Joseph and Sidney: A Strained Friendship

Mormon Heretichistory, Mormon, politics, polygamy, smith 22 Comments

The friendship between Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith is very fascinating.  Sidney was one of the earliest, and most impressive converts, joining the church in December 1830.  His training as a Baptist minister was especially helpful to Joseph, and he often preached many wonderful sermons.  As time wore on, there were some really interesting issues between Joseph and Sidney.  Richard Van Wagoner wrote a biography called Sidney Rigdon: Portrait of Religious Excess.  The Missouri and Nauvoo periods were especially tumultuous.

With Sidney running the church in Quincy, Joseph and others were still in the Liberty Jail.  Through the first 10 years of the church, Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith seem to be in lock step with each other.  However, the Nauvoo period seems to show a few cracks in the friendship.  Were they serious?  Well, Joseph called Sidney to be his Vice Presidential nominee–but I’ll get to that later.

The people of Quincy, Illinois took in many of the saints following the expulsion from Missouri.  In 2002, the Tabernacle Choir did a benefit concert for the town of Quincy, to thank them for their kindness.  With Sidney released from Liberty Jail, his mood improved greatly, and he worked to impeach the government of Missouri.  At this time, Joseph Smith chose to reverse himself on the work of gathering saints, as well as consecration (or “common stock”, as in the letter below.)  From Liberty Jail, Joseph wrote to the church in Quincy on Mar 25,1839, that the saints should settle “in the most safe and quiet places they can find” between Kirtland and Far West.  Additionally, there must be “no organization of large bodies upon common stock principals.”  Footnote 9 on page 273 of book expounds this.

No further common stock programs were established during Joseph Smith’s life.  The prophet shaded the truth during his 1839-40 trip to Washington, DC., when he stated that Mormons would not share property in common.  “‘It has been reported by some vicious or de[s]igning characters’, he said, ‘that the church of Latter Day Saints believe in having their pro[p]erty in common and also the leaders of sa[id] church controlls said propperty….This is a base fabrication,’ he insisted, ‘on the contrary no person’s feelings can be more repugnant to such a principle than mine[,] every person in this Church has a right to controll his own proppe[r]ty'” (Joseph Smith to Mr. Editor [of the Chester County Register and Examiner], 22 Jan. 1840.)

After 2 failed attempts to escape from jail, Joseph and others bribed some guards with a promise of $800.  They returned to Quincy, and made plans to settle in Commerce (later named Nauvoo.)  Smith and Rigdon bought (for the church) $18,000 worth of property in Nauvoo, and were swindled out of $80,000 in Iowa.  As the saints moved to Nauvoo, Rigdon contracted malaria, which would plague him for years.  While there are several true reports of Joseph healing people of malaria, Sidney was not one of them.

The leadership continued to press for redress of the wrongs in Missouri, and traveled to DC to speak with Pres Van Buren.  Due to Rigdon’s eloquence, he was selected to be the spokesman for the group.  Rigdon made a valiant effort to travel to DC, but was just too sick, so Joseph Smith became the spokesman.  Smith was not impressed with Van Buren, and the meeting was a disappointment to the saints.

Nauvoo was initially prosperous, but not for long.  From page 278,

Although Nauvoo’s population increased dramatically in the early 1840’s, much of its short-lived prosperity was based on the same perilous real estate speculation that brought down Kirtland’s economy.  Rigdon and the Smiths once again pinned their financial aspirations on the hopes that new converts, aware of the prophet’s dark visions of America’s future, would flee their homelands, gather to Nauvoo–proclaimed city of refuge–and purchase property from the real estate arm of the church.  But of the more than 3,000 British converts who arrived in Nauvoo before 1846, most were poverty-stricken refugees from the English working class.  Sobering to the First Presidency was that real estate sales fell far below their expectation, forcing the brethren to default on the promissory notes they had co-signed.  Because the church was not yet a legal entity in 1839, Ridgon, the Smith brothers, and their wives were personally liable for the organization’s nearly $150,000 debt.

