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It's time for mainstream Mormonism to strip away all vestiges of polygamy past, present and future argues a prominent LDS writer and activist.
Remove a defense of polygamy from Mormon scripture, disavow it as ever having been an inspired historical practice, Carol Lynn Pearson proposes in her new book, and discontinue marriage practices dictating it in heaven.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the practice of some LDS men marrying more than one wife began with a divine revelation to church founder Joseph Smith in the early 1840s. It is enshrined in Mormon scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants' Section 132.
The practice continued among some Latter-day Saints despite an 1890 "Manifesto" publicly promising to end it until 1904, after which the Utah-based faith strictly prohibited new plural marriages.
Today, any person who practices polygamy cannot become or remain a member of the Salt Lake City-based church.
Still, in Mormon temples, a man may be "sealed" married to more than one woman in eternity if his wife dies, while a woman can be sealed to only one man.
"Polygamy delayed is still polygamy," reasons Pearson in her just-published book, "The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men." It is "not an artifact in a museum. It is alive and unwell, a ghost that has a dark life of its own hiding in the recesses of the Mormon psyche, inflicting profound pain and fear, assuring women that we are still objects, damaging or destroying marriages, bringing chaos to family relationships."
Pearson will be addressing this topic at this week's Sunstone Symposium, which gets underway Wednesday night and runs through Saturday at the University of Utah.
The four-day conference will include more than a hundred presentations, including: an exploration of the impact of the LDS Church's policy on gay couples and their children; the faith's understanding of religious freedom; how American feminism is understood by Mormons internationally; and how Mormon masculinity affects men in Mexico.
Other sessions will look at race, gender, sexuality, feminism, same-sex marriage, history and art in an LDS context.
During Pearson's presentation Saturday, the acclaimed playwright, poet and author, who lives in northern California, will share some of more than 8,000 responses she received to an online survey about polygamy.
Though not a scientific sample, Pearson says that 51 percent of the respondents were "active Mormons." Only 15 percent were "at peace with polygamy," she writes, while "85 percent expressed sadness, confusion, pain."
If the church would acknowledge that God was not the author of polygamy, renounce its practice, scrub D&C 132, and change temple-marriage policies, Pearson believes it would have a profound impact on current Mormons.
Men and women would have an "equal status in eyes of God," she believes, and young women and widows would be "spared the wounding to our femaleness that we receive today."
Any concern about a past or future marital relationship, Pearson writes, would be "laid to rest in the knowledge that God's great design is larger than we can map."
She even insists that Mormonism's founding prophet might approve.
"The Brother Joseph who I came to love and whom I love still," Pearson writes, "would weep to see today's tears on this subject."
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