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‘Mormon Land’: The sealing change and Woodruff ‘revelation’ most Latter-day Saints know little about

How understanding the 1894 edict ending the “law of adoption” helps explain 19th-century polygamy.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Sealing room in Utah's Cedar City Temple.

Most people know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy in the 19th century, but the Utah-based faith eventually abandoned it, beginning with a pronouncement in 1890 by church President Wilford Woodruff known as “the Manifesto.”

Even most members, however, are unaware of Woodruff’s 1894 announcement, termed a “revelation,” which ended a teaching known as “the law of adoption,” under which adult members were sealed to church leaders.

Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In General Conference of that year, Woodruff stated that hereafter temple sealings should proceed strictly along family lines, thereby replacing the earlier “kingdom theology” with what became the modern Latter-day Saint understanding of eternal families.

“Without an understanding of kingdom theology and the law of adoption, it’s not possible to fully grasp how 19th-century Latter-day Saints understood polygamy,” writes scholar Nate Oman, who teaches at William & Mary Law School in Virginia.

On this week’s show, Oman discusses this often-overlooked but highly important piece of Mormon history.

Listen here:

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