My Perspective on Polygamy

Mormon HereticBible, christianity, history, LDS, marriage, Mormon, polygamy, questioning, racism, smith, theology, women 149 Comments

I have long avoided talking about polygamy on my blog.  It is a source of tremendous discomfort for me, but it keeps coming up, so I want to give my impressions about this early practice in Mormonism, as well as my beliefs and reconciliations.

While all Mormons are well-aware of polygamy, my first real encounter with uncomfortable facts about polygamy came when I heard John Dehlin’s interview of Todd Compton on Mormon Stories (episodes 12-14).  Compton wrote a book called “In Sacred Loneliness“, and goes into detail about all of Joseph Smith’s practices.  Then I read Richard Bushman’s book, “Rough Stone Rolling“, and was quite astonished to learn that Joseph married women who were currently married to other General Authorities, while they were still alive.

A third book, “Nauvoo Polygamy” by George Smith, caused me further discomfort with the practice, so much so that I never finished the book (but plan to go back to it later.)  My book club has picked 2 more books:  “The Mormon Question:” by Sarah Barringer Gordon (a non-mormon), and “More Wives Than One” Kathryn M. Daynes.  Additionally, I had been having a conversation with an RLDS blogger who claims Joseph Smith never taught or practiced polygamy.  (Since he is so rude, I refuse to publicize his site.)

I’m currently reading “Nauvoo: a place of Peace“, by Glen M. Leonard, which has a chapter on polygamy.  I read the first 125 or so pages, and found it focused on a lot of economic data, which I found rather dry.  So, I’m skipping ahead to some more interesting chapters.

Anyway, while I plan to devote some posts to Leonard’s chapter, which is written from a very sympathetic Mormon view, I have to say that from what I know so far about polygamy, I just do not believe it to be an inspired doctrine, just as I do not believe the priesthood ban was an inspired doctrine, as seen from my earlier post on that topic.  Now that may cause some people to ask if I believe Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet?  No.

I’m sure that seems like a big contradiction, but I have a more complex view of prophets.  I think they can make errors, even in revelation. I don’t believe a prophet is infallible.  I believe that when we look at Biblical prophets, we find errors in revelation, bad conduct, and pagan influences as well.  For example, I don’t believe God commanded genocide with Joshua, I question Abraham’s conduct with Hagar (and circumcision), and Jonah was a bigot towards the people of Nineveh (which deserves a future post.)  In short, I believe God uses fallible men to give revelations to.

So, while I respect Joshua “Choose you this day whom ye will serve”, Abraham, “the father of monotheism”, Jonah “swallowed by a great fish”, I can respect Joseph Smith as well.  Just as the former three were prophets, so is Joseph.  I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but my testimony of polygamy is completely different.  I can accept that Joseph spoke many inspired things, translated the Book of Mormon, and performed many miracles.  I can also accept that I don’t believe polygamy was inspired by God, just as the Curse of Cain was used by so many people to justify slavery.

So, as I post on polygamy in the future, I just want to make my perspective clear.  Comments?

Comments 149

  1. MH, my favorite blogger. As I see it, I have charity towards people who don’t believe in polygamy, and understand their dislike for it. But as to the question of whether it was inspired or not, I think we should withhold judgment on that one, because you can’t get away from Biblical polygamy as much as you’d like to dispense with Mormon polygamy. Polygamy goes to the heart of Abrahamic religions, including Islamic offshoots, not just Mormonism. I think the question really is whether everything Joseph Smith did that had to do with polygamy was inspired. The question is not whether polygamy is a valid Abrahamic tradition. You should not be quick to suppose that Joseph Smith had NO inspiration in bringing back something at the root of Abrahamic religion. That is a different proposition than the whole polyandry thing with other men’s wives. You can separate out the two as they are not necessarily connected, because the polygamy thing can stand on its own Biblically without the polyandry.

  2. MH

    President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him:

    I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home….Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

    MH How would you justify your post to a black member or a wife of a polygamist living in the time of Joseph Smith? What’s the point of having a prophet if their prophecies are hit and miss and fallible? What makes us different from any other church if our prophecies may not be valid all of the time?

    How would you help someone feel comfortable who knows as well as you about the New Mormon History find faith again in the Prophetic Mantle when it might not be 100% accurate?

  3. Polygamy (or celestial marriage as it was originally called) was more than just a theory to early Mormons or to modern Mormon Fundamentalists. Joseph and Brigham taught that it was not only the only way to the Celestial kingdom, but a way through which God offered happiness (see Smith’s proposal to Nancy Rigdon).

    This latter point is in stark contrast to many modern portrayals, and admittedly to some Saints personal experiences, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that some (women and men) did indeed believe plural marriage to be a blessing for various reasons.

    Those looking to give a balanced view may want to also consider sources such as the Woman’s Exponent, and modern sources such as Whelan’s “More Than One”, the Fundamentalist’s “Voices in Harmony”, and more scholarly publications such as “Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society” and Janet Bennion’s “Women of Princple”

    I once heard Prof. Carmon Hardy (author of “Solemn Covenant” and “Doing the Works of Abraham”) speak of the heroic early Latter-day Saints who made the best of a system – which, although he personally found flawed – some managed to make work, and even find fulfilment and happiness within.

