension in the kings of that time. David is a noted illustration. Solomon was another, and in the comments of the Scriptures regarding these two men, notwithstanding their multiplicity of wives, we find no condemnation save in the fact that they in other respects violated the fundamental law of ancient Israel. David, we are told, captured the wife of another man by stratagem and because he did this he fell under condemnation. The son that was born to him of that connection died a premature death; but afterwards when he repented, he married and still retained that self same woman, Bathsheba; the Lord blessed and acknowledged David’s repentance and her position by giving her for a son the great Jedediah, or Solomon, and finally in a direct line through her, came also the Redeemer of Israel. The Scriptures in commenting upon David’s practice say that in “none of these things did he violate the commandments, save in the case of the wife of Uriah” [1st. Kings, 15, 5.] We are also told that Solomon multiplied wives and families unto himself, yet his reign formed an era in the national life of Israel. It was during his administration as King and Priest under the order of God, that that wonderful temple was built and dedicated which received the sanction and approbation of the heavens; of the resting upon it of the cloud by day so that the Priests could not minister at the altar, and the descent of fire from heaven, which consumed the sacrifice presented, were both tokens of divine acceptance and recognition, and we have not found in reading the history of Solomon that his conduct was condemned save in the fact that he took unto himself wives of the outside nations contrary to the law, which declared that the marriages of Israel should be within their own immediate families (Deut. 7th, 3rd), and as a result the record declares that it was these heathen wives which he took, those women that were captured in war or those that he had from choice or were given to him for conciliatory alliance from surrounding nations who led away his heart from the worship of the God of Israel, and turned him to the practices of idolatry. With this exception the presumption is from the evidence that his other marriages were approved, and in them was his posterity perpetuated. It was the direct result of the blessing of the Almighty, and through him, as he stood in a representative position, we may surely assume what the feelings of Israel were in regard to polygamy or the plurality of wives.
It is more than inferential evidence in favor of this principle which grows from the consideration of the practice of Solomon and David, and Abraham and Jacob, and Moses and Gideon, and Jehoiada and Abdon, and Rehoboam and Abijah, and Esau and Lamech, and Jerubbaal and Jair, though some of these men were not examples in every act of their lives, yet the facts are no more in favor of monogamists as to this than in the day and age in which we live.
Unfair advantage has been taken by opponents of this practice, because of the Adamic era, but the Rabbinical tradition already mentioned, while not conclusive, shows that no repulsion existed in the minds of the honored priesthood of Israel; and, as the Rev. Dr. Newman quoted the words of Lamech, so we may also have our opinion and that is that his declaration possessed no reference whatever to his plurality of wives.
However, in the Christian dispensation it has been assumed that this practice had become almost obsolete; some have said that it died away because it was deprecated by the Savior and by His Apostles, but there appears to have been thoughts in the minds of the latter concerning marriage which open to our minds many things in regard to that institution. For instance we are told that man is not without the woman in the Lord, neither the woman without the man. [1 Cor., 11, 11.] It takes the two, at least, to make a complete and rounded man. When the first pair were created the Bible expressly declares, “male and female created he them,” and called their name Adam. [Gen. 5, 2.] It included the two; it included the man and wife; and the theory of the Gospel in Apostolic times was, that a man was an imperfect being without the woman, and that a woman was also an imperfect being without the man, and this perfect state could not be realized or wrought out without the institution of marriage.
