Mormon.org FAQ: Polygamy

The church has initiated a new online profile campaign on mormon.org in which those interested in the church can “meet” actual members who’ve posted pictures of themselves, personal experiences with the church, and their own answers to a variety of questions about Mormonism.  A few of those questions are on more controversial topics, and it is interesting to read answers that members have posted.

First of all, this campaign is slick and attractive.  I applaud efforts to show the diversity that exists in the church, and to showcase some of the cool non-celebrities who are actual Mormons.  These are family-centric people with a wide variety of interests.  There are many of these people whom I would really enjoy on a personal level.  So, kudos on a very effective campaign!

On the downside, some of the answers to the difficult questions are problematic for various reasons (no more problematic than what you hear on a given Sunday from lay members, but they are now public):

  • some answers contain factual errors, including some doctrinal mistakes (see below)
  • there is no spell check or editing; perhaps this is “keepin’ it real”
  • this exposes some of the most common speculations and assumptions that are comfort food to lay members on these tough issues; there’s an upside to this, too.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for the church to clarify or deal with some incorrect assumptions.
  • some of the answers are not going to be very appealing to those outside the church.

So, first things first.  Let’s start with the FAQ on polygamy that members answered:  Why did your church previously practice plural marriage (polygamy)?

Reading through the posted responses, this is the one I liked the best.  He refrains from speculating or spinning pet theories that are easily debunked, and he simply talks about trusting God.  It’s not perfect because it really doesn’t answer the question, but it is a very tough question to answer given that it’s not relevant to our daily experience as church members:

I struggle with this question, myself. I believe, as I have been taught, that it was a commandment from God. I’ve heard many theories about why God commanded it but, as far as I can tell, none of the theories can be proven. I do consider the question from time to time but, in the end, I simply have to return to the fact that I trust God and do not understand all of His ways.

Another answer I somewhat liked was this one.  What I liked was that she talked about polygamy on a personal level, about her own family.  But again, it’s no justification for it (can there be?):

My great, great, great grandmother was a polygamist. She immigrated as a late teenager and would have had little opportunity to find a righteous and good husband had she not married my great, great, great grandfather as his third wife. She raised 6 children mostly on her own, since her husband died before their last child was born. The legacy she left continues to inspire me to be stronger and better. I believe she was a polygamist wife for the benefit of her posterity.

There are some other good statements as well, but I wanted to highlight a few that seem problematic for various reasons:

The Prophets have said “to raise up a righteous generation unto the Lord.” The righteous women in the Church outnumber the righteous men. That is another one of those male-female inequalities. This was especially true in the early days of the Church. Plural Marriage permitted every righteous women to be the wife of a righteous man and then to raise up a righteous family. The problem is not so severe nowadays.

The old romantic paternalist argument that women are more righteous than men.  It is demonstrably false that there was a shortage of marriageable men in the early days of the church.  Census numbers in Utah from 1850 to 1960 show more males than females in the state:

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

The caveat “righteous” is a bit of a two-edged sword; does that mean that Mormons of that era who did not practice plural marriage were unrighteous?  Because another defense of polygamy is that only a select few ever practiced it (see below).  Can’t have it both ways.  Here’s another comment I found troubling:

See the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon where the then current Prophet banned the practice because of the unrighteousness of the people. Will the practice ever come back officially? Only the Lord knows, and he hasn’t confided in me.

This seems mixed up or is just worded strangely.  It is not doctrinal that polygamy is the higher law only given to us when we are righteous; that’s the law of consecration.  The admonishment in Jacob is they were being unrighteous by committing polygamy.  My other concern is that leaving the door open that polygamy is coming back (alarming enough to suggest in its own right) just sounds creepy coming from a man.  I don’t see this one winning any converts.  Moving on.

Let’s look at some facts: in the 19th century, about three quarters of the world’s population lived in countries or societies where polygamy was sanctioned or even encouraged. In non-polygamous societies, like Europe, having a “mistress” was common and acceptable by society. I think it’s much more honorable to be legally and lawfully wedded to two wives, than to have one wife and a “mistress”.

It’s true that there are many societies that have allowed polygamy (encouraged might be a stretch), but do we really want to draw this parallel?  Many of these are the same countries that also allow stoning of women or wife burning.  I’m also not sure I would call all of Europe a “society” as if it’s all one country (apparently a society of adulterers – are we not also looking for European investigators to visit this site?  We just called them immoral here). And he just inadvertently classed polygamy in the same boat as keeping a mistress, as if both are simply inevitable, so you might as well make it legally binding.

In the early days of the Church, there were more women than men. In the harsh frontier times, survival for single women was difficult.

Again with this old chestnut that has been disproven.  There were not significantly more women than men (see above).  Yet I grant that frontier life was tough due to lack of fast food chains and toilet paper.

It’s my understanding that scarecely 3 percent of Church members practiced polygamy.

The 3% estimate is disproven.  More accurate estimates indicate 20-30%.  And the other issue is that it contradicts the notion that only the righteous practiced it (so between 70 and 97% of all church members were unrighteous?)

However, when the representative who speaks for God a prophet says that God wants you to do something, you do it. That is what happened back in the day. God told Joseph Smith that He wanted them to practice plural marriage and so they did.

This one sounds rather cultish, like saying “Shaddup and do whatcher told.”  I am quite sure most investigators would want more clarification on how God’s will is understood clearly and how you know when you should listen to this prophet and when not (since investigators don’t blindly follow leaders of a church they haven’t joined).  This is not a very useful answer to those outside the church, the target audience.

God has commanded humans to practice polygamy in many different instances throughout history. Readers of the Bible will remember that Abraham and Jacob Israel were affiliated with this practice. Even the great King David had multiple wives.

IIRC, it was the infertile wives (Sariah, Rachel and Leah) and conniving fathers-in-law (Laban) who were behind polygamy in the OT.  There is no scriptural account in the OT of God commanding polygamy.  These were people who wanted more children and didn’t want to wait for them.  Also, David and Solomon are not examples of God-sanctioned polygamy.  Whoever wrote that answer should read the Book of Mormon:  “for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” —Jacob 2:23-24

It was from God’s order out of necessity to take care of many women who were widowed with children and those who were alone.

Again with this old chestnut. I’m telling you, this is one of those very convincing very appealing explanations that we would love to find out is true, but unfortunately, it isn’t upheld by actual data.

OK, the point is not to pick these things apart.  I’m sure we’ve all heard more or less the same types of answers our whole lives in Sunday School, whether they are accurate or not.  And it takes a lot of guts to get on line and say these things with your picture plastered there, so I applaud the courage.  There are MTC volunteers who are reviewing for content and accuracy, so I suppose it is consistent with whatever average missionaries believe is accurate.  Since this is an external-facing campaign, that approach makes sense.  Feedback on doctrinal inaccuracies in the profiles can be submitted to bairdct@mtc.byu.edu.

I gave this some thought, wondering how would I answer such a difficult question for an audience of mainly investigators.  Here are the things that I could say in good conscience that might pass muster:

  • I don’t know why.  (I really just have to bite my tongue on this and stop there because I am personally open to the idea that polygamy was not inspired, although that doesn’t bother me in the slightest since I view church leaders as fallible, which is also doctrinally sound.)
  • Personally, I find it hard to imagine life under such an arrangement and am glad it is not something that is directly relevant to my own church experience today.
  • I am hesitant to judge the actions of others who acted in faith in different times under circumstances that are so different from my own.  Many of those individuals made great personal sacrifices.

So, your turn.  How would you answer this question?  Do you have a mormon.org profile?  Which answers do you like the best and why?  How should the church address mistaken assumptions about things like this?  Discuss.

