After the explosion of polygamy news and dialogue that followed the most recent essays put out by the church, the most common thing I have seen said by members of the church defending the practice is 1: they have known this since they were very young (which usually is said to dismiss the need for a conversation about it) and 2: God commanded it and thus Joseph remains a man of impeccable moral character. I have been dumbfounded time and time again by people removing guilt from Joseph and placing it on God. This kind of made sense back when polygamy was always framed as “to help widows” or to “raise up seed unto Zion” because there weren’t enough men*, but it is obvious now that those white-washed scenarios were simply a sleight of hand attempt to make polygamy palatable. Polygamy was restored for the sake of restoring the ancient practice of polygamy; there is no moral or practical rationale for it. In fact, polygamy is proven to be less effective to “raise seed” than monogamy (1); so not even that purpose holds weight*.
Joseph claimed polygamy was needed for a restoration of all things. Which other obscure practices from the dispensations of the Old Testament were restored during the restoration? The Kashrut (Jewish dietary restrictions), animal sacrifice, the Law of Moses, stonings, requisite circumcision… NOPE! But one that God did “need to be restored” for undisclosed reasons is one in which the Priesthood leaders get to marry as many women as they want. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Not to mention, there isn’t a single place in the bible in which polygamy is commanded of God. Yes it is practiced by several prophets, but it is not divinely mandated. The most commonly-referenced story is that of Sarah and Abraham–but God’s directive is absent there as well. Sarah felt pressured to provide promised heirs that she felt she could not produce on her own, so SHE (not God) tells Abraham to take Hagar.
1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
Soon after, Sarah got pregnant. It’s quite possible that the use of Hagar was never in God’s plan in the first place. The use of concubines and the norm of multiple wives was cultural in biblical times, not divinely mandated. Polygamy and concubines existing in the OT aren’t a big surprise since women had no rights and were treated like property in general.
So why do I say polygamy was for “Polygamy’s sake?” Polygamy nearly ruined early Mormonism (and continues to plague it); early Mormons were rightfully branded as untrustworthy liars for nearly a century. Joseph’s polygamy and his lies surrounding it were a leading motivation for those who sought to murder him. So, so much pain and anguish could have been avoided during the restoration had polygamy never entered the scene. It demoted women to tally marks in an eternal harem, it caused countless children to not have a constant father figure in their home, and created unthinkably complicated and harmful family dynamics. It hindered the acceptance of Mormonism by would-be converts and was a major cause the saints were expelled from their homes and ultimately had to seek refuge by settling in Mexico territory (what would become UT). With all of the emphasis the current church puts on “one man, one woman” marriages and the unchanging importance and divinity of a strong nuclear family– the LDS church is still somehow insisting that God is the sole entity to blame for the travesty of requisite polygamy to gain full exaltation (2).
But for many Mormons, polygamy is their greatest source of cognitive dissonance. In fact, 86% of Mormons believe polygamy is morally wrong. So that means that the majority of Mormons believe that at times, God will require immoral actions from us if it suits His will. That, or they don’t believe polygamy ever came from God. But how does that even work? I would like to outline the scenarios as to how and why polygamy was part of the restoration:
- Option 1: Joseph was a prophet of God who had a vision or insight into what we now know of families and sealings and he completely misinterpreted it and polygamy was the result. God knew that it would one day be rectified by a later prophet (60 years later), and people do have their free agency to believe or accept things, so God let it stand until it could be corrected at a later point in time. This paints a lackadaisical deity, but at least he’s not a misogynist.
- Option 2: It’s also possible that Joseph was an upstanding prophet of God up until this point in time, but the power got to his head and he abused it. It’s very plausible that he became a fallen prophet when he chose to frame his marital indiscretions as divinely-mandated polygamy, blaming God for his debauchery and thus forfeiting his own responsibility for his actions. He died unexpectedly the year after he finally came clean to Emma about the wives he’d had behind her back. The practice and duplicitous, deceitful nature of polygamy was also one of the the leading causes of why the mob killed Joseph. So when it is stated that the Lord would remove a prophet should he ever lead the people astray, Joseph’s untimely death could easily be seen as exactly that happening.
- Option 3: Joseph wasn’t ever a prophet called of God, but was a man who wanted desperately for God to speak to the earth again and decided to make that happen on his own accord. After gaining power under this guise, he coveted women, was caught in extramarital acts, and the best way to frame it to his followers was to say it was commanded by God.
There is one more option, and it is the option to which the most recent essays by the church has chosen to continue to subscribe. This option is that Joseph was a prophet whose “private and public character was unimpeachable” whom God forced under threat of eternal death to espouse anywhere from 9-22 wives BEFORE ever even telling Emma about it (a total of somewhere between 33-40 total)(3); the majority of these women being people who were Emma’s best friends or people she was caring for in their home. We are to accept that God sent an angel with a flaming(4) sword down several times to tell Joseph (only to Joseph, never to Emma) that Joseph would be destroyed unless he took on several wives; 11 of whom were already married to apostles or to other men. Never mind that such a commandment more or less removes Joseph’s agency and thus further paints a deity that cares little for his own laws or plan of salvation.
Emma rejected polygamy when she finally was exposed to it and only acquiesced for a short time in which approved of a set of additional wives for her husband. This “approval” of polygamy was demanded of her in order for her to receive her temple endowment. Soon after, she rejected the practice again and even denied the practice’s existence after Joseph’s untimely death. We are to believe that God cared nothing for the sanctity of Emma and Joseph’s marriage, the importance of honesty, or for the feelings or importance of women in general– in particularly that of Emma–a woman who had been a dedicated wife and servant of the restoration.
And there are the more tawdry age gaps which suggest he was preying on people too young to understand the commitment. The church’s essay’s covert wording when speaking of Hellen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph is so purposefully misleading; it is laughable. It states Hellen “was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens”. You know, because the legality of a 38 year old marrying a “let’s do what we can to not call her a fourteen year old” is the only basis to oppose such an action? By pointing out it wasn’t illegal to marry someone who was only 14, the essays try to frame this as okay or normal? But the frequency of 14-year old marriages in the early 1800s was <1%; which is comparable to what it is today. Yes, some 14 year olds were getting married back then, but it was to 18-20 year olds– not 38 year olds. That was as weird and inappropriate then as it is now; and saying “several months before her fifteenth birthday” doesn’t make it any better.
A marriage is not entered into “willingly” or “freely” if the woman is told, “If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred”, or “”the salvation of our whole family depended on it”, or if the woman is given 24 hours to decide, or is told that her prophet will be murdered by an angel unless she consents (5). He also approached his would-be wives in complete secrecy, telling them to tell no one. This is spiritual coercion, plain and simple, and I cannot stomach the thought that God would demand this practice of anyone. Also, to imply that such an action can ensure salvation for others is antithetical to our individual agency and the plan of salvation. Whether all of his relationships were sexual or not isn’t the main point (though Helen is quoted as saying: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me” *6). The women were expected to act as though married; not to date others and not to engage in social courting. They mourned Joseph as wives would mourn and were considered widows after Joseph’s death; they were robbed of their individuality and unmarried status.
The church’s essay tries to excuse the ugliness of polygamy and polyandry with God not having given clear instructions. This is a God who has given insane amounts of very specific instructions on even the most mundane aspects of our lives; and yet they are implying that He was tight-lipped on how to properly go about polygamy? Never mind that D&C 132 has more than ample instructions on how it should be carried out and Joseph (and many others) ignored the majority of them.
So this… THIS is the God of Mormonism. Those who wrote and approved the latest essays would rather have the aforementioned paragraphs be Godly-mandated acts rather than admit that Joseph more than likely got something wrong in a big way. By doing so, the LDS church is letting its women know that if it is God’s will, it is fine for us to be treated like property. Also that our voice and input in our marriage is not of equal importance to that of our husbands’. We are taught that a man’s worth is amplified in the hereafter by the amount of wives and offspring he has and that we are simply the producers of an exalted man’s offspring. That if a Priesthood leader tells us God’s will for us, that we are to acquiesce faithfully; no matter the extent of sexual impropriety of the request or mental pain it would cause. If not, we can justifiably face destruction (D&C 132:52). These are all things I learned about myself growing up as I learned about polygamy, this is the God I had to accept if I was to believe Joseph as blameless. Women square this away now by being told that no one will ever have to practice polygamy in the hereafter if they don’t wish to; but I think that the thousands of women who were spiritually coerced into the practice during its reign would disagree. For about 60 years, polygamy was the fore-running distinguishing doctrine of Mormonism and was taught as a requisite for the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom (2). What choice were these men and women given?
I could never believe in a God for whom polygamy is a requisite to win His favor or earn eternal reward. I am enough of an adult to understand that people, even good people, fall prey to their lesser impulses. I freely recognize that all of us have tried to find a way to justify our sins so we don’t have to face the fallout that would follow a true admission of our fault. I’d be willing to love Joseph despite the spiritual coercion he used to gain possession of women he desired as long as he admitted his guilt at some point. Many charismatic leaders and great activists had documented extramarital affairs: Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton (the list goes on). The biggest difference is that none of those people removed their responsibility for their actions by claiming God forced them to do it. All I ask is that we are allowed to see polygamy for what it was. I ask that we can place the blame where the blame belongs: at the hands of Joseph and those who supported and perpetuated the “doctrine”.
I never want to hear again that we need to overlook the ugly details of polygamy and polyandry because Joseph Smith did so many amazing things for mankind; that these unpalatable narratives are merely unworthy distractions from his amazing legacy. Joseph Smith was NOT the restoration; he was part of it. The thousands of faithful saints who believed in him sacrificed beyond reckoning– THEY deserve for their stories to be told as well. The women who gave their lives to Joseph, who were passed off as inherited wives to Brigham after Joseph’s death, and the thousands of women who entered polygamous marriage against their wishes– their stories and sacrifices are equally important. The husbands were stretched beyond reason to try to provide for ridiculously large-sized families; we can’t forget the hurt they must have felt in not being able to satisfy the needs of all those who depended on them both spiritually, mentally, or fiscally. By silencing their pain we do a great disservice to their sacrifice. These stories need to be told in their entirety and not just in scholarly biographies (7). This needs to be something that is carefully and openly addressed within the Church Education System in a forthright manner. If Joseph’s legacy is tainted by it, then so be it; for that is the true legacy he left. Even if these stories never get the limelight in church history classes that they deserve; we at least owe it to God to remove Him from being the one to mandate this practice. No good has ever come from blaming God for the sins and follies of men; not even to save the reputation of a prophet.
1) Studies have shown that monogamous women bore more children per wife than did polygamous wives except the first. Fertility at the societal level, however, was enhanced because of the near universality of marriage among women and the abundant opportunities for remarriage among previously married women of childbearing age. L. L. Bean and G. P. Mineau, “The Polygyny–Fertility Hypothesis: A Re-evaluation,” Population Studies 40 (1986): 67–81; Miriam Koktvedgaard Zeitzen, Polygamy: A Cross Cultural Analysis (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2008), 62–63.
*Let’s just think about this a bit–a woman can have the exact same amount of children when she has her own husband as she can if she is sharing one with other women; in fact women statistically produce more children with one husband than a shared one–so the “raising seed” is actually jeopardized by polygamy. Yes, tons of children were born into polygamous families; but that same objective could have been met with each woman having her own husband; all of the offspring would just come from more varied families. All that polygamy ensured is that the men highest in church leadership had the most women. Joseph’s polygamy gained him no (certifiable) additional children and the majority of his wives were not virgins (despite the fact that being a virgin is dictated as a requisite in D&C 132). So polygamy for him, at least, it had nothing to do with rising up more seed in this life. There were MORE men than women in Utah for the duration of its polygamous years, thus causing women to have to get married at younger and younger ages so men could fulfill their polygamous quota.
The Utah Historical Society includes population statistics in their library. The source for these statistics is the United States Bureau of Census.
Utah population: 1850 total 11,380 male 6,046 female 5,334 1860 total 40,273 male 20,255 female 20,018 1870 total 86,786 male 44,121 female 42,665 1880 total 143,963 male 74,509 female 68,454 1890 total 210,779 male 111,975 female 98,804 1900 total 276,749 male 141,687 female 135,062
Polygamy was nothing but problematic for creating a healthy community. It did, however, ensure that the men in leadership were the ones to have the most offspring.
2 ) “… [Joseph Smith taught] the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in the celestial glory.” — William Clayton (Historical Record, vol. 6, p. 226)
“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” — Brigham Young (JoD, vol. 11, p. 269)
“This monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers… Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ It is the only popular religion there.” — Brigham Young (Deseret News, August 6, 1862)
“The one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.” John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227
“Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire….Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ it is the only popular religion there,…” The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862
“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece.” Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22
“Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great an glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blesssing [sic] promised except upon conditions, an no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part – and is good so far as it goes – and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefor, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it.
DISCOURSE BY ELDER JOSEPH F. SMITH, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Morning, July 7, 1878.
Journal of Discourses/Volume 20/Plural Marriage, etc.
Also, see Mormon Enigma and In Sacred Loneliness
4) “[Joseph Smith] received the revelation in 1837, but he was himself afraid to promulgate it until the angel came and stood beside him with flaming sword and bade him do the command of God. Not until then did Joseph enter into polygamy, or get any of his disciples to take plural wives.” “Two Prophets’ Widows A Visit to the Relicts of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young,” J. J. J., in St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), August 18, 1887, 6.
His 1888 biography of his grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, includes the following statement: A grand and glorious principle had been revealed, and for years had slumbered in the breast of God’s Prophet, awaiting the time when, with safety to himself and the Church, it might be confided to the sacred keeping of a chosen few. That time had now come. An angel with a flaming sword descended from the courts of glory and, confronting the Prophet, commanded him in the name of the Lord to establish the principle so long concealed from the knowledge of the Saints and of the world—that of plural marriage.
5) Quoted in Mormon Polygamy: A History by LDS member Richard S. Van Wagoner, p. 51 and 53
In 1905 when Mary Elizabeth was eighty-seven, she visited Brigham Young University and told her story to a group of elders preparing to leave on their missions:
I was not sealed to him [Joseph Smith] until I had a witness. I had been dreaming for a number of years I was his wife. I thought I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to take it from me for I felt it was a sin; but when Joseph sent for me he told me all of these things. “Well,” said I, “don’t you think it was an angel of the devil that told you these things?” Said he, “No, it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me. . . .
6) Quoted in Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 499.
7) Such as In Sacred Loneliness, Mormon Enigma, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Rough Stone Rolling, No Man Knows My History, the many esteemed works of Michael Quinn, or the many other historical accounts that have dared speak on the subject.
Great article. I'm so tired of Old Testament "culture" being passed off as doctrine. Christ came to bring the new and higher law. How easy it is to quote from the old law when we need excuses.
Well said, Vicki! OT mores and practices are entirely foreign to us, and for good reason.
“No good has ever come from blaming God for the sins and follies of men; not even to save the reputation of a prophet.”
