I have always found it interesting (and a little bit sad) that men can be sealed to multiple women, but women cannot do so. Not that I want to be sealed to multiple men, but just in the case of the death of a husband or something rather. Anyway, my question is, why was it okay in the early days of the church for women to be sealed to multiple men? There are records of women being sealed to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, yet married to another man. I would LOVE an answer. Thanks
The documentary evidence for many of Joseph Smith’s marriages is very, very hazy; and we are constantly learning new things–or seeing new interpretations proposed–about the relationships involved. It is a good idea to keep an open mind while reading these and any other writings on the subject; because authors critical to Joseph Smith–as well as authors sympathetic to him–often suggest, or openly assert, far more than what the available evidence actually supports. This is, perhaps, to be expected on such a provocative topic.
That said, I suppose you are probably aware of the Church’s recently-released summary of what is known about early polygamy as practiced in Kirtland and Nauvoo; and its summary of what is known about Utah-era polygamy. I am also an admirer of Church member Brian Hales, who has done extensive research on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Brother Hales has dedicated a portion of his website to discussing the women who were sealed to Joseph Smith while also being married to other men, and you can read his conclusions here. Hales has also done a great service to those who wish to look at the evidence and draw their own conclusions, by making his database of primary sources relating to Joseph Smith’s polygamy available online. As always, I would encourage you to allow your investigations to be done in harmony with fasting, prayer, and prolonged scripture study.
Now, having said all that, let me give you my own interpretation of the evidence to date as it applies to your question about polyandrous sealings:
There is no record of which I am aware, of Joseph Smith being sealed to a woman who was also contemporaneously sealed to any other man (he was apparently sealed to women who were civilly married to other men; but I think that issue is beyond the scope of your question as I interpret it–definitely take a look at Hales’ website, or come back and ask me again, if you want to talk about that more).
After Joseph Smith’s death, some of the women to whom he had been sealed eventually married Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, or one of several other early Church leaders. I am not sure to what degree these marriages were done civilly or whether they were actual sealings; but my understanding is that they were seen primarily as “levirate” marriages–in other words, time-only relationships whereby the husband would financially support, and perhaps raise up seed to, the first, “sealed” husband. As far as I know, there was never a belief on any of these women’s part that they would spend eternity as the wife of more than one man.
So, as I understand it, the reason the Church doesn’t embrace the prospect of polyandry in the eternities at the present time, is because it has never embraced such a concept.