Comments

comments

81 comments for “Mormon.org FAQ: Polygamy

  1. Benjamin Orchard
    August 10, 2010 at 6:58 am

    I have seen the defense for polygamy from Jacob before used in a manner that made some sense, though it is still problematic.

    The relevant verse, seemingly, is in Jacob 2:30
    “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. ”

    The complete logic chain is this: Polygamy is prohibited unless God says otherwise, we can’t choose it. God will only order it in order to allow a greater number of children to be born. The early church needed to raise children more quickly because of the persecutions in Missouri/Nauvoo and the hardships of traveling west. Therefore God commanded it.

    Except that the above logic presupposes that there were more women than men. It also explicitly defies any justification for supporting widows.

    The problem with post-hoc justifications for polygamy is the EXACT same problem for post-hoc interpretations of data–if we assume a reason then try to justify it, we can generally find evidence for it. The scientific method works the opposite direction. We take a proposition and try to design a study that will disprove it. If we are unable to do so, we don’t take it as proven. We take the study as evidence that this is a possible explanation, but until we test alternate explanations, we haven’t really done any science.

    In truth there are only two possible explanations for polygamy. First, it was commanded of God both to begin and end the practice, and therefore it was a righteous act. The alternative is that the early leaders of the church erred in something quite serious, demonstrating their fallibility. This may or may not have implications for their other work, but it definitely shows that they made a mistake. One could argue that the end to polygamy was divinely driven or not as well. Clearly there are groups that reject the change in practice, claiming that those who tried to end it were no longer following God’s will.

    Ultimately the only way for someone to know is to ask God and hope for an answer. I haven’t bothered because I don’t see it as essential to the truth claims of the church, and I don’t see knowing the answer as essential to the welfare of my soul. If I felt that either were the case, I would ask, and I believe that I would get an answer of some sort. But unless it becomes troubling to me for some reason, then I’m not confident the Lord will provide an answer to satisfy my idle curiosity, which is all it would be for me. In some ways, though, I have my answer already: it’s not that important to know for salvation. That works for me. It may not work for everyone.

    As for whether or not the church should address mistaken assumptions, I would argue that yes they should. If I were in charge of this, I would instruct reviewers to look for topics where there is a wide divergence in responses, and to flag those for further review. I would have individuals who have a good deal more knowledge than MTC volunteers review those topics, and see if there is enough confusion on the topic to warrant further review. Those that did would be sent to some official body within the church–perhaps the quorum of twelve–who would review those topics on a monthly basis (with the Twelve, it’s unlikely they could afford any more time than that). This body would then craft an official statement of doctrine where appropriate or simply state that in truth the church does not have an official position on the topic.

    This would keep the load on members of that group lower, and it would allow for a crafting of official policy. It might even result in some direct revelation on a few specific topics, who knows. The pattern for revelation in Joseph Smith’s time, and with the fewer revelations termed as such since then, has been for the prophet to take a specific problem that he has considered and weighed to the Lord for direction. Rarely did a revelation come without there first being a specific question (I can’t think of a single incident, but as soon as I say NEVER someone will correct me).

  2. WMP
    August 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Good post. (I note that this would seem to cut against perceptions that individual responses on mormon.org are somehow scripted or canned.)

    My responses:

    –I don’t know why, and because I have not been asked to live it, I’m not entirely sure I’m entitled to know why.
    –It certainly is not unprecedented, even among God’s anointed, but that doesn’t make it easier to explain why it happened when it happened.
    –I have a testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith and other Latter-day prophets. My sense is that plural marriage was indeed sanctioned and/or commanded by God. For many, the most troubling aspects of plural marriage involve the manner in which it was instituted and the deceptions some early church leaders, particularly Joseph, appear to be have perpetuated. These facts are jarring to me as well, but I am often reminded that (1) Joseph was not perfect; and (2) there is so much we simply do not know.
    –I come from plural marriage stock and I am immensely grateful for the sacrifices of my forebears, including the particular sacrifices related to that institution. Whatever its drawbacks (and to be sure there were many) the practice resulted in many generations of strong, faithful saints.

  3. matt
    August 10, 2010 at 8:10 am

    how about just the truth, plain and simple:

    joseph was a horny guy. he was in a position of ultimate power. the only way he could justify his sexual relations (when they were starting to be found out) was to turn it into “god commandeth”

    he did what 90% (or more) of what any male would do in his position.

    now that would be refreshingly honest to see on mormon.org

  4. Mike S
    August 10, 2010 at 8:39 am

    My answer if I posted:

    – I don’t know. There are common myths about polygamy such as more women than men in frontier times. There are many unsettling things about how polygamy started such as leaders secretly practicing it while publicly denying it. JS tried to keep his other wives secret from his first wife in many cases. Men would marry other men’s wives, sometimes because they were higher in the Church hierarchy and more “deserving”, and sometimes while the other man was away on a mission. It is all a confusing mess seen from our 21st century perspective.
    – To me, the biggest thing polygamy proves is that God can still work through imperfect people like you and me. Unlike religions where we esteem our leaders as infallible, we accept that they are men. We accept that they make mistakes. We accept that there are policies and practices in the Church that are not necessarily God’s will but just the results of man’s imperfect decisions. God tolerates us in our imperfection. But, just like with polygamy, He eventually corrects the mistakes in the Church. He corrected denying black people the priesthood. He corrected polygamy. He corrected women not being allowed to speak in sacrament meeting. He will correct the things that we currently do that are “of men” and not necessarily eternal principles.
    – At the end of the day, we need to trust in God.

  5. August 10, 2010 at 9:04 am

    How about just the practical reason that more wives means more babies means more Mormons?

  6. Justin
    August 10, 2010 at 9:15 am

    “It is demonstrably false that there was a shortage of marriageable men in the early days of the church. Census numbers in Utah from 1850 to 1960 [1900?] show more males than females in the state.”

    I suppose some might note that the census numbers in Utah don’t entirely answer the question of whether there was a shortage of marriageable (whatever that term means) men in pioneer Utah. Cf. K. Daynes, More Wives Than One, 112-114.

  7. August 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

    “To me, the biggest thing polygamy proves is that God can still work through imperfect people like you and me.”

    History of religions has shown that good, decent people can take something suspect and try and do their best with it.

    “Ultimately the only way for someone to know is to ask God and hope for an answer. I haven’t bothered because I don’t see it as essential to the truth claims of the church, and I don’t see knowing the answer as essential to the welfare of my soul.”

    It really does seem strange to me that a person would say that the reason for polygamy is not “essential to the truth claims of the church”. If it was done for venal reasons that says a lot about the character of JS and casts doubt on all his claims. That people may have tried to make something good out of it in no way changes what may have been it’s origins and for me does call into question what JS said he was and goes way beyond saying we accept our leaders fallibility.

  8. Doug
    August 10, 2010 at 10:18 am

    The 19th-century Saints were in effect commanded to “raise up a seed” via polygamy, but that had nothing to do with overall numbers. It should be kept in mind that the Saints we’re necessarily all that observant in their religion in those days. It was necessary to use the “stalwarts” to bolster their numbers with more procreation. Judging by the looks of many of the polygamous wives, I’m dubious that the practicing brethren were motivated by lust, unless they had interesting tastes. Many prominent and faithful LDS families came from these polygamous unions.
    We’ve nothing to apologize for or qualify. Either polygamy was at the time an inspired practice or it wasn’t. End of story.
    We need only look to the sordid example of King David and Bathsheeba…where David went wrong was not in having a large “flock”, as Nathan put it, but in stealing another man’s lone sheep (“Thou ART the man!”). What many who criticize polygamy as an inspired practice overlook is than Nathan had used his Priesthood to “give” David his plural wives and IF that hadn’t been enough he could have legitimately had more (whether this amounts to caving into the lusts of a horny king is subject to debate), BUT, that didn’t justify adultery.
    I agree with Hawkgrrl that comparing formal polygmany among 19th-century LDS to the informal polygamy often practiced in Europe (if a man quietly takes a mistress few think ill of it) is insulting to both. Europeans are not necessarily immoral just because many of them wink at such infidelity. And if some of them are, that doesn’t justify what our spiritual forebears did (or some offshoot cults like the FLDS still do!). Either the polygamists were commanded to do so and did so (generally) in righteousness, or they were committing hideous folly.

