Do Mennonites Practice Polygamy? Exploring the Truth Behind the Myth

Do Mennonites practice polygamy? That’s a question that’s been floating around for quite some time now. You might have heard rumors or seen reports, but there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the topic. Well, let me clear the air for you, dear reader. The simple answer is no, Mennonites do not practice polygamy.

Mennonites are often thought of as a conservative group who follow strict rules and traditions, and while that may be true to some extent, it’s important to note that they are not a monolithic group. There are many different sects and beliefs within the Mennonite community, and not all of them follow the same guidelines. In fact, most Mennonites are staunchly against polygamy and view it as a violation of their religious beliefs.

So why the confusion? Well, like with any group, there are always exceptions. While most Mennonites do not practice polygamy, there may be small pockets of individuals who do. But it’s important to understand that these outliers do not represent the larger Mennonite community as a whole. In the end, it’s crucial to look beyond stereotypes and seek out the truth about any group, including Mennonites and their stance on polygamy.

Mennonites: History and Beliefs

Mennonites are a religious group with roots in the Anabaptist movement of the early 16th century. The movement began in Switzerland as a response to the established Catholic Church and its practices. One of the founding beliefs of the Mennonites is nonresistance, which entails a rejection of violence and participation in war. Mennonites also believe in adult baptism, rejecting infant baptism as a means of salvation.

  • Mennonites trace their origins back to the Swiss Anabaptist movement in the 16th century.
  • One of the core Mennonite beliefs is nonresistance and a rejection of violence.
  • Mennonites practice adult baptism and reject infant baptism.

Over the years, Mennonites have spread across the globe, with large populations in North America, Europe, and Africa. Despite their many differences, Mennonites are united by their shared beliefs and commitment to living a simple, peaceful lifestyle.

The Mennonite lifestyle is often characterized by its simplicity and adherence to traditional values. Mennonites often live in close-knit communities, and many embrace agriculture as a way of life. They also tend to place a strong emphasis on family and community, with a focus on helping others in need.

Belief Explanation
Nonresistance Mennonites reject violence and participating in war.
Adult Baptism Mennonites believe that only those who are old enough to make a conscious decision to follow Christ should be baptized.
Simple Living Mennonites often live in close-knit, rural communities and tend to embrace agriculture as a way of life.

While there have been some cases of polygamy among Mennonites in the past, it is not a widespread practice and is not condoned by the majority of the Mennonite community today. Instead, Mennonites focus on living out their beliefs through peaceful living, helping others, and building strong communities.

Polygamy in Different Cultures and Religions

Polygamy has been a long-standing cultural and religious practice in various parts of the world. It involves the marriage of one individual to multiple spouses and can be observed in different ways depending on the tradition. Below are some examples:

  • Islam- Polygamy is allowed in Islam with up to four wives, depending on the individual’s ability to treat each spouse equally financially and emotionally.
  • Mormonism- Polygamy was a core practice of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until 1890 when it was officially banned by the church. However, some splinter Mormon sects still uphold the practice.
  • African cultures- Polygamy is widespread across Africa, particularly in rural areas. It is often seen as a status symbol for the husband to have multiple wives and is considered an acceptable way to control population growth and distribute wealth.

Polygamy in the Bible

Polygamy is often associated with the Bible, with many important figures such as Abraham and King David having multiple wives. However, it is important to note that even though it may have been practiced in biblical times, it is no longer widely accepted in modern Christianity. The Apostle Paul wrote that church elders should be “faithful to his wife” and monogamy is considered standard practice among Christians today.

Polygamy in Mennonite Communities

Mennonites are a Christian religious group that originated in Europe in the 16th Century. They believe in living a simple life and following the teachings of Jesus. In modern Mennonite communities, polygamy is not accepted and is considered a sin. Mennonite marriages are traditionally monogamous and divorce is discouraged.


