Official Declaration 1
The two “Official Declarations” in our Doctrine and Covenants are not numbered sections in the book because they are not revelations. Rather they are inspired announcements that revelations had been received.
To fully appreciate the significance of the “Manifesto,” as Official Declaration 1 (OD–1) is popularly known, one must have some knowledge of the history of the doctrine of plural marriage in the Church and the problems that doctrine created. Please review the commentary for section 132.
The United States made Utah a territory in 1850, and therefore the Congress could regulate activities in the territory. Laws were passed by Congress against plural marriage as early as 1862 with follow-up laws in 1874, 1882, and 1887. Each law became more restrictive on the saints and exerted more control over the properties and funds of the Church.
The Church regarded the laws passed against plural marriage as unconstitutional infringements on their right to freedom of religion, and convictions based on these laws were appealed to higher courts. These laws began to be upheld by the United States Supreme Court, and their enforcement by appointed governors and sheriffs of the territory led to the imprisonment of hundreds of saints and many of their leaders. At times some of the leaders, including members of the First Presidency, had to go into hiding to stay out of jail. In 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act repealed the right of LDS women to vote and directed federal authorities to confiscate all properties owned by the Church over the value of fifty thousand dollars. The properties included the temples of the Lord. It became apparent to President Wilford Woodruff in 1889 that the anti-polygamy laws enacted by congress would continue to be upheld as being constitutional by the Supreme Court of the land, and in fact the Edmunds-Tucker Act was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in May 1890.
Thus President Woodruff was faced with a difficult dilemma: should the saints continue to practice the divine principle of plural marriage (section 132) or should they follow the Lord’s counsel to obey the law of the land (D&C 98:5)? The Lord showed him in vision what would take place if the practice of plural marriage were not stopped (see Excerpts From Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto in the Doctrine and Covenants following OD-1). He foresaw that the temples would be lost; ordinance work for the living and dead would cease; the church leadership and many heads of families would be imprisoned; and in general the Church would be destroyed. President Woodruff was willing that all these consequences should befall the Church if it were the Lord’s will that plural marriage should continue. It was only after the Lord’s will became known to him by revelation that he wrote the “Manifesto.” Interestingly, in his journal he said he received the “following revelation,” and then he left the rest of the page blank. Why he didn’t write it is not clear.
The solution and the Lord’s will was clear, and in 1889 under his direction, the First Presidency withdrew authorization for further plural marriages. Actually shutting down the practice, however, was not simple. In November 1889 President Woodruff learned that unauthorized plural marriages were being performed in the Endowment House. This was a building erected on Temple Square wherein sacred ordinances could be performed until the Salt Lake Temple was completed. The President thus ordered the building torn down.
The continuation of the practice of plural marriage even after authorization was withdrawn in 1889 was pointed out by those critical of the Church. The Church was accused of secretly sanctioning the practice though publicly denouncing it. Thus, just before October conference 1890, on September 26, President Woodruff issued the “Manifesto” in which he declared his intention to submit to the laws of the land and committed himself to use all the influence of his office to persuade the saints to refrain from practicing plural marriage. He declared that the Church had stopped the practice of plural marriage and that from that time forward anyone who contracted a plural marriage would be excommunicated.
This declaration was presented to the general conference of the Church on October 6, 1890. As President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Lorenzo Snow made the motion in general conference that the Manifesto be accepted as binding on the Church. The vote of the conference was unanimous.
An agreement was reached between the Church and the federal government that all existing polygamous marriages would be allowed to continue without fear of persecution.
The polygamy obstacle out of the way, Utah was admitted as one of the United States in 1896.
For a time the Church allowed plural marriages to be performed outside of the United States—particularly in the Mormon colonies of northern Mexico. In 1904, however, President Joseph F. Smith issued a second Manifesto and effectively withdrew the Church’s sanction of the practice of plural marriage anywhere in the world. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, were asked to resign in 1905 when they openly disagreed with the prohibition against polygamous marriages. Under Joseph F. Smith’s direction, the Manifesto was included in the 1908 printing of the Doctrine and Covenants and has been found in every edition since that time. It was renamed Official Declaration 1 in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Also in that edition were placed excerpts from talks given by President Woodruff regarding the Manifesto. These statements inform us of the challenges faced by the Church and the results that would have taken place had the decision not been made to discontinue the practice of plural marriage. In these excerpts, President Woodruff testifies that he issued the Manifesto under the direction of the Lord and that he wrote what the Lord told him to write. He also taught the important principle that the Lord will never permit the President of the Church to lead the saints astray.
Official Declaration 1 The Wilford Woodruff Manifesto
To Whom It May Concern:
Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy–
“Press dispatches” Even though the Quorum of the Twelve had instructed that the doctrine of plural marriage was no longer to be preached and President Woodruff had had the Endowment House torn down as an indication that the performing of plural marriages had been discontinued, local and national newspapers and individuals did not cease to accuse the Church of continuing to sanction and practice plural marriage. The Manifesto was issued to correct and combat these concerns. It is true that some members of the Church, including a few leaders, had difficulty accepting the decision to discontinue plural marriage.
I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.
One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
“Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress” The United States Congress had passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887), which, among other things, provided for the disincorporation of the Church and the taking over of the properties of the Church except for burial grounds and those used exclusively for religious services. This law was challenged in the courts all the way up to the Supreme Court, which declared it constitutional. The Church was required to pay rent on its own property, including a high rent for the use of the Salt Lake Temple block.
There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.
WILFORD WOODRUFF - President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Lorenzo Snow offered the following:
"I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding."
The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous.
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 1890.
EXCERPTS FROM THREE ADDRESSES BY PRESIDENT WILFORD WOODRUFF REGARDING THE MANIFESTO
The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)
It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. . . .
I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. . . .
The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.
The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?
The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for . . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have.
. . . I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me towrite. . . .
I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us. (Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.)
Now I will tell you what was manifested to me and what the Son of God performed in this thing. . . . All these things would have come to pass, as God Almighty lives, had not that Manifesto been given. Therefore, the Son of God felt disposed to have that thing presented to the Church and to the world for purposes in his own mind. The Lord had decreed the establishment of Zion. He had decreed the finishing of this temple. He had decreed that the salvation of the living and the dead should be given in these valleys of the mountains. And Almighty God decreed that the Devil should not thwart it. If you can understand that, that is a key to it. (From a discourse at the sixth session of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, April 1893. Typescript of Dedicatory Services, Archives, Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.)
In 1998 President Gordon B. Hinckley declared once again the position of the Church on the practice of plural marriage: “More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto his prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage” (CR, October 1998, 92).
- Michael J. Preece