    In a world in which men largely outnumber women in jails, with drug and alcohol problems, and in other anti-social behaviour that takes them out of the pool of potential good mates – sharing a husband may be the only way to ensure having a good husband. (Has anyone seen the ratio of females to males in most singles wards, especially in the over 30s?)

    Some may prefer to stay single than share, but others may yet want the choice Isaiah foresaw in which seven women could take hold of one man if they wished to. Perhaps polygamy wasn’t one a fallible moment in the life of prophets ancient and modern.

  4. MH: The polygamy issue has always been something I was aware of and not interested in, figuring there were likely reasons for it at times when saints crossed plains, lost loved ones, needed to take care of families and survive.

    However, the more it comes up, the more I see there is more to it and I am not trying to specifically seek out to study, but it just keeps coming up in my studies, and I don’t want to specifically avoid it either.

    I am interested to hear your posts and may look into some of those books you mentioned.

    I start with my ideas that the celestial law is temple marriage. Polygamy was perhaps a doctrine allowed but not critical to the doctrines of salvation. Some people got way too attached to it, and as happened many times in early church history with new doctrines, people didn’t understand it and didn’t practice it right. It was something our culture cannot accept as anything but perverted, and the church leaders saw the church couldn’t win that battle and the US government would crush them if they continued to practice it. Is that wrong for the church to bend on rules? My view: not great, but on non-essential issues, it may be acceptable and this was a non-essential doctrine, unlike baptism and temple ordinances (even though quotes from early church leaders may have suggested otherwise, I reserve judgement on those statements for reasons of historical accuracy or those men may just have not understood it.)

    I view it as something like the law of consecration which we aren’t ready to live yet. Perhaps it could be done correctly if people were righteous enough to get beyond sex and jealousy and earthly emotions, however, we just aren’t ready for it (in the church or in society) so we don’t need to spend too much time understanding it until we are told by the Lord we need to.

  5. James, if it isn’t 100% right, it will be corrected, which is why it is continuous revelation and a living church, not perfect prophets who are infallible.

    For members, they will be judged on obeying the prophet and faith the Lord will provide a way to cover any possible inaccuracies that fallible men may cause while trying to carry out God’s perfect will.

  6. James,

    It isn’t really possible for anyone to help anyone else feel comfortable about this stuff. This isn’t about comfort but conviction. Who can be comfortable with something that goes against one’s cultural upbringing and biases? That’s like the Lord commanding all of us (excluding Nick and whoever else) who loathe homosexuality to be homosexuals, and feel comfortable about it. What exclusively heterosexual male person, would be comfortable with being told by God that along with their wife, they now had to have a “husband” in order to go to the highest glory? So it is perfectly understandable that many people should loathe polygamy as much as I would loathe homosexuality (no offense intended Nick).

    The real key is to get the Spirit and get a firm testimony of these principles of plural marriage in D&C 132 regardless of the fact that they are not practiced, and then hope that they are never brought back (that is, for those of you that hope such a thing).

  7. I honestly cannot understand how someone can study Mormon history, objectivly read Section 132, and still come up with the idea that celestial plural marriage is not required by God for our exaltation.
    My biggest awakening toward fundamentalism was the realization that the Priesthood and the Church don’t necessarily always coexist. When the commandment to live polygamy was first given it was just to the higher offices in the Priesthood. Eventually, it became a commandment for the Church. The Church proved unworthy and weak so that law was given back to the Priesthood where it is practiced today.
    The law is everlasting and, due to the fact that this is the last dispensation, will never be taken away again.
    My 2 cents…

  8. Polygamy has not been done away with. It is still in D&C section 132 and performed in LDS Temples in preparation of the next life. Although I don’t agree with B. in Mont.’s final conclusions, I do agree “I honestly cannot understand how someone can study Mormon history, objectivly read Section 132, and still come up with the idea that celestial plural marriage is not required by God for our exaltation.” Those who reject it are doing so for cultural rather than religious reasons.

  9. Post

    I know there will be many differences of opinion on this topic, and I want to emphasize that this is MY opinion on the subject. I allow others to disagree with me, though I do want to challenge many traditional assumptions about polygamy.

    Aboz–you should comment on things you agree with me as well as disagree. 🙂 But thanks for your comments anyway. I agree that we should withold judgment on polygamy. Certainly, I could be wrong. However, my biggest problem with polygamy is not the doctrine per se (though I have plenty of reservations there), but how polygamy was practiced. There are many beliefs about polygamy that are flat out wrong–some church members even believe that Joseph Smith never practiced it, and many have no idea that he had at least 30 wives. Even fewer know that women were sealed to multiple husbands, as well as men sealed to multiple wives. I don’t see anything in section 132 allowing women to be sealed to multiple husbands. Van Wagoner and Quinn both talk about a conversation between Joseph and Emma where Joseph offered Emma an additional husband (I believe it was William Marks, but I’ll have to double-check), in exchange for Emma letting him enjoy his wives in peace. Was there another revelation in place to allow polyandry as well as polygyny? I know of no such permission in the Bible.