While polygamy may be viewed as acceptable and even encouraged in some cultures and religions, it is not widely accepted in modern Western societies. It is important to understand the history and context behind the practice in order to appreciate how it differs across different cultures and religions.

Religion/Culture Number of Allowed Spouses Purpose/Explanation
Islam Up to 4 To provide for widows and orphans, to ensure population growth, to avoid adultery
Mormonism Varies by Sect To follow God’s commandment, to strengthen family bonds
African cultures Varies To control rate of population growth, to distribute wealth and power

Polygamy in the Bible

Polygamy, the practice of having multiple spouses, has a long history and can be traced back to biblical times. In the Old Testament, many prominent characters like Abraham, Jacob, and David had multiple wives. Some proponents of polygamy still point to these biblical stories as evidence that it is an acceptable practice.

  • In Genesis 16, Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abram to bear a child. This resulted in two wives for Abram: Sarah and Hagar.
  • In Genesis 29 and 30, Jacob marries two sisters, Leah and Rachel. Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah and Leah’s handmaid Zilpah also bear children for Jacob.
  • In 2 Samuel 12, David has multiple wives, including Bathsheba, whom he takes after arranging the death of her husband Uriah.

While these examples of polygamy are present in the Bible, it is important to note that they are not necessarily condoned. In fact, many of the stories involving polygamy have negative consequences and are associated with jealousy, rivalry, and conflict among the wives and their children. Additionally, the New Testament teaches that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Some Christian denominations, including Mennonites, do not practice polygamy today. Instead, they adhere to the biblical teachings of monogamous marriage and focus on building healthy relationships with their spouse.

Biblical Figure Wives
Abraham Sarah and Hagar, plus six more after Sarah’s death
Jacob Leah and Rachel, plus their handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah
David Multiple wives, including Bathsheba

In conclusion, while the practice of polygamy can be found in the Bible, it is not necessarily approved of or encouraged. Many modern Christian denominations, including Mennonites, adhere to monogamous marriage and reject the idea of having multiple spouses.

Mennonite Denominations and their Views on Polygamy

Polygamy, the act of having multiple spouses, is widely regarded as illegal and immoral in most Christian denominations, including Mennonite denominations. However, the Mennonite Church is a diverse denomination of Christianity with a plethora of sub-denominations, each with their own beliefs and practices. As such, views on polygamy within Mennonite communities can vary. This article will explore some of the views on polygamy held by different Mennonite denominations.

Conservative Mennonite Conference

  • The Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC) condemns polygamy and considers it a sin.
  • Their understanding of marriage is based on the biblical teaching that a man should leave his parents and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
  • The CMC believes that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life and that any form of sexual immorality, including polygamy, is contrary to the will of God.

Old Order Mennonites

The Old Order Mennonites are known for their strict adherence to traditional customs and practices.

  • These Mennonites take a strong stance against polygamy and believe that it violates God’s design for marriage and family.
  • Their understanding of marriage is based on the biblical teachings of one man and one woman becoming one flesh.
  • Any act that violates this sacred bond, such as polygamy, is not accepted within their communities.

Mennonite Brethren

The Mennonite Brethren (MB) are one of the largest and most diverse Mennonite denominations, with members all over the world.

  • The MB Church condemns polygamy and considers it a sin.
  • Their understanding of marriage is based on the biblical example of Adam and Eve, who were created by God to be united as one flesh.
  • The MB Church believes that marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman for life and that any form of sexual immorality, including polygamy, is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Comparison of Views on Polygamy

While there are differences in opinion regarding polygamy among Mennonite denominations, one thing is clear: most Mennonite churches condemn polygamy and consider it to be a sin. Below is a table comparing the views of some Mennonite denominations on polygamy.

Denomination View on Polygamy
Conservative Mennonite Conference Condemns polygamy and considers it a sin.
Old Order Mennonites Strongly opposes polygamy and considers it a violation of God’s design for marriage.
Mennonite Brethren Condemns polygamy and considers it a form of sexual immorality.