  9. AndrewJDavis
    August 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

    To follow up comment 6, it would perhaps be interesting to compare by county the male female ratios. If I remember Utah history correctly, there were many mining towns in the eastern part of the state (Price, Moab areas for example.) In these locations, I think there were probably many more men than women, but they also were less likely to be members. Therefore, it is possible that along the Wasatch front, there were more women than men, and only when looking at the state as a whole does the ratio balance out.

    This could also be complete hogwash. Just be careful that the data supports your claim.

  10. CS Eric
    August 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I think my answer would be atypical, since my family lines only have one polygamous family in them, and she was a widow who only had children from her first husband.

  11. Mike S
    August 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    My one problem with the “raise seed unto the Lord” as a justification for polygamy is in regards to Joseph Smith. He married teenagers where there were plenty of men for them to someday get married. He married women who were already married. It doesn’t appear that “raising seed unto the Lord” necessarily had anything to do with it.

  12. Mike S
    August 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Sorry. Pressed submit too soon:

    Aside from Joseph Smith’s relationship with polygamy, my other issue with the “raise seed unto the Lord” is how it was actually practiced. Even if there was a slight imbalance with more “marriageable” women than “worthy” men, this could have been rectified by a few men here and there taking an extra wife. Why do many of the early Church leaders have dozens and dozens of wives? There is much more than “raising seed unto the Lord” here. Did it treat women as a “status symbol”, with a man’s number of wives related to his rank in the Church hierarchy? And how isn’t this wrong?

  13. Jen
    August 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Hawkgrrrl-

    I liked your answers. We don’t know why, we aren’t going to know why and we can’t judge it because we weren’t there and didn’t experience what they experienced. Take it or leave it.

  14. WMP
    August 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Mike S,

    Good questions about “raising seed.”

    I suppose you could look to the “unto the Lord” portion of the scripture, which (as someone already noted) might be better accomplished with some men than others (or so the argument would go).

    This, of course, raises another issue wrt Joseph’s practices: that there is no evidence he fathered any children, except with Emma. On the one hand, this would seem to cut against the notion that he was engaging in frequent, um, reproductive behavior with his additional wives. On the other hand, it suggests the practice may have been about more than simply generating more children.

  15. Chris
    August 10, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Hawkgirl, this is another thoughtful and insightful post. As I have studied the sordid history of Joseph Smith’s many polygamy and polyandry, I have concluded that he was clearly a flawed prophet, as was Moses, David, and many other prophets. It will be a great day when the Church focuses on worshipping the Lord instead of the prophets.

  16. mh
    August 10, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    wmp, I attended a sunstone presentation saturday with newell bringhurst and don bradley. don indicated that when emma found joseph smith with fanny alger, fanny appeared pregnant. fanny was rushed out of town to missouri and married a non-member with just a 6 week courtship. bradley calculated that if fanny was pregnant when emma discovered them, then the baby would have been born a month after fanny’s marriage.

    I asked don if there were any census records showing a child of fanny at this time and don didn’t know of any. it is possible that the child died at birth. it is interesting speculation, as there isnot enough evidence to conclude that fanny was pregnant, but it is a possibility.

  17. Ren
    August 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    @ #2. WMP “(I note that this would seem to cut against perceptions that individual responses on mormon.org are somehow scripted or canned.)”

    People can answer freely but the answers can be rejected. Workers at the MTC review answers and they are rejected if the reviewer feels the tone is inappropriate or the answer is not doctrinally accurate.

  18. August 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    HG, I think the first answers you cite are terrific ones. Thanks for finding them and sharing them.

    It will be interesting over time to see how our teaching may change in the face of the very public display of myths and folklore evident in some of the answers your cite.

    #3 matt, you have reached a conclusion that you may think is truth, but clearly there are plenty who have not reached the same conclusion. Not so “plain and simple.”

  19. carlos
    August 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    “1890 total 210,779 male 111,975 female 98,804
    1900 total 276,749 male 141,687 female 135,062

    The caveat “righteous” is a bit of a two-edged sword; does that mean that Mormons of that era who did not practice plural marriage were unrighteous? Because another defense of polygamy is that only a select few ever practiced it (see below). “

    If one considers any ward today in any stake in the world we would see what that caveat “righteous” refers to, righteous women just seem to outnumber righteous men in practically every situation. There may well have been more males in Utah physically but churchwise there is always a less number of active, righteous men than women in just about any setting in this church.

    Having said that we should remember that the Lord has never actually clarified the “why” polygamy existed. He suggested a ‘why’ Abraham and David had many wives but never suggested why the Utah lot could. Today I personally like the need to raise righteous generation as, lets say, the “preferred” reason but who knows exactly what the answer is.

  20. August 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    HG — re: #19 above — just because “righteous” people practiced polygamy (and those with polygamous ancestors like to believe they were righteous) doesn’t necessarily mean that those who didn’t weren’t righteous. After all, just because men who wear blue suits work on Wall Street does not mean ALL men who wear blue suits work on Wall Street.

  21. alice
    August 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    The raising seed thing doesn’t work for me either. If there are X number of fecund women in a population, so long as there is a man or men to impregnate them the seed will be raised. And that will pretty much be limited by the gestation period of the species rather than by who impregnates her. Consequently, if 100 women in their child bearing years are married to 100 men or to 1 man they remain capable of bearing the same number of children. In fact, if a fecund woman is married to a man of her own who isn’t exhausted by his “duties” with 8 or 12 or 30 others, her chances of getting pregnant increase. Plus the long range prognosis for a healthy and vigorous population is improved by not narrowing down the genetic material by excluding a large number of men when a few monopolize the available women.

  22. Rigel Hawthorne
    August 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    “Census numbers in Utah from 1850 to 1960 show more males than females in the state.”

    I’m not trying to argue FOR polygamy by any means, but just because there were men there, you can’t suppose that they were ALL interested or emotionally capable of being married. 10 percent or so were probably ‘not the marrying kind’. Without the benefit of medications we now have, some probably had bipolar disorder, depression or schizoaffective disorder that couldn’t maintain the consistent social skills necessary to take on a relationship. With travel by horse and buggy, occupational travel was probably more often weeks or months away, so having a home in one place may not have taken priority depending on the line of work.

    Granted, all of this probably applied/applies to women as well, except instead of 10% it may have only been 3%. Having visited my sister’s former “middle singles” ward, it seemed that there were a greater number of women who had personalities and life skills that would be compatible with marriage than there were men.

    I sometimes see a patient who has two husbands (one legal, one not). One is the older, working, reliable, chronic back pain husband. The other is the younger, fertile (fathered her child), funner, tatooed, more open to mood altering chemicals husband. While the woman and husband #1 work, the father of the baby stays home with the child. While their choice seems wierd, it illustrates the division of labor feature of polygamy. Or maybe she is just an example of matt’s (#3) theory of just a horny woman who wants to have her cake and eat it too.

