Polygamy as an Abrahamic Sacrifice
by V.H. Cassler
(From a presentation originally titled “A Reconciliation of Polygamy,” given at the 2011 FAIR Conference; edited here for clarity and length)
Today we are going to talk about polygamy but probably in a different way than you have heard about it before. That is, we are going to talk about the doctrinal ins-and-outs of it rather than historical practices.
During the period of time when the restored Church was commanded by the Lord to practice polygamy, some practiced it without any discernible hardship and still others with great pain. Contemporary Church members may look back upon that period with acceptance, or indifference, or discomfort, and I would like to say at the outset that I don’t see that diversity of feelings is harmful that people differ in their reactions to polygamy I don’t think is the issue. Rather, since the new and everlasting covenant of marriage is at the heart of the work of eternal life and godhood; confusion about the nature and form of lawful marriage ordained by God is harmful.
Women and men may think that gender equality is compromised by the doctrine of polygamy. We need to know more, in other words. The overarching question we pose, therefore, is whether God has revealed his mind about these matters, and we believe that he has, specifically in Jacob 2 and in Doctrine & Covenants 132.
Why should we rely on these particular scriptures in order to tease out Mormon doctrine about polygamy? Well, I would like to make reference to an extraordinary statement that the Church issued on the 4th of May 2007. The statement is actually rather long, but here is an excerpt from it. “Not every statement made by a church leader – past or present – necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal though well-considered opinion but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publication.
This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.
So I think if we want to address polygamy as a doctrine of the Church we must sort out what is Church doctrine, what we can enter in to the dialogue about polygamy and what we really can’t invite in as part of the dialogue about polygamy. So what is Church doctrine? It is what is currently taught; it is what is consistently taught; and it is to be found in a official church publication, specifically as we have just seen: the scriptures, the declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.
Now I point this out because what I have found is that among our faith community there are still a number of teachings that some subscribe to and believe are Mormon doctrine that in fact are not. Let me give you just three examples: the teaching of blood atonement for murder (the Church has come out with an official statement that this is not a doctrine of the LDS church; the teaching that Christ was married (the Church says we don’t know if Christ was married –we are not saying he is not, but we are not saying he was — that is not a doctrine of the Church; and third, the teaching that Heavenly Father had sexual relations with Mary (again, the Church has announced that this is not Church doctrine. What is binding upon the Church membership is Church doctrine. Various church teachings the Church does not accept as being Church doctrine.
Let’s get back to the question in hand. Many, including, reportedly Emma Smith, have had difficulty reconciling Jacob 2 and D&C 132. In fact, I just saw in the Provo Daily Herald yesterday, a letter to the editor in which it was raised, “Aren’t these two scriptures in contradiction?” which I thought was interesting.
We choose to operate from a different assumption. These scriptures, found in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, come to us without taint of mistranslation or interpretation over millennia, in contrast to the Bible. Therefore, we do not believe that Jacob 2 and D&C 132 could have been mistranslated. In that case, we must either conclude that God revealed something to Jacob contradictory to that which he revealed to Joseph Smith, or we must assume that these two scriptures do not contradict one another. I am going to assume the latter. I am going to assume that these two scriptures are not only not in contradiction but in fact reinforce, affirm, and parallel one another.
To see how this is so, let us first ask about the principle and purpose of marriage in God’s work.
We know quite a bit about marriages as an eternal principle. God commands his children to marry (D&C 49). God married our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden before the Fall (Moses 3). Scripture asserts that persons must be married to inherit the fullness of the Father in the celestial kingdom and that those who are not worthy of the celestial kingdom live as unmarried persons (D&C 132).
Furthermore, not only are persons to be married, but they are to be married in the New and Everlasting Covenant. The Lord states that this type of marriage is “by my word, which is my law.” In LDS culture we colloquially refer to marriage in the New and Everlasting Covenant as “temple marriage.” From all of this we understand that marriage in the New and Everlasting Covenant, or temple marriage, is an eternal principle of the highest importance, and this is so because of the purpose of such marriage.
The purpose of marriage in mortality and the purpose of marriage in the hereafter is to further the work of divine love. This work has a two-fold nature. The purpose of marriage in mortality is to raise up righteous seed to God, which accomplishment merits for the marriage partners a right to the “continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” This spiritual rationale which underpins the eternal principle of marriage in the new and everlasting covenant is God’s overarching work of love for his children to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.
Given this eternal principle of marriage in the new and everlasting covenant, what is the law, the general rule or unrestricted form of marriage? Is there a lawful exception? What is the nature and status of that lawful exception?
Let us first turn to Jacob’s sermon on this topic.
What is the form of Jacob’s discussion of marriage? First, Jacob notes a social problem of great severity at his time. The men at his time are taking many wives and concubines and “seek to excuse themselves in committing these whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon, his son” (Jacob 2). The situation is that these great men of the scripture were doing one thing, but God is now saying that those who follow David and Solomon’s example are committing “iniquity.” How are we to understand this apparent contradiction? This is the question that prompts Jacob’s short but profound sermon on the law of marriage.
In answer to that question, the Lord notes that these men “understand not the scriptures” and err when they “seek to excuse themselves” in emulating David and Solomon. The Lord continues, “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me.” Immediately following this frank judgment, the Lord states, “Wherefore I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem,” — notice the term “wherefore,” meaning ‘because of this’ — “I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem by the power of mine arm that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore, I the Lord will not suffer that this people should do like unto them of old.”The use of the word “wherefore” in these two scriptures reveals that part of the purpose in separating the Nephites from the civilization of their origin and bringing them across the ocean to the Promised Land was to “raise up a righteous” people who would not succumb to the errors of David and Solomon.
How would the children of Lehi act if this purpose had been fulfilled? In the very next verse we are given the answer to that question. In verse 27, Jacob expounds the law of marriage — the rule or unrestricted form of marriage, if you will: “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none”.