It is, then, by this marriage relation that men and women were in the Lord according to the divine order, carrying out the examples of their great predecessors, and of their Father in heaven. It may safely be assumed that marriage with them was an eternal principle; that it was not meant for time only, but for eternity; that it was a relationship that was perpetuated, and that this not only included the man and wife, but of necessity the entire family organization. For our God is not the God of the dead but of the living, “and what he hath joined together no man shall put asunder.” To the older people here, who are familiar with the facts made manifest in the human organization, it may be said that there are certain elements of attraction which lead the one sex towards the other. This attraction is designated by the name of love. We are sometimes afraid to exhibit this characteristic; we think it is unworthy of men or women; and that when a man is said to be in love, or a woman, it is something that should be veiled from the eyes and knowledge and understanding of everybody but themselves. But insomuch as love is one of the great attributes of Deity, this idea does not recommend itself. It is not only a great attribute of Deity, but it is the greatest and most potent attribute to be found in man’s and woman’s organization. To those who have been allured by its power; to those who understand its force; to those who realize that it is the parent of all action almost in life; how it leads men to sacrifice, to labor, to effort, no argument is needed to show that it is the greatest power of the human heart. For it men will endure any amount of sacrifice; for it women will endure and submit to almost any indignity. The fact is, it is the only element that will bind together in its original purity the family circle: it is that which leads a man to go forth in the battle of life to earn the bread that perisheth: it is that which enables him to look upon his wife as paramount to all else: it is that which enables her to watch by her infant children, and in the moment of sickness, with sleepless nights and days of vigilance, await until there is a restoration to health; it is this that glorifies the family circle and makes it a little heaven upon earth; and every man and every woman is cognizant of the fact, that where love has died out from the altar of home, that home has lost its greatest attraction. A man does not go there and look upon it as his little resting place from the care and anxiety of the world when that feeling has died out. No. He finds his pleasure in the club room, on the race course, at the gaming table, in political life, in business, or in many other directions, rather than in the little heaven called home. Ah! Sad indeed is the fate of those families where this beautiful, this beneficent, this almighty, this glorifying principle has failed, or finds no resting place therein.
Now, this is the key to marriage in the abstract. It is its foundation. It constitutes the glories of its architecture. It brings upon it its capstone, and finishes the edifice that God Almighty hath ordained. Yet this element which lays at the foundation and runs through the whole fabric of married life, in and of itself is not sufficient to produce and perpetuate that perfect happiness which men and women desire in this relationship. Man is a compound being. Woman is a compound being. There are other feelings of the heart beside affection and love, although these will cover a multitude of sins. But it is necessary for the best interests of the family relation that the tastes and habits, feelings and thoughts of the high contracting parties should run pretty much in the same direction—that is, so far as intelligence is received. Hence we have the apostolic injunction given to the early Christians which said: “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.” This was one of the commands given to the early Christians; because it was realized that though the fire of love may burn fiercely in the early years of wedded life, yet unless there is unity of sentiment, of thought and of action in regard to the religion that married couples should possess, and that should be imposed upon the children there will ever be a probability of disintegration and disruption, and this rule had its counterpart, or had its origin, in ancient Israel. It was not intended, as already stated, that the sons of any of the tribes of Israel should take to themselves wives of the nations that were round about them; they were commanded strictly to keep with that family, and where they failed in this, whether as individuals or in a national capacity, it brought down upon them the blighting curse of the Almighty, and led them finally to bondage, and to be carried away to the ends of the earth, and so many families in our Israel, after years of suffering of counsel and commandment, have become in a measure lost through the influence of misdirected and disobedient love.
We all realize the influence that a woman exerts over a man. A man, to be sure, exerts a good deal of influence over a woman. But I think the bulk of experience will show that if even a good, devoted Latter-day Saint woman should be foolishly guilty of marrying outside of the Church, or marrying a man in the Church who is half-hearted, that her children will retain more of her individual impress than they will of the father’s. I think observation will establish this fact: that where there is a devoted father, and an indifferent, unbelieving mother, the probabilities are that disintegration will set into that family, and that the majority of them will pass away from the influence of the Church and from the institutions of the Gospel. Not that either of these conditions is good—that is, they are not the best conditions. The best conditions are where there is a devoted man and a devoted woman, or women, all laboring in the interests of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, and impressing their own individuality, by the powers of an educational character upon the posterity that God may give them.
