Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not practice polygamy today. Their marriages are very traditional, one man and one woman, with the man presiding in love with a wife who is his equal partner in managing the family.
Duality of Roles
When God created Adam and Eve, he assigned them specific roles, and those roles have continued to this time. After all, God is perfect, and if He created those roles for them—Adam to preside in love and righteousness, and Eve to care for home and family in equal partnership with her husband—the roles are clearly perfect. They are designed to create harmony, structure, and efficiency in the home. Presiding doesn’t mean ruling over.
“A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 49).
Many people misunderstand this concept and believe women in traditional homes are subjugated and of lesser importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. God doesn’t favor one gender over the other. He loves His sons equally with His daughters and gave them each critical roles to fill. Eternal Marriage One unique aspect of LDS marriage is the eternal nature of it. The Church teaches that marriages performed under the proper priesthood authority can last forever. We won’t be asked to divorce our spouses at death and somehow turn off the powerful love and connection we were commanded to develop on earth. Eternal marriage between a worthy man and woman has always been part of God’s plan for us. Adam and Eve were married for eternity and told to work together in partnership to care for their children and to raise them well. The Savior, during His earthly ministry, said in Matthew 19:4-6, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Latter-day Saints are known for their temples, where eternal marriages are performed. Temple-building was an important part of the restoration of the gospel. Members of the Church were taught that their worthy earthly marriages could, when the temple covenants were restored, become eternal marriages. This was, for those who were happily married, one of the greatest privileges that came with the restoration. Those who had children could have the security of knowing their children were theirs forever.
Joseph Smith didn’t teach about eternal marriage until several years after the Church was established, and he did so to small numbers of people at first. Parley P. Pratt, one of the leaders of the Church, first learned of it in Philadelphia, from the prophet himself, while they were there together. The realization of what this meant, that he didn’t, as he’d been taught in other churches, have to learn to fall out of love with his wife someday in order to be of Heavenly quality, was an extraordinarily exciting idea to him. Here’s what he wrote in his journal about that day:
“It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. …
“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved-with a pureness-an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 297-98).
It’s interesting that no other church teaches about eternal marriage. People claim, when speaking only doctrinally, that they believe marriage is only for this life-time and that the family relationship won’t matter in Heaven. They claim to be completely comfortable with this. And yet, what do you hear when their second parent dies? “Mom and Dad are together again. I’m so glad.” What do you hear when a child dies? “He’s in Heaven waiting for me there.” When a child loses a parent, he is often told, “Mommy is in Heaven watching over you and you’ll be with her again someday.” Many people have brains that refuse to believe in eternal families, and yet, our hearts know it’s true. People long to have their families with them forever.Marriages are the heart of the eternal gospel of the Savior and God. With a properly performed marriage and a commitment to create a loving home, the family begins, and the family is the center of the gospel as it’s practiced on earth.