Monday, May 9, 2011

Parley Pratt on Plural Marriage

As with other nineteenth-century book-length presentations of LDS thought, Parley Pratt's Key to the Science of Theology (1855) ends with a chapter on marriage, in which - among other things - Pratt discusses plural marriage. Although Pratt discussed this issue at great length elsewhere also, I'd like to present a few choice quotes from this work here (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Liverpool, UK: F. D. Richards, 1855], 163, 165, 167, 171-172):

Again, it was a law of the ancient Priesthood, and is again restored, that a man who is faithful in all things, may, by the word of the Lord, through the administration of one holding the keys to bind on earth and heaven, receive and secure to himself, for time and all eternity, MORE THAN ONE WIFE. Thus did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Patriarchs and Prophets of old. The principal object contemplated by this law, is the multiplication of the children of good and worthy fathers, who will teach them the truth, and train them in the holy principles of salvation. This is far preferable to sending them into the world in the lineage of an unworthy or ignorant parentage, to be educated in error, folly, ignorance, and crime....

Marriage, and its duties, are therefore, not a mere matter of choice, or of convenience, or of pleasure to the parties; but to marry and multiply is a positive command of Almighty God, binding on all persons of both sexes, who are circumstanced and conditioned to fulfil the same. To marry, propagate our species, do our duty to them, and to educate them in the light of truth, are among the chief objects of our existence on the earth. To neglect these duties, is to fail to answer the end of our creation, and is a very great sin....

Indeed, it should be the privilege of every virtuous female, who has the requisite capacity and qualifications for matrimony, to demand either of individuals or government, the privilege of becoming an honoured and legal wife and mother; even if it were necessary for her to be married to a man who has several wives; or, as Jesus said in the parable, to take the one talent from the place where it remains neglected or unimproved, and give it to him who has ten talents....

The eternal union of the sexes, in and after the resurrection, is mainly for the purpose of renewing and continuing the work of procreation. In our present or rudimental state, our offspring are in our own image, and partake of our natures, in which are the seeds of death. In like manner, will the offspring of immortal and celestial beings, be in the likeness and partake of the nature of their divine parentage. Hence, such offspring will be pure, holy, incorruptible and eternal. They will in no wise be subject unto death, except by descending to partake of the grosser elements, in which are the inherent properties of dissolution or death. To descend thus, and to be made subject to sorrow, pain and death, is the only road to the resurrection, and to the higher degrees of immortality and eternal life. [...] Hence, the highest degrees of eternal felicity are approached by the straight gate, and the narrow path which leads through the dark valley of death, to eternal mansions in the realms of endless life. This path has been trodden by the eternal Father, by His son Jesus Christ, - and by all the sons and daughters of God, who are exalted to a fulness of joys celestial.

How does Parley Pratt's picture of marriage and exaltation here relate to that of Charles Penrose, or that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today?

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