    James, I have previously documented 6 black men ordained during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, or shortly after his death. One was even Branch President in Boston. It is evident to me the ban was instituted during Brigham Young’s administration, because of 2 inter-racial marriages. He banned blacks from the priesthood and temple to put a stop to inter-racial marriages. See my post on Early Black Mormons, and be sure to read both Margaret Young (from BYU) and Connell O’Donovan’s comments. They are 2 of the biggest experts on the Priesthood ban in the world.

  10. Post

    Mahonri, I have not read those articles you mention-perhaps you could provide a link? As for the “Works of Abraham”, one of the most troubling things I find about polygamy in the Bible, is that it does not seem commanded by God at all. For example, Abraham never claims God commanded him to take Hagar–the suggestion comes from Sarah. Jacob never wanted to marry Leah, but was tricked into marrying her.

    I’ll comment more later–dinner is ready! 🙂

  11. I have no problem with the concept of eternal polygamy / polyandry / dynastic sealing / communal sealing / whatever, even as I think mortal implementation gets screwed up almost all the time. I think our view of eternity is confined far too much by our mortality.

  12. Mormon Heretic, I thing you may be actually living up to your name sake finally! 🙂

    I’ve spent way too many hours on this blog discussing the ills of polygamy and I’m just not sure I’m ready to go at it again. I believe your OP is very brave, very brave indeed. I have read “In Sacred Loneliness “as well as “Rough Stone Rolling” and therefore I applaud your willingness to seek to understand before seeking to be understood. (Now that’s profound…thanks Steven Covey) Even though we seldom agree, at least you do your homework before coming to class…

    The interview John Delhin had with Todd Compton didn’t come off the way I would have expected. Todd seemed rather detached from his work and lacked a certain amount of passion for the subject. Maybe he just caught him on a bad day… Did you get the same opinion of that interview or was I looking to deep?

    For those that believe polygamy is something that can be practiced by mere mortals with God’s blessing, I wonder why they stay LDS. The fundamentalist believe everything they do with the inclusion of polygamy. Why not go with your beliefs and join those that think the same way? I’m not trying to pick a fight, I just don’t get it.

    Until polygamy was done away with, the church was thought of as a very obscure cult by the outside world. In the end, it would have spelled the end of the church as Wilford Woodruff eluded to in the Manifesto or at least drove it so far underground as to forever cripple its ability to be anything more then what the Fundamentalist are today. Therefore we’re in agreement; (sorry if that scares you) the practice couldn’t have been inspired because God wouldn’t have wanted to have the saints adopt something that would lead to the end of His restored church in such a short time. Toward the end of Joseph Smith’s life, I think he had lots of second thoughts about it has well and probably wished he hadn’t opened that Pandora’s Box.

    For those that argue about everything being restored for the last dispensation, I can show a lot of other Old Testament traditions that they would need to have restored as well. Some of them are not very pleasant and naturally would result in said individuals spending a good part of their lives in prison. But then again, to be punished for adhering to your beliefs has a somewhat noble quality about it… Don’t you think?

  13. Post

    KG McB, I used to feel pretty much the same way as you. (Actually, I still feel that way.) But, I guess I’ve learned enough that I am just ready to jettison the whole concept. I posted this on my blog as well, and Adamf is a professional marriage counselor. He said, “From a professional standpoint, polygamy just doesn’t make for a secure attachment in a couple’s relationship.”

    Every single instance of polygamy in the Bible shows jealousy between wives. I just can’t fathom why God would inspire such a commandment, knowing all the problems of jealousy mankind has had. Just as I mentioned in my Abraham post about circumcision being a pagan practice of the day, I believe polygamy probably was as well. After all, Adam only had one wife…

    I didn’t fully address James comment about how to reconcile beliefs in the prophet. I think part of the problem is that in the LDS church, we’ve been conditioned to believe in a dichotomous state: either Joseph Smith is a true prophet, or he was a fraud. When we get into this dichotomous choice, then we fail to perceive other options. We all tell truth and lies. The Bible even shows Abraham lied on occasion, and certainly it is ok to lie to save a country. Nephi would have been arrested for murder of Laban, if authorities had caught him. Moses killed an Egyptian. So, to look at Joseph Smith in such a dichotomous state is really a disservice. People are complex. Moses did kill a man, and was a prophet. Why can’t prophets have a good and bad side?

    The reason is we (as society) don’t like complex characters. We don’t like to acknowledge that Abraham Lincoln acted like a dictator (and nearly fired the Supreme Court.) George Washington offered alcohol for votes. We don’t like to admit our heroes can be villians at times, but that is often the way life is. I can accept that Joseph could be both a prophet and a scoundrel (though I prefer to emphasize his prophetic abilities.)

  14. As I’ve said before, the fruits of monogamy are every bit as ugly as the fruits of polygamy.

    I think, on those lights, that polygamy is every bit as inspired a doctrine as monogamy is.

  15. Post

    Bruce in Montana, I agree that section 132 gives that impression. However, the recent Family Proclamation says, “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

    Now, this seems to be a departure from section 132–a man, a woman, doesn’t that imply singularity, not plurality of wives? And how does that square with Joseph allowing sealings to women to himself and other men? Certainly section 132 doesn’t seem to allow for polyandry (multiple husbands), but that is what happened.

