Question: What about the revelation John Taylor received on September 27, 1886?

Did John Taylor receive a revelation on September 27, 1886? 


Does that revelation say polygamy could never be discontinued?

No. Mormon scholar D. Michael Quinn wrote concerning it: “As a historian, I find that there is abundant evidence to demonstrate that the 1886 revelation occurred. . . however, in my view, [it] really added nothing to any of the revelations that had been given on plural marriage..”[1]

What is the text of the 1886 revelation?

Transcribed and formatted into numbered paragraphs, it reads:

Sept 27, 1886

(1) My son John. you have asked me concerning the new & everlasting covenant & how far it is binding upon my people

(2) Thus saith the Lord all commandments that I give must \be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name/ unless they are revoked by my [sic] or by my authority, and

(3) how can I revoke an everlasting covenant;

(4) for I the Lord am everlasting & my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; but they stand for ever.

(5) Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject?

(6) Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law & the keeping of my commandment, and yet have I borne with them these many years & this because of their weakness because of the perilous times & furthermore, it is more pleasing to \me/ that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters.

(7) Nevertheless I the Lord do not change & my word and my covenants & my law do not.

(8) & as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph all those who would enter into my glory must & shall obey my law.

(9) & have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham's seed & would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham.

(10) I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting & those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so amen.[2]

What does the revelation say about God’s laws?

Paragraphs 7 and 10 state that God's law does not “change” and is not “revoked.” D&C 132:19-20 explain how a monogamous couple can fulfill this law:

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood . . . they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them. (D&C 132:19–20; italics added.)

What does the revelation say about the “conditions” of God’s laws?

Paragraphs 8 and 10 explain that to enter into God’s glory, His law and the conditions thereof must be “obeyed.” D&C 132:7 also mentions the “conditions” of the law:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7; italics added)

This explanation of the “conditions” of the law does not mention a plurality of wives. Instead, the importance of proper authority when performing a marriage ceremony is emphasized in verses 7 through 19. In other words, sealings performed without the authority of the “one” man holding the keys, do not conform to the “conditions” of the law and “are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection” (see also v. 18).

What does the revelation say about covenants?

Paragraphs 3, 4, and 7 instruct that God’s covenants, including the new and everlasting covenant, do not “change” and cannot be “revoked” or “abrogated.”

What is the new and everlasting covenant?

Brigham Young explained: “All Latter-day Saints enter the new and everlasting covenant when they enter this church. They covenant to cease sustaining, upholding and cherishing the kingdom of the devil and the kingdoms of this world. They enter into the new and everlasting covenant to sustain the Kingdom of God and no other kingdom.”[3] The new and everlasting covenant encompasses all of the covenants required for exaltation.

What is the new and everlasting covenant of marriage?

The new and everlasting covenant of marriage is eternal marriage, which must be entered into if the privilege is offered (D&C 132:4-6). Exaltation requires obedience to this new and everlasting covenant of marriage. As quoted above, D&C 132: 19-20 explains that if “a man” marries “a wife” by proper authority and they live worthily, then their marriage “shall be of force when they are out of the world.” Also, they shall enter their “exaltation” and “shall be gods.”[4]

What does the revelation say about God’s commandments?

Paragraph 2 instructs that God’s commandments must be obeyed unless they are “revoked” by Him or by His “authority.” In 1831, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith: “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good” (D&C 56:4, 56:5–6, 58:32).

Is plural marriage a law, a condition of the law, or a covenant?

No. Plural marriage is not an ordinance, a covenant, or a special ceremony. It occurs when an eternal marriage ceremony is repeated for a man. The fact that the man may have already had a wife sealed to him is not disclosed as part of the ordinance.

Is plural marriage a principle and a practice?

Yes. In 1883, John Taylor explained: “God has told us about our wives and our children being sealed to us, that we might have a claim on them in eternity. He has revealed unto us the law of celestial marriage, associated with which is the principle of plural marriage.”[5]

Is polygamy a practice that can be commanded or revoked?

Yes. The Book of Mormon teaches: “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; italics added). Jacob, the brother of Nephi, referred to “the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father [Lehi],” which was not a commandment of polygamy, but of monogamy, “that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none” (Jacob 3:5; italics added).

Does the 1886 revelation mention the principle of plural marriage?

No. John Taylor may have been asking about polygamy, but God’s answer was more expansive. Just as section 132 was a response to a question about Old Testament polygamy. God focused on a wider principle, that of celestial or eternal marriage, which may include the principle of plural marriage.

Does the 1886 revelation speak of the authority of the “one” man holding the sealing keys that are needed to perform an eternal marriage?


Does the 1886 authorize individuals to enter plural unions independent of the “one” man holding the sealing keys?


Why do modern polygamists talk so much about the 1886 revelation?

It may be due to the fact that LDS Church leaders in the 1920s and 1930s attempted to discredit it. Church authorities would probably have been wiser to simply have acknowledged its existence, including what it does say and what it does not say.

[1] D. Michael Quinn, “Plural Marriages After the 1890 Manifesto.” Talk given at Bluffdale, Utah, 11 August 1991. Copy of transcript in possession of the author.

[2] Fred Collier, Unpublished Revelations, 1:145–46 (part 88). Joseph White Musser, The Four Hidden Revelations (Salt Lake City: Truth Publishing, n.d. [1948]), 15. Paragraph divisions added.

[3] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 12:230.

[4] D&C 132:19–20 is seldom quoted in Mormon fundamentalist literature probably because these verses state in unambiguous language that a monogamist couple, married by proper authority and living worthily, will be exalted.

[5] John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 24:229; italics added.