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LETTER TO A LATTER-DAY SAINT SISTER
President John Taylor, 19 January 1883
In regard to the question which you have proposed pertaining to plurality of wives you say, "According to my way of understanding the revelation, I thought it was sealing, but some say it is plurality." Permit me to say that it is both, you will find that the revelation is on the eternity of the marriage covenant, including* plurality of wives, and the first paragraph reads, "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you 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 -" The question that was asked was evidently in relation to those people, and especially in relation to the plurality of wives. In the 4th verse it is said, "For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.  For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.  And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fullness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fullness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God."
You ask, "If a man and woman go the house of the Lord and get their endowments and are sealed for time and all eternity, and they two live together quietly and peaceably and teach their children the principles of life and salvation, and bring them up in the fear of the Lord, will they gain an exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, with a continuation of their seeds or not? I have been sealed to my husband, and my patriarchal blessing says, 'I shall raise children in the millennium', and I would like to live so as to gain that blessing. I hear men say that one cannot gain an exaltation and a continuation of their seed in the eternal world unless they take more wives than one, and I am anxious to understand it." In fulfilling this, you have entered so far into the everlasting covenant, which is so far acceptable before the Lord, but in regard to the law, it is further said, (verse 32), "Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved." The question is, what is the law? The 34th verse says: "God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises." In the 37th verse it is said, "Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.  David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me."
You seem desirous to take part of the law and reject the other part, but it is plainly stated as above quoted, that they were "to do the works of Abraham, and that if ye enter not into my law, ye cannot receive the promise of my Father which was made unto Abraham." It is further said, "God commanded Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife, and the reason why she did it was because it was the law." It is evident, therefore, from the whole of the above that other wives are included in this law as well as the one.
You further inquire: "What is the difference in a man having dead wives sealed to him, than living women, so that he has one living wife; will they gain as great an exaltation if they have dead women sealed to them?" This law pertains more particularly to the living, and on this point I refer you to verse 52 wherein it is said: "And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God." And in the 64th verse: "And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.  Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and she is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife."
You seem to be desirous of having dead women sealed to your husband instead of living ones, whereas the law pertaining to these matters does not put things in that shape. We read that the Lord commanded Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife, and it is for wives as well as husbands to perform their part in relation to these matters as explicitly stated in verse 64 where it is said: "[If] he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God" Circumstances do not always place it in the power of man to enter into this covenant and these matters are left with the Lord to adjust, but no man or woman has authority to point out any other way than that which the Lord has appointed.
Respectfully your Brother in the Gospel,
[Signed] John Taylor
* Current editions have changed this to "as also"