The general law or rule or unrestricted form of the eternal principle of marriage is monogamy. That monogamy is the law or rule of the principle of marriage is found several places throughout the scriptures. Here’s an example, Doctrine and Covenants 49 “Wherefore, it is lawful that he [man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.”
In the beginning, when the earth was empty and sorely needed replenishing, God gave Adam but one wife, Eve, that the pattern of his law of marriage might be set from the dawn of time in the very first human marriage on earth. Joseph Smith said, “I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” Bruce R. McConkie concurs: “According to the Lord’s law of marriage, it is lawful that a man have only one wife at a time, unless by revelation the Lord commands plurality of wives in the New and everlasting covenant.” Of course, taking a plurality of wives outside of the New and everlasting covenant, outside of being commanded to do so by the Lord, is always a grievous sin.
Jacob teaches us that monogamy is the general law of marriage and polygamy is an exception to the general law, which exception must be commanded by the Lord before it can be practiced. Furthermore, Jacob reveals the reason the Lord will command the exception: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people to practice polygamy; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” –that is to take but one wife and have no concubines.
With this understanding of the purpose of marriage and the law and the lawful exception of marriage in mind, Jacob’s sermon is profound, despite its brevity. Rooted in divine love for his children, God commands men and women to marry. In general, he commands them to marry monogamously. Sometimes, he will command them to marry polygamously. Both the giving of the general law and the commandment to depart from the general law are motivated by God’s love for us. But one thing is also clear from Jacob’s sermon: God is not indifferent concerning how his children marry. He actively and severely restricts the practice of polygamy, while leaving monogamy unrestricted.
One can be “destroyed” for practicing polygamy without God’s sanction, becoming “angels to the devil” and “bringing your children unto destruction, and their sins heaped upon your head at the last day,” but no such punishment attends the practice of monogamy.
Our next question for whose answer we must turn to D&C 132 is simple. Why is God not indifferent concerning the practices of monogamy and polygamy, severely restricting as he does the second while leaving the first virtually unrestricted?
For that we must turn to D&C 132. D&C 132, I think, is one of the deepest and most thought-provoking scriptures in our canon. And it is also one I think that many LDS wrestle with. So let’s wrestle with it. Shall we? D&C 132 concerns the New and everlasting covenant of marriage and its place at the heart of the plan of salvation and exaltation. Without its restoration, the fullness of eternal life would be unobtainable. Thankfully, as noted in D&C 132:40, the Lord gave Joseph Smith an “appointment” to “restore all things,” and therefore Joseph Smith restored the New and everlasting covenant of marriage. This much is indisputable. What is often in dispute in our culture is what exactly that means.
Given the over 150 years that have passed since the receipt of the revelation known as D&C 132, we are in a better position to settle that dispute. Joseph Smith restored marriage for “time and all eternity,” which we now colloquially call “temple marriage.” In restoring the principle of temple marriage, Joseph Smith restored both the general law of marriage and the lawful exception as elucidated by Jacob centuries before. Put more precisely, Joseph Smith restored the general law of monogamous temple marriage and he restored the lawful exception of polygamous temple marriage.
At the time of the revelation most scholars say prior to the date given for D&C 132, God commanded Joseph Smith to command the Church membership to practice polygamy. By so doing, God activated the lawful exception to the general law of marriage. Thus, polygamous marriages entered into in the temple after that commandment was given by the Lord were “without condemnation on earth and in heaven.” Putting Jacob’s teachings together with Joseph’s teachings, the commandment to practice polygamy was given by God at that time for the purpose of “raising up seed unto me God”.
However, in 1890 God rescinded the commandment sanctioning the lawful exception to the general law of marriage. Polygamous marriages would no longer be recognized by the Lord and indeed would be grounds for excommunication from the Church. This rescinding did not unrestore the New and everlasting covenant of marriage, or temple marriage. Temple marriage is a mainstay of our religion and will never cease to be our ideal. The New and everlasting covenant of marriage is still among us, but the commandment to live the lawful exception to the general law of marriage in the New and everlasting covenant is no longer among us.
Thus the restoration of all things does not demand that polygamy be actively practiced among the Saints; it merely demands that the possibility of God commanding polygamy, which possibility demands the restoration of temple marriage and sealing keys exists, and so it does to this day. As long as there are temples and sealing keys among our people, God can, whenever he chooses to do so, command his people to practice polygamy. But the presence of temples and sealing keys does not conversely demand or necessitate that God actually issue the command to practice polygamy. Our contemporary situation is perfectly described in this manner and explains how Bruce R. McConkie could conclude that polygamy cannot be a requirement for exaltation and why the Church does not preach that it is.
So we conclude that in restoring all things, Joseph Smith restored temple marriage, complete with its general law, monogamous temple marriage and the possibility of God-commanded lawful exception, polygamous temple marriage. Thus we see that God’s lack of indifference concerning the manner of marriage among his children which we noted in Jacob 2 persists in D&C 132. Even with the restoration of temple marriage, God is still not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy.
If he were indifferent, his words to us might be, “As long as you marry in the temple, I am indifferent as to whether you marry monogamously or polygamously.” But such a conclusion cannot be reached, for he persists in actively and severely restricting polygamy despite the presence of temples in our midst. Absent a commandment from the Lord to practice polygamy given through his mouthpiece the prophet, a member of the Church would be excommunicated for attempting to practice it.
Now some have suggested that it’s simply the illegality of polygamy in the U.S. that is the issue. Well, that actually is not the issue. I think you already know that. Such an excommunication would take place even if the Church member were living in a land where polygamy was legal. Even if polygamy were to be legalized in the United States itself, the Church would still excommunicate members in the U.S. who attempted to practice it, unless the Lord issued the required commandment through the prophet to practice it.
Our missionaries are not allowed to baptize polygamists, even if they live in countries where polygamy is completely legal. There is no greater spiritual punishment the Church can mete out against an offender than excommunication. God persists in making a strong discrimination between monogamy and polygamy, even in the context of the restoration of all things.
