Chapter 2 of the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon addresses polygamy. The Utah LDS say it supports polygamy and the RLDS say it doesn't. Which is correct?
From the Utah LDS Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:22-35 reads as follows:
22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, 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.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 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;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.
The Book of Mormon, translated in 1829, makes mention of polygamy and, while it seems to forbid polygamy, it recognizes that sometimes God commands men to practice polygamy.
Jacob 2:27-29 reads:
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; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. (Jacob 2:27-29)
Anti-Mormons and other critics of Mormonism see this passage as contradictory to later Mormon teachings, but such critics fail to quote the next verse, which explains the conditions under which polygamy may be practiced:
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30)
Polygamy is thus to be practiced as a religious principle and only when commanded by God. It should never be used to gratify lusts and can only be practiced properly under God’s direction and for his purposes.
As I understand this explanation, verse 30 is the only verse out of this entire passage of scripture that the Utah LDS say supports polygamy. According to the Mormon Polygamy Web site, which I believe is representative of the Utah LDS belief about polygamy, all the other verses in this passage of scripture support the position that polygamy is an abomination before the Lord.
In my experience of understanding the scriptures, I have found that proper interpretation of a verse comes from the meaning of the verses surrounding it. Jacob 2:30 must be interpreted in light of the meaning of the surrounding verses. To do otherwise could render a meaning opposed to the meaning of the surrounding text and thus would make no sense. It is clear from reading Jacob 2:22-35 above that the scriptures before and after Jacob 2:30 plainly state that having many wives as well as having concubines is a whoredom and an abomination before the Lord. And He forbade Jacob's people to have concubines and more than one wife. The Lord was not pleased with David and Solomon for doing these things and He was not pleased with the people in Jacob's time for also doing these things and justifying their actions by what David and Solomon did. In addition, the Lord stated that these actions were breaking the hearts of their wives and daughters and indicated that if they continued to pursue such activities, He would "visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction..." (verse 33). Thus, to take verse 30 out of the middle of this entire passage, which strongly states that polygamy is evil, and render the meaning of verse 30 to be that "Polygamy is ... to be practiced ... only when commanded by God," is ridiculous. Such an interpretation is out of context with the meaning of the surrounding verses. Even more, it makes God changeable, which He is not.
So, if Jacob 2:30 shouldn't be interpreted that polygamy is acceptable when God commands it, then what is the meaning of this verse? Verse 25 says that the Lord led these people out of Jerusalem to give them an opportunity to become righteous. In this context, verse 30 means that if these people are going to become righteous, He must give them commandments to obey Him. If He doesn't, "they shall harken unto these things," or in other words they will commit these whoredoms and not become a righteous people. This interpretation of verse 30 is in context with the meaning of the surrounding verses and can be the only plausible meaning given to it.
Thus, in my opinion, Jacob 2:22-35 supports the position that polygamy is evil. Knowing this, Joseph would have never engaged in this activity. And the Lord, being unchangeable, would have never given him a revelation telling His people to practice polygamy.