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History of Polygamy, Utah

Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia (Links Added)
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All of these pressures had an impact on the church, even though they did not compel the Latter-day Saints to abolish polygamy. Church leaders as well as many of its members went into hiding--on the "underground" as it was called--either to avoid arrest or to avoid having to testify. Mormon Church President John Taylor died while in hiding. His successor, Wilford Woodruff, initially supported the continued practice of polygamy; however, as pressure increased, he began to change the church's policy. On 26 September 1890 he issued a press release, the Manifesto, which read, "I publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriages forbidden by the law of the land." The Manifesto was approved at the church's general conference on 6 October 1890.

Rather than resolving the polygamy question, however, according to one historian: "For both the hierarchy and the general membership of the LDS Church, the Manifesto inaugurated an ambiguous era in the practice of plural marriage rivaled only by the status of polygamy during the lifetime of Joseph Smith." Woodruff's public and private statements contradicted whether the Manifesto applied to existing marriages. As a result of the Manifesto, some men left plural wives; others interpreted it as applying only to new marriages. All polygamous general authorities (church leaders including the First Presidency, Council of the Twelve Apostles, church patriarch, First Council of Seventy, and Presiding Bishopric) continued to cohabit with their wives. Based on impressionistic evidence in family histories and genealogical records, it appears that "most" polygamists followed the general authorities' example.


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