We now turn once again, I think to the crux of the matter. Why is God not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy? When we believe that in Doctrine and Covenants we will find the light that we need. We go so far as to say that in this scripture the Lord freely reveals his mind to his children concerning the reasons for his lack of indifference.
I think one of the most one of the marvelous elements of the Lord’s discourse in Doctrine and Covenants 132 and in the Doctrine and Covenants more broadly, is the insight it gives us into how the Lord reasons. The argument the Lord puts forward is meant to be understood by his people. I must tell you as a convert to the Church and as a member of the Roman Catholic Church growing up, I will never forget in catechism school when something that didn’t quite add up would be raised by the nuns, I would raise my hand and I would say, “Sr. McElroy, I don’t understand.” and she would say to me, “That’s the beauty of it! That’s the mystery of the divinity of God!” and I would be like… And so I must admit being a rather concrete type of person it was such a relief, such a wonder, to hear by reading Doctrine and Covenants that God actually wants us to understand why he is thinking about things the way he is thinking about them. Now whether we mere mortals can fully understand is another question, but the desire on his part that we understand I think is really unique in the LDS Church.
Alright, so back to this. Let’s make the reasonable assumption that God means what he says, and God wants us to understand what he means. So in Doctrine and Covenants 132, the Lord attempts to reason with Joseph Smith in order to help him understand the principles involved in marriage. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 50 we see here, “And now come…by the Spirit, unto the elders of [my] church, and let us reason together, that you may understand; Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face. Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand. Wherefore, I the Lord, will ask you this question…”
So in D&C 132, we can assume the Lord will reason with us and present arguments that we may understand on the issue of polygamy, and the Lord will begin his chain of reasoning as he mentioned in D&C 50 with a question, which he will then proceed to answer. So the Lord states at the beginning of the revelation:
“You [Joseph Smith] have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David, and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines — Behold and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.”
What is the form of the argument concerning the law of marriage in this scripture? The form is virtually identical to Jacob 2, which demonstrates the consistency and unchanging nature of the Lord’s reasoning on this matter. D&C 132 parallels Jacob 2 and serves as a more detailed exposition and affirmation of Jacob 2.
Let us see how this is so. The same historical question serves as the catalyst for [Section] 132 as it did for Jacob 2. What are we to make of the practice of David, Solomon, and other great patriarchs of old having many wives and concubines? This time the inquirer is Joseph Smith — he who had previously translated the Book of Mormon, including Jacob 2.
This inquiry is again met by a setting forth of the general principles of marriage in the New and everlasting covenant, then followed by a more specific explanation of the lawful exception of polygamy. Hyrum M. Smith’s early commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants states, “The Revelation is divided into two parts. The first part, comprising verses 3 to 33, deals mainly with the principle of celestial marriage, or marriage for time and all eternity, and the second, comprising the remaining verses, deals with plural marriage.”
Now, as to the first part of D&C 132, verses 3 to 33, we have a reiteration that you must marry, and you must marry in the temple in order for your marriage to be effective in the hereafter and in order for you to be exalted,.
And we learned that those who reject temple marriage cannot have eternal increase; they cannot be gods but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants. Now in the setting fourth in 3 to 33 of the general principle of eternal marriage, temple marriage, marriage in the New and everlasting covenant, there is no mention of polygamy; indeed, the whole issue of David and Solomon is not raised once in the verses where the Lord discusses in general what eternal marriage is, why he commands it, and why those who reject it are condemned. Additionally, this marriage covenant is described in terms that do not necessarily imply polygamy at all. I mean, it’s not there in verses 3 to 33.
It is not until the second half of the revelation, starting with verse 34 forward, that polygamy is addressed. Before the Lord begins his discussion of polygamy, he introduces the case of Abraham. The Lord begins by explaining that because of Abraham’s righteousness in receiving “all things” by “revelation and commandment,” Abraham “hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne. As a result, Abraham’s seed will ‘continue’ and will be “as innumerable as the stars”.
A key element of Abraham’s righteousness was to enter into the law, which provides for “the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself”. The law referred to here is the law, or general principle, that the Lord has been expounding up to that point: marriage in the New and everlasting covenant, Abraham accepted marriage in the New and everlasting covenant. Again the Lord warns, as he does in verses 3, etcetera “[Except ye enter] into my law and be saved, ye cannot receive the promise of my Father…”
Finally, starting with verse 34, the Lord turns to the topic of polygamy. He begins the discussion with a statement of fact: “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife.” In the verses that follow, the Lord will answer the question he then poses: “And why did she do it?”
The Lord has apparently chosen to explain his reasoning and reveal his mind on polygamy in terms of a specific analogy between two situations that occurred to one man, Abraham. The Lord’s subsequent explanation of polygamy centers around an analogy the Lord himself posits between his commandment to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and his commandment to Abraham to marry Hagar polygamously. In verse 36 the Lord explains: “Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness”.
Now, given the importance of his children having a correct understanding of their Father’s mind on this topic, we cannot believe that this analogy was chosen capriciously. This is not an arbitrary analogy being made,. and since it is the only analogy being made, we must pay attention to it and try to understand why that analogy was chosen.
God wants us to see how and why he views those two situations as analogous: sacrifice Isaac; take Hagar to wife. By choosing the story of Isaac to be the analog of the story of polygamy the Lord reveals his mind to us and constrains forever and irrevocably any discussion we, his children, might choose to have on the subject of polygamy.
We must understand correctly why the Lord elects to use this particular analogy, or we are likely to seriously err in our understanding of the role and place of polygamy in God’s plan for his children.
The first and most telling point to note about the analogy is that the story of Isaac is a story of sacrifice. The Lord is telling us that the term “Abrahamic sacrifice” refers not only to the story of Isaac but applies to the story of Hagar as well.