But in regard to this objectionable form of marriage called polygamic, if this marriage is an eternal principle, it follows almost of necessity that there will be a period in the experience of thousands when it must be essentially and eternally polygamic. How many young wives are there who leave this stage of action sometimes without children, and sometimes leaving a little fam– ily? And under these circumstances a man marries again; he takes another wife and raises up another family, and for two or three times or more this may be the experience of some. Now, if marriage is not for time only, but for eternity; if the marriage relation is continued, there is a condition of things which demonstrates that in the life to come at all events, marriage must be in many cases polygamic—that is, a man must be possessed of several wives.
Now, our theories of heaven are, that there is nothing there save that which is pure, save that which is ennobling, save that which is progressive, save that which is according to the order of God. If, He, then, in the eternities that are beyond the veil can admit of this relationship by virtue of the fact that marriage is eternal, does it not appear strange that such an order is decried by His children upon the face of the earth.
Nor need it be urged, that in some experiences there is a reversal of this order, that a woman may be the wife of several men while in the flesh, and that as a consequence, this arrangement must also be eternal. It has already been said that woman is subordinate to man, she was given to be his helpmeet, he was to rule over her, to be the head, as Christ is the head of the Church, that the man was not created for the woman, but woman for the man. [See 1st Cor., 1 to 12.]
Besides in the keeping of genealogical record, in the tracing of family or tribal relations, it is evident that a woman must be the acknowledged wife of some one man, and that to him alone pertains the eternity of the marriage covenant by the authority of the Holy Priesthood. This query is however old in history, it is precisely the one addressed to the Savior by the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. He, however, without condescending to explain the sealing power to them declared that “when they rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” and the darkened inference of Christendom has been, that all family organizations, all characteristics of sex, all procreation of the species would be obliterated as something pertaining only to the shores of time.
This polygamic form of marriage, however, when we come to consider humanity, is far in excess of the monogamic. Its influence and power and practice are felt around the globe, and we can judge of its nature by that which we have seen and heard of in our own experience. Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was of polygamic lineage. It was prophesied of him that he should become the father of many nations, and in the eastern lands of the earth he has multiplied exceedingly; and today we find that the gigantic power of England with all its wealth, with all its appliances of science and civilization, is held in check by this selfsame Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the friend of God, so that assumed degeneracy consequent on this system is not established by facts.
In this land of ours, we find that monogamy is the rule; that there are laws preventing a departure from this order, and that any departure from that is visited with a good deal of criticism, with some legislation, with some pains and penalties, and is made to the nation a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. Yet we might here pertinently ask the American nation—“From whence did you derive your monogamy? We might ask Old England the same question. I would like to ask if it has been accepted as the result of an intelligent understanding of the two modes of marriage? Rather has it not been inherited without investigation, without thought, without reflection, without understanding the marriage covenant? We all know it is the outgrowth of tradition; that it has been received from the fathers; and so far from having been an intellectual reception of a principle, fundamental and eternal, it possesses nothing of that character whatever. Monogamy was practiced by the fathers, the same as the religions of mankind were practiced by them, it was received and accepted unhesitatingly without comment or consideration, without understanding as to whether it was conclusively the best, or whether it was the worst, or whether it was of God, or whether it was of man, or whether anything different today might or might not be of Him.
Now, here is a little community called Latter-day Saints, who believe in both orders. They have accepted marriage in the abstract. They do not believe that society should run at loose ends in its sexual relations. They believe that a violation of those laws is as much a wrong today as it was in the days of ancient Israel, and they believe further that all sexual irregularities should be visited by penalties of divine sanction and appointment; and still more, that that which was right, that which was commanded, that which was encouraged, that which was practiced, that which was regulated among ancient Israel, and that which will be practiced and is inevitable behind the veil, cannot be an offense in the sight of God, in the day and age in which we live.
But it may be said, why speak of this matter when there is so much excitement in regard to it? For the best of all reasons, that this is a free country, that free speech has never been forbidden, has never been checked, has never been curtailed. It is the heritage we have received from our fathers, and we are at liberty to speak of the institutions that lay at the foundation of society, and to analyze and understand them. There are thousands of our youth growing up that are not familiar with the fundamental principles pertaining to marriage; with the ideas and theories and practices of the nations that have grown out of this relationship; and it needs that they should understand why this turmoil exists, and whether there is a good foundation for the position that men take everywhere in regard to that principle, and which leads to the persecution of their fathers, and the ostracism of their community.