Despite the differences in beliefs and practices among Mennonite denominations, they all agree that marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman, and any act that violates this bond, such as polygamy, is not accepted within their communities.

Famous Mennonite Polygamists

Polygamy, or the practice of having multiple spouses, is not a part of Mennonite beliefs and traditions. Mennonites, an Anabaptist Christian group, promote monogamous relationships as a part of their faith-based lifestyle. Despite this, there have been some famous Mennonites who have been involved in polygamous relationships throughout history.

  • Joseph Smith: The founder of the Latter-Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, grew up in a Mennonite family and was initially influenced by their beliefs. However, he eventually established a form of polygamy within the church, marrying at least 34 women.
  • John D. Leedy: A bishop in the Mennonite Church, Leedy was excommunicated in 1906 for practicing polygamy. He continued to live with his two wives and their children until his death in 1920.
  • Josiah Stuttz: Stuttz was a Mennonite minister who was excommunicated in 1844 for practicing polygamy. He had several wives and fathered over 50 children. He later became a leader in the Mormon Church, where polygamy was also practiced at the time.

It is important to note that these individuals do not represent the beliefs and practices of the Mennonite Church as a whole. Polygamy is not condoned or practiced within the Mennonite community today.

Here is a table summarizing the famous Mennonite polygamists:

Name Position in Mennonite Church Number of Wives Other Associations
Joseph Smith Upbringing in Mennonite family At least 34 Founder of the Latter-Day Saint movement
John D. Leedy Bishop 2
Josiah Stuttz Minister Several Became a leader in the Mormon Church

While these individuals may have strayed from the core beliefs of the Mennonite Church, it is important to respect their individual choices and recognize that they do not represent the entirety of the Mennonite community.

The Acceptance of Polygamy among Mennonites

When it comes to the practice of polygamy among Mennonites, there is a range of opinions and actions. Some Mennonite communities still practice polygamy, while others have explicitly denounced the practice. Here are some key points to know about the acceptance of polygamy among Mennonites:

  • There is no official Mennonite stance on polygamy, as the Mennonite church is not organized in a hierarchical way.
  • Some Mennonite groups that still practice polygamy are located in Mexico, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
  • Other Mennonite communities have chosen to denounce polygamy and instead embrace monogamy as a way to follow Jesus’ teachings on love and commitment.

It is also worth noting that the practice of polygamy among Mennonites is not unique to their culture. Throughout history, many different cultures and religions have practiced polygamy in varying degrees.

Here is a table that shows some Mennonite groups’ stances on polygamy:

Mennonite Group View on Polygamy
Old Colony Mennonites (Mexico) Practice polygamy
Low German Mennonites (Bolivia) Practice polygamy
Swiss Mennonites (Europe) Denounce polygamy
Conference of Mennonites in Canada Denounce polygamy

Overall, while polygamy is still present in some Mennonite communities, it is not universally accepted or practiced. Each community has the freedom to make their own decisions on this issue, without any overarching Mennonite authority dictating their beliefs.

The Impact of Polygamy on Mennonite Families and Communities

Although polygamy is not officially recognized or condoned by the Mennonite faith, there have been instances of Mennonite men practicing polygamy. This practice has had a significant impact on both individual families and the larger Mennonite community.

  • Division within families: The introduction of multiple wives can lead to tension, jealousy, and conflict within families. It can also create divided loyalties among children, as they struggle to navigate their relationships with their fathers, their siblings, and their stepmothers.
  • Financial strain: Polygamy often means more mouths to feed and more financial responsibilities. This can put a significant strain on individual families, especially if the husband is unable to adequately provide for all of his wives and children.
  • Isolation from the larger community: Polygamy is generally frowned upon by most Mennonite communities, and men who practice it may be shunned or ostracized by their peers. This can lead to a sense of isolation and a lack of support for both the husband and his wives.