Before the Lord even delves into the analogy, his very positing of an analogy between the Isaac situation and the Hagar situation is revealing. Of all the possible analogies of sacrifice that God has commanded in the history of the world (sacrifice of animals under the Mosaic law; sacrifice of possessions under the law of consecration; sacrifice of home and country as the early saints did in crossing the plains; sacrifice of your own life as Joseph Smith and others have done), God chooses the most wrenching sacrifice he has ever commanded to serve as the analogy wherewith to instruct us concerning polygamy — the sacrifice of one’s own innocent child by one’s own hand. This choice of analogy by the Lord is meant to reveal to us that in the Lord’s eyes the Hagar situation is no light matter or run-of-the-mill sacrifice but rather is like unto the heaviest and most heart-wrenching of all sacrifices God has ever required of man.
In positing this analogy then we get a parallel, and that parallel is being commanded to kill your innocent son is analogist to being commanded to marry polygamously. Why, because murder is as grievous as sin as adultery and vice versa.
Now, what is an Abrahamic Sacrifice? Let’s make sure that we understand that. Sacrifice is one of the first principles of a gospel — we know that, and we know that there are various forms of sacrifice. For example, we might say that we are sacrificing to send a child on a mission. That sacrifice is by our own choice, and we know that the goal is one that we desire.
Another type of sacrifice might be to accept the consequences of doing the right thing. We might be ostracized or oppressed because our belief and behavior by those who believe otherwise towards us is unpleasant. I think we saw this in the Proposition 8 campaign, didn’t we? However, it’s our choice and we are very much desirous of that goal.
A third type of sacrifice appears from our mortal perspective maybe not to involve agency, though I believe some agency was involved. These are sacrifices of adversity, for example, where an innocent child is born with an imperfect body, or accidents or illness take the health or life of persons. We don’t think of those as conscious mortal choices, but some of us believe that they were pre-mortal conscious choices about some of these things.
But the heaviest sacrifice a person can ever be called upon to make — the Abrahamic sacrifice is slightly different from these other three. In the Abrahamic sacrifice, we are asked by God to make a conscious choice in a situation where what he requires of us cannot be regarded as a desired goal from all that we know about God’s laws.
We can all understand how obedience to God’s laws, for example to the Ten Commandments, brings a happier, richer, and more peaceful life. But what if God were to command us to break the Ten Commandments? Reason alone would tell us we would lose the happiness and peace that would come from obedience to the law. But the test of the Abrahamic sacrifice is not a test of reason. It is a test of faith. It is the ultimate test of faith.
Remember for a moment what an Abrahamic sacrifice represents. An Abrahamic sacrifice involves at least three elements that are to be found in the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac: 1. God makes plain to Abraham a law, “thou shalt not kill;” 2. God then requires Abraham, an innocent and righteous man, to depart from that law, sacrifice Isaac, an innocent child, and the choice to depart therefrom would seem to erase any joy in Abraham’s life, because the true happiness is to be found under the law — don’t kill Isaac; and 3. God provides a means of escape from the departure from the law — an angel is sent to stay the hand of Abraham, and the ram in the thicket is provided by the Lord, which allows renewed joy from being able to live under the law — don’t kill Isaac — once more.
Let’s go ahead and talk about The Abrahamic Sacrifice Concerning Hagar. With that understanding in mind, let’s go back to D&C 132. Remember in verse 34 we finally begin a discussion of polygamy; we discover that God commanded Abraham to have children, in this case, one child, Ishmael, with Hagar, who was not his wife at the time of the commandment and who was handmaiden to his wife, Sarah. Abraham took Hagar to wife, thus entering into a God-commanded polygamous union.
Fortunately, rather than just leaving us with this fact, the Lord helps us to greater understanding through his discussion of “Why?”, because this was the law, and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Does this mean that, in God’s eyes polygamy is the general law and that he is indifferent between monogamy and polygamy after all? We will see this isn’t what the Lord is saying, because the Lord’s exposition does not end with verse 34.
To make sense of verse 34 we must look at it in conjunction with the rest of the verses that then follow. Immediately after verse 34 the Lord asks, “Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation?” If we accept the position that the Lord is indifferent between monogamy and polygamy, this question is a non sequitur, it makes no sense. The very question itself would not be understandable. How can someone practicing a form of marriage about which the Lord is indifferent be perceived to be “under condemnation?”
God cannot be referring to some type of cultural condemnation by Abraham’s peers. We are not talking about Joseph Smith’s time, when polygamy was culturally unacceptable; we are discussing Abraham, in whose culture polygamy was commonplace and accepted. No one in Abraham’s cultural setting would be condemning him for practicing polygamy, so why does the Lord ask about this?
The Lord’s question raises a puzzle for us, and to understand it we must look to the scriptures that immediately follow. Verse 36 is the great key to this puzzle.
In this verse, as noted, the Lord posits the direct analogy between his commandment to sacrifice Isaac and the commandment to marry Hagar. In that verse, the Lord said: “Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.”
Let us be clear on what is happening here. The general law that God commands all to obey is “Thou shalt not kill.” Then, to one innocent and righteous man at one time, he gives a commandment to kill his own son — not a stranger, not a criminal, not an enemy soldier. There is no justification possible for killing one’s innocent young son. In fact, we know that God destroyed those at Jerusalem for the child sacrifices that they were making there.
God has commanded something exceptional of this man — something that goes against all he knows of God’s law and for which he can find no possible justification. God is asking Abraham to depart from the law he himself gave Abraham. He requires of Abraham a sacrifice not demanded by justice and the law. In this sense, God asks Abraham to perform a Christ-like sacrifice in similitude of the sacrifice of God and his own perfectly innocent son in the atonement.
Because Christ was perfectly innocent the law could not demand that he suffer and die for others. But Christ chose to suffer and die to fulfil the demands of justice and mercy for others. Abraham and Christ, both consciously chose to sacrifice the happiness that they were due under the law to bring about a greater good for others.