  23. Arnster
    August 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    I think that the attitude which President Hinckley shared is appropriate – let’s just move on, that was the past.

    Would four prophets have taught, tolerated, and suffered persecution for plural marriage if it wasn’t the will of the Lord? I highly doubt it. Would the Lord have seriously have allowed something which wasn’t important to Him to cause so much friction between the church members and the rest of the world? What was the reason behind it? Heck, beats me. Test of faith maybe, maybe a way to show to the world what a peculiar people the Lord’s covenant people are asked to be? I think people look at the whole thing through this contemporary lens and demand answers to the aberration. Big friggin’ deal.

  24. Mike S
    August 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    #23: I think it’s a big deal now in some ways because there are very contemporary questions regarding “traditional” and “non-traditional” marriages affecting our society and the Church today. I think insights into the past give us thoughts for where we are now and where we might go.

    It also gives me hope in many ways, for things with which I personally disagree with the Church’s current policies but which I follow out of obedience. Ultimately, the Church tends to follow societal trends – often after making a big stink, when societal pressures get too much. Polygamy ultimately ended because of societal pressures. Similar with blacks and the priesthood around the time of civil rights. Women not being allowed to speak in sacrament meeting ended after the ERA era. Birth control and other issues have all also been deemphasized. We go from BY talking about interracial marriages being condemned and “amen” to that person, to interracial marriages being features on LDS websites.

    So, polygamy gives me hope. The changes are slow and often involve generational turnover in the highest level of the hierarchy, but there is hope for change. As far as worrying about it today – after all the time and effort and money spent on Prop 8, things in society will ultimately change too. And down the road, the Church will find an equilibrium with the issues it raised. The changes may seem traumatic, but in hindsight, we will all wonder why we got so emotional about it.

    It doesn’t change the fact that God lives, that Christ died for us, that we should all love one another, that we should leave the world a better place for having been here.

    That’s why investigating polygamy matters to me.

  25. August 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    “My other concern is that leaving the door open that polygamy is coming back (alarming enough to suggest in its own right) just sounds creepy coming from a man.”

    Lol, Hawkgrrrl! Polygamy IS coming back. Don’t you follow current events? After SSM is made legal in every State, which it will, the next great legal battle will be the legalization of polygamy. Only, it won’t be such a great battle, as it will just follow in the steps of SSM. This may alarm you and creep you out, but you better get used to it. It will be here. Soon. So says me, a man.

    Besides, don’t you think that people ought to know what they are potentially getting themselves into when investigating a religion? Do you think it is wrong to tell them, “it ain’t never coming back” so that they get baptized and then have them skadoodle when it does? Heck, it is even prophesied (by Isaiah) to come back! Don’t you believe his prophecy?

  26. E
    August 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I think it would help if there was a halfway decent “official” answer to this particular FAQ on mormon.org; but there really isn’t.

  27. August 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Oh, by the way, I meant, “Don’t you think it is wrong”, not “Do you think.”

    Also, here is an article about this next legal battle:

    Marriage Control Reversals in 2 States Heading to Supreme Court

  28. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    August 10, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    #3 darn, you said it before I could…

  29. SkepticTheist
    August 10, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    The raising up seed unto the Lord thing, IMHO, has not a whole lot to do with the number of women versus men. But it has more to do with the Lord’s desire to funnel a large amount of spirits through a certain few bloodlines that are choice bloodlines to him, so that future generations are blessed with those people as their ancestors. It is literally, as in the case of Abraham, so all the world may be blessed. When people come through families of what has been called “believing blood”, according to this theory, they have more of a tendency to follow after righteousness. So it has more to do with the sake of the spirits that are foreordained to come from a certain bloodline than it does having more than one wife, or even having more posterity, as I see it.

  30. hawkgrrrl
    August 10, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Color me skeptical about this choice bloodlines argument. It helps my skepticism that I have no polygamous ancestry (I’m 2nd gen), and my DH (5th gen) also has no polygamists in his family tree. But when the ones who are communicating God’s will are also the ones who are the “choice bloodlines” doesn’t that seem a little convenient? Even if it’s true, just makes ya wonder.

  31. August 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I recently addressed this issue, for what it’s worth: http://mollymuses.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/polygamy-what-will-we-do-with-you/

    It is astounding to me how few LDS seem to be aware that polygamy had a doctrinal role in the concept of deification of men. The FLDS still preach today what was preached openly for 60-80 years: Men-turned-gods need multiple wives to birth spirit babies to populate their worlds without end. Sounds batty, but yes, that was the practical reason, discussed at length in the Journal of Discourses.

  32. August 11, 2010 at 7:24 am

    #24 Mike S: “Women not being allowed to speak in sacrament meeting ended after the ERA era.”

    I joined the church in 1967, well before the ERA, and quite a number of women spoke in sacrament meeting prior to the ERA.

  33. SkepticTheist
    August 11, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Hawkgrrl, I have lots of polygamous bloodlines, so I guess its convenient for me. I admit that, but even so, I speculate that I believe it because of believing blood from ancestors that were obedient to polygamy. Yes, I know. How convenient, but I say it is true.

    As time goes on, more and more bloodlines of the earth will mix in with these bloodlines from these righteous polygamous ancestors. Similarly, as more righteous people mix together, and start to intermarry, more of the blood of Israel will be concentrated in those people to where they will become pure Israel again over time, and more and more righteous, with this concentration of bloodlines in the Church.

  34. Mike S
    August 11, 2010 at 9:50 am

    #32: Paul:

    I stand corrected. In looking into it further, it appears that the restriction’s on women and sacrament meeting was actually regarding PRAYER and not SPEAKING. From the 1968 Church handbook of instructions:

    —————-
    “Prayers in all Church meetings should be brief, simple, and given as led by the spirit by the one who is voice. Their content should pertain to the particular matter at hand.

    Brethren holding the Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood should offer the prayers in sacrament meetings, including fast and testimony meetings. Those praying should use the pronoun forms of Thy, Thee, Thine, Thou in addressing the Lord.

    (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Handbook of Instructions, no. 20 (First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, 1968), 44.)”
    ——————–

    This was corrected in 1978 as shown by the following quote:

    “The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have determined that
    there is no scriptural prohibition against sisters offering prayers in sacrament
    meetings. It was therefore decided that it is permissible for sisters to offer
    prayers in any meetings they attend, including sacrament meetings, Sunday School
    meetings, and stake conferences. Relief Society visiting teachers may offer
    prayers in homes that they enter in fulfilling visiting teaching assignments.”

    (Marvin K. Gardner, “News of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 100)

    ————————
    Granted, it may be coincidental, but the last state to ratify the ERA amendment did so in 1977. The original deadline for ERA to be passed was in 1979.

    So, women’s participation in sacrament meeting WAS limited officially, and it WAS officially changed. I do not know the reason why. Perhaps it was from an actual revelation. I do find it perhaps a bit coincidental that it happened during the time of ERA. And it actually does support my original premise that many changes in the Church occur during times of societal pressure – even such fundamental things as the eternal nature of marriage, who is worthy from the preexistence to hold the priesthood, what priesthood authority is needed to perform specific roles in official meetings, etc.

  35. Rigel Hawthorne
    August 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I was just listening to the Mormon Stories podcast interview with John Hamer about the Succession Crisis. It was discussed how the Brigham Young Vs. Sidney Rigdon showdown was also a polygamy vs. anti-polygamy showdown. Sidney was opposed; William Marks did not pursue a claim to the leadership because he felt Sidney had a better legal claim, being a member of the First Presidency, Emma may have been more supportive of William Marks.

    Brigham’s camp were all involved. If Sidney had prevailed, then the shift away from polygamy or denial of the prophetic direction of polygamy would have emerged earlier, leaving all of those involved with a very embarrassing situation.