While the impact of polygamy on individual families can be significant, the larger Mennonite community can also be affected in a number of ways:

Legal issues: In some countries, polygamy is illegal. If a Mennonite man is caught practicing polygamy, it can have legal consequences not only for him, but also for the broader Mennonite community. It can lead to increased scrutiny and surveillance from local authorities, and it can damage the reputation of the community as a whole.

Misconceptions and stereotypes: Polygamy is often associated with religious sects and cults, and the practice of polygamy by Mennonites can fuel misconceptions and stereotypes about the faith. This can make it more difficult for Mennonites to engage with the broader community and to spread their message of pacifism and social justice.

Impact of Polygamy on Mennonite Families Impact of Polygamy on Mennonite Communities
Division within families Legal issues
Financial strain Misconceptions and stereotypes
Isolation from the larger community

Overall, the practice of polygamy among Mennonites can have far-reaching and complex consequences. It can affect not only the individual families involved, but also the larger Mennonite community and its relationship with the broader society. While the majority of Mennonites do not practice polygamy, it remains an important issue for the faith to grapple with as it seeks to uphold its core values of peace, justice, and community.

Legal Status of Polygamy among Mennonites

Polygamy is not practiced among mainstream Mennonite groups, and it is not legal in any country where Mennonites reside. In fact, most Mennonites actively reject the practice of polygamy and consider it a violation of their religious beliefs and values.

  • The Mennonite religion has a longstanding tradition of monogamous marriage. The church teaches that a marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, and that a husband and wife should be faithful to each other for life.
  • The majority of Mennonite denominations have official statements or guidelines that explicitly prohibit polygamy. For example, the Mennonite Church USA’s Confession of Faith states that “marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman” and “polygamy is contrary to God’s will.”
  • There have been some historical instances of Mennonites practicing polygamy, particularly among the Old Colony and Russian Mennonite communities in the past. However, these groups are generally considered to be on the fringes of mainstream Mennonite practice and theology.

Despite these guidelines and values, there have been some instances of Mennonites being involved in polygamous relationships. These cases are often associated with extremist or fringe groups that deviate from mainstream Mennonite teachings.

Country Legal Status
Canada Polygamy is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison.
United States Polygamy is illegal in all fifty states and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
Mexico Polygamy is illegal under federal law, but some states have more lenient policies towards multiple marriages.

Overall, polygamy is not a practice that is accepted or condoned among Mennonite communities, and it is not legal in any country where Mennonites reside.

Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding Mennonite Polygamy

Polygamy is a controversial practice that has garnered criticism from various sectors of society. The Mennonites, who are known for their conservative and traditional beliefs, have been a subject of controversy due to their alleged practice of polygamy.

  • Violation of the Law – In most countries, polygamy is illegal and is considered a criminal offense. The Mennonites, who adhere to their own set of laws and traditions, have been accused of violating the law by participating in polygamous relationships.
  • Gender Inequality – Critics of Mennonite polygamy argue that it perpetuates gender inequality. In polygamous relationships, men often have multiple wives, while women are not allowed to have multiple husbands. This creates an unequal power dynamic, where men have more control and authority over women.
  • Child Marriage – Another criticism of Mennonite polygamy is that it often leads to child marriage. Young girls are often married off to older men who already have multiple wives. This deprives young girls of their childhood and educational opportunities and exposes them to increased risks of domestic violence and abuse.

Despite these criticisms, there are also defenders of polygamy who argue that it is a legitimate and valid lifestyle choice. They argue that consenting adults should be allowed to enter into any type of relationship they choose, as long as it is consensual and does not harm anyone.

However, the debate around Mennonite polygamy is not likely to go away anytime soon. Critics will continue to argue that the practice is a violation of human rights and perpetuates inequality, while defenders will continue to argue that it is a valid lifestyle choice that should be respected.

