No. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is properly called, has not allowed plural marriages for more than 130 years. But the stereotype persists.
This happens for several reasons. According to the Bias Busters guide “100 Questions and Answers About Latter-day Saints,” reasons include history, confusion over names, pop culture and incomplete media reports.
Historically, some church leaders, including founder Joseph Smith and leader Brigham Young, did practice polygamy. According to Bias Busters, “This was based on his study of plural marriages of biblical patriarchs including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.”
At the time, most church members did not engage in polygamy. Again, according to Bias Busters, “about three-quarters of adult church members did not. Two-thirds of the plural marriages were between one man and two women.” The church rejected polygamy in 1890. The practice had been legal in the United States until 1882.
Name appropriation has contributed to the confusion. Unrelated groups in the United States, Canada and Mexico have tried to protect polygamy as a religious right by hijacking the name of the church. According to Bias Busters, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has disavowed several groups that have called themselves fundamentalist sects. This includes the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is separate and considered to be its own religion.” The church has sued some groups for using variations of its name and excommunicates members who practice polygamy.
And then there are misunderstanding arising in pop culture and the news media. Shows like “Sister Wives” have featured polygamist families without explaining they are not church-affiliated.
In its style guide for journalists, the church asks, “When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, it should be stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with polygamous groups.”
In 2022, a cult leader jailed in Arizona was charged with having more than 20 wives. In the second paragraph of their articles, ABC News and CBS, working off an Associated Press story, described Samuel Bateman as “a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” In the 14th paragraph, the articles reported, “Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.”
The Salt Lake Tribune, The Washington Post and the New Your Post did not include the distinction between Bateman’s former cult and the church at all.
You can find “100 Questions and Answers About the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” on Amazon and other online booksellers.