Wednesday, September 28, 2005

History Of Polygamy

Marriage has essentially been viewed as a social phenomenon. As such, it is not necessary for the more basic act of procreation to take place. Because of this fact, discussions regarding marriage have always centered on the legal, cultural and religious significance of the ceremony itself and all that it entails. The types of marriages, like monogamous and polygamous marriages, exist only to fulfill certain social or religious obligations imposed upon a person by forces other than natural.

Christianity is the biggest opponent of polygamy in today's society. It may be noted, however, that the bible itself, which forms the basis for Christian faith, described some patriarchs as having polygamous marriages, like Moses (Numbers 12:1) and Abraham (Genesis 16:1, Genesis 16:3 and Genesis 25:1). These early cases of polygamy were explained by Saint Augustine in The Good of Marriage as having been rooted in the ancient times' necessity to procreate. Therefore, at present, since that necessity no longer exists, the Catholic Church has declared polygamy as unlawful. While some Protestant faiths, during the period of "Protestant Reformation," temporarily sanctioned the practice of polygamy on the basis of some of the biblical provisions, others publicly denounced it. Consequently, protestant Christians later on decided to abandon polygamy altogether.


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The above stated fact, however, cannot be applied to the Church of the Latter Day Saints, or more popularly, the Mormon Church. The Mormons, rather than merely allowing the occurrence of polygamous marriages, have openly educated their members about this ideal and announced their subscription to it publicly. The Church's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., founded their doctrine of polygamy on the biblical reference stated in the previous paragraph. They openly practiced polygamy from 1852 until 1890. Before the latter date, however, when the church began to be subjected to a heavier political and legal pressure, the Mormons declared the practice unlawful, with the members who continued its practice suffering excommunication. The church members who refused to adhere to the new trend fled to friendlier territories such as Canada and set up more fundamentalist churches there.

Today, polygamy, or plural marriages, is a practice upon which, a substantial part of the world has expressed its formal scorn. It is now widely accepted by most political and legal systems that polygamy fails to meet the common moral and legal standards necessary to maintain world and societal order. This new ideal is probably the result of two major factors, namely, the spread of Christianity and the more pragmatic considerations of multiple divorces and property settlement of spouses. The latter factor merely concerns the inconveniences and conflicts attendant to having several wives or husbands, each vying for a piece of property upon the common spouse's death or divorce. Likewise repulsive is the instability that may result in the matters of the wives' and children's status in society. It is, after all, a generally accepted principle that a person's status should not be subjected to needless uncertainty. The spread of Christianity or religious evolution in general, is a
much more complex factor that may have affected the world view on polygamy.


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