    So from this aspect, you could look at polygamy in one of two ways:

    a. It was a test of loyalty and obedience that those who followed Joseph’s counsel to enter polygamy would obey every command and teach/preserve all the doctrines that were revealed to Joseph and for which he sealed his testimony with his blood. This would include such awkward things as underwear, sacred rites, work for the dead etc. As I recall, Joseph tested Heber C. Kimball specifically by telling him that he was to give his wife to Vilate to Joseph. When Heber consented, he was told that he had passed. Sidney opposed his daughter being given to Joseph. Who knows if it may have been a test or not, but it demonstrated a disagreement between the two members of the First Presidency.

    b. Joseph Smith never intended for polygamy to be practiced in the way Brigham Young taught, but it was Brigham’s way of drawing critical leaders of the church to his support so that he would be successful in a strategy to place himself over the leadership of the church, knowing that there was a disagreement between Joseph and Sidney that he could take advantage of.

    If it was indeed a test for selecting obedient leaders, it seems that after the succession ritual had been established and a steady system of selecting a core of faithful leaders had been established, it had served it’s purpose and was no longer necessary. It would certainly be viewed as a testing method that had extreme personal cost. Tests that exact a high degree of personal cost are not without scriptural precedent.

  36. August 11, 2010 at 10:39 am

    34 — Mike S, thanks for the history, and for the GHI quotation. I found similar in the comments to a Common Consent article from 2008:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/05/05/not-letting-women-open-sacrament-meeting-redux/

  37. August 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

    What I find interesting about polygamy and the succession crisis is that James Strang was anti-polygamy as well, and a much more successful claimant to JS’s legacy than was Rigdon. He had 40,000 followers to BY’s 55,000. But several years later he oddly reversed his anti-polygamy position and preached polygamy. The sect immediately and irrevocably fell away and has extremely few adherents today. There was a prevailing sentiment at the time that these enthusiastic new religions that had a lot of spiritual outpouring (speaking in tongues, visions, etc.) inevitably experimented with unorthodox sexual practices.

  38. Thomas
    August 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Hawkgrrl, I have lots of polygamous bloodlines, so I guess its convenient for me. I admit that, but even so, I speculate that I believe it because of believing blood from ancestors that were obedient to polygamy. Yes, I know. How convenient, but I say it is true.

    I think that’s a fair point, although I wouldn’t call it “believing blood,” if what you’re saying (and you may not be) that there’s something genetic about faith, which gets us down into the Calvinist weeds. I’d call it something more akin to “the traditions of their fathers.” Going to religious extremes is like going all-in in poker; you create a powerful incentive not to doubt the thing you’ve sacrificed so much for. “Sunk costs are sunk” may be a fallacy, but human beings just don’t think that way.

    Polygamy was a drastic separation from the general Anglo-American culture. With polygamy in place, you couldn’t fall into thinking that Mormonism was just one more variant on the whole, such that people could slide back and forth into the larger culture like Lutherans marrying Presbyterians or the like. Between the embrace of polygamy and the move to Utah, Mormons pulled a for-real “come out of Babylon and be ye separate.” They became a culture, a tribe. And the way it looks, old-school tribalism is about the only thing that can stand up against modernity and maintain its independence. Look at Islam, for instance, which is fighting the modern world tooth and nail: It developed in a tribal culture, and is full of us-versus-them tribal thinking. It’s still vital; its women are still having children, and its members are still, lots of them, willing to kill and die in defense of the faith. Who in modern Western civilization cares that much about anything anymore?

  39. August 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    But several years later he oddly reversed his anti-polygamy position and preached polygamy. The sect immediately and irrevocably fell away and has extremely few adherents today. There was a prevailing sentiment at the time that these enthusiastic new religions that had a lot of spiritual outpouring (speaking in tongues, visions, etc.) inevitably experimented with unorthodox sexual practices.

    I have often had a thought about this. This is me wondering out loud. I wonder if the need to consistently, and regularly pull new practices, doctrines, and ideas out of the revelatory hat satisfies a need that humans have, similar to the need that facebook, multi-media, etc. satisfies for us now. That is, perhaps, there is an incentive to create new ideas, etc. to keep people “coming back for more” as it were. If the religion is left stagnant (like some might accuse Mormonism of today) maybe people will eventually leave (like some might accuse Mormonism of today).

  40. Thomas
    August 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I have often had a thought about this. This is me wondering out loud. I wonder if the need to consistently, and regularly pull new practices, doctrines, and ideas out of the revelatory hat satisfies a need that humans have, similar to the need that facebook, multi-media, etc. satisfies for us now.

    Yes.

    Fish gotta swim, lawyers gotta sue, and charismatic revolutionary leaders gotta innovate. It’s just what they do. What such person has ever settled quietly down, after a spectacular, original founding moment, to administrate a static movement?

  41. Cowboy
    August 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    “it has more to do with the Lord’s desire to funnel a large amount of spirits through a certain few bloodlines that are choice bloodlines to him, so that future generations are blessed with those people as their ancestors. It is literally, as in the case of Abraham, so all the world may be blessed. When people come through families of what has been called “believing blood”, according to this theory, they have more of a tendency to follow after righteousness.”

    Two weeks ago in Sunday School the lesson was about Prophetic succession. Someone commented how fortunate we are as Mormons to have a process where God Systematically places Prophets on earth at the right time, and consequently influences their progression through Church hierarchy (which entails changes spurred by the death of Apostles and Seventies in the leadership chains) to place them in the circumstance to be the Prophet at a foreordained point. If that is what you believe then fine, how could I argue. They then began to criticize the process of papal succession where Cardinals basically vote on the matter, as though this method is confusing and inferior. I don’t buy either scenario, but it seems to me that God would not want to reconcile himself to unnecessary constraints that say, if he wants Oaks to take over then he has to kill Packer. The same goes for the above comment. This sounds like an unnecessary construct intended to make an intriguing theory in justification of polygamy. Why would God create a condition that enhances salvation probabilities based on blood lines, when he could just as easily endow the power of faith belief without randomizing it through the chaotic distribution of genetics? Is this asserting that God is constrained by the blood content of his children? It’s better to be mysterious with religion than to theorize scientific explanations to deeply. Take Star Wars for example. Remember how fascinated we were by the mystery of the force, this power that surrounds and binds all living things, and it’s ability to be manipulated for good or evil. Now remember what happened to the force when Mr. Lucas decided to start the new trilogy with the Phantom Menace, and a new scientific explanation for the force was introduced by saying it was related to an individuals “midichlorian” count within their blood? Do you remember how lame that was, and how it forever killed the appeal of being a Jedi and having the force? Let this be the lesson.

  42. Thomas
    August 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Good gadfrey, do Mormons really believe this? Polygamy is basically “spiritual eugenics”?

  43. Holden Caulfield
    August 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Hawkgrrrl—“There was a prevailing sentiment at the time that these enthusiastic new religions that had a lot of spiritual outpouring (speaking in tongues, visions, etc.) inevitably experimented with unorthodox sexual practices.”

    I am a real history buff. What do you mean “unorthodox sexual practices”?

  44. hawkgrrrl
    August 11, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    By unorthodox, I mean the gamut from open-marriage wife-sharing to the celibate Shakers who basically died out as a result. Mormonism held sexuality very deeply in the doctrines (theories of eternal offspring, messier immaculate conception, polygamy in various forms). I wouldn’t go so far as to say that charismatic worship is why we practiced polygamy, but that’s one theory due to the correlation. I’m still unconvinced by all the proposed theories. I find them all flawed and inadequate or self-serving and therefore suspect.