This last line single-handedly summarizes the thing I disliked about the new polygamy essays. While there is much to like about them, I just can’t accept the “God commanded it” theory at all, By choosing to accept as truth the story about angels and flaming swords we also accept a God unworthy of worship, in my opinion. So that apologetic approach to the essays was disappointing to me.
I can handle prophets who do amazing things and also disgraceful things. I can accept that kind of reputation. (It fits with the reality of prophets, whether we’re talking about Moses, Martin Luther King Jr., or Joseph Smith.) Would that the Church collectively could embrace that instead of trying to make Joseph Smith out to have impeccable character (a la Elder Anderson in the recent General Conference), which is a thing Joseph never claimed for himself.
Thank you, as you can see those are my sentiments exactly! Thanks for your support and insight.
I wonder how many people assume they *have* to accept that rationale in order to be a “faithful” Mormon and even Joseph Smith as a prophet?
It takes a strong person to take a stand and form their own faithful position without accepting polygamy as inspired, but it can be done:
Well reasoned and well said. Taking God's name in vain, however, is an OT tradition so I guess in that sense violating that commandment was 'restored'
Well reasoned and well said. Taking God’s name in vain, however, is an OT tradition so I guess in that sense violating that commandment was ‘restored’
Thanks Ron. And I ended very purposefully with the statement: No good has ever come from blaming God for the sins and follies of men; not even to save the reputation of a prophet.
For me, this includes the scriptural canon.
I loved this article but I think that by asking the church and it’s members to accept polygamy/polyandry as a mistake made by Joseph, then D&C 132 would have to be removed from the D&C, and polygamous marriages would need to cease in the Temples. Some of the 12 are in polygamous unions and have talked about it openly. One of the reasons I left the church was because I believe that polygamy is still an inseparable part of the religion and I just can’t accept it. Not to mention that women are still clearly second to men.
I agree on all accounts; it is nearly inextricable from mormonism. I did, however, try to address a venue that it could still work:
Option 1: If Joseph was a prophet of God, then it is plausible that he had a vision or insight into what we now know of families and sealings and he completely misinterpreted it and polygamy was the result. God knew that it would one day be rectified by a later prophet (60 years later), and people do have their free agency to believe or accept things, so God let it stand until it could be corrected at a later point in time. This paints a lackadaisical deity, but at least he’s not a misogynist.
Thanks for your comment and your insight Sarah!
I think this is quite perceptive, although i wouldn’t refer to any OT dispensation as “baseless”— but that may just have been a slip of the pen here, because you seem to be talking about a baseless “restoration”, not a baseless Old Testament dispensation. And in any case, polygamy was not an “Old Testament dispensation”; it was nowhere commanded, and it always resulted in trouble, even with Leah and Rachel, whom Jacob acquired only because of his father-in-law’s dishonesty. Anyway, you wrote,
“No other baseless Old Testament dispensation practices were restored during the restoration; not the Kashrut (Jewish dietary restrictions), not animal sacrifice, the Law of Moses, stonings, requisite circumcision… NOPE! The one and only random practice of the OT that “God restored” back on earth for undisclosed reasons is the one in which the Priesthood leaders get to have disproportionately large amounts of women. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Not to mention, there isn’t a single place in the bible in which polygamy is commanded of God. Yes it is practiced by several prophets, but it is not divinely mandated. The most commonly-referenced story is that of Sarah and Abraham–but God’s directive is absent there as well. Sarah felt pressured to provide promised heirs that she felt she could not produce on her own, so SHE (not God) tells Abraham to take Hagar.”
Perceptive, especially in view of abiding Mormon interests in diet and so on. You really would expect more “restoration” about other things, rather than a “restoration” (only) of something that wasn’t part of the dispensation in the first place!
Regarding Abraham and Sarah and Hagar, this may be of interest:
“a. Sarah’s Plan (16:1-6)
“The first section of the Hagar narrative is concerned with Sarah’s plan to deal with her own barrenness. Offering her maid to Abram to bear him a child was apparently acceptable within the social custom of the day. There is reason to doubt, however, that the biblical author approves of the scheme. From his vantage point, Sarah’s plan was one more example of the futility of human efforts to achieve God’s blessing— not to mention the difficulties his approval of Sarah’s plan would pose in the light of the fact that he had already extolled the virtues of monogamy in previous sections of his narrative (2:24). His overall disapproval is further suggested by the observation made above that he recounts the story in a way that associates Sarah’s action with that of Eve in Genesis 3, and thus shows her plan, like Eve’s scheme to be like God, to be an attempt to circumvent God’s plan of blessing in favor of gaining a blessing on her own. Another indication that the author does not approve of the plan is that in the subsequent narrative (Ge 17), Sarah’s plan does not meet with God’s approval (vv. 15-19).
“Finally, there is the matter of the position of this narrative immediately following the establishment of a covenant to affirm the promise of a child (15:4). By placing the Hagar story here the author suggests that Sarah’s scheme was intended to head off that divine promise by supplying it with a human solution. Thus the story falls in line with the theme of the stories which preceded it in demonstrating the unacceptability of human effort in fulfilling the divine promise. Sarah’s plan, though successful, does not meet with divine approval (17:15-19), just as the plans and schemes of those in the previous narratives had ended in failure (3:6-8; 4:3-7; 11:1-9; 12:10-20; 13:1-12; 14:21-24).”
—from John H. Sailhamer, Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Zondervan, 1992), p 154.
You also write that you’d be willing to excuse Smith if he hadn’t used God to justify his straying, for, after all, “Many charismatic leaders and great activists had documented extramarital affairs. Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton (the list goes on).”
But none of the people you mention were even spiritual leaders, except possibly MLK; in the case of someone like Clinton, the notion is in fact laughable. But none of them— even MLK— was a divinely appointed “prophet”, unless we use the term quite loosely. But if we speak of genuine prophets, can we even imagine Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel having “extramarital affairs”? The question answers itself. Moreover, the case of Hosea is directly on point; he was told to take a wife of “extramarital affairs” but the whole point of the story is that the wife (who represented Israel) would have to be brought back around to faithfulness. Would God accept a prophet who did the very things he condemned the Israelites for? Would God inspire unfaithfulness to himself, or to the prophet’s own wife?
From the link that “Clean Cut” provided, we learn that B Young said, “monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire…Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.”
That’s an eyebrow-raiser! I wonder what sense Prophet Young made of the following passages—
1 Tim 3.2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;…
1 Tim 3.12 Let the deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
1 Tim 5.9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,…
Titus 1.6 ¶ If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly… [ordain them as bishops].
Since Christian marriage is “a great mystery… concerning Christ and the church” (Ep 5.32), and there is only one Christ and one Church, polygamy is simply not and has never been possible within the Christian dispensation. Christian marriage images forth the relation of God and his people, not the whorings of the Canaanite gods; and the New Testament (to say nothing of subsequent history) is quite definite about this. St Paul’s words imply that polygamy exists (whether serial or parallel doesn’t matter), but that is not something that a leader of the church can be involved in. A bishop must be “a husband of one wife”.
What’s amazing, though, is the amount of doubletalk it takes to maintain a posture of “faithfulness” in all this. “Prophets as human beings who can make serious mistakes”— even about the very things God told them to reveal??! But if a prophet is mistaken about that, what is the point of calling him a prophet? “Don’t have enough answers to piece together the complete puzzle perfectly”— yeah right, just as we argue in support of Abu Ghraib! “The scriptures depict Christ saying that we should all be like little children…. we need to be comfortable being bewildered much of the time.” C’mon!— why not just admit that you can’t accept it, that you don’t accept it, and that although you don’t know where to go, the place you’re at is just wrong!
Oh this is unimaginably painful and hard. I do not envy, and I pray with all my heart for anyone who finds him/herself stuck in it!
Wow, when you post a comment you really bring it! Great insights and citations; thanks for sharing.
I agree that it is a tricky subject when it comes to the actions of a prophet; which is why I assume the church is insisting on backing Joseph at all cost. I just think that the church would benefit greatly to admit the fallibility of prophets and emphasize the need for personal revelation and guidance; even on the things said in scripture or by a prophet.
It is also interesting to point out that The Apostle Paul contrasts Isaac & Ishmael in his Epistle to the Galatians (Gal 4:21-24) in a way that would negate any claim that polygamy was inspired of God.
God has promised Abraham a son. It was physically and biologically impossible for him to have a son through his first wife so he had a son through a concubine. Then the physically and biologically impossible occurred. The son through the concubine is referred as the “son of the flesh” while the son through the first wife is the “son of the promise”. The son of the flesh is then associated with nature and with the law of man while the son of the promise is associated with grace and the ways of God.
While the next passage is unfair to Hagar and her son, if taken in the broader context of the allegory that Paul is building and transported to today’s essays on Polygamy I think there is real value:
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” (Gal 4:30-31).
I think that preferring an imperfect God to imperfect prophets is akin to preferring sons of the flesh to sons of the promise.
Thank you for your essay. I’ve been thinking along these lines for a long time, but would never have been able to express it as eloquently as you have.
Great article. Thanks for putting it all in one place. I’d like a library of everything that’s been written on this essay.
Can you just replace “amount of women” with “number of women?” Amount is used for stuff that can’t be counted out, like sugar or flour. Women are individuals who can be counted one by one. The word “amount” conjures a big pile of undistinguishable females to me.
Sorry about the amount/numbers usage in regards to women. It’s already been posted as the tagline for the piece in so many places, I can’t really change it now. I do strive for proper word usage though and I’m sorry the correct word choice evaded me as I wrote that.
If you’d like more than what is cited here, I really recommend reading Mormon Enigma or In Sacred Loneliness. Also, Mormon Feminist Housewives Podcast “A year of polygamy” goes into great detail on the women involved and how it affected them.
Absolutely brilliant. I love the artwork. I shared this article on my personal page: yes Church – it's time to change or we will embarrass the shit out of you.
Wow. Where to begin? I won’t address what I disagree with in your essay, but perhaps present something interesting to the discussion.
If you take D&C 132 as revelation (and I know that is a stretch), then you will see that the God commanded Abraham to practice polygamy (v. 34.) In that same verse, it states that “Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law.” Just which law Sarah was following is an interesting question.
It could be God’s law or it could be the Law of Hammurabi, which is the oldest complete law collection in the world dating from about 1800 BC. It is comprised of seven feet of statutes that record Babylonian laws. These Babylonian laws found themselves into the Covenant Code found in Exodus (20–23).
Under the Code (sometimes called law) of Hammurabi, there was a legal obligation of a childless wife in the ancient Near East to allow her husband a second wife. Some marriage contracts granted the woman the right to provide her husband with a slave to bear children. The advantage for the first wife was that the second would be considered a concubine (a wife of inferior social rank) and would still be under her control as her slave (as would any children from the union).
Why did Sarah give Hagar to Abraham? Because it was the law of the land (and of God as well) that he could take a second wife, and she would rather have some bit of control in the matter than not.
Just a little cultural Old Testament history.
I won’t comment on the rest of your blog. We can just agree to disagree.
Unfortunately D&C 132 gets the story of Abraham and Sarah wrong. It’s very strange that D&C calls what they chose to do as a “law”. Heaven forbid that every choice made by Biblical figures becomes a law that we’re bound to follow. I would hate to see the “Law of Lott’s Daughters” restored.
D&C 132 was almost removed from canon. I would suggest it’s again time to seriously consider doing so.
None of these circumstanced fit Joseph and Emma’s situation as Emma wasn’t barren nor was she desirous to have a concubine as a slave. It is difficult to provide a workable context to explain the various circumstances that were experienced in all of Josephs marital involvements. I admire anyone who will venture to provide a workable context. I can’t help but believe that Joseph was motivated more by impulse than principle. They all have the appearance of evil and indulgence rather than righteousness and sacrifice.
One of the best articles I've read about polygamy practiced by Joseph Smith.
Perfect. Just perfect. Thank you for writing this.
What an unfortunate blog for many reasons. It seems the author is writing about a different person and a different practice than that which is described in reliable primary documents concerning Joseph Smith and plurality in early the 1840s.
This writer is certainly entitled to her opinion, but I’m saddened at this essay because of its inaccuracies and for how negatively it portrays Joseph Smith. The author suggests that Joseph Smith “completely misinterpreted” a vision or that “power got to his head and he abused it [the power],”or “Joseph wasn’t even a prophet.” Later we read: “Joseph more than likely got something wrong in a big way” and that Joseph Smith “ignored” the instructions included in D&C 132. (Which simply is not accurate.)
D&C 132 gives four reasons for plurality and restoring Old Testament plural marriage was the least important of the four.
(1) As part of the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:19–21 (D&C 132:40, 45).
(2) To provide a customized trial for the Saints of that time and place (see D&C 132:32, 51).
(3) To provide bodies for noble premortal spirits by “multiplying and replenishing the earth” (D&C 132:63).
(4) To allow all worthy women to be sealed to an eternal husband “for their exaltation in the eternal worlds” (D&C 132:63, 16–17).
This is not my interpretation. The language is plain and unambiguous. The fourth is the most important and it is nonsexual, theological, and deals with eternity.
And please don’t sell out Emma. She struggled mightily with the practice, but we have several quotations recalling her acknowledging the practice was from God. Maria Jane Woodward, a domestic living in the Smith home, quoted Emma saying:
“The principle is right but I am jealous hearted. Now never tell anybody that you heard me find fault with Joseph of that principle. The principle is right and if I or you or anyone else find fault with that principle we have got to humble ourselves and repent of it.”
I don’t have time to address the numerous problems in the essay, but I wish we could bring back either Eliza R. Snow, Lucy Walker, or Zina Huntington to read it and respond. These women believed in Joseph as a true prophet and in polygamy as a true principle commanded at that time and place. Essays like this that imply greater insights than those women possessed, diminish them, their beliefs, testimonies, and sacrifices.
Viewing how positively this blog has been accepted, I expect I will be vilified for my comments, but that is all part of the blogging process. . . right? Please, however, would those who criticize provide historical documentation to support their views and counterviews? Staying close to the historical evidences means everybody wins, even if we don’t all agree.
The primary source of Helen Mar Kimball’s own writings were damning enough for me. I’m not surprised you’re saddened to see Joseph Smith written about in this way, as you’ve enjoyed a lifetime of faithful members having little to no idea what kind of man he really was. I was saddened to learn the truth which had been kept from me my entire life, and I was triggered and enraged to see the church’s essay (which many suspect you authored) justifying his reprehensible behaviors.
It’s all so sad, isn’t it?
For several reasons, it is ironic that anyone would leave the Church because of Joseph Smith’s sealing to Helen Mar Kimball. It is true that she was sealed to him at the age of 14, but according to the historical record, Joseph did not seek the union and it was not consummated. (The pattern was to wait until the women were older to start having children with them.) Helen said that her father, Heber had a great “desire to be connected with the Prophet” and he brokered the union. Helen had a choice, but admittedly, she did not want to disappoint her father and went along. During the next thirteen months (prior to the martyrdom), she couldn’t go to dances as the Nauvoo Mansion or flirt as a single girl, which she later complained about somewhat dramatically.