We know from the account in Genesis that Abraham’s choice was felt by him as a sacrifice of happiness; Abraham was not happy to hear the commandment to sacrifice Isaac. Indeed, we believe he felt great sorrow, maybe even some confusion, but Abraham was determined to obey God, even if great sorrow and grief befell him as a result.
Because Abraham obeyed an exceptional commandment of God and departed from the law, it was counted unto him for righteousness. But his obedience did not turn the departure from the law into the law. God has never since commanded any person to sacrifice their child.
In fact, God provided Abraham an escape from killing his son, despite the original exceptional commandment to kill Isaac that God himself gave. In returning to the law “thou shalt not kill” after having to depart from it “sacrifice Isaac,” Abraham felt renewed joy and relief in regaining Isaac. Though he undoubtedly felt some paradoxical joy in submitting to God’s will in all things, Abraham’s joy was not full until the test was over and the escape made.
So why is the Lord making the sacrifice of Isaac a direct analogy to his commanding Abraham to take Hagar to wife? We conclude in this situation, as in the situation concerning Isaac, God is commanding a departure from the law — something that is, as a general rule, a thing to be condemned by God. That is why the Lord asks, “Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation?”
According to the general law, or rule, of monogamous marriage in the New and everlasting covenant of marriage set forth by God himself and given that God is not indifferent between the two forms of marriage, Abraham is under condemnation — otherwise, the Lord’s question makes no sense.
But the Lord answers his own question: “Nay, he was not under condemnation for I, the Lord, commanded it” verse 35, thus creating the supercessionary but still exceptional “law” of verse 34. There would be no puzzle and nothing to ask or answer if God was indifferent between monogamy and polygamy.
But if God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy, then a puzzle does arise — a puzzle that is answered by the Lord with reference to an obvious case of a commandment by God to depart from the general law and follow a lawful exception.
This to me is the strongest possible scriptural evidence that D&C 132 is in complete harmony with Jacob 2, and that, therefore, the general law or rule of marriage is monogamy and the lawful exception is polygamy and God maintains as strong a discrimination between the two forms of marriage in this dispensation as he did in Jacob’s time.
We can now say why it is that God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy. In the Lord’s eyes, monogamy is not a sacrifice, it’s a blessing, but polygamy is a sacrifice and not just any sacrifice. The Lord tells us it is an Abrahamic sacrifice.
No matter what our human inventory of emotions toward polygamy — joy, sorrow, or some combination of the two — the most mature, the most knowledgeable perspective is that of the Lord, who is stating his mind that he views it as an Abrahamic sacrifice.
The Lord himself reveals his mind on the matter through his analogy between Isaac and Hagar. All other things being equal, God is not indifferent towards the type of sacrifice Abraham was required to make, because it involves Christ-like suffering.
However, as with Abraham’s sacrifice, which points to the sacrifice of the innocent son of God in the atonement, sometimes Christ-like suffering is the greater good and the most loving course of action. Thus, in a sense, despite the suffering involved in a Christ-like sacrifice or Abrahamic sacrifice there is a joy which comes from knowing that sacrifice is, in God’s eyes, the right and loving thing to do.
There is a joy which comes from suffering in God’s cause, it deepens our hope and trust and faith in his goodness, but notice my dear, brothers and sisters, that the presence of joy in a sacrificial act does not remove that act from the category of “sacrifice” and put it in a new category called “non-sacrifice”. We will explore this in just a moment.
The Abrahamic sacrifice would mean very little to us if we did not discriminate between our desire for the happiness that God’s law gives us and our antipathy towards abandoning that happiness even if God commands it. If Abraham were indifferent as to whether Isaac lived or died, God’s commandment to sacrifice Isaac couldn’t have been a test of Abraham’s faith.
Likewise, if God were indifferent as to whether Isaac lived or died, there would have been no angel and no ram in the thicket. But an Abrahamic sacrifice is no cold and passionless event; quite the contrary, it is the greatest passion that the human heart can feel.
This is an innocent person consciously choosing to release what he knows to be true happiness under God’s loving laws, because he loves God more dearly than he loved his own true happiness. This is a sacrifice not justified under the law of God. Abraham and Isaac were innocent, and the joy is not complete until the escape is made.
Once his test was passed, Abraham’s reward, among other things, was to not have to sacrifice Isaac. Indeed, in a sense Abraham’s reward for offering to sacrifice Isaac was to regain him forever. Though the test was given to Abraham because he was so righteous, his reward for passing the test could not have been perpetuation of the sacrifice.
I am sorry to belabor this point, but I think it’s something that we get muddied when we think about polygamy. Abraham did not then have to wake up every morning and go to Mount Moriah. Passing the test meant that the sacrifice was not perpetuated. There was an escape.
This combination of suffering and joy applies equally well to the Hagar situation. We know that Abraham was not happy at the prospect of killing Isaac, but he obeyed, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Since the Lord tells us the Hagar situation is analogous, none of the parties — Abraham, Hagar or Sarah or for that matter, Ishmael or Isaac — should have been exempt from suffering in this situation, even though they would have felt that paradoxical joy that comes from sacrificing to do the Lord’s will. Why? Because in the Lord’s eyes, all five persons were sacrificing. And what were they sacrificing? The natural joy that comes from the law of marriage — monogamy in the New and everlasting covenant.
Genesis makes plain that that was in fact the case: no one was happy, and Hagar and Ishmael were forced to leave. In fact, God sanctioned their dismissal from the camp, miraculously saving Hagar in the desert. God didn’t seem to expect or require that they all be happy — he only expected that they trust and obey him. Furthermore, since Abraham offering to sacrifice Isaac was counted unto him for righteousness, the sacrifice of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar to depart from the law of marriage was also counted unto them for righteousness.
Being happy about the commandment to practice an Abrahamic sacrifice does not seem to factor into the counting of one’s obedience as righteousness. After all, a sacrifice remains a sacrifice despite the paradoxical joy experienced. We know this principle from many situations. “Murmuring” against the law is not acceptable, but crying out to the Lord in innocent anguish — anguish felt as a result of obeying God’s commands — is not condemned.