To pay for the vast acreage, Mormon property owners were advised to sign their real estate over to the church, through agents Isaac Galland and William Smith, in exchange for an equivalent value of land in Nauvoo…  Overwhelmed by their obligations, Rigdon and the Smith brothers sought a way out of their financial problems: bankruptcy.  [which happened in 1842]

I’d like to address to an awkward episode between Rigdon and Smith.  In 1842, Smith tested Rigdon’s friendship when Joseph proposed plural marriage to Sidney’s 19-year old daughter, Nancy.  Nancy was summoned on two occasions to meet Joseph, and was repulsed by the idea, threatening to “raise the neighbors” if Joseph didn’t let her go.  Through his scribe Joseph wrote an apology to Nancy, which she handed to her boyfriend, Francis Higbee.  The letter got out, (and was published in John C. Bennett’s expose on Mormon Polygamy–more on Bennett later) and eventually got to Sidney’s attention.

At first, Joseph denied all to Sidney.  Nancy stormed into the room saying,

“Joseph Smith you are telling that which is not true[.]  you did make such a proposition to me, and you know it.”  Another unnamed person said, “Nancy are you not afraid to call the Lord[‘s] anointed a cursed liar[?]”  “No”, replied Nancy, “I am not for he does lie and he knows it.”

[Rigdon’s son-in-law, George] Robinson wrote that Smith, after acknowledging his proposition, sought a way out of the crisis by claiming he had approached Nancy “to ascertain whether she was virtuous or not, and took that course to learn the facts.”  But Sidney found that rationalization feeble.  Convinced of Smith’s involvement in the “spiritual wife business,” as Sidney later termed it, Rigdon concluded that Smith had “contracted a whoring spirit.”  This is why, according to Wickliffe [Sidney’s son], Rigdon told family members immediately after the prophet left their home that Smith “could never be sealed to one of his daughters without his consent as he did not believe in the doctrine.”

Chapter 21 is the first chapter to address polygamy in the book, though it does go back in time to address rumors of polygamy in Kirtland and other places.  Let me sidetrack to Emma for a minute.  At times the issue of polygamy…

left Joseph and Emma’s marriage hanging by a thread.  Emma spent the last three years of her husband’s life jealously battling his errant yearnings, more than once threatening to return to her family in New York.  On one occasion, according to Smith’s private secretary, she threatened that if he continued to “indulge himself she would too.”  [William Clayton Diary] Although Emma apparently countenanced two of her husband’s 1843 sealings–to Emily and Eliza Partridge–she recanted within a day and demanded that Joseph give them up or “blood should flow.”  Her change of heart came after she found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home.  The realization that the sealing represented more than a “spiritual marriage” or “adoptive ordinance” devastated her. [From page 293]

Some of the footnotes are very interesting on this subject.  Footnote 26 on page 305 quotes an 1844 expose of Mormonism.  I don’t know if this can be corroborated, but I found it interesting.

“Emma’s threat to “be revenged and indulge herself” may have been merely a warning to the prophet to give up his spiritual wives.  But Joseph H. Jackson, a non-Mormon opportunist who gained the confidence of the prophet in Nauvoo, recorded in an 1844 expose of Mormonism:  “Emma wanted [William] Law for a spiritual husband,” and because Joseph “had so many spiritual wives, she thought it but fair that she would at least have one man spiritually sealed up to her and that she wanted Law, because he was such a ‘sweet little man.'”

Although there is nothing to suggest that Law and Emma were more to each other than friends, Law later confirmed that Joseph “offered to furnish his wife Emma with a substitute for h im, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in his house and to be well treated, etc.” (Salt Lake Tribune, 3 July 1887.)

Faithful Dissident talks about a deathbed confession of Emma, where Emma again denies polygamy.  Footnote 30, page 304 “In 1846, two years after Joseph’s death, Emma Smith, in a conversation with Joseph W. Coolidge, remarked that “Joseph had abandoned plurality of wives before his death.”  Coolidge indicated from personal experience that he knew otherwise.  After a heated exchange Emma retorted with exasperation, “Then he was worthy of the death he died.”  (Joseph F. Smith diary, 28 Aug 1870.)