    Ray, I think your explanation is the best. As we understand Richard Bushman’s writings about the sealing ordinance, it is evident to me that sealing was different than polygamy. Sealing multiple wives almost seems like a “sexless” ordinance, yet it is apparent to me that it is not completely “sexless” either.

    Doug, I really think we agree more than you think. IMO, you seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I think one can still believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and reject certain things. I’d like to personally invite you to my brand of moderate Mormonism. 🙂

    As for the Compton interview, I just don’t think he is a very animated person. His interview was more dry than some of the others, but I think that has more to do with his personality. Not everyone is as animated as we would like.

  16. “Van Wagoner and Quinn both talk about a conversation between Joseph and Emma where Joseph offered Emma an additional husband (I believe it was William Marks, but I’ll have to double-check), in exchange for Emma letting him enjoy his wives in peace.”

    That actually appears to be referenced in Doctrine and Covenants 132:51:

    51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

  17. MH: Are you saying that because mortals have and always have had jealousies that God is silly to introduce a commandment to live a higher law?

    Whether polygamy is inspired or not can be one element of the research and conversation. But, like I said in comparing the law of consecration, just because we can’t function that way with our weaknesses doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done, just means we may not be ready for it.

    I just wonder if the celestial lifestyle is able to accomplish more because the jealousy and sexual tensions are done away with.

    Having said that, I still am not a proponent of polygamy, because my upbringing says it is temple marriage that is required, and polygamy would get one excommunicated. So I don’t like it and don’t see any motive to change my mind on it.

  18. Section 132 actually does seem to imply that polyandry is acceptable.

    There’s a passage in there that says if a woman is already married and she is with another man without being sealed by God, it is adultery. Which, of course, implies that if a sealing had taken place, it would be OK.

  19. Post

    KG McB,

    Well, polygamy and consecration do seem to be “temptations” above that which mortals are able. I had a conversation about whether consecration (specifically 3 and 4 Nephi) could ever be practiced in our world. It seems the only time consecration was ever practiced righteously was after the coming of Savior to the Nephites. Short of that, I don’t think either consecration or polygamy can be reasonably practiced. So yes, from a practical standpoint, it is silly for God to introduce it. It seems like he’s setting us up to fail.

    Now, I understand that that sometimes God gives us challenges, but these 2 particular challenges have never been accomplished with any wide degree of success (excepting 4 Nephi, which seems like quite an unusual event.) Furthermore, the sealing power seems of D&C 132 seems to be quite different than any Biblical bindings on earth or heaven.

    But really, to me this misses the point. How does D&C 132 fit in with Joseph being sealed to women who were already married?

  20. It seems that whenever somebody is trying to justify the imperfections of Joseph Smith they begin listing examples from the Old Testament that aren’t quite comparable to Joseph Smith’s polygamy conduct. Yes, Moses killed a man. That man was an egyptian (soldier?) who was in the process of “smiting” his fellow Hebrew. While this may bare a tinge of speculation, I don’t think it is too much to surmise that perhaps while Moses actions where illegal from the Egyptian perspective, he still may have been a justified in the defense of his friend. Abraham lied about his relationship with his wife in order to save his life, still a perplexing story, but only strict deontologists would take this story as an example of sinister conduct by focusing on the lie itself rather than the intent.

    Joseph, on the other hand, claimed that God commanded him to marry multiple women. He used his position of influence to orchestrate an elaborately layered social construct in Nauvoo that was built on layers of secrecy that led to an “in group” and an “out group”, with the Temple being central to all of this. He approached woman with the claim that God had unequivocally decreed that they should be married, and by so doing they could ensure Salvation for entire families. If I run a basic logical analysis here, I see three reasonable possiblities:

    1) God did in fact command polygamy and Joseph was just doing God’s will, in which he either did a good job by executing God’s command to the letter, or he did a poor job and polluted the practice ignorantly with human frailty. In either case we would be wise to “get on the bus if this is fact”.

    2) God did not command polygamy, but Joseph thought that he did or would based on a good faith Christian effort to implement what he interpreted as biblical teachings. Even if we give Joseph the benefit of the doubt by assuming he meant no ill will by espousing this theory, we still undermine Joseph’s prophetic calling by suggesting that somehow he was disconnected on this issue which he appears to have been highly confident about.

    3) God did not command polygamy, and Joseph introduced this practice for selfish and sinister purposes. This case obviously needs no explanation.

    If I were inclined to believe I would most certainly have to settle on some variation of scenario 1).

  21. Cowboy, your point #2 is interesting because many of the things Joseph restored occurred as he studied the scriptures, and while doing so received revelations.

    However, no where in the OT that I see does it mention polygamy as a commandment or ordinance like baptism. Instead, it seems to mention some of that ancient culture did have more than one wife or concubines as a matter of fact, as if that is common place, not as if that was a spiritual/celestial law to be lived.

    My mind is so curious as to what Joseph was thinking, and yet part of me is cautious to go down this road of studying more about it. So I will likely hide behind the firewall that it is not required now, so it profits me nothing to go down that path.

  22. Post

    Seth and Mytha, thanks for those references to section 132. I didn’t realize they were there. That is quite interesting.

