I have a question regarding what the LDS Church view of 1 Timothy 3:2 and 3:12 was during the times when they supported polygamy.

Background information for my question:

One of the earliest formal statements about polygamy by the Mormon church was the 1943 revelation by the founder of the church, Joseph Smith. This revelation was codified in the 1870s in the church's Doctrine and Covenants section 132.

Paragraphs 61-63 of this section is quoted below.

61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

The LDS Church did eventually stop promoting polygamy however. The final nail to its coffin seems to have been the Second Manifesto of 1904 by then President of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith.

Still the article "After the Manifesto: Mormon Polygamy 1890-1906" makes claims that indicate support for polygamy high in the Church hierarchy as late as 1898. The article says on pp. 28-29:

Among the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency between 1890 and 1898, at least 58 percent of the members took an active part in post-Manifesto polygamy. If Matthias Cowley and Owen Woodruff are included, the proportion is 70 percent.[17] Historical records indicate that only two men seem to have had qualms about the continuation of polygamy during President Woodruff’s lifetime: Francis M. Lyman and Lorenzo Snow.[18]

Qualifications for bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy chapter 3:

1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications expected from those assigned to the positions of deacons and bishops in the first century congregations.

1 Timothy 3:2 lists some of the qualifications for bishops:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

And 1 Timothy 3:12 includes similar requirements for deacons:

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.


Considering the paragraphs quoted from Doctrine and Covenants section 132, and the overall support for polygamy in the Church hierarchy until late 1800's, it seems that at that time a church member could be in good standing with more than one wife.

This seems different from the expectations listed in 1 Timothy ch. 3.

What would have been the LDS Church view of these requirements in 1 Timothy ch. 3 during the time they supported polygamy?

  • 1
    Keep in mind that in the context of this epistle, asceticism was a serious threat to the church in the region where Timothy was serving as a church leader (see 1 Cor 7: 1-5). The qualifications given for bishops and deacons were not meant to limit them to only one wife, they were established to require them to take at least one wife. Similar instruction was given to Titus in Corinth (see Titus 1:6). These verses weren't meant to address polygamy, they were addressing the issue of asceticism and abstaining from marriage.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 3, 2018 at 17:18
  • @ShemSeger That's a whole lot of unsupported assumptions right there.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 3, 2018 at 23:03
  • @curiousdannii They aren't assumptions, and they are supported, just not by Catholic tradition. Although after reading the comment I can see how one might assume I was suggesting polygamy may have been practiced in the church at that time. I wasn't. I was only trying to impress that Paul was laying out marriage as a qualification for being ordained to the episcopate.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 5, 2018 at 23:11
  • @Shem I meant that asceticism being a major/only issue is an assumption. That's the case in 1 Cor, but what exactly are you seeing that indicates it in the pastoral epistles? 1 Tim 4:3? It's there, but I don't see why it should be taken to mean that polygamy isn't also mind several chapters earlier.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 5, 2018 at 23:14
  • @curiousdannii As I mention in the comment, the same instruction was given to Titus in Corinth as was given to Timothy in Ephesus. This indicates asceticism was an issue in both regions. I'm going to look into it further now and perhaps provide a well sourced answer with some more support for this.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 5, 2018 at 23:49

3 Answers 3


There does not seem to be any LDS view on 1 Timothy 3 requirements during the time they practiced polygamy (searched LDS website and Joseph Smith Papers).

The LDS believe in modern prophets who receive revelation.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, as did Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures.

Related to this is that the Bible is not the only scripture or wholey translated correctly (doesn't apply to this verse). Article of Faith 8:

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

See this Answer on the purpose of Polygamy or from the LDS website:

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s standard, except at specific periods when He has declared otherwise.


Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage during the 19th century. The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30). Plural marriage did result in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes. ...

  • They surely would have been questioned about these verses by those who opposed polygamy. They never gave any response?
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 2, 2018 at 15:03
  • @curiousdannii would you be able to find an article/source from that time period that uses those verses to oppose polygamy (I have been unable to find one)? It is hard to find a response to a question/position that isn't documented
    – depperm
    Jan 2, 2018 at 17:11
  • That's fair. But in that case you'd do better commenting on the question than writing an empty answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 2, 2018 at 17:22
  • 2
    @curiousdannii, how is this an empty answer? Unless someone digs up an article/source from that time period, this is the answer from the LDS perspective. Jan 3, 2018 at 15:23
  • @Joshua It says "I don't know of anything" - pretty empty. Better to have left it unanswered so someone can dig something out in the future.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 3, 2018 at 23:03

Discourse by Apostle Erastus Snow, delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Saturday Morning (in General Conference), October 7, 1882.

"The only passage of Scripture that I have ever heard quoted as appearing to limit the early Christians to single marriage was the saying of one of the Apostles, St. Paul to Timothy, in which he said that a Bishop should be the husband of one wife, having faithful children and one who knows how to govern his own house, for, said he, if he knows not how to rule well his own house, how shall he rule the Church of God. 1 Tim. 3:1-5 Now this scripture, taken as a whole, evidently shows that his object was not to intimate that a Bishop should have one wife only, but he intended to make this impression, that he must be a man of family, one who has had experience in household affairs, one that understood all those tender relations existing between husband and wife and parent and child, one who had shown himself a wise and discreet father; one who was capable of guiding his own house and of leading his family in the ways of rectitude and of controlling them in the fear of God; for except he is able to govern his own house, how could it be expected that he could govern the Church of God. Now, if in this respect a Bishop had proved himself a wise and discreet father and husband, a man who knew how to rule well his own family, this was a qualification recommending him as a suitable person to be trusted with the office of a Bishop. And how much more suitable would he be for that position if he were perfectly able to govern two or more wives, and to rear their children in the fear of God? The very fact that a Bishop must be the husband of one wife, if we admit the correctness of the views of our Christian friends in this regard (which, however, we do not by any means) the logical inference is, that any other officer or member in the Church but a Bishop was at liberty to have more than one wife. For if he intended it to be a general prohibition, why should he confine it to the Bishop, why did he not make it general?"


  • 1
    Are there paragraphs in the cited text? If so, it would be helpful to also have them here, to help readability.
    – kutschkem
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:33
  • I agree about the readability issue -- but alas my source has no paragraph markers. Nov 17, 2020 at 16:46

I do not believe my answer is authoritative, but I believe it to be possible. Without commentary from both early Church leaders and Paul or Christ themselves, it's difficult to provide a definitive answer.

Jesus did not impose the restrictions on Bishops found in 1 Timothy. Paul did. I suppose it is assumed by Christianity at large that this would be purely reflective of the Lord's will, but it might not have been.

From the LDS perspective we have two verses.

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. (D&C 58:26-28)


Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; that your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High. (D&C 88:119-120)

From an LDS perspective, Paul had the same authority as our priesthood leadership today: the authority to organize the church to meet the needs of the people in Paul's day. Polygamy was not authorized in Paul's day, so it is little wonder that he would discourage it with his instructions.

With polygamy authorized during the early Church period, the Church had (and has) the authority to organize itself to accomodate its needs, which would include the authority to authorize polygamous marriages for Bishops.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any early Church writings focusing on 1 Timothy either. The Lord is perfect. The rest of us must make do.

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