According to current Mormon doctrine, polygamy is not allowed on earth. However, the Mormon marriage practice involves the man and the woman being sealed. This means that the two (and their offspring) will be eternally bound together. This includes, obviously enough, the afterlife. Of course, earthly marriages sometimes end because of death and often end because of divorce. In such cases, the man can remarry and go through the relevant procedure to be sealed to a new woman. Women, not surprisingly, do not receive the same deal. A woman in the same circumstances must be “de-sealed” in order to remarry.
This raises am interesting problem-the possibility of polygamy in heaven.
As most people know, the “standard” wedding vows include the key phrase “till death do us part.” Such marriages would presumably end with the death of either spouse. However, sealing extends into the afterlife. This would certainly seem to entail the possibility of celestial polygamy- since men can be eternally sealed to multiple women, a man could apparently have many wives in heaven. Women, as usual, are shortchanged-since they must be de-sealed before they remarry, they could only have one husband (here and in the next life).The LDS Church’s public position on this is, essentially, that they do not know if men can practice polygamy in the afterlife or not.
On the face of it, this might not seem a very important matter. First, there is the question about whether the Mormons are right about this sealing. Just because people say things and hold various ceremonies, it hardly follows that they have the metaphysics right. So, the sealing might be entirely made up and have no effect at all. So, one might suggest, there is little point worry about it. If you are a Mormon, then you probably accept the doctrine and it most likely does not bother you. If you are not a Mormon, it does not apply to you-so there is nothing to worry about.
Second, there is also the question about whether there is an afterlife at all. If there is no afterlife, then sealing would not seem to matter at all. In this case, there would be no polygamy in the afterlife because there is no afterlife.
Third, there is the question about what marriage would be like in the afterlife (assuming there is one). While many people have a simple view of heaven as a place where people have winged bodies and hang out on clouds, it seems unlikely that heaven is a physical place where people have physical bodies. Such a heaven is metaphysically suspect for a multitude of reasons. For example, as David Hume argued, were would there be room enough to put all these dead people? Clarence Darrow also has excellent arguments against such a physical afterlife. In light of these arguments and many others, it is odd to think of heaven as place like earth. So, heavenly marriage, if it existed, would be quite different. After all, how would immaterial spirits have sexual relations? That certainly seems impossible. Further, heaven is supposed to be a perfect place (or as perfect as a place can be) and devoid of evil and such. Hence, if marriage exists in heaven, it would be good and thus nothing to be upset about.
Fourth, there is the question about whether God wants marriage to work this way or not. If He does, then it works that way and that is that-complaining or worrying about it would be pointless. If God does not want it to work that way, then it does not-so there would seem to be no reason to worry or complain about it. If God does not exist, then it obviously does not matter at all.
In light of these reasons, it seems that polygamy in heaven is nothing to worry about. But, it might very well be something to be concerned about and this possibility must be considered.
As noted above, if the theory of sealing is true, than that is the way reality works. Unless God is willing to change things, then that is that. If the theory of sealing is false, then there would seem to be nothing to worry about. However, this is not the case.
If it is assumed that sealing is not real, then it does create some grounds for worry (aside from the obvious concerns about having false beliefs).
Sealing certainly appears to be unfair. Men are allowed multiple seals at a time while woman are limited to one sealing at a time. Laying aside theological claims about male superiority, there seems to be no logical basis for allowing such a distinction. Even if sealing is make believe, it still places women in an inferior position in terms of how women are regarded. This can, of course, have real effects. If women are regarded as “metaphysically” inferior, this view tends to “infect” how people view women in the actual world. After all, as numerous feminists have argued, the religious view of female inferiority has lead to a wide range of problems throughout history. Analogously, the view of animals being metaphysically inferior to humans has been used to justify their mistreatment.
I am not claiming that the belief in sealing will directly lead to problems for women, but it is yet one more doctrine that puts women in an inferior situation. And that seems problematic.