    Cowboy, I suppose I could list some better examples of bad behavior in the Bible, but those are 2 quick and easy ones. I’ve already mentioned Joshua’s genocide–obviously unacceptable in our day. Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac surely tests our sensibilities of right and wrong. Jacob pretending to be Esau is prosecuted as identity theft today. Jacob getting bamboozled to marry Leah is another problem. Jonah refusing to preach to the Ninevites I’ve already mentioned. Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael to die in the wilderness surely doesn’t sound like an example Christ would want us to follow.

    Solomon marrying 700 wives and 300 concubines seems to be beyond modern comprehension. David, author of Psalms, killing Uriah to take Bathsheba is a problem–yet we still view Psalms as scripture, despite David’s obvious shortcomings. Was Balaam a prophet or a wicked person? After all, he was not an Israelite, didn’t have the priesthood, was paid for his services–yet is referred to as a prophet and “the wicked one” in the Bible. So which is he?

    Is that better?

    Even as a believer, I lean more toward option 2. Then again, I find a lot of problems with biblical prophets.

  23. When a person who has a hard time earning a living says we’re commanded by God to live the law of consecration, that gives me pause. When a person who wants to marry me personally despite our 15+ year age difference claims it’s a commandment necessary to my salvation, that gives me pause. In short, I’m pretty glad to live in the time I do. I have my own post on polygamy coming out in the next week or so, so I won’t spoil it here.

  24. “Doug, I really think we agree more than you think. IMO, you seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I think one can still believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and reject certain things. I’d like to personally invite you to my brand of moderate Mormonism.”

    MH, thanks for a sincere invitation and one that has been extended by several of my RM children and more importantly, my wife. Something I’ve always struggled with is my tendency toward black and white thinking. In my career as a manager, it has proved to be my biggest strength and my greatest weakness. FWIW, I am trying to find this middle ground you allude to. As you also must realize by now, being a heretic will not make you the most popular guy in the ward or with leaders.


    Man, are you politically correct or what? 🙂

    I actually believe Fanny Alger turned JS head and he wasn’t sure how to deal with those feelings. Given the forbidden nature of their relationship and the fact that as soon as Emma discovered their “dirty filthy affair”, she was summarily thrown out of the house. I think it’s fair to conclude that this really wasn’t a marriage as Joseph even helped with the eviction rather than standing up to Emma and boldly stating that he was just following god’s command. Had he actually seen an angel, I doubt events would have unfolded the way they did. It is important to point out that this episode occurred somewhere between 1833 and 1835. The sealing keys weren’t restored until 1836, so comments about his marriages being dynastic seem silly, at least at this early stage.

  25. Pres Hinckley’s response:

    If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.

    There is no such thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist.” It is a contradiction to use the two words together.

    More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.
    -Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign Magazine, Nov 1998, 70

    It cannot be a practice essential to salvation AND discontinued.

    D&C 132 confirms other prophets lived this way and it was not sin, which does not mean they were required live it, only allowed to live it.

    It is no longer allowed, whether it was before or not is irrelevant. Celestial marriage is required for salvation, that is the interpretation given.

  26. Post

    Doug, “As you also must realize by now, being a heretic will not make you the most popular guy in the ward or with leaders.”

    I most certainly agree. So I keep quiet at church, and blog with you instead. 🙂 I also agree with you about Fanny Alger.

    Bruce in MT. I checked out your link, and my heretic understands, but disagrees with the revelation. The website says,

    (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132)

    What was the reason behind the revelation? Is plural marriage just a practice, or also a principle or doctrine? (See verses 1-2)»

    1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—

    I know the D&C says that, but I just don’t believe God justified David and Solomon in particular. I’ve already alluded to my disagreements with Abraham and Jacob polygamous wives being not inspired by God. During the time of David and Solomon, the prophets (such as Nathan in particular), were preaching against marrying outside the faith. David and Solomon certainly married many women for political alliances. While God probably “turned a blind eye” to these political marriages, I just don’t believe God wanted them to marry these women of other religions, because they worshiped gods other than Jehovah. The prophets warned that these women would turn their hearts away from Jehovah. If God is a jealous God, and “thou shalt have no other gods before me”, how on earth can “the Lord, justif[y] my servants … David and Solomon” to marry outside the faith?

  27. Post

    KG McB,

    If someone wants to call themselves a Mormon Fundamentalist, I have no problem with that. Certainly we like to call ourselves Mormon Christians, and we hate it when people say “It is a contradiction to use the two words together.”

  28. MH:

    Don’t misunderstand, I think the scriptures are full of examples where the Prophets displayed human (sinful/non-perfect) characteristics. Could Moses have handled the situation with the Egyptian better? What about when he smote the rock as a pretense to his abilities? I think there is a difference between getting a little ego, and using a position of power to spiritually manipulate religious adherents into behavior that they themselves would otherwise find objectionable. For what it is worth, I had typed up a long response to your comment and found that I was really debating scripture but not on que with the current topic, so suffice it to say there is very little scriptural precedent for Prophets in error to the same degree as the arguments against Joseph Smith and Polygamy. Just as a side note, I do cede you the example of Abraham and Haagar, that one has never sat right with me.