Another crack in the Rigdon and Smith friendship occurred in relation to the post office.  Rigdon had secured the lucrative position, wherein he was paid for every piece of mail that passed through.  It was one of the more lucrative positions one could hold.  Smith suspected Rigdon may have been trying to undermine Joseph, and wrote several letters trying to get Rigdon fired from the post office, and have Smith installed as his replacement.

John C Bennett, a former close personal aide of Joseph Smith, was excommunicated for unauthorized polygamy.  He then became a virulent anti-mormon.  According to Van Wagoner, Bennett is responsible for instigating many Missourians to continue to try to extradite Joseph, and also may have had a role in organizing the mobs which killed Joseph.  Bennett wrote a letter to Rigdon, trying to get help with his plan to bring down the prophet.  On page 315,

In early January, however, Rigdon did receive a message from Bennett.  The 10 January 1843 letter, also addressed to Orson Pratt, incorrectly assumed that its recipients would sympathize with Bennett’s plan to orchestrate the prophet’s downfall.

“Dear Friends–It is a long time since I have written you, and I should now much desire to see you; but I leave tonight to Missouri, to meet the messenger charged with the arrest of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight and others, for murder, burglary, treason, etc., etc., who will be demanded in a few days on new indictments, found by the grand Jury of a called court, on the original evidence and in relation to which a nolle prosequi was entered by the district attorney.  New proceedings have been gotten up on the old charges and no habeus corpus can then save them.  We shall try Smith on the Boggs case when we get him into Missouri.  The war goes on, and although Smith thinks he is now safe, the enemy is near, even at the door.  He has awoke the wrong passenger….

P.S.  Will Mr. Rigdon please hand this letter to Mr. Pratt after reading?

After Rigdon read the letter he immediately handed it to Mr. Pratt, who then turned it over to Smith.  The prophet, initially dismayed that Rigdon has given the letter first to Pratt, took the dispatch to John Taylor, editor of Times and Seasons.  Smith instructed Taylor to publish the letter along with a statement condemning Rigdon’s actions.


Smith requested Taylor “to prefer charges against Sidney Rigdon before a court composed of twenty-four High Priests and three Bishops.”….  Before Taylor could publish the editorial or initiate action against Rigdon, the prophet approached Rigdon and “charged him with being leagued with [his] enemies to destroy him.”  Rigdon, according to Taylor, responded:  “I know it was wrong [not to give him the letter sooner]; but I darst not take upon myself the responsibility of making it known,” apparently because of his position as postmaster.  Rigdon’s explanation satisfied the prophet.  When Taylor asked him if he should proceed with the trial and publish the editorial, Smith replied, “I think you had better not, we will save him if we can.”

I want to mention one other footnote about Governor Boggs, which was alluded to in Bennett’s letter to Rigdon.  Governor Boggs had survived an assassination attempt.  Many people then and now believe Porter Rockwell, a body guard of Joseph Smith was responsible for the attempt.  Footnote 8 on page 325 says, “The attempt on Boggs’s life took place on the night of 6 May 1842.  Orrin Porter Rockwell, one of Smith’s closest friends, was arrested later that year and charged with the attempted murder.  Although neither the prophet nor Rockwell was convicted of the crime, Rockwell never denied shooting Boggs.  General Patrick E. Conner reported that Rockwell told him, “I shot through the window and thought I had killed him, but I had only wonded him.  I was damned sorry that I had not killed the son of a bitch.”

I guess what is amazing to me is that Joseph continued to try to undermine Rigdon’s position as postmaster, and still suspected Rigdon was behind attempts to have Smith arrested.  Yet it seems they reconciled.  In 1844, dissatisfied with the current crop of presidential candidates, Joseph decided to run for President of the United States as a candidate of the Mormon Reform Party. He was nominated during a political caucus on January 29, 1844.