So is that faith-shaking or faith destroying?
Recently many critics have quoted and re-quoted a statement attributed to Helen: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony.” None of the authors research the reliability so let’s take a look. The statement was reported by Catherine Lewis, who was the first woman to publish an exposé describing the Nauvoo Temple ceremony, a ceremony that the Saints considered to be secret and sacred. Obviously she is not unbiased.
And the statement itself has problems. The portion of Lewis’s account claiming Helen accused Joseph Smith and her father Heber of having “deceived” her seems less plausible. Throughout her life Helen manifested love for and trust in her father and the Prophet. In 1882, she wrote:
“I knew that he [Heber C. Kimball] loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions…
“The Prophet called at our house, and I sat with my father and mother and heard him teach the principle and explain it more fully, and I believed it, but I had no proofs only his and my father’s testimony. I thought that sufficient, and did not deem it necessary to seek for any further… My father was my teacher and revelator…”
Importantly, throughout the remainder of her life, Helen remained a strong advocate of plural marriage and remained intensely devoted to her eternal husband, Joseph Smith. In the 1880s she wrote two books defending him and plural marriage: PLURAL MARRIAGE AS TAUGHT BY THE PROPHET (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882) and WHY WE PRACTICE PLURAL MARRIAGE (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884).
In addition, her behavior after 1843 does not reflect the idea that she had been deceived by him. Helen referred to her experience with the Prophet on other occasions. In an undated letter to Mary Bond, she penned:
“He [Joseph Smith] and my father taught it me, the first time that I ever heard of it, as a saving pure and holy principle. I afterwards at in my father’s house with him & my mother listened to the Prophet teach it. I believed that it was right but did not know it until a few years after I passed through the most intense suffering…
“I never disbelieved this doctrine nor fought against it, but I at times felt to murmur at what I now understood to be the providences of a wise creator, when young I could not see the necessity of our enduring so many Temptations. ”
Many authors misrepresent or use half-truths in telling Helen Mar Kimball’s story. It is unfortunate. The good new is that my entire polygamy database is now available for download free of charge at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org. Now if you want to know the truth about Helen, just download her story and read it. Then decide.
Helen Mar Kimball remained true to Joseph Smith and I’m sure she would feel bad to learn that anyone would lose faith in him because of her experience.
Brian,the issue with Helen Mar Kimball is but a small piece of the entire puzzle. The fact remains that Joseph did have sexual relations with some of the women, he did marry other married women, etc. This is not the narrative that the church taught. If you want to criticize someone for leaving because of the issue of polygamy then you better point your finger first at the dishonesty of the church and it’s leaders for decades.
I can appreciate people having different points of view, and having come to different conclusions. I do not like the character assassination attempt here, or to claim somebody else to have a bias and thus making anything they have to say irrelevant or unworthy of note. My only questions are, if we are to throw out information from anybody with a bias, then what do we do with your information because of your own obvious bias? And following that, where do we find people that don’t have a bias then, so we can get the real truth?
Dusty, I realize that all of us have bias….we always will. What I have a problem with is when people go into an given topic with an already predetermined result….and then they take all the information given and twist it to meet their desired result. That is intellectual dishonesty. Take all the evidence presented, without having a desired result, and then see where the evidence takes you. That is what should be done.
Garrett, I agree with you. I try to do that myself (with varying degrees of success, as I am sometimes influenced by something that may trouble me in particular that I cannot look past.)
I just find it really odd that many stout defenders, or “apologists” (though I hate labeling like that, as I don’t think it does justice to a lot of the research that many have done, even if it has been forced to connect certain dots to meet certain criteria at the end.) will assassinate the character of any dissenting voice, and paint them as “anti-mormon” and mislead so quickly and easily, but Joseph Smith always gets a free pass on everything. He gets a free pass on the first vision. A free pass on fraud. A free pass on ordering the printing press destroyed. A free pass on falsely translating things. A free pass on lying. And a free pass on polygamy.
These same people will admit that he was just a man at the end, and not a perfect one too, but everything they say prior would lead you to believe he was a flawed man that could certainly do no wrong. It was always everybody else, and he always had the support of those that were allegedly harmed by him, thus he didn’t really harm them.
I did not leave the church over Helen Mar Kimball, but I did no longer hold Joseph Smith in any esteem after reading her own words. I left the church after reading the carefully placed LDS.org essays left me to deduce (quite logically) that prophets and apostles were simply men with no special access to God, no special insight into what’s right or wrong, perfectly capable of leading an entire church of people astray for over a hundred years, and perfectly capable of leading them astray now. Add to that the fact that they lied about, covered up, whitewashed, and excommunicated people for publishing their true history and are still using spin, apologetics, speculation, and half truths to try to explain it now. (All the while expecting nothing but complete honesty and obedience from their membership.) By their fruits, I knew them, and no God I want to worship would run the one true church this way.
You have no evidence whatsoever other than your own biased opinion that Joseph and Helen’s marriage wasn’t consummated. You know this yet you continue to parrot this nonsense everywhere you post? People who suffer abuse will often times vehemently defend their abusers so how does Helen defending Joseph Smith somehow constitute evidence that they didn’t have a sexual relationship? You quote her specifically as saying that she “passed through the most intense suffering”. What evidence do you have that these types of statements by her didn’t specifically refer to the abuse that she suffered at Joseph’s hands? I would step back momentarily and say that none of these relationships were actually marriages. I wouldn’t even refer to them as sealings. They were at best inappropriate relationships and at worst adultery by the very definition of the word and you do a disservice to the institution of marriage by referring to them as such. Even when you put the sexual relationships aside, there is so much damage that comes from emotional infidelity that it makes me very sad indeed for Emma. I can’t imagine a God that would find it perfectly fine to inflict the kind of damage on a woman that would come from even just the whitewashing of Joseph’s polygamy that you describe let alone the actual truth of it whatever that may be.
“Joseph did not seek the union and it was not consummated. (The pattern was to wait until the women were older to start having children with them.) ”
While he didn’t seek the union, you have no idea whether or not it was consummated. Joseph Smith’s marriages to his many wives are a prima facie case for marital relations. While it’s possible that he may not have consummated this particular marriage, you have no way of knowing if he did not, despite your confident assertion to the contrary. Certainly a marriage to an impressionable young girl who had no real choice in the matter is unethical, whether it was consummated or not.
The pattern you speak of was a pattern established in Utah, not Nauvoo.
Is spite of what you document about Helen Mar it simply was a strange and abnormal situation. So what if it was not sexual. Her we have her father giving her like chattel to a man 24 years her senior. She was a child. She grew up believing JS spoke for God, What else could she do? It was a marriage at least given she could not socialize, At some point it would have been a marriage for more than just eternity had JS lived. There really is nothing godly in any of this. But active Mormons need to defend the indefensible in order to maintain a testimony of Jospeh. They would never accept this from anyone else. They would run from. It. But I understand. I used to do the same.
Brian, the unfortunate thing is not this blog posting….the ungfortunate part is that you, a seemingly very Intelligent man, have an end result that you want to uphold…Joseph smith is a true prophet…and therefore are willing to take the documents and information and interpret them in any manner that will meet the end goal of proving that Joseph iwas a prophet. It is unfortunate thAt the church lied bout Joseph for most of its history. It’s n fortunate that I went on my mission and argued with people that Joseph didn’t practice polygamy because that is what the church taught. It is unfortunate that the church demands honesty from its members and yet, even with the new essays, is still not being fully honest with its members. It’s unfortunate that so many good people are willing to justify this mans behavior, behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable to even qualify for membership in the church today, and continue to defend it over and over again. It’s unfortunate that logic gets tossed out the window when it comes to members defending Joseph smitth
Actually you bring up some very good points.
For over the past fifty years, little has been published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dealing with the topic of plural marriage. For example, the 1979 MY KINGDOM SHALL ROLL FORTH: READINGS IN CHURCH HISTORY, mentions polygamy but primarily within the context of the persecution it incited in the 1880s. Published two years later, the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual provides commentary on Section 132 that includes instructions regarding eternal marriage, but with only a few references to plural marriage. The 1989 one-volume, Church History in the Fullness of Times, published for the Church Educational System, centered its discussion on the anti-polygamy crusade and suspension of the practice with only a four paragraph description of Joseph Smith’s introduction of plural marriage. The 1992 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORMONISM confronted the topic directly, but briefly. In the 1996 Church publication, OUR HERITAGE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, plural marriage is discussed in five paragraphs comprising less than two of the book’s 152 pages. In addition, during the past century, it appears that no Improvement Era or Ensign articles or General Conference sermons have directly addressed it. A search of LDS.ORG in 2008 revealed 146 hits for “plural marriage” and 98 for “polygamy,” but they are all brief references. None address the topic historically or theologically in any detail.
Why did Church leaders do it? The answer is simple. Before the Church was organized, Joseph was warned: “For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish” (D&C 19:22). Polygamy, which involves sex and religion is “gospel meat” and leaders have worked very hard to avoid talking about it.
Then comes the Internet with its half-truths and misrepresentations and Church leaders quickly recognize that too many people are getting rancid meat or rubber dog toys shaped like meat and mistaking it for genuine “gospel truth.” Believe me, on the topic of polygamy, the spinmeisters have been very busy.
But don’t take my word for it. I’ve made all my documents available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org. It is all there. I’ve uploaded this because I believe when all the evidence is available, Joseph Smith does fine. Polygamy is still undesirable, but Joseph’s behaviors are not the problem.
I don’t blame anyone for being disappointed that we didn’t talk of polygamy, but look at what is happening now. The essay on Nauvoo polygamy (and similar Gospel Topic essays) have caused many to “perish” spiritually. I guess we could look at D&C 19:22 and conclude that it was as much a prophecy of our day as a general warning issued in 1830.
Before the Internet came with its “half truths” as you call them, the church had already had its spinmeisters out for decades. All one has to do is look at the church manuals from priesthood manuals to Sunday school manuals. The half truths are all throughout the manuals. The most rancid meat I ever received was from the church misrepresenting and lying about its own history.
Also, this while notion of milk before meat as it pertains to the church is ridiculous. At what point anywhere is “meat” ever given by the church? The answer is never. We can look back at manuals, conference talks, etc,etc and the only thing we ever findo is milk. If newborn babies were fed milk like church members are they would never get to solid food and would end up dying of malnutrituon
I think you are right that there has been little “gospel meat” presented in meetings where gospel milk drinkers might be present. Which is pretty much all of them.
However, I think you underestimate this principle. I have been in stake meetings for bishops and other leaders where gospel meat was taught so much that I felt prompted that writing down what was being taught would have offended the Spirit then present. I stopped taking notes. Sacred (and meaty) things are taught in their proper places, but not in the ENSIGN or CHURCH NEWS.
I’m saddened you feel deceived because the Church kept silence on meaty topics. We are told that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). Perhaps our leaders should have spoken more, but I think it debatable.
Regardless, it doesn’t change the truth that Joseph was a genuine prophet of God and the ordinances he restored can save us.
Brian, there is a difference between feeling deceived and being deceived. When an organization blatantly withholds pertinent information and spins the information it does provide to meet a faith promoting end then that is actual deception.
Thanks for your comments, Brian.
Brian, is there anything in your view that Joseph did wrong in the practice of polygamy? Was it wrong to marry women behind Emma’s back? Was it wrong to character assassinate some of the women who rejected him? Was it wrong to promise exaltation to some of the women and their families if they married him?
Also, if you have children, do you teach them about a God who sends angels with swords to force his prophets to carry out his commands? Do you teach them about a God who seems to be fine with a man marrying other women without his first wife’s knowledge?
You cite to women like Eliza R. Snow, Lucy Walker and Zina Huntington, as if since they accepted polygamy it must have been okay. I’m sorry, even if Eliza was a great poetess, I just can’t respect someone who would marry another woman’s husband without that woman’s knowledge. If a prophet came to me today and said God commanded him to marry me, I would at least have the integrity to get it okayed by the first wife. That practice seems so dishonest to me. If you’re fine worshipping a God who is fine with what seems to me to be blatant dishonesty, that’s great; I just don’t choose to worship that sort of God.
However, you may tell me everything I’ve said is wrong based on the historical record. I am willing to be corrected, but please just discuss the honesty issue. Do you feel Joseph and the other women were people of integrity as they practiced this principle?
Thanks for some excellent questions. I don’t know if this will help, but let me make a few responses:
Is there anything in your view that Joseph did wrong in the practice of polygamy? ANSWER: Joseph Smith was not perfect, something he acknowledged many times. Even D&C 132:56 tells Emma to forgive Joseph for his trespasses presumably against her. However, I do not find him guilty of any egregious sins like adultery, hypocrisy, or many of the outlandish things critics have charged. Admittedly some of his decisions are now a little difficult to understand. If I could go back in time, I might make five recommendations Joseph:
1. Carefully consider marrying Fanny Alger without telling Emma. If possible, convince the angel that Emma needs to be involved from the start.
2. Carefully consider being sealed to fourteen-year-old plural wives even if the marriages are not consummated. It might generate accusations of pedophilia a hundred years later.
3. Carefully consider being sealed to legally married women even if for eternity only. Encouraging those women to be sealed to other priesthood holders, including their civil husbands, if worthy, may be a better choice.
4. Carefully consider the number of plural wives you marry. Even if Old Testament patriarchs had dozens of plural wives, limiting your wives, whether for eternity only or time and eternity, might be more easily understood by observers years later.
5. Carefully consider limiting your involvement in politics. Letting someone else be mayor of Nauvoo may insulate you from liability in dealing with the Nauvoo Expositor.
Was it wrong to marry women behind Emma’s back? ANSWER, most of the sealings were non-sexual “eternity only” unions prior to the angel’s February 1842 visit where Joseph was apparently told to proceed. Joseph knew that once Emma was informed, if she rejected it, she became the “transgressor” (D&C 132:65). I believe she waited until he was confident she would accept it, which she did in May 1843. She struggled with the practice, but apparently became comfortable with it during the last eight months of their marriage.
Was it wrong to character assassinate some of the women who rejected him? ANSWER: This is absolutely false. We know of seven women who turned him down. Five said nothing about it and neither did Joseph. Both Nancy Rigdon and Sarah Pratt misrepresented it and Joseph defended himself, but the reputation of Sarah (and to a lesser extent Nancy) was already problematic beforehand.
Was it wrong to promise exaltation to some of the women and their families if they married him? ANSWER: A close reading of the accounts from Helen Mar Kimball, Lucy Walker, and Sarah Ann Whitney shows that in fact Joseph was talking about the blessings of eternal marriage and eternal families. None of these women acted as if their sealing to Joseph brought exaltation simply by having the ordinance. Critics love to make this accusation, but struggle to support it historically.