    Sorry if I am little too PC for you. At the end of the day I more or less agree with you. I don’t necessarily buy into all of the specifics of your theories, but the general conclusions you come to are the same ones that I have. I think Fanny Alger is a bigger wrench in the spokes of all things “Celestial Marriage” including Priesthood keys than most people are willing to admit. In subtle ways a lot of Church published materials will allude to this as well by stating such things as, “it is clear that the principles of Plural Marriage appear to have been known by the Prophet Joseph Smith as early as 1831”. This is a subtle way of giving divine legitimacy to an obvious blunder in Church history (the affair – at least that’s what I think), without drawing attention to the Fanny Alger affair directly. Given the Church’s lead and treatment on these matters it is clear that they understand the logic of the three scenarios I listed above, which is why they have chosen to adopt 1) at the expense of all others, any other choice would undermine Prophets.

    FYI: I have found that the PC approach allows me to 1) invite respectful discussion, even disagreement from conversation partners. This is obviously more productive and allows me to try and curb the temptation for just trying to “win” the argument – Though I have been guilty a time or two; 2) Prevents me from getting too carried away into making statements of fact on things, which may appear obvious to me, yet I cannot prove. It has helped me from putting my foot in my mouth on occassion, but that’s not to say I have been, or will be entirely immune from that.

  29. Post
  30. MH:

    Glad to see that I’m not the only night owl. Short anwer for tonight, and if you would like to discuss more I’d be happy to in the next day or so. Polygamy is only wrong if God did not command it. I guess I could say the same thing for Joshua, if God did not command it and he became bloodthirsty then I would agree with you. The real problem with the logic of this defense is that it is based on a double standard. Murder, adultery, fornication, etc, today are treated very seriously. The defense that Joseph contrived polygamy has to go two ways I think, (sorry, I seem to be into lists tonight)

    1) Polygamy was wrong but Joseph felt that it was a correct principle – Again, he taught this principle emphatically and unequivocally. He even claimed to have been visited by angels. If we accept that he was fooled, or in some other way, wrong, can we really trust that the First Vision ever occured? Can we really accept on his word, every other revelation where he was the sole link between God and the Church?

    2) Polygamy was wrong, and it was really just an outlet for Josephs need for power and/or sexual inclinations – If he can get a pass on this motive, then are we too hard on those who commit serious sins today? Perhaps God can look on even serious sins with a degree of allowance? Are we minimizing the seriousness of sins, and the abuses of authority spoken so disdainfully of, by none other, in The Doctrine & Covenants?

    Sorry, I know that wasn’t really about Joshua. I guess the point is, I’m not going to question God’s ethics, so when I question the ethics of his alleged servants I’m really just questionning their professed station as God’s officers.

  31. MH — Just touching base because I respect you for putting this out there.

    I don’t see this as a question of opinion — it’s one of belief. And, while we can discuss reasons for our belief or disbelief, that discussion isn’t going to change what we believe with scant few exceptions. My belief about plural marriage is fairly nuanced, as I believe the history of the practice is. I don’t understand how it can be comprehensively characterized with a simple declaration that it was or wasn’t of God. I have the same problem with the same characterization of the priesthood ban. When you have prophets signing God’s name to something, declaring that they lied about God’s dictating something is a nontrivial declaration that I haven’t yet found evidence to justify, and that is quite a few layers of nuance away from declaring prophets infallible. And there is no way of providing that evidence through an appeal to history or reason — the only sufficient evidence is going to have to come directly from God.

    Consequently, I don’t see a point to explicating my understanding and belief alongside of those of others in this space. I haven’t found the bloggernacle to be a place where deeply nuanced understandings of highly emotional topics are given much consideration — or, at least, enough consideration as to compensate for the mischaracterization and emotional reaction that comes from inadequate consideration.

    So I’m just tagging in say that I’ve read your thoughts and respect your desire to talk about this in real terms.


    MH I am very familiar with below as I am in correspondence with Margaret Young and Darius Gray.

    “James, I have previously documented 6 black men ordained during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, or shortly after his death. One was even Branch President in Boston. It is evident to me the ban was instituted during Brigham Young’s administration, because of 2 inter-racial marriages. He banned blacks from the priesthood and temple to put a stop to inter-racial marriages. See my post on Early Black Mormons, and be sure to read both Margaret Young (from BYU) and Connell O’Donovan’s comments. They are 2 of the biggest experts on the Priesthood ban in the world.”

    But I would interested to know your answers to How would you justify your post to a black member or a wife of a polygamist living in the time of Brigham Young? What’s the point of having a prophet if their prophecies are hit and miss and fallible? What makes us different from any other church if our prophecies may not be valid all of the time?

    How would you help someone feel comfortable who knows as well as you about the New Mormon History find faith again in the Prophetic Mantle when it might not be 100% accurate?

  33. Post

    Cowboy, James, and Blain,

    Yes, I understand and agree with what you are all saying. If a prophet can make mistakes in revelation, then it certainly does force us as members to more closely analyze what they say when speaking “in the name of God.”