Joseph’s first choice for Vice President was James Arlington Bennett.  However, Bennett was ineligible due his Irish citizenship.  Joseph’s second choice was Solomon Copeland of Tennessee, who was not interested.  Sidney Rigdon was his third choice, and Rigdon enthusiastically accepted.  He gave a rousing address in General Conference on April 6 and 7, 1844.

The US Constitution states that the President and Vice President must be from two different states.  So, Sidney was called on a mission to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to set up residency.  (Rigdon was born in St. Clair Township which now consists of present-day neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh.)  He left for Pennsylvania on June 18.

Just prior to Rigdon leaving Nauvoo, William Law, a counselor in the First Presidency, Law’s wife and four others were excommunicated for opposing polygamy.  Rigdon informed Law that if they would “let all the difficulties drop” that Smith would restore Law and his friends back to their offices within the church.  Law refused, and helped print the Nauvoo Expositor on which came out on June 7, exposing polygamy.

Smith ordered the destruction of the press as a public nuisance.  On June 14, Rigdon sent a letter to Illinois governor Thomas Ford, asking for help, while denouncing the paper.  On June 18, Rigdon left Nauvoo, arriving in Pittsburgh on June 27.  Joseph and Hyrum were killed the next day, on June 28 in a hail of gunfire at the Carthage Jail.  Rigdon learned of the news five days later.

So, what is your reaction to all the events of Nauvoo?  Unlike the William Law (editor of the Nauvoo Expositor), Sidney was publicly silent on polygamy, though he was personally repulsed by the practice.  How would you have reacted if Smith had proposed marriage to your 19-year old daughter?  What do you make of the incident where Joseph tried to get Sidney fired from the post office?  It seems to me that this was a real life soap opera.  The Nauvoo period alone would make a great movie.

Comments 22

  1. I wonder how much of the strong LDS taboo against evil speaking of anointed leaders, dates back to the Nauvoo period and the determination to keep polygamy a secret.

  2. I think you are right on the money. it seems to me that joseph was initially comfortable with dissent until he was run out of town in kirtland by people upset about the bank failure. following that, joseph came down harder on dissent and excommunicated some prominent members including oliver cowdery.

    many of these former members were upset about consecration, and became persecutors in missouri. subsequent dissenters like william law and john c bennett (both former members of the first presidency) contributed to his martyrdom, at least indirectly (some say bennett instigated the mob.)

    further dissension in utah against brigham continued to make evil speaking ofg the lords annointed a problem that I think has continued to this day. a pretty strong case can be made that evil speaking of joseph contributed to his death.

  3. I remember being impressed by the question raised by the movie Luthor about the origin of the Reformation. Martin Luthor started out simply to do his duty to be faithful despite what he saw as corruption. At every step he was trying to bring to pass reform without violence, but in the end, what he launched became entangled in politics that led to a series of mass wars throughout Europe for a century.

    Looking back from 4 centuries or so later, was it worth it or not? Was there a cheaper way? How do we calculate the costs or likelyhood of the counter-Reformation without Luthor’s actions?

    Should he have kept silent? It seems the Restoration had (and has?) to constantly ask that same question.

  4. Nancy Rigdon deserves our praise — how courageous she was to call a spade a spade right to its deceitful self-righteous face!

    It’s remarkable and utterly tragic the way such a small group of men so fully arrogated the right to control others, with no apparent shame at their hypocrisy. How many lives have they and their ilk appropriated for their own designs? How many women’s and men’s lives have they destroyed in “the name of the Lord”?

    How deep and bitter the irony for me and thousands (millions?) like me when I hear the words now: “it is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” or “for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.”

    it is all for me now a bitter irony, a paradox of deception and hypocrisy.

  5. For me Joseph Smith’s actions regarding polygamy were the last straw that caused my shelf to hit the floor. I don’t care how you spin it or how you try and stack up positives against negatives, his actions, if they are as documented, are just not excusable.

