Celestial Marriage


Celestial Marriage

Alternative Title

A Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, August 29, 1852.


Elder Orson Pratt gave this discourse in 1852. It is historically significant because this is the first instance in which one of the leaders of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints publically confirms suspicions that polygamy was indeed practiced in the Mormon Church. Prior to this announcement, there had been speculation of plural marriage, although it was never confirmed. Thomas Kane, Mormon advocate, had been unaware of these practices, and had adamantly denied these rumors. However, this will change following Pratt’s discourse. Pratt argues that polygamy is in fact a doctrine of his religion, and argues that any law that prohibits from fulfilling this duty infringes on his religious rights. His doctrine marks a new period in Mormon history, as Kane’s advocacy efforts are bruised. Much of Pratt’s rhetoric is carried through to the Reynolds v. United States Court Case. This discourse will be used to segue from Kane to the Reynolds case.


Elder Olson Pratt

Date Created

August 29, 1852.


Journal of Discourses






(Opening Paragraphs)
It is quite unexpected to me, brethren and sisters, to be called upon to address you this forenoon; and still more so, to address you upon the principle which has been named, namely, a plurality of wives.
It is rather new ground for me; that is, I have not been in the habit of publicly speaking upon this subject; and it is rather new ground to the inhabitants of the United States, and not only to them, but to a portion of the inhabitants of Europe; a portion of them have not been in the habit of preaching a doctrine of this description; consequently, we shall have to break up new ground.
It is well known, however, to the congregation before me, that the Latter-day Saints have embraced the doctrine of a plurality of wives, as a part of their religious faith. It is not, as many have supposed, a doctrine embraced by them to gratify the carnal lusts and feelings of man; that is not the object of the doctrine.
We shall endeavor to set forth before this enlightened assembly some of the causes why the Almighty has revealed such a doctrine, and why it is considered a part and portion of our religious faith. And I believe that they will not, under our present form of government (I mean the government of the United States), try us for treason for believing and practicing our religious notions and ideas. I think, if I am not mistaken, that the constitution gives the privilege to all the inhabitants of this country, of the free exercise of their religious notions, and the freedom of their faith, and the practice of it. Then, if it can be proven to a demonstration, that the Latter-day Saints have actually embraced, as a part and portion of their religion, the doctrine of a plurality of wives, it is constitutional. And should there ever be laws enacted by this government to restrict them from the free exercise of this part of their religion, such laws must be unconstitutional.

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Elder Olson Pratt, “Celestial Marriage,” Inbetween Peoples, accessed September 23, 2020, https://as205.omeka.net/items/show/205.