    Many members are quite content to take what the prophet says at face value, and then blame the prophet if the prophet spoke an uninspired revelation. This absolves members of thinking for themselves, because the prophet already received a revelation. Wilford Woodruff even promises us we will be blessed if we follow the prophet–the prophet will never lead the church astray. Church leadership certainly doesn’t want to have their inspiration questioned. Even as parents, we get tired of telling our kids why they need to go to bed over and over, and often resort to “because I told you so.” But kids eventually grow up. We learn that parents were probably right when they told us to go to bed early, but we also find out our parents may have been wrong on some other things.

    James, I thought I already answered your questions in 13. Joseph Smith himself said that not every word spoken by him was inspired. When we look at the Hiram Page incident where Hiram Page claimed to have a seer stone, we know that Joseph claimed Hiram was deceived. So certainly there were some deceptive angelic visits in Joseph’s day. I’ll add a quote from Margaret Young on my blog in her interview with John Dehlin. She was speaking specifically about the priesthood ban. (My post is 10000 words, so you can see her full comments there.)

    ““We don’t believe in the infallibility of prophets. We think that Brigham Young did some remarkable things in leading the Mormons on that great, historic migration, but he was blind in certain aspects. There is just no question about it. I used the word ‘evolution’ before when talking about Joseph Smith. I see us as a church evolving, consistent with what Joseph Smith talked about in the King Follett discourse, when he talked about, you climb up a ladder in your knowledge. We certainly refer to it in the temple, as we get better. We learn things. We grow from our infancy into our boyhood. We grow from our boyhood (or girlhood) into manhood and womanhood. I’m now 50, and you’d think that I would have figured out a whole lot of stuff, and I still am absolutely flummoxed by situations.

    I fully acknowledge that I have a whole lot to learn about many, many areas. This area is one that I have taken a lot of time to find things out about. Other areas, I’m not prepared to talk about. Brigham Young was marvelous in so much of what he did. But the statements that he made, did start a disastrous chain effect. The marvelous thing is that we are a church that believes in continuing revelation.”

    She goes on, “I’ve had to pinch my nose, when I read some of the terrible things that have been said by past leaders of the church, understanding the damage that they have done, and the damage that they continue to do, because they are very much with us. We are in the internet age. With the click of a mouse, you can bring up what Brigham Young said on inter-racial marriage. You can bring up what he said about blacks being eternally destined for servitude. They are ugly, ugly statements.

    Apostle J. Reuben Clark has said, “They [general authorities] sometimes have spoke out of turn. You will recall, that the prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet…. Even the president of the church himself, may not always be moved upon by the Holy Ghost when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine, usually of a highly speculative character, where subsequent presidents of the church, and the people themselves, have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”

    Now, I doubt this will make everyone as comfortable as James would like. However, I want to say that it is the reality of the world we live in. Jonah prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed within 30 days, yet it wasn’t. Some want to claim that this false prophecy disqualifies Jonah as a prophet. It doesn’t for me. It does add a tremendous element of realism to Jonah.

  34. “It does add a tremendous element of realism to Jonah.” For me, that’s like multiplying a number times zero.

  35. Then the central issue for many is that they want prophets to be infallible, and that standard simply has not been met in the history of the world. We either have fallible prophets doing the best they can to transmit God’s will as best they understand it (with the occasional direct and unmistakably pure revelation) or we have men doing the best they can to lead an organization according to what they believe God’s will is. Frankly, there are people in our scriptures who have been called prophets who fit both categories, so I’m not willing to hold modern prophets to a standard no other prophets in history have been able to meet – especially when they have never claimed to be living that standard. I can’t blame people for not being what they’ve never claimed to be.

  36. #36 Ray:

    I see that same theme through many of these discussions also, and can accept Joseph wasn’t perfect. This issue, however is particularly perplexing to me because there is a difference between Joseph or Brigham saying something wrong and making a mistake, and Joseph going to marry another man’s wife. The latter seems to be more than a little error, it is a pretty big thing that makes you wonder if he really went off the deep end, and if so really questions the kind of man he was.

    I guess there can be a limit on the infallible, like a limit on the extent he can be imperfect yet still be trustworthy as a leader.

    Polygamy is a hard one for me to understand.

  37. Holden, there are at least 2 references to men being swallowed by sharks or sperm whales, being inside for 2 days, and then coming out alive. See

    “There have been other modern day reports of men being swallowed by fish and living to tell the tale. Edward B. Davis, Associate Professor of Science and History at Messiah College, in Grantham, PA came across an article describing a man off the Falkland Islands who had been inside the belly of a sperm whale for 36 hours due to a fishing/whaling accident. Even after 36 hours, he was found alive and an excerpt of the account can be read at the link here. This inspired him to find more information.

    The link also references a second man who was swallowed by a shark in the English channel. Two days later, his fellow sailors found and killed the shark. When they opened it up, they found their unconscious friend alive and took him to a hospital. A newspaper article entitled “The Jonah of the Twentieth Century” is dated from the 1920’s or 1930’s

    Unfortunately the links no longer work, but I do recall reading them and being quite amazed. I haven’t been able to verify the accuracy of the report. Perhaps it is not accurate, but it does give one pause to the Jonah story.