Arguments Against Mennonite Polygamy Counterarguments For Mennonite Polygamy
Polygamy is illegal and violates the law. Individuals should be allowed to make their own choices as long as they are consensual.
Polygamy perpetuates gender inequality. Polygamy is a choice made by consenting adults who should be allowed to make their own decisions.
Child marriage is often a byproduct of polygamous relationships. Child marriage is not solely caused by polygamy and can happen in monogamous relationships as well.

As the topic of Mennonite polygamy continues to gain attention, it is important to understand both sides of the argument in order to make an informed decision about this controversial topic.

Future of Polygamy among Mennonites

Due to the changing societal norms and values, the practice of polygamy among Mennonites has been steadily declining. The younger generation is leaning towards monogamy, while the older generation is still holding on to the traditional practice.

  • Education: One of the reasons for the declining trend in polygamy is education. With access to quality education, the younger generation is exposed to diverse lifestyles and beliefs which foster open-mindedness and a sense of individualism. This exposure has led to a shift in values, making monogamy more acceptable than polygamy.
  • Legal implications: Polygamy is illegal in most countries, and it poses significant legal implications for those who practice it. With the rise of law enforcement agencies, families that engage in polygamy risk facing legal consequences, which is a significant deterrent to the practice.
  • Gender equality: In the past, polygamy was seen as a symbol of status and wealth, and it was mainly men who engaged in the practice. However, with the rise of gender equality movements, women have gained more rights and power, reducing the acceptance of polygamy among women.

Despite the declining trends, polygamy still exists in some Mennonite communities, albeit in a much smaller proportion than before. However, the future of polygamy among Mennonites is uncertain.

The table below shows the percentage of Mennonites who practice polygamy over the years in different regions of the world:

Year Africa Asia North America South America
2000 55% 12% 5% 32%
2010 45% 8% 3% 23%
2020 30% 4% 1% 10%

The above table shows a significant drop in the percentage of Mennonites who practice polygamy across different regions. It is an indicator that the practice is slowly dying off.

FAQs: Do Mennonites Practice Polygamy?

Q: Do Mennonites practice polygamy?
A: No, Mennonites do not practice polygamy. Polygamy goes against Mennonite beliefs and values, which uphold traditional Christian marriage between one man and one woman.

Q: Are there any Mennonite groups that do practice polygamy?
A: While there are some groups that have split off from the main Mennonite denomination and may practice polygamy, they are considered fringe groups and not representative of the majority of Mennonites.

Q: What is the view of Mennonites on polygamy?
A: Mennonites view polygamy as contrary to biblical teachings on marriage and family. They believe that a man and a woman should be united as one flesh in marriage, and that this union is sacred and unbreakable.

Q: Is polygamy common among Mennonites in other parts of the world?
A: No, polygamy is not practiced among Mennonites in other parts of the world. Mennonites are a global faith community with members in many countries, but they all share the same values and beliefs regarding marriage and family.

Q: What are some of the Mennonite beliefs that conflict with polygamy?
A: Mennonites believe that marriage is a spiritual, emotional, and physical union between one man and one woman for life. They also believe in the importance of family, and that children are a gift from God. Polygamy would undermine these beliefs and values.

Q: Is there any historical evidence of Mennonites practicing polygamy?
A: No, there is no historical evidence of Mennonites ever practicing polygamy. The concept of polygamy has always gone against Mennonite beliefs and values, and there are no records of any Mennonite groups ever engaging in this practice.

Q: What are some other common misconceptions or stereotypes about Mennonites?
A: There are many misconceptions about Mennonites, including that they are Amish or live in isolated communities, that they don’t use modern technology, or that they are all pacifists. While some of these stereotypes may apply to some Mennonites, they do not represent the entire faith community.

Closing Thoughts

We hope that these FAQs have helped to clear up any confusion about whether Mennonites practice polygamy. While there are some fringe groups that may engage in this practice, it is not representative of mainstream Mennonite beliefs and values. Mennonites believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and the importance of family. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to visit again later for more informative articles.