It is apparent many people care more about the topic of plural marriage than do I. To stem the flood of emails I am now receiving, let me add these general points:
Context always matters. Who is addressed always controls the content of the message. If an answer is given to a question, then the question controls the Lord’s discussion.
The Book of Mormon sermon of Jacob (Jacob 2:23-33) was to a small branch of Israelites who had departed from Jerusalem. His audience was the common man, and his sermon addressed the morality and virtue expected by God for His people.
The discussion in §132:34-40 is framed by the question Joseph asked. Joseph’s question is restated by the Lord in verse 1. Joseph was perplexed about specific ancient personalities. These were Bible “heroes” or prophets. Bible history indicates they were chosen by God. These men were apparently involved with plural marriages (at least in Joseph’s understanding of the Bible at that time). Joseph wanted to know how the list of men were “justified” before God.
Unlike Jacob’s sermon, the answer to the question Joseph raised was not about morality. [But the Lord does address morality in the first 32 verses, where marriage is between “a man” and “a woman.”] Joseph’s question about “justification” involved only a legal issue.
In the specific case of David and Solomon (which Jacob condemned in his sermon) the Lord does not describe their conduct as moral or virtuous. He explains how the ancient kings were “justified” in receiving “many wives and concubines” under the ancient system and therefore did not “sin.” Their marriages were political. They were legal. It was part of the ancient system of binding a kingdom to their king, settling disputes, acquiring fealty from influential families, and forming alliances between neighboring kingdoms. It was a political reality, and “justified” in the circumstances. Although not moral, the arrangements were not condemned as “sin” in the answer given to Joseph.
David and Solomon were not moral examples of how the common man should live their lives, organize their families, or establish their marriages. These kings fit the warning Samuel gave about the negatives associated with kingship. Political rule by a king always results in taxes, wars, conscription of young men to fight for the king, and servitude of young women to serve the king. God told Samuel a king would afflict Israel. Samuel repeated what the Lord foretold concerning the abuses kings inflict on their kingdoms (1 Sam. 8:10-18). It was spot-on.
I have no interest in answering endless questions about this subject. I am working on other important things. The best way to proceed with questions is to study. Study, pray and reflect. Converse with the Lord. Questions should drive you to the Lord. He will answer. Sometimes you must do your homework to arrive at the answer, but He will guide you if you allow Him.
If you believe there is a contradiction, then focus on finding the answer. It is through contradictions that the hidden mysteries of God are found. There are times when the Lord WANTS a matter to appear as a contradiction and deliberately makes it appear that way. He does that to make us think, study, pray and grow. Or, in His language, to “ask, seek and knock.”