We know this because Christ himself cried out in pain and anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he cried out in pain and anguish on the cross at Calvary. He initially felt to shrink from drinking the bitter cup. He even asked Heavenly Father why he had forsaken him.
Christ was making a sacrifice not justified under the law. His death was a departure from the divine law. If Christ himself was not thought less of by God for expressing suffering caused by a departure from divine law, why would God require mere mortals to be stoic when suffering pain caused by righteous obedience to a commandment to depart from the law? The answer is that he does not.
When Abraham was asked to make a sacrifice not justified under the law, his heart mourned and we do not think less of him for it. We know God loved Abraham with great intensity. In truth, if God wept with Christ in Gethsemane in Calvary, if he wept with Abraham on the road to Mount Moriah, did he not also weep when Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and other righteous polygamous wives and husbands wept? The Lord’s own analogy leads us to believe that he did. Christ, Abraham, and many righteous polygamous wives and husbands felt both suffering and paradoxical joy in their chosen sacrifices.
I think it’s important to remember here that Sarah and Hagar were not changed into some sort of new being when God issued the exceptional commandment to depart from the law. They were normal women with normal passion and felt the loss of departing from the law of marriage.
Likewise, the women of the early Church were not changed when God commanded polygamy to be practiced. Because they were not changed they made a righteous and exceptional sacrifice. Those who claim women will be changed in the hereafter to accept polygamy seem not to see the significance of this. The natural joy that would be brought by adherence to the law of God is lost even when it is God commanding the departure from the law.
The final aspect of the Lord’s analogy between the Isaac situation and the Hagar situation must not be overlooked. Since, in a sense, the Lord is inviting us to reason about two Abrahamic sacrifices, we cannot fail to recognize the theme of eventual relief that pervades both. Remember that when Abraham raises his hand to slay his son Isaac, the Lord sends an angel to stop him and provides a ram in the thicket.
The first Abrahamic sacrifice is brought to an end by the Lord, who relieves Abraham from the exceptional commandment which has caused him suffering. The paradoxical joy of submission to God in departing from the law is replaced by the fuller natural joy that comes from living under God’s law, “Thou shalt not kill.”
By offering to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham regains Isaac forever. This is a very important element of any Abrahamic sacrifice: it is always eventually brought to an end by God. The lifting of the exceptional commandment comes as a tangible relief to Abraham.
Why does the Lord bring this relief? We can only reiterate that it is because God is not indifferent between a state of sacrifice and a state of relief, and that all other things being equal, he actively prefers eventual relief to perpetual sacrifice for his innocent children.
Lest we mistake this natural Fatherly preference, Christ asks rhetorically, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” The great sacrifice to which Abraham’s sacrifice points, the atonement, was also brought to an end by God.
His sacrifice ended. We sing of Christ: “Once rejected by his own now their King, he shall be known. Once forsaken, left alone, now exalted to a throne. Once he groaned in blood and tears, now in glory he appears. Once he suffered grief and pain, now he comes on earth to reign. Once upon the cross he bowed, now his chariot is the cloud. Once all things he meekly bore, but he now will bear no more.”
This sacrificial assignment came to Christ because of his perfect righteousness, but we must understand that though Christ’s sacrifice merited him a reward, His sacrifice did not constitute His reward.
If the Lord has chosen the Isaac-Hagar analogy with care, then we would expect to see an end to the exceptional commandment in this case as well, which end would bring relief. Obedience to God’s exceptional commandment to practice polygamy merited a reward for Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, but it did not constitute their reward. Implicit in God’s sanctioning of Sarah’s demand that Hagar and Ishmael be banished is God’s recognition of the sacrifice and suffering from the point of view of the two mothers involved and his desire to provide relief to them.
Interestingly, God does not condemn either woman for feeling the way she does; he accepts the negative emotional situation as a natural consequence of the departure from the law he has commanded and agrees to a change in the situation to relieve the sorrow and the tension. The appearance of God’s angel to Hagar in two situations and God’s miraculous rescue of Hagar and Ishmael are very important components of this relief.
Before turning to that, I would like to make mention of D&C 132, verse 50. In verse 50, I believe God is extending this analogy of sacrifice and sorrow and eventual relief in relation to polygamy to Joseph Smith’s own personal situation in polygamy. Speaking to Joseph Smith, the Lord says, in that verse “I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.”
Now, Joseph Smith made many sacrifices in his lifetime. But these other sacrifices by Joseph Smith — deprivation of property, of liberty, and so forth are not in the same class as an Abrahamic sacrifice, because God did not command of Joseph a departure from the law. In our opinion, the only sacrifices required of Joseph that meet the characteristics present in the case of Abrahamic sacrifice were Joseph’s sacrifices in connection with polygamy.
Furthermore, all of the surrounding verses to verse 50 are speaking of polygamy, and the only other mention of Isaac in the revelation is with reference to polygamy. The escape is not in reference to escape from enemies or poverty or other travails, because the last phrase about Isaac reiterates that it is an escape from the command of the Lord to depart from God’s law. The whole of which verse 50 is a part begins with verse 36, because they are like bookends: Isaac in verse 36, Isaac again in verse 50.
It seems reasonable to conclude then, that God is speaking of polygamy in verse 50. God is expressing sympathy for the hardships and sorrow imposed on Joseph by the exceptional commandment to depart from the law of marriage. He is promising to count Joseph’s obedience for righteousness, as Abraham’s sacrifice was counted. And, very significantly, he is promising that at some future point Joseph will have an escape from the exceptional commandment to depart from the law of marriage and that his sacrifice and suffering that attended his obedience would come to an end.
This exceptional commandment was given to Joseph because of his great righteousness.
But we must not fail to remember that Joseph’s practice of the exceptional commandment of polygamy merited him a reward, but it could not conceivably constitute his reward under the conceptual framework that the Lord’s argument lays out for us.