  45. Holden Caulfield
    August 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    While I do like history, I was just kidding. I was thinking you may have uncovered details of “sexual practices” rather than “marital practices”. My wife says I’m just weird. I try to tell her she means funny. She says no, I’m just weird.

  46. SkepticTheist
    August 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Thomas, you say:

    “I think that’s a fair point, although I wouldn’t call it “believing blood,” if what you’re saying (and you may not be) that there’s something genetic about faith, which gets us down into the Calvinist weeds. I’d call it something more akin to “the traditions of their fathers.” Going to religious extremes is like going all-in in poker; you create a powerful incentive not to doubt the thing you’ve sacrificed so much for. “Sunk costs are sunk” may be a fallacy, but human beings just don’t think that way.”

    No, I say absolutely that there is something spiritual as well as genetic. I’m saying that there is something in certain people’s disposition genetically that they have inherited that predisposes them to certain spiritual gifts, the gift of belief and obedience being one of them. I say that the more righteous people get together, over time, the gifts in their genes manifest more and more to where their descendants have more and more predisposition towards righteousness and obedience. And I stand by this claim.

    Cowboy, you say:

    “Why would God create a condition that enhances salvation probabilities based on blood lines, when he could just as easily endow the power of faith belief without randomizing it through the chaotic distribution of genetics? Is this asserting that God is constrained by the blood content of his children? It’s better to be mysterious with religion than to theorize scientific explanations to deeply.”

    My reply:

    Because what we call randomness is actually what I call the default condition of a substance called the light of Christ, until it is acted upon. And it is called by His name, because he is the one to act upon it and manipulate it. I disagree. I don’t believe in a mysterious religion, but a theology of rationality, even if it seems irrational to my ideological opponents. As the song goes, truth is reason, truth eternal. Things have to start out speculative before they are confirmed by spiritual manifestation anyway.

  47. SkepticTheist
    August 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Thomas, you say: “Good gadfrey, do Mormons really believe this? Polygamy is basically “spiritual eugenics”?”

    No, just this Mormon and some others out there from what I can tell, but I don’t think that this belief is widespread.

    Jacob chapter 5 is all about God’s hand in the evolution of the human species. Evolution is about survival of the fittest. Exaltation is about survival of the spiritually fit from all degrees of spiritual death, and God will ensure they have the best genes to pass on to the next “batch” in eternity, whereas those who are not spiritually fit will not be allowed to pass on their genetic legacy in eternity. I wouldn’t call that Eugenics. I would call it Evolution.

  48. SkepticTheist
    August 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Oh, lest I forget, I interpret this verse literally:

    D&C 64:36 “For, verily I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out.”

    God knew beforehand what their spiritual disposition would be, and endowed them with a genetic legacy to match. So though it is a mind-bender, God manipulated the randomness of the genes so that the “wild” genes would arrange themselves in a manner so that they end up mostly in those those whose spiritual disposition would in the end take them out of the Church anyway, to be thrown back into the mix. And then when these genes go back out to mix with the rest of the “wild” genes, whatever leftover good genes there were in the mix serves to eventually help obedient souls become endowed with the right genetic disposition to lead them forth out of Babylon to join up with Zion, to lend their genetic strength to Zion.

  49. SkepticTheist
    August 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    It isn’t a coincidence that it is mostly people who aren’t religious, God-fearing people who choose to limit their own posterity of their own free will, because they don’t want to be bothered. They are pre-disposed spiritually and genetically towards self-selecting themselves out of the genetic pool anyway.

  50. brjones
    August 12, 2010 at 5:42 am

    SkepticTheist, I think we agree on something. It appears you’d like nothing more than to live in isolation with only your righteous relatives to inbreed and create a pure race of super-mormons. I believe I’d like that as much as you.

  51. August 12, 2010 at 7:52 am

    SkepticTheist, I think you raise an interesting point — one which I’ve heard before about the sanctity of the blood of Isreal.

    But isn’t it also true that by entering into the convenants of the gospel that one becomes part of the covenant people, regardless of genetic bloodlines?

  52. Mike S
    August 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

    SkepticTheist: All I can say is “Wow”.

    I have a much more inclusive view of humanity. I believe God is a successful God. I believe there are going to by MANY more people back with God than the 0.1% who might be active Mormons (and the <0.01% who are "bloodline" active Mormons). I believe that this Church is a "finger pointing at the moon", but that there are other fingers out there that also point at the moon. I'm not personally as focused on the finger other than to the extent that it helps me see the moon.

  53. hawkgrrrl
    August 12, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Count me in the Wow camp. I have, however, marveled at the observation that the more devoutly religious families have the most children, almost a reverse natural selection (for those whose large families are also due to a basic misunderstanding or mistrust of birth control). But I suppose as a person of so-called “secular” blood, I’m naturally skeptical of the idea that this is by divine design. Also, I’m reminded that both Abraham and Isaac had small families, and only with Jacob does the population boom begin. Of course, he was a lightweight compared to BY.

  54. Cowboy
    August 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

    “No, I say absolutely that there is something spiritual as well as genetic. I’m saying that there is something in certain people’s disposition genetically that they have inherited that predisposes them to certain spiritual gifts, the gift of belief and obedience being one of them.”

    There certainly is something of an established LDS belief here, it just doesn’t work on so many theological levels. On my mission we were visited by an area authority named Sheldon F Child. In the course of a two-day marathon zone conference he made an oblique reference to the people of Latin America, stating that they possessed “the believing blood of Israel”. This was/is not a completely new term to me, though I have never really seen it discussed in a manner beyond elusive references. At the time it seemed puzzling to me that a person could have “believing blood”, I mean how unfair is that. Strictly as a matter of my genetics some groups are more inclined to faith, which leads to road of salvation? What does that do to the probabilities? At the time I dismissed it at as a personal belief of Elder Child’s, and reconciled that for me personally it wasn’t a belief worth holding to. The whole notion throws a wrench into the idea that God is fair, or the laws of agency.

    Fast forward, and based on some innocuous Doctrine & Covenants references, and a completely unique (yet questionable) interpretation of Jacob 5, we are advocating this notion that faith is genetically driven. Would it be logical then, under such circumstances, to assume that an individuals personal faith index might be raised following an injection of this “believing blood”. Inspite of teachings and pseudo doctrine in the affirmative, is this really all there is to it. Mabey the Catholics have it more logical once again, and there actually is something to this whole transubstantiation business.

  55. August 12, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I’m a little confused at this discussion. How is it that, given the myriad of different people, the uniqueness of every human being’s personality and genetic makeup that some think it unreasonable that some will be predisposed to faith or belief? It seems like a no-brainer to me. Why are some people prone to be controlling and others are prone to be followers? I don’t know, but it is most certainly not completely nature or nurture. We most certainly are not all the same at birth and simply shaped by our environment. To believe so is to deny biological evolution entirely!

    SkepticTheist is obviously implying more than just this (with which I do not agree), but to think that some are naturally more faithful is entirely consistent with the theology (gifts of the Spirit), biology, and psychology. After all, theologically, if it’s a gift, we may not have “earned” it or “developed” it.

    But for me, the real problem is a question about God. Namely, if some are more inclined to believe and have faith (which I think is absolutely obvious), why is the faith mechanism the only one which God seems to use? Why does he have the same set of requirements (faith) for understanding His true nature if some are more easily given to it? To me, if God is a just God, He surely must have a variable mechanism tailored for each individual. Perhaps for those of us who are less faithful, and more skeptical by nature, there is a different kind of mechanism for knowing God, maybe filled with implausible miracles or something (I dunno, just making stuff up here).

