Like many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a pioneer background, I am a byproduct of plural marriage. At last count, I have about 42 great-great-sister grandmas.
Not all of my Mormon ancestors indulged in the practice of taking multiple wives but enough defended it to the extent that they were willing to go to prison and even get shot for taking on extra wives.
Although aware of polygamy being a former church practice, I never gave it much thought. It didn’t seem to matter.
First, because my understanding was that only people worthy of going to the Celestial Kingdom would be permitted to practice it in the next life. And since I had no plan of making that particular cut, I didn’t dwell on the possible requirements.
Second — and best — reason was the 1960s and ’70s Mormon “Families Are Forever” bumper sticker ad campaign.
Back then, just about every vehicle in a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse parking lot on Sunday sported one of these promissory bumper stickers. Took me about four minutes to decide that it didn’t make sense.
If “families are forever” is true, there will of necessity be very few intact “nuclear” families in the next life because not everyone goes to heaven. A bunch of us are going to whatever passes for hell, which will leave most families really sad.
Following the twists and turns of theological thought, the attachment we have to our families here is a temporary one. Mormonism teaches that the kids we have on this earth aren’t really our kids. They’re God’s kids.
So it naturally follows that your earthly children are actually your brothers and sisters — loaners from God as a way of teaching us what a pain in the … um, er, what a colossal annoyance procreation can be.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Multiple wives. Polygamy didn’t become a point of contention for me until my mission, when the people we taught sometimes brought it up as a point of concern.
My companions would explain it in vague but reassuring terms, never once mentioning the marital competition and pain likely to occur if plural marriage were indeed a requirement in the next life.
That rarely satisfied the people we taught. If they noticed my subtle eye roll, I told them the truth, “It’s a bunch of crap.”
No, it didn’t bother me that polygamy was once a “commandment” and might still be one. Lots of nonsense has been declared God’s will by people who really should have known better — or been more careful because they in fact don’t/didn’t know better.
I’ve heard all — sometimes entirely against my will — the reasons why the return of polygamy won’t be a problem, including those who look forward to it, those who believe our petty earthly feelings won’t matter in heaven, and why would a loving god want us to be miserable?
One of the balms offered to those who fret about polygamy being the law in the next life is that God would never force us to do anything we don’t want to do. Being a just God he will make sure that we’re happy.
This is the same God who permitted a war in heaven, right? We were barely out of the celestial womb before we were set to fighting over who would be the boss.
Doesn’t sound like heaven to me. In fact, it sounds a lot like mortality. In that case, do what has always worked before. Stop worrying about something you can’t do anything about.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.