Christ chose to sacrifice his life, but regained it and felt the relief and joy that came from living once more. Abraham chose to sacrifice Isaac, but regained Isaac and felt the relief and natural joy that comes from obeying commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” If the Lord chose this Isaac-Hagar analogy with care, and we have every reason to believe that he did, then verse 50 is telling us that one day there would be a “ram in the thicket” for Joseph Smith concerning his Abrahamic sacrifices in polygamy, and that he would feel the relief and natural joy that attends such an escape.
Let’s look at implications for Sundry LDS cultural assumptions about polygamy. If this interpretation of D&C 132 is correct, then some interesting things begin to happen to our casual acceptance of certain “folkways” accepted uncritically in LDS culture. A whole new vision begins to appear when we understand from God’s own reasoning that monogamy is the rule and a blessing and polygamy is the exception and an Abrahamic sacrifice, and that God is not indifferent between the two because God cares about the pain and suffering involved in an Abrahamic sacrifice.
The first interesting thing that happens is that doubt is now cast on the uncritical assumption that polygamous marriage is ubiquitous or even a requirement in the celestial kingdom and that even if we are not commanded to practice polygamy here we may be required to practice it there. As God’s commandments are not temporal but spiritual in nature, God will continue to view polygamy as an Abrahamic sacrifice even in the context of the hereafter. A general law of God continues, but a departure from the law, involving as it does Christ-like sacrifice about which God is not indifferent, by its very nature is temporally bounded because of God’s love for his children and his desire to see such Christ-like sacrifices come to an eventual end, even if they have wrought great good in their time and place. It is unclear how God could be constrained for all eternity to command a departure from the law of marriage, which departure he himself would desire to bring to an end. To disallow individuals a choice in this important matter, given that God himself is not indifferent about the subject, would imply that heaven is not the best of all possible worlds from God’s own perspective and does not represent perfection.
Some in LDS culture assume that polygamy is not merely a doctrinal necessity but a circumstantial and demographic necessity in the hereafter. Generally, this assumption takes one of two forms. In the first form of the assumption, some assert that there will be more women, many more women who inherit the celestial fullness than men, and since everyone in the highest level of the celestial kingdom is married, polygamy must then follow. There is simply no basis for assuming a celestial sex ratio highly skewed in favor of women.
How could God be no respecter of persons and create a system where one spirit, because it is male has a much worst chance, a much poorer chance of reaching the celestial kingdom than the other sex? If God is the author of all fairness he could not have authored such a system. Even if this system were somehow fair, for such an outcome to ensue would mean that the male gender was disproportionately an attribute of the weakest spirits. My husband is sitting out there in the audience. I can you tell that that’s wrong. There is just no doctrinal basis for such a belief.
Others who feel that polygamy is ubiquitous may not understand, in fact, there are some demographics working against that hypothesis. Some of you may know that I have authored books on the abnormal sex ratios of Asia – that they are branch hypotheses. There are some figures that you may want to know. Even in a normal population, 107 boy babies are born for every 100 girl babies, naturally. The sex ratio evens out at age five, because male babies suffer from disproportionately higher infant mortality than female babies, and we assume that all of those are saved in the celestial kingdom.
Do you want to go back even further? Do you know what the conception sex ratio is? 160 male fetuses are conceived for every 100 female fetuses, naturally. So to somehow think there is a demographic necessity for women to greatly outnumber men in the kingdom — I just really don’t think that we can go with that, at least not with any sort of confidence as well.
We also get some other ones. I will just mention this one. Some believe it’s circumstantial necessity, because one Heavenly Mother is incapable of producing and nurturing the vast numbers of spirit children that Heavenly Father appears to have fathered. I will just give you the Readers Digest version, which is, “Why don’t we ask that about a father?” How do we believe one heavenly father could do it? Alright, we will just leave it there, but it goes to the paper. Then there are still others, who say, look, human male sexual anatomy obviously holds that men are designed to be polygamous. And since male sexual anatomy is an image of our Heavenly Father then, yeah, bingo. Of course, what immediately comes to mind is that wonderful verse about how “the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” which is we know that the lion’s anatomy is perfected for being carnivorous, yet we do not doubt that in heaven the lion will not be acting upon its anatomy. It will be acting upon the piece of the Kingdom of God. So we do not believe that lions are going to be extremely unhappy in the kingdom of heaven because they have to eat straw like the ox. I will just leave that one there.
We see other things as well. In mortality, when God does command polygamy, he understands it as an exceptional sacrifice by the innocent of the joy that would be theirs if they could obey the law instead. This departure from the law can cause pain and sorrow, though it may bring about a greater good. Nevertheless, if his righteous daughters and sons weep because of polygamy, even in the times when the Lord commands it, he is not upset with them. He weeps when they weep because, like Abraham, they are willing to sacrifice and suffer for a time that God’s work of love be accomplished.
Since God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy, then his love also dictates that at the earliest possible moment when the exceptional commandment to depart from the law can be lifted, he will do so. If no greater good can come from a Christ-like sacrifice it becomes meaningless and gratuitous suffering. Our understanding of God’s love for his children would appear to preclude that kind of cruelty on the part of our Father in Heaven. Indeed, the sacrifices of the Mosaic law had meaning up until the moment that Christ was resurrected and God’s scrupulously required adherence to know Mosaic law until that time.
But after Christ’s victory, the sacrifices of the Mosaic law became meaningless, and God no longer required them to be performed. This not only applied to the sacrifice of innocent animals, but also to a human sacrifice, circumcision. The commandment to practice circumcision was lifted at the time of Christ’s resurrection (Moroni 8:8). Indeed, continuing Mosaic sacrifice was kind of tantamount to a rejection of Christ or at least a profound misunderstanding of the Atonement, (1:10:00.6)about which God was surely not indifferent.