  56. August 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Well, if believing is in the blood (and only there), I don’t understand the high inactivity rate among children of faithful Latter-day Saints. (Or Nephites, for that matter…)

  57. August 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Re Cowboy

    Would it be logical then, under such circumstances, to assume that an individuals personal faith index might be raised following an injection of this “believing blood”.

    What? This doesn’t seem like you, so I must be misunderstanding. Just because there is a more believing “bloodline” (meaning genetic code, not literally blood) does not even remotely mean we could just inject the “believing blood” and faith would be increased.

    But yes, biological evolution would absolutely support the idea that you could create a group of people who were more prone to have faith. Doesn’t mean you should, or would want to, but it would support it.

  58. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I think you are all missing an important point, and getting caught up in the idea of cause and effect. There is not a CAUSAL relationship between recieving believing blood and being obedient. In other words, being believing blood merely goes along with being obedient, because the one thing cleaves to the other. There is an entwined relationship, where the one only exists with the other. They go together because they are entangled together. YOu dont get believing blood just because you are obedient, and you aren’t obedient just because you are believing blood. You are believing blood because you have the predisposition to be obedient spiritually, and that is the way the universe works. It isn’t a favoritism thing. It is because the temporal is entangled with the spiritual, not unlike quantum particles that are entagled.

  59. August 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

    My personal favorite for an explanation of polygamy: Mystical union in the flesh — metaphor run amok.

  60. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 11:46 am

    BrJones you say:

    “SkepticTheist, I think we agree on something. It appears you’d like nothing more than to live in isolation with only your righteous relatives to inbreed and create a pure race of super-mormons. I believe I’d like that as much as you”

    I say, up up and away.

    Paul, you say:

    “SkepticTheist, I think you raise an interesting point — one which I’ve heard before about the sanctity of the blood of Isreal. But isn’t it also true that by entering into the convenants of the gospel that one becomes part of the covenant people, regardless of genetic bloodlines?”

    That’s the whole point, is Israel isn’t the only believing blood there is, and the whole point is to gather in all that there is and circumscribe it into one whole, all of the righteous into the covenant.

    Mike S:

    “I believe that this Church is a “finger pointing at the moon”, but that there are other fingers out there that also point at the moon. I’m not personally as focused on the finger other than to the extent that it helps me see the moon.”

    I’m not a universalist in the sense that I think all will be saved regardless of what path they are on. I’m a universalist in the sense that in the end, every knee shall bow and every toungue confess that the God of Mormonism is the God of the Universe, namely Jesus Christ. They will come to this either by being led that way because it isn’t their time and they are merely in preparation stages right now, or they will come because they are forced to in the end to admit by PROOF that God is standing before them. I never said that everybody is supposed to be Mormon right now, nor did I say that everybody that isn’t Mormon won’t be saved. But everybody that is exalted in the end will be a Mormon, a member of the Church of the Firstborn, regardless of where they are right now in their preparation for that. And if it takes them a thousand years to get there, then they had that believing blood even before they ever became Mormon, because God knew their heart, and knew where they would end up, and the beginning of what they were at birth, and what they were before birth is entangled in cosmic wierdness with the state that they will end up at when they are exalted. The one is not a cause of the other, but there is just entanglement between the two.

  61. Thomas
    August 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

    SkepticTheist, to the extent I agree with you, it’s in acknowledging that certain personality types seem better suited for religion, and authoritarian religion in particular, than others. And I absolutely believe that personality types are genetically influenced, pace the dream that human nature is completely capable of being molded by benevolent policy into the New Liberal Man.

    But I don’t think there is a special Mormon-believing blood type. I think the same type of person whose personality is genetically shaped to be a good fit with Mormonism, is the exact same genetic type who would make an equally believing Muslim or Catholic.

    Re: large families and religious belief, in the modern world, where we’ve gone from subsistence agriculture to a job- and money-based economy, children stop being profit centers and become overhead. If you are going at childbearing decisions from a purely secular perspective, the rational incentives militate towards having one child, naming him/her Connor or Madison, installing him/her in an exquisitely furnished Pottery Barn bedroom, and calling it a day. Religious teachings about children being a heritage of the Lord are among the few incentives remaining for having larger families, and so of course families with religious cultures will tend to have more children. But this is all a matter of culture, not genetics. Religious culture simply motivates more childbearing than secular culture.

  62. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Thomas, no doubt people need to teach their children, but Laman and Lemuel were brought up with the same type of nurture that Nephi did, and if you don’t want to call it genes, then you must call that predisposition something. Go ahead and speculate on what you’d like to call it. It is a predisposition.

  63. Thomas
    August 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    #62 — This is why I’ve always had some sympathy with hard Calvinist predestinarianism, as much as my Arminian-predisposed mind revolts at the injustice of it. Some people really are just bad to the bone.

    And I absolutely reject the liberal infatuation with sola nurtura having four children with four dramatically different personalities (maybe three — 2nd and 4th seem similar). Of course genes, or “believing blood,” aren’t the same in each family; each time whoopie is made to procreative effect, a Yahtzee cup full of dice from your whole ancestry gets shaken out, and some long-dormant bloody Viking gene may manifest among the rest of your quiet well-scrubbed Mormon offspring. But “nurture” isn’t nothing, either.

    Where we differ, I think, is in the specificity of what “believing blood” or a predisposition for faith inclines a person towards. I think the predisposition inclines a person towards faith generally, and not Mormonism specifically. That explains why the “believing blooded” Latin Americans don’t just gravitate towards Mormonism, but towards darn near any new religious movement. (That, and the fact that Latin American Catholicism is more or less dysfunctional.) What we’d like to call “believing blood,” that of course draws the genetic elect to our offering, a more objective person might call “religious impulse” generally, or even “innate credulity.”

  64. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    But here is the thing. It isn’t predestination, because a person isn’t destined to use his free agnency in a particular way. But the way a person uses their free agency does reflect on their personal predispositions. This is why, for example a gay man isn’t destined to act upon what he feels. So when I say predisposition, I’m not referring to what a person’s tendencies are as far as what their natural man gravitates to. I’m talking about what they are predisposed to do with their free agency in spite of what thier natural man would tend to gravitate towards. Sometimes the two go the same direction, and sometimes not. So I agree with you that there is predestination in a sense that a person’s choices will lead to a particular outcome, and there is only one way that will turn out, even though there are many possibilites, that is, until the choices have been made.

    On the other hand, again you are universalist, or so it seems to me from what I just read, and I am as well as far as granting that a person will not automatically become Mormon right now. But in the end a great many people will be Mormon who are not right now, and a great many will likewise cease to be Mormon who are right now.

  65. Thomas
    August 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I’m not “universalist,” in the sense that I think all religions are equally true, valid, or useful. Some religions are more enlightening or more idiot-proof than others. Some will lead you to righteousness faster than others. Some will lead an unacceptably large number of people straight into evil. But I’m not a sectarian, either, in the sense that I don’t believe one religion is so self-evidently and exclusively true, that God could justly judge people based solely on whether they affiliate with that church in mortality. It looks like you believe more or less the same thing, except that you are perhaps more certain that the LDS Church is absolutely the one true church that everyone will eventually come around to, whereas I’m presently only able to say that I think it’s close enough to whatever the ultimate truth eventually will be revealed to be, for government work.

  66. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    well, I’m glad that we have come to an understanding of where we mutually stand and are not all that far off from each other.

  67. Mike S
    August 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    SkepticTheist:

    I agree with you on some of your points. I do think that some people are more emotional and “faith-based” while others are more “logical-based”. We know there are different gifts of the spirit. Some people make more natural leaders while others are just as content to sit in the back. And I do think that many of these traits may fun in families, whether through nature or nurture, I don’t know.

