I have often heard the argument that although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890, it still clings to the doctrine because it retains the concept of “Families Can Be Together Forever” and the concept of sealing families in the temples. The twin notions of temple sealing and “Celestial Marriage” as contained in Doctrine & Covenants 132, it is said, establish that Latter-day Saints believe that polygamy will be practiced in heaven even if the Church has rescinded the practice on earth.

Conversely, it is very likely that many or most Latter-day Saints agree that it is difficult to imagine anything more awful than polygamy and are greatly relieved that the Church no longer expects such a high price of membership.

In some recent argument in comments to a Salt Lake Tribune Public Forum Letter titled “LDS Polygamy”, this issue has flared up. One commenter calling himself Joe Blow made a very good point in the debate, as follows:

It’s true that many Mormons have preached that polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife, with the caveat of course, that it will not necessarily be practiced by everyone. But, I think most Mormons assume that polygamy, if practiced in heaven, would be much different than polygamy practiced on Earth, simply because it would be done without any nefarious intentions. Frankly, I don’t think most Mormons worry that much about polygamy in the afterlife or consider it to be an important part of the religion, and I’m not sure why ANY non-Mormons would care at all about the Mormon afterlife. (comment at 5/16/2007 9:54:00 AM)

This comment poses a very interesting question — why does anyone who does not belong to the Church care at all about the Mormon afterlife? Even if it is true that Latter-day Saints believe that there could be polygamy in the afterlife, why is it not sufficient to observe that the Church has discontinued the practice on earth? I don’t share a belief in the Hindu afterlife or the atheist belief in what will happen after death, but would never treat such beliefs as a disqualification for a public office or as a reason to think that a Hindu or atheist could not be a good neighbor.