Indeed, those who desire to practice polygamy in times when God has not commanded it are in spiritual chaos. That desire would be analogous to Abraham, after hearing the voice of the angel and seeing the ram in the thicket, proceeding to kill Isaac anyway as a testimony of his faithfulness to God. We can only surmise that from God’s point of view, such an act would constitute anything but a testimony of faithfulness.
Thus God, although initially commanding Abrahamic sacrifices, also strongly desires to provide the “ram in the thicket.” He is not indifferent about whether that ram is there or not. He isn’t sort of laying back watching heavenly TV or something. Looking at it and watching, going, “Was it time for that ram to appear? I will wait till this next commercial is over.” That’s not our God. He wants that ram to appear and he wants it to appear at the earliest moment that it can — it can be there.
To think otherwise is incompatible with the idea of a loving God, who sees a distinction between pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. There will always be a “ram in the thicket” for those who are faithful in an Abrahamic sacrifice.
What will the “ram” be? In the eternities if the Isaac-Hagar analogy is what we are to be governed by in our understanding, then in the eternities those who sacrificed and suffered like Abraham will have the opportunity to live under the law, not under the departure from the law. Without this affecting either their exaltation or their right to associate with the persons they love. We are not saying that no will live polygamously in heaven. I am not a prophet, seer and revelator. We do claim, given the Lord’s analogy as discussed above, it is plain that no one can be commanded to do so in heaven, and that the choice to opt out of polygamy cannot and will not affect an individual’s exaltation or right to associate with those whom they love.
Whatever escape the Lord has provided for those faithful souls, it will be consistent with the law of sealing and sealing transferability. Some may be unaware that there is an ordinance called the “sealing transfer.” And that in fact over 13,000 sealing transfers took place in the Church in late 1800s. Some people often point to D&C 139 verses 39, 44 and 55, but I think we can also reconcile those scriptures as well.
But I would like to say this because I wish to be perfectly clear on this matter and that is may we pause to say that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff led the Church with courage, inspiration and nobility at the time when the Saints were commanded to make great sacrifices including the Abrahamic sacrifice of polygamy. They, and all who willingly made the sacrifices required of them by the Lord, are due all our honor. They placed devotion to God above all else, and placed on the altar their reputations and even their very lives and certainly their hearts. In addition, Wilford Woodruff led the Church with inspiration and skill during the period when the Lord rescinded the commandment to practice polygamy, which rescindment must have seemed to many at the time as a great sacrifice, as well. Our understanding of the commandment to practice polygamy as an Abrahamic sacrifice should cause us to deeply revere those early saints of whom that sacrifice was required. I want to be absolutely plain on that.
This new vision of the compatibility of Jacob 2 and 132 is important for many reasons; however, the most comforting aspect is that those women and men who felt pain at the thought of polygamy are alright in God’s eyes. God would not think it odd if they did feel pain. God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy in the new and everlasting covenant because he, too, views polygamy as an Abrahamic sacrifice which will cause suffering, but also for the righteous, paradoxical joy and a closer relationship with him.
We envision God weeping when righteous polygamous husbands and wives wept. Just think of what that means. For those who weep at the mistaken thought they may be commanded to practice polygamy in Heaven, God does not condemn your feelings. On the contrary, God will not command you to practice polygamy in the next life, and if he commands you to practice it in this life, you can rest assured of two things: number one, he will make it up to you – there will be a “ram in the thicket” for you, even if it be in the next life; and two, you can also count on the fact that God will lift the exceptional commandment of polygamy just as soon as his loving purposes in commanding it have been fulfilled. Why? Because he feels compassion for those who make an Abrahamic sacrifice in polygamy in similitude to the Atonement of his son.
Though an exceptional commandment may come to one because of special righteousness, and though obedience to an exceptional commandment to practice polygamy may merit one a great reward, the sacrifice itself cannot constitute that reward, in light of what the Lord has revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 132 about his mind concerning these matters. The Lord desires that all his children have the natural joy that comes from the law of marriage, which law is monogamy in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. God is not indifferent between monogamy and polygamy, and God views polygamy as an Abrahamic sacrifice, which is why he actively and severely restricts its practice even in this dispensation of the restoration of all things by Joseph Smith.
If we as a culture have lost the capacity to see God-commanded polygamy as the Abrahamic sacrifice God tells us it is, if we have lost the capacity to see that God actively desires there be an escape for the righteous who have obeyed this exceptional commandment, then we have lost something profoundly precious. We have lost the vision of the greatness of God’s love for his children. To lose that vision brings “the gall of bitterness,” as Mormon remarked about others who placed similar constraints on God’s love of the innocent, for we “deny” the “mercies” of God.
If cultural misinterpretations cause the women and men of the Church to mourn over polygamy, either because they mistakenly believe God is indifferent between sacrifice and non-sacrifice and so no escape from this sacrifice will be provided by God, or because they are led to feel that they are selfish and not righteous if they feel pain at the thought of polygamy, then these cultural misinterpretations are actively harming our people. We then have a duty to root out these cultural misinterpretations from our midst, lest they cause great spiritual mischief.
I am reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis: “Not that I am I think in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread is not, ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’” There is something very profound about that.
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
Valerie M. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the George H.W. Bush Chair in the Department of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where she directs the Program on Women, Peace, and Security. Hudson was named to the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2009, and in 2015 was recognized as Distinguished Scholar of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA/ISA) and awarded an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship as well as an inaugural Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Australian National University (2017). Her scholarly books include Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, Sex and World Peace, The Hillary Doctrine, and The first Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide, as well as a book on religious doctrine entitled Women in Eternity, Women of Zion. Hudson is a co-founder and editorial board member of the online journal of commentary from the Church of Jesus Christ faith community called SquareTwo, the president of the Utah Valley Institute of Cystic Fibrosis, served in the 11th Special Forces US Army Reserve as a wheeled vehicle and power generator mechanic, is a cofounder of the Latter-day Saint National Security Society, and has been a La Leche League Leader for over 30 years. She is married to David Cassler and is the mother of eight children.