Is Polygamy Legal?
Polygamy's legal status continues to confuse, anger and mystify people. Mormon polygamy, in particular, causes much controversy and concern for people living outside of the communities still practicing this type of marriage. This article attempts to explore and explain some of the issues concerning Mormon polygamy.
What is polygamy and why do Mormons condone it?
Usually, polygamy is defined as a marriage in which either partner may have more than one mate at a time. The United States, the birthplace of Mormonism, has not traditionally looked favorably upon this practice and has made it illegal in many areas. Mormons engaged in polygamy claim that it has Biblical roots and that they are simply following the word of God. These particular Mormons find themselves torn between obeying the laws of their country and following the mandates of their religion.
Mormon founders, such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, began this custom in the 19th century. Joseph Smith had over 40 wives, and Brigham Young had 51. They produced many dozens of children through these unions.
The government's role
Legal actions such as the Utah War, the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, Edmunds Act, Edmunds-Tucker Act and the Manifesto banning plural marriage were all attempts at ending polygamy in this country, mostly in the Utah area where the Mormons settled.
By 1890, Mormons were no longer encouraged or allowed to practice polygamy. Furthermore, those found still entering into multiple marriages found themselves excommunicated from the church. Although traditionally associated with Mormons, polygamy is now found in some other types of fundamentalist groups. Although illegal, polygamists are not usually prosecuted unless they also commit other infractions and draw attention to themselves.