Differences between the
RLDS and LDS Doctrine and Covenants
on the subject of Marriage

by Jon Tandy

This page comments on the sections that have been removed from and added to the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, relating to the church's teaching on marriage.

Law of the Church on Marriage

In 1835, the church adopted a Statement on Marriage, in order to contradict the false accusations that the church taught and practiced polygamy. It reads (in part) as follows:

Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is as liberty to marry again.
This document was accepted in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (KDC) as Section 101, and now appears in the RLDS D&C (RDC) as Section 111. Section 103 in the 1835 edition (RDC Section 108A) states that this article on marriage was "accepted and adopted, and ordered to be printed in [the Doctrine and Covenants] by a unanimous vote".

There could be no plainer statement on marriage than this. Polygamy, fornication, and (by implication) other forms of concubinage are declared to be "crimes" and are not a part of the church's belief. It implies that the bonds of marriage cease when one or the other party dies, allowing the living party to remarry (see Romans 7:1-4). The Statement on Marriage also declares that marriage should be conducted in a "public meeting, or feast", rather than in secret ceremonies hid from the eyes of the world.

This Statement on Marriage has been retained in all editions of the RLDS Doctrine and Covenants and is still considered to be the law of the church. Section 111 of the RDC is identical to the original Section 101 of the 1835 edition. KDC Section 103, which authorized the statement on marriage, has been retained in the RDC as Section 108A and currently forms part of the Introduction.

Church Leaders Reaffirmed Law of the Church

Joseph Smith's public opposition to polygamy is a well documented fact of history. From the very beginning of his ministry, Joseph Smith was accused of having more than one wife. In 1844, just a month before his death, he made the statement: "I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives....I am innocent of all these charges....What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers" (LDS History of the Church, 6:410-411).

In the 1840's a few people in the church began secretly teaching doctrines of "spiritual wifery" and polygamy. In some cases they seduced the women into illicit relationships, by telling them that this was a secret doctrine they had obtained from Joseph Smith.

In each of these cases, when Joseph found out that such doctrines were being taught, he came out publicly to set the record straight, and the offending parties were expelled from the church after they failed to repent. On numerous occasions, the church periodical Times and Seasons published articles by Joseph and other leading members of the church, trying to stop these false accusations from gaining strength. Each time, the "Statement on Marriage" was declared to be the only law of the church on marriage.

All church leaders approved of this as the "only law on marriage known to the church", including Joseph Smith Jr., Emma his wife, Eliza Snow (an alleged plural wife of Joseph), Wilford Woodruff and wife (parents of another alleged plural wife of Joseph), and later Joseph Fielding Smith. Some examples are found in Times and Seasons (TS) 3:830, 839-843, 939-940; TS 4:32, 143; TS 5:423, 474, 490; TS 6:888, 894. See also Fundamental Differences, pages 152-204.

Throughout their lives, Joseph and Emma maintained that Emma was Joseph's only one wife, and that Section 101 (KDC) was the only church law on marriage.

LDS Leaders Changed Teaching on Marriage

After Joseph's death, many members of the church were led to Utah by Brigham Young. There, they changed the official teaching of the original church relating to marriage in several significant ways. These changes were in direct violation of the "Statement on Marriage" which was law to the church.

  1. They began preaching and practicing polygamy. Some church leaders, including Brigham Young, were secretly practicing polygamy years before it became official doctrine.
  2. They taught "celestial marriage", which is that the bonds of marriage is for "all time and eternity", instead of ceasing at death. This is still a major doctrine today in the LDS church.
  3. Part of the celestial marriage practice was "sealing" the two parties "for time and eternity". Numerous women were "sealed" to Joseph Smith, Jr., even though he was already dead. These constitute a majority of the women who are claimed by the Mormon church to be "wives" of Joseph.
  4. Marriage began to be practiced in secret Temple ceremonies instead of in a "public meeting". Even today only "worthy" members of the LDS church can attend an official LDS marriage ceremony.

The basis for these changes were teachings falsely attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr. Just as his enemies outside and within the church falsely accused him of polygamy and "spiritual wifery" during his life, Brigham Young and others continued to promote these claims after Joseph's death. In 1852, Brigham Young brought forth a revelation authorizing celestial marriage and polygamy, claiming Joseph had authored it. This is now Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants (LDC). The RLDS church rejects these claims along with the LDC Section 132.

LDC Section 131 mentions the subject of celestial marriage, and states that this doctrine must be received for a man to enter the highest glory. This section is also rejected by the RLDS church.

LDS Removed Original Law on Marriage

The LDS Doctrine and Covenants retained the original "Statement on Marriage" until 1876 edition -- even though the church was concurrently teaching and practicing polygamy and "celestial marriage" as essential! Subsequently, this "Statement on Marriage" was removed from the LDC. Section 103 in the original 1835 D&C was also removed from the LDS D&C, perhaps because it authorized the acceptance of the "Statement on Marriage" by the original church.