When we come to the sacred books that have been received by the Church we find that, in regard to this dual idea of marriage—marriage in the monogamic form, and marriage in the polygamic form—the Book of Mormon expressly declares that it was necessary in the first colonization of this country that marriage should be monogamic, because the sexes were equal, and the people realized that marriage was an indispensable thing to both man and woman; but there is also indication that necessity would give final enlargement to this practical question.
So it was when Noah came out of the ark, and there are other periods in the history of mankind when nothing but monogamic marriage could prevail without doing an injustice to those round about them. But where there is no chance of this injustice; where every man is free; where every woman is free; where there are thousands of mankind that never marry at all, and thousands of women who by law cannot marry, there is room for the exercise of the polygamic form thereof; so that, in argument, the sacred books of old Israel, the sacred books of Christendom, the sacred books of the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, all tend to substantiate the idea that marriage in the abstract is of God; and that it is or has been of Him, both in the monogamic and polygamic form. Still further, these written revelations are not the only evidence of the fact that monogamic marriage and polygamic marriage are both susceptible of practice by the human family. Who is there that is acquainted with himself or herself—where is the man and where is the woman who does not realize, if they have attained to mature years and experience, that all the functions of manhood and womanhood can be subserved in both forms of marriage, and often better in the polygamic. If in this ever present revelation of the Almighty, of the finger of God in man’s organization, and in woman’s, it had been decreed that polygamy was an immoral thing, and that it did violence to either, then that would be evidence to go against the sacred books that we have received from the past, and from those of the present; and if Joseph Smith had come forth claiming to be a Prophet of God, and had given a revelation testifying to the necessity and advantage of polygamic marriage, and this revelation had come in contact with the revelation of man’s experience, with the revelation written in his own organization, then it would have nullified itself; but it is in harmony with such a revelation, and shows the possibility and susceptibility and natural character of marriage in the polygamic relation. During a certain debate held in this house in regard to this very question, Doctor Newman asserted that there were evidences against this practice in the Bible. I consider that the Bible has been read by the Latter-day Saints as much as ever it was read by Dr. Newman, although they may not have done so in the original tongue—they may not have Leviticus 18:18—as he had it—but yet they have that great gift of God which is called common sense, to say nothing of the inspiration of His Spirit, and they are just as well able to understand the revelations of the past as Doctor Newman with all his knowledge of the original rendition and meaning of the Hebrew character.
And if a tree is to be judged by its fruits, what of the whoredoms, the adultery, the fornication, the prostitution of women in monogamic nations? What of sexual diseases, of blighted lives, of martyred women, of little graves dotting every hillside and the resting places of the dead? What of feticide, infanticide and abortion? What of the decimated power and numbers of the best society, what of their liaisons and their divorce courts, and other damning features which cling closely to the skirts of modern Sodoms, the paragons and promoters of monogamic marriage?
Dr. Newman also made another remark something like this: that polygamy was not intended for the poor man, that it was intended for the kings of the earth, overlooking the fact, however, that Israel is a nation of kings and priests; so that when he said that polygamy or the practice of a plurality of wives was intended only for kings, it brought home a truth pregnant with thought; for God decreed that he would gather His Israel from the poor of all nations, and so in Rev. 5, 10, they are represented as singing a new song, “Thou hast made us Kings and Priests to God, and we shall reign on the earth;” and this principle was to extend not through time only, but through the countless ages of eternity, so that His people might occupy the position of eternal fathers and eternal mothers, and be indeed Kings and Priests forever and forever.
