Polygamy is the practice of taking more than one spouse.
However, these polygamous marriages are not recognized by American law.
Because polygamy has been illegal throughout the United States since the mid-19th century, and in many individual states before that, sources on alternative marriage practices are limited.
Most FLDS members live in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, about 350 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, with other communities in Canada, Texas and other areas of the North American west. Polygamists have been difficult to prosecute because many only seek marriage licenses for their first marriage, while the other marriages are secretly conducted in private ceremonies.
Thereafter, secondary wives attempt to be seen in public as single women with children.
The crime is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both, according to the law of the individual state and the circumstances of the offense. For example, if a person has the mistaken belief that their previous spouse is dead or that their divorce is final, they can still be convicted of bigamy if they marry a new person.
At the federal level, the practice is considered "against public policy" and, accordingly, the U. government won't recognize bigamous marriages for immigration purposes (that is, would not allow one of the spouses to petition for immigration benefits for the other), even if they are legal in the country where bigamous marriage was celebrated. In Canada the federal Criminal Code applies throughout the country.
Although the Second Manifesto ended the official practice of new plural marriages, existing plural marriages were not automatically dissolved.
Many Mormons, including prominent LDS Church leaders, maintained existing plural marriages well into the 20th century.
Woodruff's declaration was formally accepted in an LDS Church general conference on October 6, 1890.
The LDS Church's position on the practice of polygamy was reinforced by another formal statement in 1904 called the Second Manifesto, which again renounced polygamy.
Consequently, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the extent of the practice in the past and at the present time.