There are answers to your questions. I believe too many people only know part of the story, the part that comes from unbelievers. It is like learning about Obama by approach the Republican National Committee. Check out JosephSmithsPolygamy.org for accurate information before judging.
The reason I mentioned Eliza et al was because those women were just as skeptical as you are and yet they believed. They were not gullible dupes who were easily deceived. They knew more than either of us and they embraced Joseph as a prophet and his teachings about polygamy as divinely inspired. I would encourage you to read their stories before judging.
If possible convince the angel that Emma needs to be involved from the start….you really, truly believe that God sent an angel to command Joseph to practice? The church certainly does. This is one of the most ridiculous things ever. Why would God send an angel to threaten the removal of agency? How would Joseph in turn convince this angel otherwise when the angel was sent from God? See, therein lies the reality of all of this….it doesn’t make sense. And, the more you try and make sense of it e less sense it makes unless you are willing to bend the truth to fit your chosen narrative.
Brian, I appreciate your answers to my questions. I know you know more about the history of Joseph Smith and polygamy than any of us here; however, I feel you state things in a way that does not tell the full story.
For instance, you state that Emma struggled with the practice but “apparently became comfortable with it during the last eight months of their marriage.” So do you disagree with how Richard Bushman characterizes it in Rough Stone Rolling: Joseph’s marriages dropped off sharply after July 1843. “During his confrontation with Emma between July 12 and 16, Joseph may have agreed to add no more. He told Clayton she would divorce him if he did.” (pps 498-499). And then during the month of May 1844, Joseph had to hide while officers waited around his house. “These awkward disappearances displeased Emma, who was still suspicious of his whereabouts when out of sight. Joseph sent William Clayton to ‘find Emma’s mind about him going home,’ and Clayton found her ‘crying with rage and fury because he had gone away.’ She was not well, and Joseph promptly hurried home.” (p. 538)
Does this sound like someone who had become comfortable with polygamy during the last 8 months of their marriage?
Then you say “most of the sealings were non-sexual ‘eternity only'” unions prior to the 1842 angel visit. MOST? Not ALL? How many women could he have sex with before I need to feel it was wrong? One? Five? Ten? Guess what, one is enough for me to feel it was wrong, so when you say most were non-sexual, l’m assuming some were sexual. And if he’s having sex with even one, what’s stopping him from having sex with even more??
As for character assassination, I’ve heard that Joseph called Nancy and/or Sarah “whores” when they went public about his marriage proposals. Does that sound like a nice guy, especially when they were apparently telling the truth about him proposing to them.
Eliza et al may have accepted polygamy as divinely inspired, but the fact that they married Joseph behind Emma’s back (and she was their friend, right?) just is unacceptable to me. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would marry my friend’s husband without her knowing it. Wow, I just don’t see how anyone can defend it.
You did not answer my ultimate question: “Do you feel Joseph and the women were people of integrity as they practiced this principle?” I still would like an answer to that.
We can look for all the justifications we can, but to me it’s very simple: man plus too much power equals bad things happening. D&C 121 makes that clear.
The problem Brian is that if you are a female–as I am–and you’ve ever had a partner cheat on you–like I have–the story of Joseph Smith and polygamy sounds all too sadly familiar–the weird excuses, the sneaking around, the deception, the unexplained absences, the “carefully worded denials,” etc. It is very difficult to believe that the God of our universe–who is holy beyond all comprehension–not only condoned all this but ordered it. All your reasoning and logic and appeal to the historical record cannot overcome our real world lived experience. Unless you can convince people like me that Joseph did not practice deception as he carried out the principle, there is probably nothing you can say that will make me feel ok about it. So work on convincing people like me that Joseph was really an upstanding honest person full of integrity and then maybe I’ll change my mind.
“Was it wrong to marry women behind Emma’s back? ANSWER, most of the sealings were non-sexual “eternity only” unions prior to the angel’s February 1842 visit where Joseph was apparently told to proceed.”
Again, this is an assertion that is absent from the historical record. How many of Joseph Smith’s wives testified that the relationships were platonic? We know of quite a few who said the opposite, but none that I know of who said the relationships were platonic.
To cut to the chase – do you believe that Joseph committed *any* error – either from a doctrinal or moral standpoint – with either the reception or implementation of plural marriage? If so, please give details.
Also – I’ve seen, many times before, the statement that Joseph cannot be held responsible for the union to Helen Mar Kimball insasmuch as she was ‘offered’ to him, so he therefore did not ‘seek’ the union. Consider that Joseph accepted the offer. As nothing prevented Joseph from turning down the offer from Heber to marry his daughter, Joseph bears responsibility for the union and the issue of him ‘seeking’ it becomes a diversion of no value. How do you reconcile this problem?
I do not think you are a villain or deserved to be vilified. I appreciate your research in this area even though I do take issue with your portrayal of the historical record. As an example you site the late recollection of Maria Jane Woodward to show that Emma accepted that polygamy came from God. Even if this recollection is accurate cherry picking it as an example of Emma’s supposed stance does discredit to the reader. On the whole Emma’s statements and life stand as a witness against polygamy and it’s evil. It’s true she upheld Joseph’s prophetic call, but like many good saints of the day (William Law, William Marks, etc.) she was an outspoken opponent of polygamy. She and Joseph’s son’s attitudes stand as strong examples of her feelings regarding polygamy.
Speaking of cherry picking another issue I take with your parsing of the historical record is reliance on late recollections like that of Maria Jane Woodward while dismissing late recollections like those from William Marks. It seems that the historicity of a remark is interlay dependent on it falling into the conclusions you wish to draw. Both sources are bias, but when Marks’ gave his comments he was serving under Joseph’s son who didn’t want anyone, including Marks, to tarnish his father with polygamy. Marks was known for his integrity in Navuoo. Having read what you think of Marks I’m guessing we will just fundamentally disagree here.
Speaking of late recollections it’s important to point out the social pressure women were under to support polygamy. It is know from documents they left behind and other testimonies that many women hated polygamy but publically supported it for fear of social, religious, and economic disaster that would befall them if spoke against it.
Defenders of Joseph Smith’s polygamy often cite that the women who married him were eventually fine with it, that they had testimonies of it and so on. This ignore many issues of humans emotions, mental duress that could have resulted when the man at the top of your community who you believe speaks for God now presents something that had to cause a moral dilemma.
Do you put the same weight on Nancy Rigdon’s or Martha Brotherton’s rejection of Joseph’s polygamy?
Do you give credit to followers of Warren Jeffs or Wayne Bent or a myriad of other self proclaimed prophets who said God told them to take multiple wives or enter into some other abnormal sexual Union? The women who entered into these relations claim similar restores.
Why do you trust the LDS women and their witness but not the others? How can this be a reliable method,
The women who entered into plural marriage with Jospeh had a vested interest ito accept it and reconcile it in their minds.
Have you read “Women of Mormondom” by Tullidge? It’s pretty much a full compendium on the Adam-God Doctrine, which was fully believed and practiced by Eliza R. Snow. In fact, the book was dedicated to her. The polygamous affairs of Joseph Smith were statements of his completely contradictory attitude toward doctrine that he had already proclaimed as true and devine. Eliza must have been extremely pragmatic to see so much good in Smith, as she wanted to be married to him in the Mormon heaven. Smith could have given polygamy a good name in the Book of Mormon, but chose, in 1830, to condemn polygamy four times in his 19th Century fiction. In his lust for young Fanny Alger, he saw it convienent to contradict himself believing that the Mormon people would overlook the contradiction in doctrine as a prophetic perogative. Oliver Cowdery, hoever, didn’t see it that way, and regarded Joseph’s leap into polygamy as a dirty, nasty affair.
Have you read Galatians 1:1-12? It is especially clear in the more accurately translated NIV. Paul the Apostle was pretty clear, and truly prophetic, when he said that “another gospel’ received from an angel (a fallen angel?) should be accursed.
I was recently talking to a Mormon Stake President in Northern Virgina, and asked him if he accepted the King Follett Discourse as LDS cannonized doctrine, and if he believed that he could be as great as God, with a capital G.. He said no. So I produced the 1984 Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, “Search These Commandments,” and turned to “Lesson 21 – Man May Become Like God.” Now this Stake President is 10 years younger than me, and I am 63. So, in 1984, he was studying the same Priesthood Study Guide that I was studying in Oceanside, California. On page 151 of Lesson 21, Lorenzo Snow is used as an example of a man, a Mormon elder, who believed that he could be as great as God, and the Study Guide states that every man should aspire to that lofty goal. Lesson 21 is a restatement of Joseph Smith’s 1844 King Follett. In that Discourse, Smith refers to D&C 68:4 when calling his proclamation a revelation from god. When the very educated stake president saw the lesson, he gave me a look that could have killed and got up without saying anything else and left.
So, did Smith believe that he could be as great as god in 1930? How about in 1834, when he bedded Fanny Alger, or between 1835 and 1840 when he took, married, and bedded the wives of men he sent on missions?
Dr. Thomas G. Alexander, of BYU, wrote a “Sunstone” article in 1980 called, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine.” He told me via email that he had tried to get it published in the “Ensign,” but the Church wouldn’t do it. If you haven’t read it, please read it. In the BOM, it clearly says that God does not change to any degree. The contradiction showing in the total change of the 1832 “Book of Commandments” to the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants indicates a very changeable Mormon god.
As I’ve said before, I think old Joe Smith was high on some opiate when he saw that angel with a red sword. I think it was really Emma with a rolling-pin stained with her husband’s blood that he saw. It only makes sense!
I sincerely thank-you for taking the time to comment.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and own conclusions. What I do not understand is why those who leave the church feel the need to tear down the faith of others. I commend you for your earnest and thoughtful insights.
Very, very well articulated. Thanks for such a thoughtful and spot-on perspective. I’ll be sharing this post with others. You “spoke” my mind.
That said, this one statement didn’t seem to sit well with me though. It didn’t follow the line of logic and reasoning in the post.
“I’d be willing to love joseph despite the spiritual coercion he used to gain possession of the women he desired as long as he admitted his guilt at some point.”
Under the assumption that God did not command polygamy, then JS lied about a revelation he “received” from God in order to commit repeated acts of adultery with dozens of women over a protracted period of time – and also convinced many others to do the same. Then indoctrinated thousands of people with this fraudulent doctrine that propagated these actions for generations. All so he could satiate his need to get some (well, more than just “some”).
I’m not sure that JS would warrant anyone’s love under this assumption. Why would we follow a religion founded by a person who would do this? Why would there be any reason to believe anything that came from someone so duplicitous, mendacious, and deceitful? How could a simple admission of guilt result in anyone giving him a pass on this?
Not a pass. Love can mean many things. You can love people who have hurt you; who have done wrong. That doesn’t mean they get a free pass. I simply mean that everyone–EVERYONE can be forgiven. But yes, people in power and in a position of fame; that does things to one’s mind. Joseph fell victim to it. His admission of guilt at the time would have ended (hopefully!) polygamy. That kind of bravery and humility to come clean would merit a form of love; I do believe. I very much see your point though.
There is another option available, that Joseph and Emma were telling the truth and were used as scapegoats to defend the polygamy Brigham and other leaders were practicing privately in Nauvoo and openly out West.
I first began to consider this position after reading the minutes of the original Relief Society. The final meeting was held in four sessions over 2 weekends so everyone could attend. The subject was the reading of “The Voice of Innocence” which was written by Joseph’s clerk and scribe (William W Phelps) and had been read 2 days earlier at a meeting in front of the Nauvoo temple with over 8000 people in attendance, including Joseph Smith. It was also printed in full in the newspaper for wider distribution. (A full transcript of the essay can be found by searching the internet, because it wasn’t included in the minutes.)
The scriptures the church had in use at that time contained a section on marriage, which clearly outlined monogamous marriages, publicly celebrated, as the standard for the church. This section (101) has been dismissed as non-revelation, but it was binding on the church members of that time by a vote of common consent, which added it to the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. It was not removed until 1879 when Section 132 was added.
If anyone is interested in reading a historian’s case AGAINST Joseph as polygamist, Richard and Pamela Price have a book “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy” which can be read online for free. They mention that when polygamy debate was argued in court (to determine which restoration offshoot could claim title to the Temple Lot in Missouri) the judge was not convinced the witnesses who claimed to be wives of Joseph and Hyrum were credible. Also, DNA has not proved any offspring from either man by anyone other than a legally recognized wife.
This leads me to believe that there are other opinions on this issue, and Joseph may not be the womanizing fallen prophet he appears to be from the stories written by historians that assume his guilt. I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Um….are you a believing member? If so, your leaders just put out an essay where even they say he practiced polygamy. Cover eyes, plug ears, cover mouth…..then pretend that all the written journals and documents are all false.
I believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet. That is my starting point, and I look at the evidence with that perspective. Those who accused Joseph in Nauvoo and Utah had ulterior motives that need to be taken into account, and there are other perspectives that the LDS essays do not allow for because it would bring their historical narrative into question.
Those who begin with the assumption that the accusers are telling the truth and Joseph is a liar, will come to the conclusion of the OP that Joseph was either never a prophet, or fell.
The cost of this assumption is that Joseph and everything he taught could be thrown out, regardless of actual truth and light it contains. Satan would love to destroy faith in the Book of Mormon and the reality of Jesus Christ talking with men (and women) personally by simply rehashing the same lies that he used when Joseph was alive to defend himself. The irony is that now the lies are repeated by those who claim to believe Joseph’s testimony in everything except polygamy.
You may choose to believe whatever documents you like, and I will reserve the right to do the same.
There is an inherent problem with trying to make all evidence fit the narrative that you have chosen. If you are unwilling to simply look at all evidence and let it take you where it leads then you are being intellectually dishonest. This is why I have such a problem with apologists….they are not trying to discover truth but rather bend anything to match their chosen truthiness narrative.
You have made a faulty assumption that those who begin with. The assumption that his accusers are telling the truth and Joseph is I liar is not the assumption that anyone begins with. Almost everyone that has problems with Joseph smith has gone in with the assumption that he was exactly as the church has taught. They have gone seeking truth and information and have been confronted with information that doesn’t match the narrative that the church teaches. They follow the evidence and come to the conclusion based on all the evidence presented.
That’s why I suggested looking at additional sources. If you feel misled by the Church, why use their sources and narrative? Keep searching until you find a resolution that brings you peace.
It is not intellectually dishonest to say which filter I am using to judge the information at my disposal. My life is better because of accepting the gospel of Christ as taught by Joseph Smith. This is the fruit I am judging by. Polygamy is bad fruit. Bad fruit can’t come from a good tree, so either the tree is bad, or the fruit came from elsewhere.
