Community of Christ

What position does Community of Christ take on Joseph Smith Jr.’s involvement in
polygamy or celestial marriage?

Our faith is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and not in the actions of any particular person.
Community of Christ affirms its long history of opposition to polygamy or celestial marriage as a
doctrine or practice. Our faith movement has consistently taught monogamy as the basic principle of
Christian marriage (Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 111 and 150).
In June 2009, Prophet-President Stephen M. Veazey stated in the Herald magazine (official church
publication) that:

There is no doubt the early Reorganization endeavored to distance Joseph Smith Jr. from the
doctrine and practice of plural marriage. Such separation was viewed as critical to church
identity and survival.

However, during the past fifty years or so, RLDS/Community of Christ historians cautioned us
not to be so certain in our conclusions. … [Today] the vast majority of church historians have
persuasively concluded that Joseph Smith Jr. was involved prominently in the doctrine and
practice of celestial or plural marriage. There is some evidence that shortly before his death,
Joseph approached William Marks, Nauvoo Stake president, and said that he (Joseph) had “been
deceived” in the matter of plural marriage and that every effort must be made to rid the church
of the doctrine. Unfortunately, he was killed before anything could be done.

So, where does this leave us? The Reorganized Church [Community of Christ] has always said
that plural marriage in the early church was wrong, regardless of its origins.
Regarding the Nauvoo era, Community of Christ: An Illustrated History (Herald House: 2010, p. 13)
states:

In social relations, Joseph began to redefine marriage and family itself. In imitation of Old
Testament patriarchs, he began to practice a form of polygamy, known as celestial or plural
marriage.
In following paragraphs, additional information and perspective is offered:
[Joseph Smith Jr.] confided to William Marks and others that he believed the practice would be
the undoing of the church, and for the last six months of his life he entered into no new plural
marriages. … Sadly, Joseph’s reversals came too late.

For those interested in exploring this topic in-depth, including a spectrum of possible views, we
recommend reading The Journey of a People: The Era of Restoration, 1820 to 1844 (Community of
Christ Seminary Press: 2013, available from Herald House: www.HeraldHouse.org; (800) 767-8181).
Particular attention should be given to chapter 16, “The Evolution of Joseph Smith’s Theology,”
pages 398–409.

For better understanding of the Community of Christ approach to church history, see the “Church
History Principles” (www.CofChrist.org/church-history-principles).

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