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Food For Thought: Mark Twain on Polygamy

Posted by: Pastor_Don_Milton on Feb 16, 2005 - 11:07 PM
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According to Louis Utermeyer in A Treasury of Laughter (Simon & Schuster) "Once when Mark Twain was lecturing in Utah, a Mormon acquaintance argued with him o­n the subject of polygamy. After a long and rather heated debate, the Mormon finally said, “Can you find for me a single passage of Scripture which forbids polygamy?” “Certainly,” replied Twain. “‘No man can serve two masters.’""

Now I ask; what makes this funny? It's funny because we know that a woman is not supposed to be the master of her man but in the case of polygamy she is made master by giving her veto power over the God given right of a man to have more than o­ne wife. The Love Not Force* crowd apparently agrees with Mark Twain!

One of the favorite ways that the Love Not Force* crowd gets you to believe that they're right in saying you have to ask your wife's permission to marry is by confusing you into believing that your marriage ceremony included the phrase, "forsaking all others." Many, if not most, of today's marriages in Christian Churches do not include those words. You can view a link to many wedding vows here and none contain those words:


Now, let's accept the straw dog that the Love Not Force* crowd puts forth and say that our wedding vow did include the term, "forsaking all others."Most men, not for the slightest moment thinking that those three words were meant to be a ban o­n polygamy, would think that the line forsaking all others referred to not letting in-laws, parents, siblings, or society intrude into that most awesome relationship called marriage. Most men would not even think about the words they were saying. After all, they were simply repeating the standard vows of a marriage and if they were Christians they would not for the slightest moment think that they were inserting words that were dreamed up by popish ministers as a ban o­n polygamy. They simply would not know the theological history of the insertion of those words into the vows. So the words that a man repeats in a marriage ceremony mean nothing more than what he understands them to mean at that moment. They do not mean what the wife thinks they mean and they do not mean what society thinks they mean but they mean exactly what the man thinks they mean at that moment as God witnesses his thoughts and most men aren't thinking ANYTHING when they utter those three words before saying "I Do."So that brings us back to o­ne fact. The man does know what marriage is and he is agreeing to marriage. If he is a strong believer then he is agreeing to Biblical Marriage, nothing more and nothing less. The fact is that popish ministers began inserting the words, "forsaking all others", a few hundred years ago in order to clarify that they were against polygamy. The fact that they did this, however, means nothing today if you were not specifically taught that you were agreeing to that.

A final note. Many if not most of the ceremonies that include the phrase "forsaking all others" follow it with a question to those attending the wedding. The question goes as follows:

"All of you who have witnessed these promises, will you do everything in your power to support and uphold these two people in their marriage?"

Doesn't this sound to you like the "forsaking all others" clause has to do with loyalty to the marriage and forsaking the intrusion by those in-laws, friends, and family that might try to wreck the marriage? That was the way I always understood it. I'd witnessed many marriages with those vows and the idea that polygamy was being spoken about never entered my mind. BE HONEST! You're telling me that whenever you heard the man's "forsaking all others" clause at a wedding you thought to yourself, "now there's the anti-polygyny clause" and whenever you heard the woman's "forsaking all others" clause that you thought to yourself, "now there's the anti-polyandry clause." C'mon! Whoever would guess that in a monogamous society that there would be an anti-polygyny and anti-polyandry clause in wedding vows? Does that make sense? Furthermore, those of you who use the argument that Paul couldn't have been writing against polygyny in 1 Timothy 3:2 or against polyandry in 1 Timothy 5:9 because such relationships were not common must either agree with me on the above argument concerning the forsaking clause or take back your argument concerning 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 5:9. Either the wedding vows and 1 Timothy 3:2 & 5:9 are against polygyny and polyandry or neither of them are against polygyny & polyandry. If the "forsaking all others" clauses of the wedding vows are not meant to be anti-polygyny and anti-polyandry then what are they meant to be? They are clearly understood to mean that neither the husband nor the wife would let another intrude into the marriage in such a way as to destroy it. Remember, the "forsaking all others" clause is repeated by the woman as well. If you claim that it is an anti-polygyny clause then you must also claim that it is an anti-polyandry clause.

Now the question comes up; what if you were knowingly making a vow not to take other wives and you want to get out of that vow so that you can have an additional wife. Is that vow binding considering the Bible allows a man to have more than o­ne wife and if it is binding can it be "renegotiated." How about trying this. Your wife promised to love, honor, and obey you. Try getting her to fully obey you for just one day, let alone a lifetime. You know that she will not be able to obey you and in most cases not even for an hour. Since she cannot, in fact, will not keep her vow of obedience then certainly you can renegotiate what you perceive as your anti-polygamy vow since she has already broken the covenant. I still think you're mixed up in thinking that you were vowing against polygamy.

That said, the easiest way to "renegotiate" your vows is to take your wife out to a beautiful restaurant with music and all and have your vows written down so that you may repeat them but without the words that you believe are preventing you from taking another wife.

Another more elaborate method would be to have an actual ceremony with a minister wherein he reads the words and the two of you repeat them. This way she'll easily read them back without even realizing the words have been rewritten. The key is that you must trust and be certain that whichever minister you use for this purpose reads your exact words.

There is one thing I need to mention. If you and your wife have been discussing polygamy in conjunction with the forsaking all others clause then she's bound to figure out what you're up to. Also, what about your children? If you have children you must always consider the consequences to them if your current wife destroys every part of your life and theirs. Seek God's guidance brother.


Love Not Force* is the false doctrine that says a man must ask his wife's permission to marry additional wives. I refer to it as Permission Slip Polygamy.

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