    I also agree that there are certain fundamental things which we all must do to achieve exaltation. We must accept God to return to His presence, we must accept Christ and the atonement for it work in our lives, we must have lived good lives and been good to our fellowman. This is all pretty much summed up in the 2 great commandments Christ gave in the New Testament. It also sounds like there may be certain hoops to jump through for whatever reason (baptism, other ordinances) although it also sounds that having these done in mortality seems to be less important. Given the minute proportion of inhabitants of the earth that were “Mormon” when the “Mormon church” existed on the earth, it seems the vast majority of people that will be exalted will NEVER have them done in mortality but will be by proxy anyway.

    Given this, I’m not really sure what you mean when you say, “everybody that is exalted in the end will be a Mormon”. These basic truths are present in MANY religions. A basic belief in God, Christ and concern for our fellowman (with all that entails) are found in many religions. Besides authority for specific ordinances (which will be taken care of as needed in the next life for the vast majority anyway), what specific things are unique about the Mormon God? What distinguishes us from other people in a way that is meaningful for the eternities? The Book of Mormon? White shirts and one set of earrings? 3-hour blocks? Home teaching? Malls? Not drinking a glass of wine? Polygamy? Etc.?

    I think we get hung up on the Mormon institution as currently practiced. The concepts are very simple, profound, and straightforward. Believe in God, accept Christ, live a good life towards your fellowman. Besides authority (which, as mentioned, will generally be done by proxy) everything else in the Church is just an add-on to this. The Church as an institution is a finger pointing to the moon (our goal of returning to God). Many people get too focused on the finger.

  68. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    MikeS, you say:

    “it seems the vast majority of people that will be exalted will NEVER have them done in mortality but will be by proxy anyway. Given this, I’m not really sure what you mean when you say, “everybody that is exalted in the end will be a Mormon”.”

    My response is that you have just said precisely what I mean. All these people, whatever they were in life, will accept the vicarious ordinances, and will be Mormon. If you have a better name for that condition, go ahead and tell me what word you would like. A Vicariously-baptized dead guy that is resurrected and gets his exaltation. How is that not a Mormon?

    I see your point about getting too focused on the finger. My point is to not forget that the finger is your pointer, and is an important part of your hand, and without it, you don’t have a full hand. But it is also the special one that you usually point at the moon with.

  69. Cowboy
    August 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Jmb275:

    I’m the last person who should be discussing genetics, as the life and physical sciences are outside my expertise as far as rigorous discipline. Having said that, I don’t have any objection to the case I think you are trying to make, that ulimately religious/spiritual proclivities can be psychologically or physiologically tied to genetic tendencies. In which case, yes my absurd question about taking “faith injections” doesn’t make sense. If on the other hand, we are advocating that God used polygamy as part of a spiritual “eugenics” project, as Thomas described, then it becomes a different matter altogether. If I understand correctly, your position is that religious tendencies may have some connection to a persons genetic makeup, but all of this is independent of whatever the religious realities turn out to be. In SkeptiTheist’s perspective, if I understand, the genetic proclivities are manipulated by God, and bespeak a tendecy not for faith in the abstract, but faith in the Mormon Church specifically. That is why I asked the rhetorical question, if faith is in the blood, mabey it can be extracted and transmitted? Not that I believe this, but rather to kind of show how contrary I find SkepticTheist’s perspective to traditional Christian thought on faith.

  70. brjones
    August 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve always found it interesting that a religion that so loves the idea of free agency preaches that at the very end there won’t be any. If literally every knee will bow before christ, then a large number of individuals are going to have to be forced to do it, evidence or no. Does anyone else find this a contradiction of the princple of agency?

  71. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Well Cowboy, even if you think it is contrary, at least you can probably admit that its unique.

  72. Cowboy
    August 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Threadjack:

    I think Thomas deserves an award for the best caricatures, perspective, and articulation. Three comments I want to take note of:

    1) If you are going at childbearing decisions from a purely secular perspective, the rational incentives militate towards having one child, naming him/her Connor or Madison, installing him/her in an exquisitely furnished Pottery Barn bedroom, and calling it a day.

    This comment is the best stereotype on modern families I have ever heard

    2) each time whoopie is made to procreative effect, a Yahtzee cup full of dice from your whole ancestry gets shaken out, and some long-dormant bloody Viking gene may manifest among the rest of your quiet well-scrubbed Mormon offspring.

    This comment should be in every high school biology text book, in one of those shaded case study boxes, on the chapter dealing with Mendel.

    3) But I’m not a sectarian, either, in the sense that I don’t believe one religion is so self-evidently and exclusively true, that God could justly judge people based solely on whether they affiliate with that church in mortality. It looks like you believe more or less the same thing, except that you are perhaps more certain that the LDS Church is absolutely the one true church that everyone will eventually come around to, whereas I’m presently only able to say that I think it’s close enough to whatever the ultimate truth eventually will be revealed to be, for government work.

    Reading this comment has given me by the far closest persuassion for rethinking my objection to Mormonism that I have ever encountered. I still hold some disagreement about whether the Church is actually closest, but putting it in perspective of other comments from Thomas, I think I know what he is saying. If so, I think this is a great perspective.

  73. Cowboy
    August 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    #71 – SkepticTheist:

    It is definately unique, and another way of looking at. But as I have already pointed out, midichlorians in the blood also presented a unique new look at “the force”, but I don’t think it was for the better.

  74. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Cowboy, I can assure you that in my edited version of SWI, there are no midichlorians. I still have yet to do SWII and III.

  75. Cowboy
    August 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Very good – we seem to agree on something.

  76. SkepticTheist
    August 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    🙂

  77. Thomas
    August 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Aww, Cowboy, I’m blushing.

    I’m pretty sure Kid #2 is mostly Viking. Gonna be interesting…

  78. jmb275
    August 13, 2010 at 7:53 am

    If I understand correctly, your position is that religious tendencies may have some connection to a persons genetic makeup, but all of this is independent of whatever the religious realities turn out to be.

    Absolutely.

    In SkeptiTheist’s perspective, if I understand, the genetic proclivities are manipulated by God, and bespeak a tendecy not for faith in the abstract, but faith in the Mormon Church specifically.

    Yeah, and I tend to doubt this, though I’m not a geneticist either.

    BTW, I love those comments from Thomas too. Like you, though, I’m not even willing to say it’s “closest” to the truth, though in the grand scheme of things I think it’s pretty good. Actually, if I was forced to pick “closest” to the truth right now, I’d probably say Buddhism. But perhaps that perspective will change. In any case, I do think the LDS church is “closest” to the truth which works for me personally.

  79. Cowboy
    August 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Fair enough. As I said, if you can get around a couple of big objections to Mormon life, then this perspective isn’t bad at all.

  80. GBSmith
    August 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Much of this discussion is dealt with in Armand Mauss’ book, “All Abraham’s Children”. I heard him speak about it a number of years ago at a NW Sunstone. “British Israelism” became a popular justification in the late 17 and into the 18 hundreds for certain groups being about to take upon themselves the spreading of truth and civilization. The idea of believing blood and a genetic basis for faith and authority was all part of it. The extreme is the Christian identity movement with aryan racism.

    Anyway I have a hard time time swallowing any of it and just seems to me to be another reason for saying one group is better than others.

  81. Mike S
    August 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    #78: I, too, think that studying Buddhism over the past few years has helped me understand the core and essential parts of the LDS Church. In a lot of ways, I think of myself as a Buddhist Mormon. In a few ways, perhaps even a Mormon Buddhist. Now there’s a dichotomy.

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