Was polygamy practiced by Biblical prophets?
Yes. In fact at least 13 Old Testament Prophets and patriarchs, including Abraham, Saul, David, and Solomon, had more than one living wife.
Why did the church practice polygamy?
The short answer is that it was commanded by God, just like it was with Solomon, David, and other Biblical prophets. As far as what purpose polygamy served, there is no official church response to this question; many have speculated that it was to quickly populate the world with those born into God’s only true church. Here’s an article on fairmormon.org that lists other possible benefits and reasons.
Do Mormons still practice plural marriage?
On earth, no. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially banned the practice of plural marriage to living members in 1904. Members who continue the practice while still alive are excommunicated. See what Gordon B. Hinckley said about it on Mormon.org. That said, Mormons still continue the practice of plural marriage for after death. In fact, even apostle Dallin H. Oaks is currently sealed for all eternity to two women. Many members even believe that God is a polygamist. Though the church no longer teaches this as doctrine, prophets from Joseph Smith to Joseph F. Smith preached that you need to be a polygamist in order to reach the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom. Read more
Was Joseph Smith a polygamist?
Yes, Joseph Smith and many other Mormon prophets practiced plural marriage. Joseph Smith denied his participation in the practice to anyone outside of his inner circle. LDS researchers have verified that he had at least 33 wives. Here’s his family tree on the church-run familyserach.org as well as a list of wives, ages, and marital status.
Did Joseph Smith marry a 14-year-old?
Yes, Joseph married Helen Mar Kimball when she was 14 and he was 37. This is a very controversial topic that requires additional reading. See the post, Helen Mar Kimball, Wife of Joseph Smith.
Did other church leaders marry children?
Yes. Brigham Young married a 15-year-old and two 16-year-olds while he was in his 40’s. In his 50’s, Lorenzo Snow married Eleanor Houtz when she was 14 and Sarah Minnie Ephramina Jensen when she was 15. Joseph F. Smith married his sixteen-year-old cousin, Levira Annette Clark Smith.
Did Mormon leaders marry women who were currently married?
Yes, church historians have determined that 11 of Joseph Smith’s wives were already married. Zina Jacobs actually married Brigham Young while her husband was on a mission in England. We don’t know the exact reason for the marriages, but we do know they were commanded by God.
Did any of the women have multiple husbands?
It wasn’t just Joseph Smith’s wives that practiced polyandry (one wife with multiple husbands). Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young, and other prominent LDS leaders shared their wives with other men. That said, not all women were allowed to participate. Joseph’s first wife, Emma, was told in D&C 132:54 that if she participated, she would be destroyed.