There are also other avenues of information besides those sacred records, and besides those revelations written in the organization of man and woman at large, and that is the revelation of individual experience. There are many men and women who have practiced this principle in the midst of Israel for thirty years and upwards. I have heard their testimonies time and time again, and they declare that their experience corroborated the exhortation, commandments and practices of Holy Writ, and the revelations written in their own organization; and they tell me that in this relation they have been blessed, they have been prospered, they have had around them the influence of the Spirit of the Almighty; that peace has been upon their household and habitation, and that they have been enabled through that principle to multiply their posterity upon the earth. Where are these? They are everywhere throughout this Territory, and their experience, corroborating those other revelations which I have mentioned, forms a threefold cord that cannot by any process or by any power be broken. I will say as the result of my own experience—for I have lived in that relationship—that to me and to mine it was productive of good, although it came in contact with our tradition. Although it came in contact with the practices of the fathers, and with our feelings, yet, in its experience it demonstrated itself to be of God, and no better time have I had in thirty years of married life than when I had three wives given me of God, and occupying but one habitation. The power of God was in that home; the spirit of peace was there, the spirit of intelligence was there; and we had our ever present testimony that God recognized the patriarchal order, that which had been practiced by His servants ages and ages ago and revealed to us in the dispensation of the fullness of times; and although two of these have gone behind the veil, they went there with a consciousness of having done their duty in this life, and that they would meet in the life beyond those who agreed with them in practice and in faith; from this condition came the discipline of life, the power of self-restraint, a tender regard for each others feelings, and a sort of jealousy for each others’ rights, all tempered by the consideration that relations meant to be enduring claimed more love and interest and soul than did monogamy under its best conditions.
Here, then, are some of the evidences in regard to this married relation that forms the foundation of civilization and of human life, and that lays at the foundation of the Government of God upon the earth; according to our ideas concerning this relationship so will our society and this community become. If we treat the marriage relation with levity; if we should believe that it was but a civil contract, and for time only, we should be weak as others and should not excel: if it is not part of our religion and of God, then it is not of value to us. In my experience—and that is not a very lengthy one—I have marked the change in feeling that has come over the nations in regard to this marriage question. When I was a lad it was very unusual for a man to take to himself a wife without the sanction of religion. All the marriages of Old England had to be celebrated in the Established Church, and a record was kept of them there, and of the posterity issuing from that marriage, and when these died, their death also was recorded, so that there was an unbroken chain of genealogical evidence in that respect often of immense value for legitimacy and other purposes. But by and by the spirit of religious liberty, as it was called, began to spread. It is but a hundred years ago, or a little over, since Methodism was established—the now dominant, or next to dominant religious organization of Christendom. It began in a small way; but it increased and spread abroad; it multiplied its converts, its ministers and its chapels; it became a potent factor, in a political sense, in the nation, and it was necessary that political parties should conciliate and cater to this increasingly wealthy religious organization; and when the Methodists wanted marriages performed in their own, instead of going to the Established Churches, their power and influence, the influence of wealth and numbers, their power as a political factor of the nation, gave them favor in the eyes of the ministry and the legislature. By and by they were allowed the privilege of marrying in their own churches and chapels, and by their own ministers. And as it was with this body, so it was with the smaller bodies, the satellites thrown off and revolving around the great planets of religious organization in that country. And then as this so-called religious liberty increased in spirit, skepticism began to grow in the minds of many in regard to religious doctrines. There were thousands of people that had no more faith in Methodism than in the Established Church, or in Catholicism. They had more faith in Tom Paine, and Voltaire, and Rosseau, and such men as Ingersoll, and their liberty made it appear plausible to them that there was no necessity to go to any church, or seek the aid of any minister, or have any religious ceremony in connection with their own marriage or the marriage of their families. So provision was made for this ever increasing host of skeptics, and finally it was decreed that marriage was nothing but a civil contract, not needing the service of a minister, or the sanction of religion, but requiring simply that it could be entered into after due notion was given, in a public place and not before a worshiping assembly. In such cases marriage was entered into as “a civil contract,” and when this stage was reached, inasmuch as it was but a civil contract, “only this and nothing more,” the next step of necessity was, that it could be dissolved. Where is there a contract of this nature that cannot be dissolved? If I am engaged by an employer we can dissolve the engagement whenever either of us is dissatisfied. And so this feature was applied to marriage; the laws of divorce were introduced, and that which was once considered discreditable, difficult and expensive, and would have been sounded from one end of the land to the other as such, became common and unworthy of remark.