Joseph Smith’s testimony was powerful because he said he saw Christ and taught that all people can have that same witness. I do not believe that Joseph was perfect, but I do believe he was an honest witness of his experiences. I do not have that assurance about any other person who accused him. The number of accusations have nothing to do with their veracity. Under what circumstances were they written? What was the capacity of the person to stand up against personal pressure? What was their character? There are so many unknowns and rumors involved in deciding truth here that I am choosing to have faith. I believe when we know the full story, I will not be any worse for standing with Joseph.
I also reserve the right to question the authenticity of Section 132, which was added to the scriptures without a vote of common consent as a way to pin polygamy on Joseph. There may be truths contained in it, but there are also falsehoods (like verse 1 mentioning Isaac having more than one wife). Its origin is a matter of hearsay, so I would not use it either as proof of God’s character or Joseph’s guilt.
It’s really funny to hear a believing member ask why use the church’s information, source , and narrative. I have looked at other sources. The humor comes in that so many defend the church against the use of its own narrative and sources. Of I can’t trust the church to give proper information…and information that has not been twisted with a faithful narrative….then with what information can I trust them? The answer is that we can’t trust them wit any information.
"So that means that the majority of Mormons believe that at times, God will require immoral actions from us if it suits His will." I'm in this boat. The far more relevant OT example is not Abraham and Sarah, but Joshua being commanded to commit genocide.
Still, though, if an angel from God with a flaming sword came to me and told me to take another wife, there is a pretty good chance I would choose the sword.
I agree; the OT in particular is dripping in situations that are framed as commanded by God that I simply cannot abide. I ended very purposefully with the statement: No good has ever come from blaming God for the sins and follies of men; not even to save the reputation of a prophet.
For me, this includes the scriptural canon.
Thanks for your comment and insight!
As I said before, I’m still of the opinion that there are times when God commands people to do really terrible things to other people.
I’m certainly convinced that God Himself does really terrible things to people all the time. Things like sentencing a mother to die a lingering year-long death from brain cancer in the presence of her three children under the age of twelve. For me, it’s not that big of a stretch to go from saying, God killed 50 people last week in the Philippines with a typhoon, to saying, God put Emma through the living hell that was Joseph’s polygamy.
What a terrible God to believe in….and one of the many reasons why I don’t believe in a god.
Believe me, if I felt the alternative were tenable, I would seriously consider it.
To me, it’s kind of like quantum mechanics. It’s difficult to understand mathematically and it leads to some conclusions about the physical world that are difficult to stomach (for physicists). Nobody would choose to use quantum mechanics if there was a better alternative.
Now I know this isn’t a perfect analogy, as quantum mechanics never killed anybody, and I can accept that you have not found sufficient evidence to believe in any God.
In any case, the “Problem of Pain” is older than Job, and as recent as that website, whydoesgodhateamputees.com. In my mind, it is the strongest argument against God’s existence, and every believer needs to grapple with it.
Great article. Thank you, thank you!
You’re very welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I cannot even begin to express my appreciation of what you have articulated – thank you so much for ‘telling it like it is’ so truthfully and honestly
For the record I am a long-standing and loyal LDS (baptised in late teens in 1969) – over the years I have held my own counsel with regard to the inspiration (or lack of) of some of the pronouncements of leaders past and present – now however, I feel more able to say ‘out loud’ that I believe that those leaders do indeed speak and act out of their own thought processes (and processing), cultural, environmental and societal influences and expectations – the bullet points you listed near the start of this piece outlined exactly what I used to wonder, regarding the motives of JS with regard to introducing polygamy. What is most bothersome in all of this is the fact that we are told the (Fifteen specially appointed) leaders are ‘speaking for God’ that we will not be ‘led astray’ by them – so we as faithful LDS must find ways to justify and reconcile ourselves to teachings and practices we personally recoil from, we have to find a way to deal with the ‘cognitive dissonances’ and the ‘guilt by association’ – all of that takes time and patience and prayer and a willingness to acknowledge and own our discomfort(s) without feeling the need to embrace that which we are unable to embrace, alongside the willingness to acknowledge and own our personal encounters with the Divine that we have experienced along the way.
Great insight here. Thanks so much for your comment. It is hard to reconcile indeed.
Laura Hales, thank you for drawing attention to the Code of Hammurabi. As you know, despite its importance, it’s not part of the Bible and in fact comes from a religion and a culture with which the Bible has, of course, some affinities, but to which it also took strong exception, so it gives us a good opportunity to think about some of these things from a couple of different angles.
As with any culture, Hammurabi’s specific marriage customs were part of its (in this case, idolatrous) religious views and sometimes unjust economic and social practices. Some biblical laws share some points in common with it, but the two can’t be identified; it’s not quite true to say that Hammurabi’s laws “found their way into the Covenant Code found in Exodus 20–23”, because there aren’t any direct quotes— only some similarities.
More importantly, the fact that Hammurabi obligated a barren wife to provide her handmaid to her husband is not even the *story* in Genesis, where Sarah comes up with the idea on her own, in order to get a child for herself because of her impatience with the promise of God. More specifically, the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar contains absolutely nothing about following any “law”; nor, certainly, is there any law of God regarding… well, anything, at that point. For as St Paul points out, the Law of Sinai isn’t even added for another 400 years! And when it is— well, it includes no law mandating polygamy. You did mention Exodus 20-23, but if i’m not mistaken, the closest you get to polygamy there are some verses in chapter 21 requiring fair treatment of wives and especially of slave-wives. Could anyone point to any place in the Bible where God positively mandates polygamy as a “law”?
It’s only D&C 132.34 which talks about a “law” of polygamy. “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.”
But this seems to be quite at variance with the Bible, not simply because God gave no such command to Abraham anywhere in the Bible, but indeed because, as Sailhamer points out (see above), Sarah’s plan to get the promise realized by her own machinations wasn’t what God ordered, wasn’t a case of “fulfilling the promises”, and didn’t really win God’s favor. God specifically says that Ishmael is not the fulfillment he had promised (Gn 17.18-21). Sarah’s plan stemmed from her own faithlessness and impatience, not because God commanded Abraham to get more wives.
Because it’s not attested anywhere else, in fact, D&C’s statement that God commanded Abraham to take other wives is something you could accept only if you’d already decided that the D&C was authoritative. But if i were reading it in 1843, D&C’s novel interpretation might seems just a bit (too?) convenient, unless, as i say, I were already inclined to agree with it…. But if i were not so inclined, I’d be tempted to say that in talking about Abraham and Sarah, Smith is really speaking of himself and trying to convince Emma. “Why did she do it? [And why does Emma have to do it?] Because this was the law.”— What law, exactly?— That I’m going to have other wives. And what support is offered for this?— only D&C 132 itself; nothing in the Bible or anywhere else. Hmmm. That’d be a textbook case of circular reasoning, unless you already think there’s an “Old Testament dispensation” mandating polygamy on other grounds. Well, you do hear people talk that way from time to time, but when you look carefully at the Text, it turns out that while polygamy existed in Israel, it was never mandated or favored.
D&C 132 goes on to talk about the wives of David and Solomon and so forth. That’s really the place where we have to discuss biblical polygamy, for in the OT, polygamy was for the most part something that kings engaged in, as a form of alliance-making with important rich men or other kings. So, Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter and built her a temple…. which didn’t please the Lord very much at all! Polygamy isn’t an “Old Testament dispensation”. Royal multiplication of wives is specifically and frequently singled out as one of the reasons why Israel’s history headed downward into exile. Solomon violated the Law of the King, which is the very heart of Deuteronomy: “Neither shall [the king] multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold” (Dt 17.17).
D&C also mentions Moses and others having several wives; that too seems to be a view unique to D&C. Or at least as far as i can recollect, there’s nothing in Scripture about it.
I disagree with some of your assessments.
Good point. Ascribing evil to God and calling original Christianity evil or hellish is blasphemy. Smith has definitely lacked character and he has created a God in his own image while claiming all the time its Jesus and the Holy Ghost that speak to him alone in a normative manner.
Sad that none of the top insiders today are willing to make such a call.
Great article. God will not be mocked, but he will be the Mormon fall guy.
That claim that Section 132 requires plural wives to be literal virgins is a gross misreading of the text.
Virgin is used but it easy to see that the intention is towards purity of heart and mind vs literal virgin.
There is an option which you failed to mention: that Joseph is a true prophet, plural marriage a true principle, and though he and others did their best to follow God’s directive being imperfect they made mistakes.
As the Hales have pointed out this post is fraught with errors and incorrect assumptions, and great outright speculation.
For the poster who referenced the citations for requirements of a bishop in the NT, those relate to the candidate not being divorced, and us not an exclusion for plurality of wives.
This is an unfortunate example how little Lori, and those praising this essay understand
And a great example of the lengths true believers will go to assassinate character in the quest to prove their own starting point correct. How much they will do their own twisting, but pass it off as God given truth. Very few seem willing to listen, but many seem willing to present their own moral superiority and greater intellectual understanding. When has the term virgin ever been used throughout the LDS church to not mean sexual purity? It is true, it often includes the things that you mention, but central to that is also sexual innocence and purity.
Andrew: “Virgin is used but it easy to see that the intention is towards purity of heart and mind vs literal virgin.”
Clearly it is not “easy to see” – unless you want to attribute dishonest motives to those who do not “see” it.
Or is this really another example of god’s legendary failure to communicate clearly and unambiguously with his prophets and their followers? Perhaps it’s just easier for you to say that those who disagree with you don’t really understand …
Your article is noteworthy and shows the critical thinking that went into it. However, I still believe Joseph was a true prophet. His “polygamy” (Patriarchal plural marriage) was a DELIBERATE stumbling block. He was sent to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, but the Gentiles were not really understanding and living by the words of eternal life being given to them. A revelation about Joseph Smith says this: “And in no wise did he sin, for HE REPENTED of his sins, and he kept My commandments and was faithful even unto the end, and I have taken him unto Myself, and he spilled his blood upon the floor of the Carthage jail as a testimony against the wicked.”
Seriously? So are you saying this—
If a man has ten wives and never divorced any of them, then he is a “husband of one wife”??
The fact is, as in the Middle East today, there were cultures in Roman times that practiced polygamy. Yes, Paul is talking about divorce and, even more than that (because it was more common) even of remarriage after the death of a former wife— but also of polygamy.
A “husband of one wife” means “a husband of one wife”. Marriage, in Paul’s estimation, is a “mystery of Christ and the Church” (Ep 5.25), and as he says, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2Co 11.2). As Christ doesn’t have a plurality of churches, so a man can’t have a plurality of wives. At least as far as Paul sees it. You might think J Smith supersedes, but you can’t say they agree.
I find it interesting the people keep insisting that the angel story is obviously against the ways of God because it takes away agency. I’m curious if people who state this objection have even read the scriptures. The entire foundation of the Book of Mormon is that Jerusalem needed to repent(do God’s will) or be destroyed. Sodom and Gomorrah faced that same issue. In the story of Job Nineveh faces the same thing but they do repent and thus the destruction is averted.
The fact is it is common for God to give this choice to people. I don’t view this as evidence of God being vengeful or destructive. Rather destruction is a natural consequence of disobeying Godly principles.
That… or the bible is a compilation of stories both divine and man-made and is an imperfect book. My assertions about a god that supports mandated polygamy definitely reaches to the God of the ugly parts of the OT. I’m much more inclined to believe that the writers were justifying their wars and actions by saying God was part of it. If the OT actually accurately depicts God, then that is not a God worth worshipping. My bet is on the fact that men wrote stories, assigned them to god, and it got lumped in with the stories that hit closer to who and what God actually is. For me, scriptures aren’t black and white pages in which you have to accept all that is there. Some things are right, some things are wrong, and it is up to us to seek that which will make the world a better place.
So basically you are just defining God in the image you want God to be. Then you reject anything that disagrees with that model as man-made. Having said that I don’t hold a black and white view. I view scripture as a sacred narrative. It’s historicity is largely irrelevant to me.
I believe that polygamy is an earthly similitude of the order of heaven.
I agree that there were many errors made in the early church. However, in regards to polygamy, the issue isn’t what Joseph did. There is an issue more fundamental than that. It is our culture’s relationship with polygamy. This post operates on the assumption that polygamy is repugnant. Rather than analyze our culture’s anti-polygamy bias, this article is based on it.
Or…maybe a little easier narrative….everything about God is man made. You have nothing other than your feelings and emotions to prove anything else….and obviously you believe in a god that views it as ok to be an ass hole to his children. Damn…pretty sad
My post doesnt operate on the assumption that polygamy itself is repugnant–it is forced polygamy that I detest. Or the idea that it is demanded of us by God. Or that God would ever be part of the way that Joseph and successive prophets handled polygamy. How Emma was completely left out of the decision making; that women and men were forced into it or face rejection from their community or were led to believe they’d be punished in the afterlife. THAT is what I find to be repugnant. I also disagree with any arrangement when it is solely the men who get to have multiple partners. Polygamy and polyandry as a lifestyle choice by people who simply want or enjoy that kind of relationship (without eternal reward or damnation attached to it)–I take no issue with that.
Yes….it’s great you cite all these examples in the bible….there’s nothing like a god that can be a complete ass hole when ever he chooses to be. Every perfect being that I know is full of vengeance,wrath, anger, and jealousy. If that is a god that you believe in and something that you think demonstrates a perfect being full of love then we obviously have a different definition of a loving, caring god.
Ummm, I’m trying to seek out a divine inspiration in life to aspire to. If there is a real one and only God and that person is a total jerk–I have no interest in worshipping or hallowing to that person. What I feel inside me though and the beauty of what humanity could be doesn’t match the definition of a God as depicted in ALL of the scriptures. That God either creates or condones misogyny, murder, violence, war, vengeance, pettiness, genocide, mass destruction, infanticide… the list goes on and on. So no. I do not find any reason to stretch myself to find divinity there. Those are the ugliest parts of humanity and I don’t condone it and I certainly don’t worship it. But there are stories of love, forgiveness, charity, hope, selflessness. There is much there to learn from and uplift. So I absolutely uphold that. I deeply hope and feel that those are godly attributes, whatever and whoever “god” ultimately is. But no. I feel no obligation to ever believe someone else’s printed words about what God said or did. I believe that the scriptures hold value, but not that they are binding or unflawed. I do not fear that God would be disappointed in me for rejecting such narratives and striving for a peaceful life in which I try my best to serve others, be honest, and help mankind move in a positive direction.
I think you may have missed what Michael may have meant. Aside from my own biased view and disagreement with many points of your article, the fundamental issue here is your definition of the character of God.
If the issue is regarding force and not specific doctrine, is your issue with God himself.
This is not a personal attack, and please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems as though your definition of God is what you are currently aspiring to become.
This is not a premise I share. God is not as I define it or others define Him to be. He is who He is regardless of my view or opinion.
God is all loving, all knowledge and power as defined by Himself. But we cannot dismiss that God also delivers with the sword.
If God is all powerful then all that this is on the Earth is of Him and a part of His character.