  6. Ihave a copy of THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: SIDNEY RIGDON, RELIGIOUS REFORMER by F. Mark Mckiernan (1971) and drew info from it to give a talk in Sacrament meeting including:

    S.R.’s the only person to share a revelation experience with Joseph Smith (D&C 76)

    Joseph’s attempt to have Rigdon removed at the october 1843 conference was thwarted by his defense/testimony which resulted in a motion to sustain him. Even Hyrum Smith spoke on Rigdon’s behalf.

    In 1863 Brigham Young actually extended an invitation to bring Rigdon and his wife to utah to live out their years in comfort. Rigdon declined.

    Rigdon’s son John, bitter toward the Mormons, interviewed his father in 1865 about his years in the Church. Sidney re-affirmed his belief in THE BOOK OF MORMON, Joseph Smith as a Prophet, and the restoration of the gospel, even though he joined no other faction after his own failed.

    After the service, only one member came to me to say that Sidney Rigdon didn’t deserve such recognition because he made some mistakes. I answered “they all did”.

    Rigdon’s son John, bitter towards the Mormon Church, interviewed his father in 1865 on his time in the Church.

  7. I believe the conflict in the relationship between Rigdon and Smith family can be traced as far back as July 1832. During this time Smith lived at the Johnson farm house in Hiram Ohio while Rigdon lived in temporary housing in the “flats” of Kirtland. Smith Sr. asked Rigdon to speak at the Church meeting where Rigdon told the congregation “vehemently the keys of the kingdom rent from the church and there shall not be a prayer put up in this place to day.” This caused a great deal of excitement and crying in the Church. Hyrum Smith took off for Johnson farm to bring Smith Jr. back to Kirtland to settle the issue.

    When you consider all the other problems these two men had, creating a financial disaster in Kirtland and then fleeing in the dead of night, convincing members to give them their property and then being tarred and feathered in Hiram, promoting violence and going to prison in Missouri, and all the other activities can cause an incredible amount of strain on any relationship. As time has gone on, I find it quite amazing they stayed together as long as they did. Out side of Smith’s immediate family Rigdon was his longest and most intimate relationship.

  8. To suggest that all of these behaviors and interactions were like a “soap opera”, is like saying that watergate was a factor of fierce political competition. It was a scandal, plain and simple. Everything from the real-estate speculation, to the bankruptcies, to the power struggles, to polygamy, to the layers of secret societies – often intertwined with polygamy, to the religious coercion and manipulation, etc, etc, etc. None of this bespeaks the nature of one who is called of God, particularly in the context of the saviors warning to “…beware of false prophets…”. It’s all just scandal from start to finish.

  9. some of you may have read my post from last year where I shared my perspective of polygamy. in short, I don’t think it is inspired. however, I am not comfortable calling joseph smith deceitful regarding this doctrine. as wrong headed as it was, I believe joseph smith believed it was revealed to him.

    I applaud nancy rigdon for standing up to joseph smith. that had to be an extremely difficult thing. I still am amazed that joseph picked sidney to be his vp. this truly was an unusual relationship.

    while john and nancy both left the church, I believe sidney’s son wickliffe joined the utah church and interviewed his father as well. he also said brigham young was a much better leader than sidney was, and he could understand why the majority of followers followed brigham rather than sidney.

  10. Fascinating stuff,MH.

    My first reaction is…when reading some of this, the Church must be true or there is no way it could survive and flourish despite these things.

    On the other hand…if the church was really true, should it be free from such controversy, or as Cowboy said, scandal?

    Perhaps it is both, in some sort of paradox. Joseph was a prophet led by God, but God also allowed Joseph’s weaknesses to muddle some things up. The Church is truly led by God, but allows weaknesses in leaders to miss the mark on things like polygamy, priesthood restrictions, and homosexuality.

    Maybe God isn’t as interested in making sure His Church is perfect, but that it allows opportunities for people to work things out…like Joseph and Sidney had to work things out. There is conflict that is allowed to provide experiences and test faith. Church history is not squeaky clean. Its complicated.

