September 1, 2009

Division of Principles

There is an excellent article in this month's Ensign, with which I whole-heartedly agree. In fact, I actually sat down with the author a few years ago in his office on BYU campus and had a wonderful discussion. He is a man I very much respect and admire.

The article is on complete fidelity in marriage, including aversion of what he terms "spiritual infidelity": something one can commit as easily as thinking about a person of the opposite sex (who is not your spouse) for amounts of time that seem inappropriate. Or, for example, if I were to find myself dressing nicer on days where I knew I would spend more time near an attractive classmate or coworker, or looking for excuses to speak to her, that is probably not quite playing with fire, but it's getting the matches and fuel together.

Dr. Matheson's point, as I understand it, is that a healthy marriage exists when a person gives his entire heart to his spouse: not dishing out little bits to others too, or reserving pieces to give out later. By definition, one cannot love his spouse exclusively, while at the same time having similar feelings for another.

I think it's great advice. Once a man starts unconsciously courting other women, it's a very short step to consciously cheating on his spouse.

Now, what I'm confused about is how this excellent advice fits into the eternal, celestial law of plural wives.

I suppose that if Zina Diantha Huntington were right, it could work.
She said a successful polygamous wife “must regard her husband with indifference, and wits no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy” (quoted in Compton, 2001, p. 108).
So if the purpose of plurality of wives were simply to produce children, maybe the husband could be spiritually faithful to only one wife. Seems awfully cruel to the other wives, though, to just be impregnated repeatedly by a man who is little more than a reverent acquaintance. Maybe I'm just a romantic and God isn't.

But this draws my attention to the problem of Joseph Smith producing no children from his plural wives (some sources suggest he may have fathered 3 at most; see Embry, 2007). What confusing doctrine! If complete spiritual fidelity and polygamy are compatible, please enlighten me as to how.

Compton, T. (2001). In sacred loneliness: The plural wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.
Embry, J. L. (2007). Setting the record straight: Mormons and polygamy. Orem, UT: Millennial Press, Inc.

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