Despite the fact that "The Book of Mormon" does not include specific information about polygamy, also known as "plural marriage," most Mormon fundamentalists believe that the Mormon religion's founder Joseph Smith, Jr., was told by a divine revelation -- all Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) leaders are seen as prophets -- that men must take at least three wives in order to become "gods" in heaven. They also believe that Mormon women who choose not to marry into a polygamistic family will be denied access to heaven. Smith, who is believed to have had as many as 48 wives himself, used biblical characters like Solomon and Jacob to support his claims (Smith's successor, Brigham Young, had more than 50 wives [source: CNN Religion Blog]). Fundamentalist Mormons believe polygamy has several benefits, including that:
- It prevents husbands from committing acts of infidelity.
- It provides extra women to help raise children.
- It is part of the divine directive that will lead them into heaven.
One bit of confusion often arises in the general public, which can tend to equate polygamy with the modern-day LDS Church, which says it is not affiliated with any Mormon fundamentalist polygamous groups and itself broke with the practice in 1890 [source: LDS Church Newsroom]. That break created new splinter sects of Mormon fundamentalists whose followers sought to continue polygamistic practices.
Today, there are an estimated 38,000 fundamentalist Mormons, though they are comprised of many different communities spread out predominantly in the western United States. With their belief that plural marriage is a central tenet of their religion, fundamentalist Mormons seek one day to have the practice no longer treated as a crime. The so-called "sister wives," proponents argue, are thoroughly modern women who have entered freely into the practice of polygamy [source: CNN Religion Blog].(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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