  11. Heber13:

    I don’t necessarilly have a problem with that, except that the Church seems to have very low tolerance for those things today. For example, anyone found to be practicing polygamy today is immediately excommunicated, whereas Joseph Smith was allowed to “stumble around” while still maintaining the favored status of “Prophet”. So if that is really what God wants, and perhaps your right, then why go to all of the trouble of “restoring” another quickly and easily corruptible Church, from the Christian apostasy. What really was restored, and in the grand scheme, what would even be the purpose of deity wasting time with such a meaningless excercise? To me the story could only make sense if Joseph Smith was right about all of his revelations, while still leaving room for reasonably mild imperfections.

  12. Fascinating history. The polygamy issue continues to be a challenging issue. I prefer Sarah Leavitts personal revelation on the practice – it was of God, but would the instrument of damning thousands.

    These stories always create a degree of dissonance for true believing Mormons. If we were completely objective about the scenarios presented, our conclusions would be different. However, we have to reconcile those stories with the fruits of Joseph Smith, many of which have produced compelling spiritual experiences.

  13. “However, we have to reconcile those stories with the fruits of Joseph Smith, many of which have produced compelling spiritual experiences.”

    I don’t think we should ever underestimate the ability of good, decent, honest people to take something tainted or suspect and make something good out of it. I prefer to give the credit to those people than to Joseph Smith.

  14. #11: “What really was restored, and in the grand scheme, what would even be the purpose of deity wasting time with such a meaningless exercise?”

    To me, this goes back to a difference of the Church and the gospel. There was a restoration of gospel principles and teachings of who God is, and Christ and His mission, and the Holy Ghost. It was not a meaningless exercise to bring back correct teachings. I guess I could look at it as God not micro-managing His children and their religions, but when things got far enough off-track…it was worth it to Diety to straighten things out. Much like the allegory of the tame and wild Olive trees…at some point, you have to burn things and start fresh. But the rest of the time, you allow the tame and wild trees to grow together, otherwise the trees wouldn’t survive.

    However, after restoring teachings…mortals take it from there and may be guided, with some intervention…but not every thing done is directly from God as if prophets are puppets. I could see God up in Heaven thinking He could care less about the Word of Wisdom, and that it was a teaching of men to try to do some good things with staying away from dangerous substances and keeping the body Holy, but on the other hand thinking “These kids are taking this way too far and are missing the point”.

    I think there could be a restoration, with visions to help restore some order, but then letting Joseph run with things on His own and ending up with some conflicts between Joseph and Sidney that God doesn’t take sides on…He loves them both equally and just wants them to work it out together.

  15. With all do respect Heber13, it seems a bit inconsistent that God would have an invested interest in maintaing a clear theology (what I think you mean by Gospel), while at the same time not seeming to care about how that theology is then twisted and encumbered with/by externalities. I would imagine that if God doesn’t care, then he probably wouldn’t care enough to restore it. Admittedly however, I’m just imputing my expectations as to God does/ought to think and behave, based on how I think and behave. So, who knows – it just doesn’t seem to work for me.

  16. wow, I really like both heber and cowboy’s comments. I really think joseph got it wrong with polygamy, just as abraham, david, and solomon got it wrong with polygamy. I really like heber’s use of the tame and wild olive tree. I think it is possible that god used the government to get rid of polygamy.

    on the other hand, cowboy’s comments about imputing our own ideas onto god are excellent as well. I completely understand his point as well, and I think it is a valid position as well. I guess I am getting a little more comfortable with paradox.

  17. Cowboy, I totally respect your view. I’m just thinking out loud and considering possibilities, based on my experiences and dealings with God and my studies of how God interacts with prophets (which I believe He does), and how the prophets make mistakes (which I think they do).

    I don’t see an inconsistency with God restoring truth, but then letting the servants in the vineyard be accountable for how they fulfill their calling in teaching those truths to others. The story of the Brother of Jared teaches us this…is it God’s will that glowing rocks must light all ships? No, that was Mohonri’s idea and the Lord accepted it because ultimately it doesn’t matter as long as the ships eventually get going to the promised land. Was it wrong to give Martin Harris the 116 page manuscript…yes, but if Joseph goes ahead with it anyway, it doesn’t limit the Lord from being able to accomplish His purposes…it is just a mistake that the prophet makes, but God can still achieve the mission and purpose despite it.