Thus the bonds of society are loosened; the sanctity of the marriage relation is destroyed; and the world is filled with entanglements that are the product of this civil contract business, and even where this contract remains intact, there is a spirit made manifest to avoid the responsibilities of marriage as to offspring, and to live together in numberless cases without any marriage at all; so that when the connection is broken it may be swept to the wind with no results traceable or injurious to any of those concerned.
Now, for the safety of society, for the welfare of the human family, for the love of order and responsibility upon the earth, for faith in the revelations of God, and for high regard to the practices of His anointed, I am in favor of the marriage relation. The Latter-day Saints are in favor of the marriage relation, and they are utterly opposed to sexual intercourse outside of that. And they do not believe that marriage is a civil contract alone. Whatever power there may be in the courts to enforce the claim of a wife against a husband, or the husband against the wife as a matter of protection, in the main, marriage is of God, is of divine origin. Marriage requires the sanction of the authority of the Holy Priesthood in order to give it force, in order to make it valid in this life and the life to come, and marriage—polygamic or monogamic, according to the necessities of the case and the condition of those who enter therein—is in harmony with all the laws of life; and despite what the world may say, those that are of polygamic descent without knowing it are to be found among the rulers of today—the most exalted and the most prominent in a national sense—even in repudiating Christendom.
In the carrying out of this relationship the Latter-day Saints are numerous everywhere throughout this Territory: and it is incumbent upon the rising generation that they should hold to those sacred views that are held by their fathers; that they should marry within the confines of the Church; that they should seek for their husbands or wives, as the case may be, among those who have been obedient to the principles of the everlasting Gospel, and who comprehend something of the nature of the marriage covenant. Those of our posterity should not depart from the ways of our Father; they should not be willing to take up with the practices of Christendom. They should be under proper restraint, proper control and direction in all the relationships of life, because this parental relation among the faithful is an eternal authority. Those children of ours, they never can get away from their father and mother in this life, nor in the life to come. If they should form connection with those outside of the Church and become aliens to the Gospel, after a long day of repentance they will have to return and bow the knee if they would have access within that organization, if they would enjoy all that belongs to that relationship, if they would inherit the glory with which that relationship is identified; they will have to repent, as it were, in dust and ashes and come back to the family circle, compact and covenant, wherein the Almighty gave them a being. And in this respect it may be well to drop a hint in regard to the practices of some of our sons and daughters in this city—where they step outside of what some call priestly authority. When they come to get up amusements of their own, they should see that that only which pertains to good order and good government are introduced, for those inevitably tend to consolidation and unity. It would be well if our boys would listen to their fathers’ counsel; would respect the authority of their fathers and mothers who are good Latter-day Saints; and when they want enjoyment they should seek to keep within the circumscribed limits of all reputable authority.
There are a great many thoughts arise in my mind, but I presume that I have occupied all the time desirable and I do not wish to weary the congregation. The subject I have touched upon, however, is a very important one. It lies at the foundation of things, and, as I said before, as it is comprehended by the human family, by us as Latter-day Saints, so will be their position among the nations, so will be their power in renovating society, and so will be their measure of approbation by the heavens.
May God give us wisdom to so maintain ourselves in this relation whether it be polygamic or monogamic—that we may gain His smile and approbation, that we may feel His Spirit in our families, in our hearts, in our going out and coming in, and may we realize that we have the approbation of heaven, and the sanction of all the powers of the eternities past, present and to come, as well as the example of the Patriarchs and Prophets. And when this life shall come to its end with us, may we be privileged to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of our Father and God, and make part of a family there, a great nation of Kings and Priests, associating with those who have passed through much tribulation and washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb through the ordinances of the Gospel; which I ask may be the case, through Jesus Christ, Amen.