This life is one of trial and tribulation. Nephi 2 – opposites must exist. Therefore, trial, tribulation and destructions must exist for good to be defined.
On this premise, God created this environment and established His law. To say that God cannot be one of war, disease and destruction is to put your opinion of what God should be onto him. Let’s not forget, in Revelations – the destroying angels belong to God and His work.
God throws challenges and trials our way to test our mettle and faith. This is one of tests for this generation and maybe for yourself.
We cannot dismiss the OT as fiction simply because it doesn’t fit the current consensus that God must be cute and cuddly.
God is all powerful and has kept this book for our learning with flaws. It doesn’t make it any less credible nor can you dismiss the stories because it doesn’t fit into rational narrative.
There is nothing rational about God. Nothing. Rational thinking is limited by human minds, and cannot ever rational immortal or eternal as it is something not possible for mortal comprehension. Hence all things are a trial of our faith.
Rationalisation of eternal things leads to frustration, disenchantment, confusion and ultimately contention. And we know where those things come from…
My 2 cents worth….
First, thank you for writing this article. Like many have said before this, the article does a good job of summing up a lot of my thinking on the subject. This is a difficult issue for so many reasons that the back and forth replies demonstrate.
As for myself, I now know that polygamy is a sin and was never commanded by God to anyone. I started as one of those people who faithfully defended polygamy, even Joseph’s version of polygamy, as righteousness. This remained the case until one day when I followed a link from lds.org to Mormon.org regarding the prophet Joseph Smith. In the article he is portrayed as a faithful monogamous husband, while this portrayal had never bothered me before this time it did. This portrayal violated everything I had been taught about honesty in the Church and the Spirit whispered that something was wrong. I got on my knees right then and tearfully asked God to teach me the truth about polygamy. Long story short after a lot of study, prayer, and time including, seeking out as much primary documentation as is available and many opinions including Brian Hales, I got my answer. God confirmed to me that polygamy is and always has been against his will and that to the extent Joseph practiced it he sinned. From the time of this spiritual witness my testimony against polygamy has continued to be strengthened by the evidence and logic.
I had a near identical experience with my path of understanding polygamy, especially the spiritual confirmations. Thanks for sharing yours here.
Your story mirrors the same experience my husband and I had….our answer was it was an abomination, an abomination, an abomination!
All y’all got a nice echo chamber going on here. The only thing I’ll address is the collective body slam given to Brian Hales. He’s forgotten more about this topic than every single one of you put together. There’s not a single person on here who has either his breadth or depth of knowledge on the matter. You just don’t. So go ahead and mock him, but it’s akin to high school talent mocking pros. It makes me chuckle.
I’m sorry wonderboy….but an apologis is an apologist is an apologist. If Brian were a true scholar he wouldn’t bend and twist the information to fit his predetermined claim that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. He is examining the information and making it meet that standard, no matter how much he has to twist to make it work. Yes, he has studied a lot on the topic but has shown he is more than willing to justify any and all of Joseph’s behaviors to maintain the standard of him being a chosen prophet of the lord.
You assume people haven’t looked into things for themselves, or even read the works of Mr. Hales. I for one applaud the efforts and time Mr. Hales has put into study and research of the topic. The only problem I found with it personally, was he didn’t just present what he found. He presented what he found, and connected dots in a way to maintain a set standard from the get go.
You also assume people are incapable of thinking on their own, and that somebody you view as more intelligent or more studied has the final say on something… I’m sorry, but on issues of morality such as this it doesn’t work that way. Some things just won’t sit right with people, no matter how much justification is used, or even found. The marginalization of women, and the other people harmed by polygamy is always going to be a spoiled fruit to many no matter how revered, or praised the man that instituted it was/is.
As a licensed stockbroker and registered financial adviser with decades of experience, Bernard Madoff has probably forgotten more about investing than the people who have posted here will ever know. That doesn’t mean that one should believe a word he says when it comes to investing.
By his demonstrated ability to ignore relevant facts, poor application of basic logic, and severely biased approach to the subject matter at hand Bro. Hales has about as much credibility with me when it comes to Joseph Smith as Bernie Madoff would have when it comes to investing.
So if someone say, kills my wife during a robbery when she would not hand over money, she is in fact committing suicide? She had the choice right, so she chose death.
God places such value on agency that he cast out a third of his billions of children, but agency obviously does not mean what we think it means. If God threatens to hack us to death with a sword instead of doing exactly what he says, then that is a wonderful example of our agency.
Sorry, the god you follow sounds like a psychopath who contradicts his own principles.
Brian and Laura, what would you say to people like Lori, Maryann, Ty, and myself, who have received undeniable spiritual confirmations that polygamy is morally wrong and was never commissioned by God? Many of us have done exactly what we were supposed to do: we put to test the very epistimologies prescribed in Moroni 10:4-5 and D&C 9:8-9. I desperately wanted to exonerate Joseph and make everything work somehow. I listened to Brian’s Mormon Stories interview hoping it would somehow “fix” me. I watched all of his FAIR talks on YouTube. I prayed and prayed and prayed. The final result is that my conscience and integrity simply will not allow me to accept Joseph Smith as the man he claimed to be. And I have never felt more spiritually healthy in my life.
How do Latter Day Saints explain that men like John Humphrey Noyes, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Wayne Bent, and Warren Jeffs DID abuse their authority when claiming that God commanded them to take other women, but Joseph Smith is somehow the one remarkable exception to this rule?
Great comment ryan. Therein lies the problem with apologetics…fitting whatever the evidence and information is to fit a predetermined belief, concept, etc. When you step back and truly analyze the exact scenario you described it is impossible to exonerate Joseph smith. He is no different than any of the other men that have done the exact same thing as he did. Warren Jeffs sits in prison and Joseph Smith remains as a man revered as a chosen man of god.
Great read! Lori you nailed the fundamental problems with the apologetics on this topic! Sharing.
Thanks so much CJ. I hope it is helpful to those you share it with.
The mental gymnastics that believers go through to justify their beliefs always amaze me. Life became so much simpler for me once I realized that Option 3 (see above) was by far the most likely.
Just because there were women who accepted polygamy and even brought other women in to it doesn’t make it right. I’ve recently been studying female general mutilation in African countries where it is actually on the rise. There are at least two countries where over 90% of women have had their generals mutilated in varying degrees. Often the “procedure” is performed by an older woman as younger women hold the young girl down as she screams. The incisions are made often without anesthesia.
I don’t say this to shock; it is something I find to be abhorrent.
While I readily acknowledge that the two practices are in no way comparable (polygamy and female genital mutilation), I only want to point out that women can accept practices that are not in their own best interests, and can even be actively involved in bringing other women into these practices.
Best way to describe why some women may have been “ok” with Joseph’s polygamy…..Stockholm syndrome.
Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 8% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.
Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.[
Also, some of these women might have been power hungry as well. They now found themselves attached the most powerful man in the afterlife; they sacrificed all “god asked of them” and will reap their reward. They’re hitched on Joseph’s wagon for eternity!!! Sure their daily needs aren’t met, they’re part of a secret harem who rarely get to see him, and their relationship with him is dicey at best… but they’re now cooler than all of the other women whose afterlives are gonna suck compared to theirs. I think if you talked yourself into this enough, there’s a “I love requisite polygamy” horn to be tooted there.
But yeah, aside from the few who were eager for the only type of power a woman in 1830-1900 could have, which was through her husband–I totally think that Garrett is 100% right about Stockholm Syndrome.
I honestly think it is much more similar to what we see so often today. I think most of these women were just really faithful, so they would accept, justify, and do whatever was needed to maintain that faith to the best of their ability. Much like we see defenders of the faith today that will defend, or justify things they would normally see as horrible and damaging. We see abuses, dishonesty, or harmful things coming from what the church practices… yet, we give it a free pass and even defend it or shift the fault and blame elsewhere because it seems we are afraid to criticize it and lose our possible eternal standing.
Garret, Seriously you must be bored with your life – stop trolling.
To say this is outright disrespectful. You are just trolling those who have beliefs and will do anything to justify an attack.
You have no right to judge, criticise and label these women. That is disrespectful. You know nothing about these women, their lives, their sacrifices and their faith.
Firstly – 8% suffer from Stockholm syndrome. Seems a small number when we are talking a majority in this case. So no it doesn’t fit.
Lori, I can accept your attacking views on those in power, but now to sit and judge these women as power hungry/Stockholm syndrome means that you have lost complete objectivity, neutral bias and respect for truth.
How can you say you have received spiritual confirmation that this is wrong and yet have a spirit of anger and pride? Your anger, resentment towards the “victims” shows that you have a spirit of contention and not one of love.
I can accept one may question practice, application and abuse of power due to people actions, but to attack the victims you claim to protect now as accomplices is vitriolic and hypocritical.
You can’t label Joseph as abusers and then label their victims as abusers?
Neither of you have any idea what Stockholm Syndrome is and now you are claiming to be experts.
A rational person would suggest that if you are not qualified as a psychiatrist/psychologist and you have never met the people in question – you don’t have a right to diagnose them.
I’m not trolling anything DB.
Anger and resentment towards the victims? Seriously? What have you been reading? There is anger and resentment yes, but it’s not towards the victims. The anger and resentment is towards a man who deceived these women, wrecked their lives, made promises he couldn’t keep, threatened the salvation of their families. I have nothing but empathy for the women that had to go through this.
I know exactly what Stockholm syndrome is…don’t tell me what I do and don’t know. And claims g to be an expert? Really? Please tell me where anyone is claiming to be an expert other than the Hales who are more than willing to completely ignore the victims in this case to justify Joseph still being a prophet. I have claimed nothing but an opinion.
A rational person would suggest that you don’t know me and you don’t know what I know so quit the ad hominem attack. Your response was feeble and wrought with so many fallacies it it ridiculous
Your excellent article here seems to have made quite a splash and is being favorably commented upon on a number of message boards [e.g. http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=36650%5D. Looks as though you have hit one out of the park.
Brian Hales’ responses are not doing so well.
That’s good to see! Thanks for letting me know. I tried to make an account over there but it said I needed to email a guy and send him the username I’d like and the password? Is that normal?
Or if you could just respond to this guy:
Polygamy-Porter “What befuddles me is that Lori is still a tithe paying member.”
That’s just his assumption. I do not pay tithing or regularly attend anymore.
Thanks for your kind comment and support! I’m glad you liked the post.
Done. You might want to check back tomorrow for further comments.
You might also want to check out several positive responses concerning your article at: http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/40637/
As for signing up for the MDB, it has been several years since I did so and I don’t recall the exact procedure.
We need to embrace the principle of informed consent. “Milk before meat” is just another way of justifying misleading the members. We do it because if we’re afraid that members/investigators knew the whole story, they wouldn’t join or they would leave. But the problem is, that’s not our choice to make for them. We need to tell them the whole story, and let them choose for themselves.
Not to mention, we are paying 10% of our income, serving missions, ignoring our families to serve callings. We deserve the right to know what we’re a part of. All “meat” should be made known before people go through the temple or serve missions. These covenants and commitments should be informed decisions.
I very much agree with you on that. Honesty is the best policy, even if it means our activity rates go down. We owe it to the good members of the church who sacrifice so much.
I think it’s important that Latter-day Saints come to terms with the real, human Joseph Smith. Apologists have and continue to defend every serious mistake Joseph made. They’re afraid that making a serious mistake would somehow invalidate his prophethood. So they act as if serious moral mistakes were the right thing to do, simply because Joseph did them. Or they make inferences that negate that they ever happened, even if they can’t support it with direct evidence. In the Church we can’t seem to separate the message from the messenger.
The fact of the matter is, humans make mistakes. Sometimes very serious mistakes. It’s clear to me that Joseph Smith made many. I believe he abused his power toward the end of his life, like most men in his position. But I believe he also had a spiritual message to share to the world. He couldn’t fully live up to the ideals of Jesus – but then again, that describes all of us.
Was Joseph an adulterer? I believe the answer is yes. That shouldn’t impact his other teachings, however. The truth of any teaching is never dependent upon the moral fiber of the teacher.
“I believe he abused his power toward the end of his life, like most men in his position. But I believe he also had a spiritual message to share to the world. He couldn’t fully live up to the ideals of Jesus – but then again, that describes all of us.”
Would you be willing to be as forgiving with a high school teacher or a catholic priest— let’s say, a really good one, otherwise— who was found out having gotten into, say, 40 or so affairs (let’s even make them ‘consensual’) with their students over the years?
or does being a prophet or teacher or priest mean you don’t have to live up to such a high standard because, after all, “none of us is perfect”?
Forgiving? His sins aren’t mine to forgive. I just try not to judge, while acknowledging what he did was wrong. Those seem like contrary goals, but I think the difference is in attitude.
If a mass murderer were to deliver the sermon on the mount, would that sermon lose all its spiritual importance? Would the truths in the sermon suddenly become false because a bad man said them? I don’t think so. A true message transcends the flaws of the messenger.
There is a difference between saying something that has some truth in it…and claiming to be the mouthpiece for the lord, restoring his truth to this earth again. Joseph Smith is a man that wouldnt even qualify for membership in today’s church. He was an adulterer. He abused his power. He lied to his wife. He used coercion to get what he wanted. If I cant even trust this man to be honest with his own wife then how can I trust him to be honest with everything else? The way a man treats his wife is very indicative of how he lives the rest of his life. Did Joseph Smith teach some neat things…sure. Does that make him what he claimed to be…no. Does that make the LDS church what it claims to be…no. As a member of the church I sang Praise to the Man in reverence of a man that deserved no praise or reverence. If he was my father today and he did to my mom what he did to Emma I would in no way love or respect or honor that man. Would I believe anything that he said…not a chance in hell.
But you do judge, and we all certainly judge not just sins but actual crimes, in the cases of the teachers or religious leaders I mentioned. So again— should we hold prophets to a lower standard?
Math transcends the flaws of the teacher, too. But normally we would still send such people to jail anyway. At least, that’s what we did with a catholic priest i once knew, and Warren Jeffs.
But you’re right, of course— sometimes we have to distinguish messenger from message… sometimes. Math isn’t invalid because the math teacher slept with a cheerleader. However, when it comes to religious doctrine… not so easy. Every abuser lies to maintain his position and to ensure his safety. About math you can’t lie, so the lies would be found out in other areas. Even about an established theology like Catholicism you can’t lie, because there are other experts who will point out your flaws— but with religion it’s easy to manipulate people by the *way* you teach it, because it concerns the soul, not just the logic of numbers.
But when the doctrine itself is new, and is itself the means by which the prophet talked the girls into sleeping with him (angel with flaming sword and all that)…. well, this can lead people to ask seriously whether the doctrine itself isn’t tainted.
You seem to be suggesting that a prophet— that is, a “saint”— is simply a “pipe” through which clear water pours unaffected(?) by the condition of the pipe itself. Or would a prophet bring his teaching into the world as much by embodying it as by saying it?
i think we’ve been told that JS embodied his teachings, and we’ve been taught that that’s how it should be. Now we’re discovering that he didn’t embody them; that he was a serial adulterer, and used religion to manipulate women. You say, “but then again, that describes all of us”… but maybe not quite!
Hmmm. Very troublesome— about the prophet, I mean. And, i’m guessing, even about the teaching too. For how could you ever separate his doctrine from his manipulations? That strikes me as a terrifying question!
We can say the same thing of many of Warren Jeffs’ wives, can we not?
Whenever I read Helen’s story it leaves me scratching my head.
One, she does not tell her story until 40 years after her sealing to Jospeh.
Two, what does it mean “intensely devoted to her eternal husband” She married Horace two years after Joseph dies at the age of 16 AND has 11 children by him (what devotion?)
And three, Horace, on earth, was married to one woman, Helen. She did not know the sting of her husband loving on another woman. Therefore, her advocacy for polygamy does not hold water with me.
Here’s a thought. Could it be, Helen wanted to be counted as one of Joseph’s groupies and gain popularity among her friends. All along, leaving modern day saints validating her words?
Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well. I believe wives of Joseph Smith did have a certain elevated status in Utah. And it’s not like you could really remain in Utah while condemning polygamy. Things would have been too hostile to remain at that point in church history.
The history of the permutations of Mormon doctrine, that Thomas G. Alexander called “the reconstruction of Mormon doctrine,” is one of blatant deceit. In 1830, Joseph Smith published his Book of Mormon which, in four different parts of its 19th Century scriptures, declared polygamy as evil and abominable. Smith called the BOM the most correct book on the face of the earth and swore that it had the “fullness of the everlasting gospel.” That was in 1830. Four years later, Smith got an itch in his loins and bedded a 16 year old girl named Fanny Alger under the nose of his wife Emma. Four years after that, Smith had acquired over 25 polygamous wives in secrecy. And he had the audacity to go against his own precious Book of Mormon and claim that an angel with a red sword forced him to commit adultery and polygamy? Every Mormon should read Galatians 1:1-12 and realize that Paul the Apostle was probably predicting what was going to come from the devil to temp man to do evil. Joseph Smith was a pedophile and false prophet.
Was Joseph Smith
Question for the Haleses: Do you teach your daughters and/or granddaughters that in our church God occasionally requires multiple girls/women to be married simultaneously to the same man? If not, why not? The logical implication of the essay is that this could happen on a moment’s notice. Some women leave; even the hypothetical is too disgusting. Some women stay and feel dread, depression and quiet despair about their relationship with God. And some don’t care. I think a well-done survey would find that the first two groups outweigh the third. As in Not. Even. Close.
Yes. People say that it couldn’t happen without a public revelation, but Joseph’s revelations were secret, not shared with the general church. And they contradicted the law of the church as published in the D&C at the time, which was strict monogamy.
If Joseph could go against the law of the church, and that was okay, why couldn’t a current church leader do the same, and ask young girls to marry him in secret? That’s what Joseph did. But today we’d consider that church leader to be in apostasy, even if he claimed a revelation.
Thank you for your thoughtful insights about a complicated and unpleasant topic. I have found most of the church’s recent essays to be enlightening and interesting, but reading the polygamy one just made me nauseous. I didn’t get angry, however, until I read the last paragraph:
“Church members no longer practice plural marriage. Consistent with Joseph Smith’s teachings, the Church permits a man whose wife has died to be sealed to another woman when he remarries. Moreover, members are permitted to perform ordinances on behalf of deceased men and women who married more than once on earth, sealing them to all of the spouses to whom they were legally married. The precise nature of these relationships in the next life is not known, and many family relationships will be sorted out in the life to come. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to trust in our wise Heavenly Father, who loves His children and does all things for their growth and salvation.”
It completely omits the fact (which I didn’t even learn until recently) that a man can be sealed to another woman even if his first (divorced) wife is still alive–the sealing doesn’t have to be canceled. To say this makes me squeamish is an understatement.
I was upset when Gordon B. Hinckley said of polygamy in a worldwide interview “I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal.” He said this in trying to distance the LDS church from the FLDS. What a blatant, bold-faced lie! The FLDS church mirrors the church that Joseph started. We have the same roots; the same doctrine on polygamy. And the LDS church still teaches polygamy (essay!) and practices it (in sealings at the very least).
This is from the “swedish rescue.” You can see the back and forth…and at the end the church reps admit that we still believe in polygamy we just dont actively practice it….very interesting when compared with GBH’s comment on condemning the practice. It is amazing to see how polygamy is spun…and how unwilling to answer the question the leaders are that are running this meeting.
Joseph Smith’s wives. Polyandry. This is a very complex subject. This is one we could spend a lot of time on. [1:10:20-1:10:32] Let me just answer some basic questions. Did Joseph Smith practice plural marriage? Yes. Many church members don’t know it but the answer is yes. Did Joseph Smith practice polyandry? The answer is yes. Joseph Smith did practice polyandry. How many wives did Joseph Smith have? We’re in the process, as you know, of preparing the papers of Joseph Smith for publication. We hope to include in the papers of Joseph Smith a list of Joseph Smith’s wives based on the best available evidence. So we’ll answer that question in the future. Why did Joseph Smith marry specific people? Which gets to your question about why did he marry the wives of people were already married? That actually boils down to a marriage by marriage statement. And it’s fairly complex but it’s an excellent question. We just don’t have time tonight to answer it, but there are answers.
Q: Summarize it then, is it a principle we believe in that it should be, it could be practiced that way. Cause we believe in polygamy, it’s a principle we believe in still, so is this a principle we believe in in the church.
RT: I’m not a prophet so I can’t tell you about the future. I’ve said to people who have asked me this question, do you think this is going to come back, I say, I think I have a better chance of being hit by a meteorite from space than having this come back.
Q: But it’s not coming back. They’re still here now, isn’t it? The church says there is no polygamy, but it is. So what? Why do we talk different languages in the church? I have a friend, his wife died and he met another wife and [01:12:14-01:12:17] he will have to wives in the next life, so we believe in polygamy.
RT: We believe in the sealing of people for the afterlife. Of course the question that arises is in the world generally is what do you do if you live through life with more than one person? What do you do if your spouse dies and you remarry? What happens in heaven? And the answer that section 132 gives is that you’ll be together. Do we know a lot about how that works? We really don’t.
Q: But do we believe in it?
RT: Do we believe in the 132nd section? Yes, we do.
Q: So we believe in polygamy.
RT: We don’t practice polygamy on earth.
Q: Yes we do [1:13:00]
RT: But you know what I mean.
RT: One man, one wife at a time on earth.
Q: Yeah, but if it was legal today, would we have two wives? Could I take another one?
RT: It would not change from the current position until the prophet said so. And as I said, I can’t predict the future.
Q: But you must answer, I think you can answer at least, do we believe in polygamy? We don’t practice it, but we believe in it because we are sealing more wives to one man.
RT: We believe in the sealing of people [1:13:43-1:13:46]
The reason I hesitate to say we believe in polygamy is if I say that then people will say, well then you have more than one wife, right? You don’t, right? Nobody else here does, either, I believe. That’s why I say it the way I say it, OK?
Q: Is that your technical way? [1:14:00-1:14-04]
RT: No, nobody’s telling me anything.
Q: Do we believe in polygamy?
RT: We do believe in polygamy; we don’t practice polygamy. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Garrett, what is this from? Whose initials are those?
It is part of the script from what is referred to as the “swedish rescue.” there was a conference held a couple years back in sweden to address all the members that are questioning, leaving, etc. Q is the member asking the questions. RT is the church historian answering the questions. He was there with Marlin Jensen. They were basically trying to do damage control but it did nothing to help. You can do a google search and find the audio to this as well. The conversation that I copied and pasted here is quite incredible to listen to as you hear Jensen and the church historian waffling back and forth and unsure/unwilling to answer so many questions.
A complete load of garbage probaby written by a Sunstone queen.
It’s hard to argue with such thoughtful and considered analysis.
Garrett, it really depends on what you think the word prophet means. By my definition, Joseph certainly counts as a prophet. But then I don’t think a prophet is someone who literally speaks for God (as I don’t believe in a God who speaks in human words).
I am referring to him as the “mouthpiece for the lord” and the one who supposedly restored the lord’s church to the earth. My point in making this comment is that this man, the man who claimed to bring about a restoration of all things, wouldnt even qualify for membership in the very church he supposedly restored. there is nothing to honor, praise, or revere about him.
Yes, all that is true.
I don’t really revere him, but I don’t feel any animosity either. He was a prophet who said some very interesting things. Some I agree with and some I have to reject. He made some very big mistakes in the last years of his life. He may have even succumbed to mental illness. Some of the things he said later in his life make me think that’s a possibility.
Lori Burkman nails it yet again. Very few writers in Mormonism write with the power and eloquence that you do. And hearing attitudes from women concerning polygamy is important and needed.
That is quite a lovely compliment, thank you! I appreciate your support and kind words. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment; I’m glad the essay resonated with you.
The Mormon Church currently likes to make the Christian world believe that it promotes the doctrine that there is a right and a wrong to every question about morality. Its 19th Century missionaries had no qualms, up until 1865, of telling Europeans and Scandinavians that the LDS Church did not believe in, or practice, polygamy, and even used a published section (101) in its Covenants (its doctrines actually comprised the “Lectures on Faith”)that stated that the Latter-day Saints did not believe in, or practice, polygamy. Hence, from its very beginning, the Mormon Church believed that lying was moral, especially when it endorsed an unsupportable tenant of belief.
Then the 20th Century was a process of the Mormon Church hiding the doctrines that was sacred to it, but hardly Christian in content and nature. Deception was the rule in seeking converts to Mormonism. If you told a Mormon investigator about Mormon theology, per Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, before you told them about the Book of Mormon, they would tell the missionaries to get lost. That’s why Mormon polytheistic theology, as clearly conveyed in Lesson 21, “Man can Become Like God,” of the 1984 Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, “Search These Commandments,” is only revealed to newly acquired Mormon converts after they are baptized. No Christian man or woman would accept anything else about Mormonism if they first knew that Mormons believe, and hold sacred, the doctrine that a human Mormon elder can become an exalted god, with a capital ‘G,’ as great as his Mormon father-god, who will be able to make an earth and a world, and to produce a savior equal to Jesus.
I think you can see why Mormons would want to systematically lie about their pagan, unchristian doctrines. The most startling aspect of polygamy is that the book that Joseph Smith claimed was the most correct of all the books on the earth distinctly condemned polygamy in four different places. It also stated that the real God of heaven and earth does not change in the least bit. Yet, fourteen years later, Joe Smith said that the Mormon exalted-man god started out as a human being and changed, and changed, and changed some more to become what he is now.
Have you EVER heard a woman defend polygamy? Well, guess what? There are two, yes two women who have overcome the nature vehemence exhibited here and can, at last, see the reason and the beauty in it… the idea that it is because of, about and FOR women. You don't believe it? Come visit a newly launched endeavor over at thewonderwomen.squarespace.com – it all begins in a post titled "The Creation of Eve." http://www.thewonderwomen.squarespace.com/blog/2014/11/6/the-creation-of-adam-and-eve
I dont doubt that some women dig it. As Hagrid said about Dobby, “you get weirdos in every bunch”
I have addressed this up above in the comments though: My post doesnt operate on the assumption that polygamy itself is repugnant–it is forced polygamy that I detest. Or the idea that it is demanded of us by God. Or that God would ever be part of the way that Joseph and successive prophets handled polygamy. How Emma was completely left out of the decision making; that women and men were forced into it or face rejection from their community or were led to believe they’d be punished in the afterlife. THAT is what I find to be repugnant. I also disagree with any arrangement when it is solely the men who get to have multiple partners. Polygamy and polyandry as a lifestyle choice by people who simply want or enjoy that kind of relationship (without eternal reward or damnation attached to it)–I take no issue with that.
also: Also, some of these women might have been power hungry as well. They now found themselves attached the most powerful man in the afterlife; they sacrificed all “god asked of them” and will reap their reward. They’re hitched on Joseph’s wagon for eternity!!! Sure their daily needs aren’t met, they’re part of a secret harem who rarely get to see him, and their relationship with him is dicey at best… but they’re now cooler than all of the other women whose afterlives are gonna suck compared to theirs. I think if you talked yourself into this enough, there’s a “I love requisite polygamy” horn to be tooted there.
Respectfully, you are right. I don’t believe that the LDS version and implementation of polygamy was ever because of, about, and for women… because no women or their input was allowed in on bringing it forward. But also because of how much it inherently harmed women, and treated them as less than men. As properties, or commodities rather than souls worthy of respect. It seems far more likely that it was all a sexual power struggle rather than a vessel to bring forth eternal blessings.
What? Polygamy? I agree completely!
Read "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman. Or the journals of the wives of Joseph Smith. There is a lot of stuff you don't know about the church.
I’ve read both of those, including Tom Compton’s works and much of what Brian Hales has made available. Those are great suggestions though.
I’m pretty sure he ignored a good part of D&C 132. If you read 61-63, where it clearly States that a second wife is to be a virgin, and have not been ‘vowed to another man’, that becomes pretty obvious.
Many people say it was fine because many of the marriages were non-sexual. If we’re going by the rules and reasons in 132, then verse 63 should make it further apparent that thing’s were at the very least not done correctly.
Funny you should bring up Lucy Walker. You do know how and when she was informed that she was to be one of his wives, right?
Brian does an amazing job of being an apologist to the extent that he picks and chooses anything that meets his end necessary result of Joseph being a prophet….and then completely ignores all the rest of the information.
You know, it’s funny you should bring up how you didn’t record’meat’. I’ve been to meetings where ‘meat’ was given and have recorded it. When it has been brought up, verbatim, in other meetings of the sort, it has been called wrong, and people have denied it being said.
Law of Hammurabi obviously since that’s where it’s found, what’s the point of bringing up the fact that the only “law” to be found about this is a law from man not God?
The options presented in the article don't begin to cover the possibilities. I like the option presented by Rock Waterman here: http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-im-abandoning-polygamy.html
This is spot on. First, Lori is one of the most prideful people I have ever met. Her anger/frustration, not objectivity, drives all of her writings – – – which is why she never writes about anything else. Sad waste of talent. Then there’s Garret, who jumps in to attack anyone with a different view point.
Attack anyone with a different view point? Nope. Look at what you just did in your comment. You jumped into the conversation and the first thing you did is tore down Lori and then came after me. You went immediately on a personal attack. Pot meet kettle. I have not attacked individuals. I have questioned the logic and reasoning that has been used in coming to conclusions that are absolutely ridiculous. I have expressed frustration with individuals who pick and choose on.y information that suits their necessary end conclusion. You have entered this conversation to do nothing more than tear down Lori and me on a personal leve, shame on you. Your tactic is an embarrassment. You may not agree with what I have said but I have disputed research methods. Lack of logic and reasoning, faulty research, etc, but never have I gone and done what you accomplished on a few short sentences….a personal attack against two different individuals….and you showed a complete inability to even offer a valid opinion either.