    That is not a wasted effort to restore truth just because you know the church teaching the truth will make more mistakes that need to be corrected in the future. It doesn’t have to be perfect or it is not worth it. That is like saying, I know the weeds are going to grow in my garden next week, so what is the point in pulling the weeds today?

    If God really wanted everything perfect, He’d have to be here appearing to all of us all the time. But He doesn’t do that.

    I think Sidney could have been inspired to help the church grow and help Joseph Smith in so many ways. But neither he nor Joseph were always right about everything…they had to work things out…and God loves them both equally.

  18. “I don’t think we should ever underestimate the ability of good, decent, honest people to take something tainted or suspect and make something good out of it. I prefer to give the credit to those people than to Joseph Smith.”

    Interesting thought.

    Certainly the Catholicism of the Renaissance Popes was utterly debased (and, according to Mormon tradition, apostate from the outset) — and yet it’s hard to match the religious artistic expression that flowed from it. Ditto the state-sponsored bureaucratic Lutheranism of the Danish court; Carl Bloch’s paintings are standard illustrations in Mormon lesson manuals.

  19. “There was a restoration of gospel principles and teachings of who God is, and Christ and His mission, and the Holy Ghost. It was not a meaningless exercise to bring back correct teachings.”

    The question is whether the distinction between the restored and the apostate teachings about those things is really as significant as either side says it is — especially now that neo-orthodoxy is becoming the standard Christology of the LDS Church.

    Until literally the last few months of Joseph’s life (when he taught the King Follett discourse), LDS theology of God was probably within an acceptable range of contemporary Protestant opinions on the subject. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants are explicitly Trinitarian, referring to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as “one God”; the Book of Mormon refers to God himself (i.e., Christ) coming down among the children of men, etc.

    From that time to this, Mormon theology has swayed from King Follett radicalism, to nearly abandoning the sermon altogether (it was rescued from obscurity by B.H. Roberts).

    Assuming that the King Follett discourse of an apparently changeable God, or the Lorenzo Snow “couplet” really are the true theology of the Church, why is that important? That’s asked in seriousness: What is it about those doctrines, that will cause people who believe in them to become different people than they would have been under a more traditional theology?

  20. 19. In my view, the King Follet discourses completed the theology that we are literal God’s offspring with the potential to become joint heirs with Christ. The fundamental paradigm of family vs. creature (I think) is what makes us unique in the Christian world.

  21. #19: “What is it about those doctrines, that will cause people who believe in them to become different people than they would have been under a more traditional theology?”

    Excellent question, Thomas. If there is no value to the new doctrine, I would think Cowboy is more right, that there would be no reason to “restore” things if only to have them be the same as the other religions.

    I would say the importance of knowing different beings in the Godhead helps me to have greater faith by better understanding the characteristics of the God I worship. If God actually has a resurrected body, then my thinking of my body and spirit is different. If Christ has to come to earth to learn grace by grace, then I need to learn during this life also in hopes of becoming like my Father in Heaven. It does change how I think of this life and what I do. So there is value.

    Perhaps ultimately, God is most concerned with how we live our lives and learn to love others, regardless of whether we think of Him as a Father with a Body, or a Supreme Being that is everywhere and nowhere. However, in restoring truths to help people (nourishing the garden) He throws Joseph a bone to build off of and teach because the other creeds have moved away from that truth, and it is helpful to get back closer to the truth…even if it is not ultimately necessary for how we are all learning and growing in our different religions.

  22. “What is it about those doctrines, that will cause people who believe in them to become different people than they would have been under a more traditional theology?”

    I suppose it’s the potential for godhoodand it’s influence on behavior. I remember once making a self deprecating comment about my own likelihood of reaching that point and having a good sister turn around and with a venomous look tell me that she was planning on creating worlds even if I wasn’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *