Sep 25, 2023 - Religion

Old News: No more Mormon polygamy (officially)

An excerpt from the 1890 Manifesto officially ending polygamy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Deseret Evening News, Sept. 25, 1890. Image via Utah Digital Newspapers, hosted by the University of Utah

Mormon prophet Wilford Woodruff published a manifesto 133 years ago today, ending polygamy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • This is Old News, where we peek back in time to see where we came from.

Why it matters: The 1890 manifesto is certainly among the top five most significant events in Mormon and Utah history.

  • It allowed Utah to obtain statehood after decades of fighting with the U.S. government over its practice of plural marriage.

Catch up quick: About a year earlier, Woodruff told the Salt Lake Herald-Republican that the church planned to obey laws forbidding polygamy.

  • The deal was sealed by two Supreme Court decisions in 1890: one allowing Idaho to ban polygamous residents from voting, and another that permitted the federal government to disincorporate the church and seize its property.

Reality check: A number of polygamous marriages still occurred after Woodruff's manifesto.

The intrigue: Woodruff states the manifesto responds to "press dispatches having been sent for political purposes" that alleged the church was still sanctioning plural marriages.

  • In his journal that day, Woodruff wrote he was "acting for the temporal salvation of the church."
  • It wasn't until later that he began describing the process of divine revelation that he said inspired it. Initially, he said only that God would not allow a church leader to lead members astray.
  • Disputes over the manifesto's divine origin led to the breakaway of the FLDS and other sects that still practice polygamy in Utah today.

Previously in Old News:

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