It’s easier to paint somebody as angry, bitter, or frustrated rather than listen to what they are saying. Often people use that as a method to protect their own faith, and their own would be questioning mind because they are afraid.
Having had the opportunity to speak with Lori a few times I feel I can safely say that it is compassion that drives a lot of her writings, not anger or pride. Anger in fact doesn’t even seem to be a part of her approach at all when discussing subjects with her. Conviction yes, but anger no. She has the humility to be willing to question things we are taught to be sure of (to doubt herself), and explore them then present ideas/evidence in an effort to promote understanding between people and help them find peace with themselves no matter what stage their faith or lack thereof is in. How you twist and turn that into pride, and anger is beyond me, though seeing how what you were responding to did a fine job of misrepresenting things she said I suppose I can see it a little bit.
Garrett can often be blunt, and will attack ideas, or poor reasoning, but I don’t recall seeing him attack the actual person with personal insults. He will respond in kind, but usually has sound reasoning even if you clearly disagree with his overall stance.
Thanks Dusty, I appreciate that; I’m glad we are friends and I always value your insights.
I cannot fathom a person, any person, knowing that a religious gospel is totally false, polytheistic, and pagan, and that it won’t get you to the heaven promised by Jesus Christ, and still wanting to embrace it. Hans Mattsson, former GA, has realized the truth and has distanced himself from Mormonism, as have countless former Mormons. How can you find good in something that is totally unchristian, especially if you know that the Mormon Church has thrived financially on lies and deceit, pretending to be something it is not just to gain members and get tithing? The tithing paid by duped Mormons has made the Mormon Church very wealthy, as that tithing money has been invested and its profitable dividends used to finance its infrastructure; that is, its newspapers, its radio stations, its Beneficial insurance company, its many ornate temples, etc. Money obtained through fraud. How can anyone extol Joseph Smith, Jr. and his flim-flam doctrines?
I can understand how uncomfortable many are with polygamy, and its history, incomplete as it is.
Lori’s written from the perspective of one who rejects polygamy and apparently believes Joseph Smith was not a prophet, at least when it comes to polygamy.
I am not comfortable with polygamy either. However, my perspective is opposite of Lori’s.
I am not comfortable with polygamy, but I believe Joseph Smith told the truth about the angel coming with a drawn sword. I don’t understand why polygamy had to be part of the restoration, but I accept that it did.
A few questions for Lori and any others who are interested:
1. How many of Joseph’s plural wives complained about the practice and accursed Joseph of being a sexual predator?
2. How many of Joseph’s plural wives accepted polygamy because they received powerful answers to their prayers? Did angels appear to any?
3. What were the attitudes of the husbands when their wives were sealed to Joseph?
I’ll leave two account I am aware of that some will find interesting:
Richard Bushman’s research turned up the following account regarding Lucy Walker’s experience (Rough Stone Rolling, pp. 491-93:
In 1842, when Lucy was fifteen or sixteen, Joseph told her, “I have a message for you. I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” Lucy was astounded. “This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me.” Do you believe me to be a Prophet of God? Joseph asked. “Most assuredly I do,” she reported herself as saying in her later autobiography. “He fully Explained to me the principle of plural or celestial marriage. Said this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family. That it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house. And form a chain that could never be broken, worlds without end.” “What have you to say,” Joseph asked her. “Nothing,” she replied. Rather than exert more pressure, Joseph backed away. “If you will pray sincerely for light and understanding in relation thereto, you Shall receive a testimony of the correctness of this principle.” Lucy felt “tempted and tortured beyond endureance untill life was not desireable.” “Oh let this bitter cup pass,” she moaned.29 For months Joseph said nothing more. Then in the spring of 1843, he spoke with Lucy’s brother William, following the usual pattern of asking for permission from a relative. William told Joseph that Lucy must decide for herself. In April 1843, Joseph spoke again and this time he exerted pressure: “I will give you untill to-morrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.” Lucy hated that. This arroused every drop of scotch in my veins. . . . I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a liveing Sacrafice, perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds, this was too much, the thought was unbearable. Facing an ultimatum, Lucy bluntly refused, unless God Himself told her otherwise, and “emphatically forbid him speaking again to me on this Subject.” Joseph blithely replied, “God Almighty bless you,” promised her a manifestation, and left. After a sleepless night in prayer, Lucy felt something in her room. “My room became filled with a heavenly influence. To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sunshine bursting through the darkest cloud. . . . My Soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being.” Going down the stairs to “go out into the morning air,” she met Joseph, who took her by the hand, led her to a chair, and “placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with Every blessing my heart could posibly desire.” On May 1, 1843, William Clayton married Joseph to Lucy. “It was not a love matter,” she wrote later, “but simply the giving up of myself as a sacrifice to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world.” After Joseph’s death, Lucy bore nine children as the plural wife of Heber C. Kimball.30 Lucy’s autobiography fits the standard pattern for the celestial marriage narratives written in Utah a quarter of a century or more after Nauvoo. The circumstances encouraged the plural wives of Joseph (now married to other men) to be candid about their torment when the Prophet made his proposal. The revulsion the women felt at first made the subsequent confirmation all the more compelling. Women were free to enlarge upon their initial anguish, which must have been real, especially for the younger women. (Ten of Joseph’s wives were under twenty.) They had to give up romance, cut themselves off from friends, perhaps suffer disgrace if they became pregnant. Their dreams of happiness, as Lucy said, were “blown to the four winds.” The point of the narratives was that spiritual confirmation alone persuaded them to comply.
Mary Elizebeth Lightner experience:
Much has come and gone from me through the powers and vicissitudes of this Church. I have been in almost every mob. I have been driven about and told I would be shot and had a gun pointed at me, but I stayed with the Church until it was driven from Nauvoo. The words of the Prophet that had been revealed to him always have been with me from the beginning to the end of the gospel. Every principle that has been given in the Church by the prophet is true. I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it, and told him it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. He said in the Book of Mormon it was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and they were to adhere to these things except the Lord speak. I am the first being that the revelation [D&C 132] was given to him for and I was one thousand miles away in Missouri, for we went up to Jackson County in 1841 .
I was there in all the tribulations and trials. I have been in the houses that have been stoned. The rocks have been thrown criss-cross in every direction. I have seen the brethren shot and ruined for life. I saw the first martyr dead and a more heavenly corpse I never saw or expect to see on the face of the earth. His face was so happy. I have seen our bishop tarred and feathered in the streets of Missouri. They took off his shirt and covered him with tar and then took a pillow and turned the feathers over him. I looked at him and thought if ever man was counted worthy to be a martyr, he was. His life proved it for he lived an upright and honorable life and was beloved by the prophet while he lived and after he died the prophet honored him. Two of his sisters were Joseph’s wives. Emma took them by the hand and gave them to Joseph.
I asked him if Emma knew about me, and he said, “Emma thinks the world of you.” I was not sealed to him until I had a witness. I had been dreaming for a number of years I was his wife. I thought I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to take it from me for I felt it was a sin; but when Joseph sent for me he told me all of these things. “Well,” said I, “don’t you think it was an angel of the devil that told you these things?” Said he, “No, it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me. “But,” said he, “they called me a false and fallen prophet but I am more in favor with my God this day than I ever was in all my life before. I know that I shall be saved in the Kingdom of God. I have the oath of God upon it and God cannot lie; all that he gives me I shall take with me for I have that authority and that power conferred upon me.”
Well, I talked with him for a long time and finally I told him I would never be sealed to him until I had a witness. Said he, “You shall have a witness.” Said I, “If God told you that, why does he not tell me?” He asked me if I was going to be a traitor. “I have never told a mortal and shall never tell a mortal I had such a talk from a married man,” said I. “Well,” said he, “pray earnestly for the angel said to me you should have a witness.” Well, Brigham Young was with me. He said if I had a witness he wanted to know it. “Why should I tell you?” said I. “Well,” said he, “I want to know for myself.” Said he, “Do you know what Joseph said? Since we left the office the angel appeared to him and told him he was well pleased with him and that you should have a witness.”
I made it a subject of prayer and I worried about it because I did not dare to speak to a living being except Brigham Young. I went out and got between three haystacks where no one could see me. As I knelt down I thought, why not pray as Moses did? He prayed with his hands raised. When his hands were raised, Israel was victorious, but when they were not raised, the Philistines were victorious. I lifted my hands and I have heard Joseph say the angels covered their faces. I knelt down and if ever a poor mortal prayed, I did. A few nights after that an angel of the Lord came to me and if ever a thrill went through a mortal, it went through me. I gazed upon the clothes and figure but the eyes were like lightning. They pierced me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I was frightened almost to death for a moment. I tried to waken my aunt, but I could not. The angel leaned over me and the light was very great, although it was night. When my aunt woke up she said she had seen a figure in white robes pass from our bed to my mother’s bed and pass out of the window.
Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, “Have you had a witness yet?” “No.” “Well,” said he, “the angel expressly told me you should have.” Said I, “I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before. I saw an angel and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak.” He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He looked up and said, “How could you have been such a coward?” Said I, “I was weak.” “Did you think to say, `Father, help me?'” “No.” “Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal.” I said, “If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?” “You covered your face and for this reason the angel was insulted.” Said I, “Will it ever come again?” He thought a moment and then said, “No, not the same one, but if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that.” And then he gave me three signs of what would take place in my own family, although my husband was far away from me at the time. Every work came true. I went forward and was sealed to him. Brigham Young performed the sealing, and Heber C. Kimball the blessing. I know he had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I knew he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.
It is much easier for somebody in the church today to accept polygamy as part of the restoration. We don’t have to live with it, and readily see the harm it caused people and families.
The answers to your questions I don’t know, but I do view them as irrelevant. You provided some anecdotes, but the overall effect polygamy had is overwhelmingly negative, and that negative effect remains in the way people view the LDS church and their treatment of women today.
All of the questions asked are insignificant and actually counter productive. Here’s a good comparison. Imagine that someone comes to you and says that they have been sexually assaulted by a man. Next, imagine that you ask the following questions: What were you wearing at the time you were allegedly sexually assaulted? Did you have anything to drink? Were you out late? Did you give any hint of wanting to be touched sexually? THe questions that you are asking are materially no different. It doesnt matter if any of them complained about it…it is repugnant behavior. It doesnt matter if any of them “received spiritual confirmation” of polygamy…being told that your salvation is on the line if you dont accept is a pretty motivating factor in “feeling the spirit” and knowing it is a true principal. What were the attitudes of their husbands? Many of them were sent off on a mission and then their wives were propositioned. This, once again, is repugnant behavior. These women were also told that it was god’s will and that their salvation depended on it.
The doctrine of polygamy is repugnant…everything about it. The fact that a “loving” heavenly father would allegedly send down an angel with a flaming sword to force joseph into polygamy is disturbing in and of itself. He was threatening to remove Joseph’s agency if he didnt obey, which is exactly what Lucifer supposedly wanted for us…the very same thing that resulted in Lucifer and a 1/3 of the hosts of heaven being kicked out of heaven. To think and believe that a loving heavenly father would do the very same thing that resulted in the rebellion from heaving is absurd to say the least.
I am still baffled that most mormons will look at Joseph SMith and they will rationalize his behavior with polygamy. They will then look at Warren Jeffs and find his behavior reprehensible. They both claimed to receive direction from god…they both married teens…they both married other men’s wives…they both married 30+ women…the only difference is that Warren ended up on the federal most wanted list and is in a penitentiary now.
That is a good point and I will concede that my assertion there was unfair. I do think that *some* of the women could have had being connected to powerful men as a motive, same as stockholm syndrome being a drive in further promoting polygamy. However, I have read LOTS of accounts of plural wives and will absolutely say that above anything else, these were faithful women. They believed in Joseph explicitly and saw him as a prophet. As such, they followed him (and successive prophets). I do still find Joseph’s actions as wrong and hurtful, but definitely feel it isn’t right to paint the women in a negative light. They were doing as requested by their prophet. Faith and self-sacrifice was above all else their motive.
And I don’t think it is fair to rule out someone’s spiritual feelings if they happen to also feel angry at how things have played out. The apostles have shown anger from the pulpit many times when speaking about sin or chastising evil practices. There is a righteous place for anger. Just because someone is angry about something doesn’t mean they aren’t speaking from a place of justice or sincerity.
Brigham did-he called it the law of incest and explained why lotts daughter were a type of HF getting it on with Mary (his daughter) just as Abraham and Issac were.
Brigham did-he called it the law of incest and explained why lotts daughter were a type of HF getting it on with Mary (his daughter) just as Abraham and Issac were.
Brian,2 of the main concerns I’ve held with this is the angel threatening death, and this being an old testament practice. Take away all the other arguments and opinions about the practice. This goes against everything I’ve been taught about free agency and the restoration of the church established in Christ’s days. Free agency for JS was eliminated as well as the women in which he told the flaming sword story to. So either our free agency really just comes down to obeying regardless of feelings or face destruction, or perhaps it was a lie.
Could someone please show where this is to be found in the Old Testament? I’m aware of a couple of instances where an angel with a sword appears in order to stop someone from doing something, but not to force them to do it. The first one is the angel that prevents entrance to the garden of eden (Gn 3.24); another would be when the angel stopped Balaam from going to curse the Israelites (Nm 22.31). But i just can’t think of any time when an angel appeared and said “Do this or I’ll kill you”. Can you?
People don’t actually read the Old Testament, so there’s a lot of misconception out there.
Very interesting! Could you kindly provide a source for that assertion?
The Word of Wisdom could be considered as Kashrut. He also said the time would come when animal sacrifice would occur (you can find it in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it is hinted at in Doctrine and Covenants 13 as being the reason the Aaronic Priesthood would not be removed from the Earth again – "until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.") Brigham Young claimed that he never taught anything he had not learned from Joseph Smith, and he taught Blood Atonement which is equivalent to stoning. So from your list only circumcision is missing and that is explicitly done away with in the Book of Mormon. Maybe you should re-asses your judgement of Joseph Smith.
Everything said about the requirements in d&c 132 is inaccurate. Did you even read it? Virginity is not required, just an unadulterer. Nothing is said about not being married to another man. And first wife consent is not required. (Verse 65). Stop making angry assumptions about how God is supposed to be based on your own definition of Him, and have faith in Him. That's what we're supposed to do as members of this church. There is one God. Not your version, not my version. If we believe in the God that revealed the doctrine and covenants, then we believe that he actually did command Abraham (and Moses, et al.), because he said he did (Verse 34 to 38) even if it's not said in the OT (which we know is incomplete, hence the restoration in the first place). So are we just supposed to throw out this entire section of the doctrine and covenants because it doesn't match our own expectations? We aren't a cafeteria religion. If we were, were back to square one, pre-restoration, and the whole thing was pointless.