    I agree with Ray. I’ve often said that I believe most LDS have an inaccurate perception of prophetic inspiration, and we probably assume more of a prophetic infallibility than we should. (Of course, the church does seem to encourage some of these claims as well.)

  38. Peter is often criticized for his historic moment of weakness, wherein he denied his association as one of Christs disciples. I can appreciate that he was perhaps overcome with fear and shame, to the point where in a very human way he fulfilled Christs words by doing something regrettable. He was a disciple, and ultimately forgiven and subsequently issued the charge bearing the utmost responsibility to feed the Lords sheep and to be a Shepherd himself following in the footsteps of the Savior. Stories like this give me hope that because peter faltered, even still there was a place for him in the Lords work. Paul took part in the stoning of another disciple by standing by to hold coats for those who were throwing stones. He is often given lattitude because though yes he participated in this Christian persecution, he was acting in full accord with the Law of Moses, and appears to have been doing so out of a *sincere*, even though misplaced, desire to effect God’s will. In these cases we see men who were imperfect displaying the type of character that Joseph Smith himself professes to when declaring “in making this confession no one need suppose me guilty of any malignant sins, for a disposition to commit such was never part of my character,….I was often guilty of levity”. I guess what I am saying is that I can accept the tendency to display weakness, particularly pride in the case of a Prophet. At the same time I find myself agreeing with sentiments similar to KG McB’s recent comment. There is a big difference between simple human imperfection, and the nature of complaints issued against the character of Joseph Smith regarding his particular behavior surrounding polygamy. If God did not command this practice then I have a hard time accepting the simple humar error argument, this seems to be a much more serious violation on the scale, somewhat akin to the sin of David, with the exception of murder.

  39. Ok, Cowboy, we really must discuss Joshua’s Unholy war. I’d also like to hear your take on Abraham and circumcision. Clearly circumcision was a pagan practice at the time of Abraham, and I think this practice highly influenced Abraham accepting circumcision as Godly.

    I’ve also heard some minority Jewish scholars claim that Abraham was deceived when he tried to sacrifice Isaac, and that the real miracle was that the angel intervened to prevent the death of Isaac. Other scholars claim the sacrifice of Isaac story was to counter-act the common belief (as late as 600 BC) that child sacrifice was ok. The moral of Abraham’s not sacrificing Isaac actually shows that child sacrifice is not ok, and that modern people (as in 600 BC people) should not be sacrificing children because God saved Isaac. If one subscribes to this interpretation, then it surely would seem to indicate that Abraham was led astray initially. One scholar even says it was Abraham’s “imagination” which led him to attempt to sacrifice Isaac. See my Abraham post.

  40. MH:

    I’d be happy to, if you will just allow me a day or two I will post a comment on your blog and we can go from there.

    Thanks for the invite,


  41. MH,

    You say:

    “If a prophet can make mistakes in revelation, then it certainly does force us as members to more closely analyze what they say when speaking “in the name of God.””

    A prophet does not get revelation when he does not speak by the gift of the Holy Ghost. The problem is, the burden has NEVER been on the prophets to differentiate between opinion and revelation. The burden has ALWAYS been on US, the regular everyday Joe Latter Day Saints to get revelation in confirmation. So this has always been our duty anyway to not only “analyze” (i.e. ponder) but to get revelation ourselves.

  42. “For those that believe polygamy is something that can be practiced by mere mortals with God’s blessing, I wonder why they stay LDS. The fundamentalist believe everything they do with the inclusion of polygamy. Why not go with your beliefs and join those that think the same way? I’m not trying to pick a fight, I just don’t get it.”

    That question can come only from someone, it seems to me, that holds a very thin belief or understanding of Priesthood Authority as belonging to Prophets, Apostles, Bishops and others of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If I at all felt, and there are members who have felt and therefore have joined other Mormon groups, they had any divine priesthood authority then most likely I would join them. I have to often turn the question around and wonder why those who don’t believe polygamy was ever divine remain Mormon? Only because they don’t have to deal with it as a concrete practice.

    I will give the possibility that Joseph Smith might have made a mistake with Fanny Alger and even others. He never claimed to be perfect. However it isn’t that simple as calling polygamy a mistake. The priesthood ban was never written down, might have been a personal revelation to Brigham Young and each individual prophet up until Kimball for its continuation, doesn’t seem to have a beginning with Joseph Smith, and was never claimed to be a permanent covenant. Polygamy, on the other hand, is an actual written down solid revelation by Joseph Smith. Not to mention the mortal practice has been discontinued, but the spiritual practice in the Temple remains. The revelation continues to be in the Doctrine and Covenants as an official authoritative revelation. To question that is to put into question the very idea that Joseph Smith had any actual and authoritative revelations ever! To dismiss polygamy as a mistake is to do more than admit Joseph Smith was fallible, but to completely reject that he was a prophet. If he can’t get something as basic and serious as that right without a serious call to repentance and a loss of priesthood authority, how can he get anything right?

  43. Jettboy,

    “To question that is to put into question the very idea that Joseph Smith had any actual and authoritative revelations ever!”

    You’re falling into the trap that the church has set up: (1) Joseph is a prophet, or (2) Joseph is a fraud. I believe there is a 3rd option–Joseph is a prophet and still made mistakes (even in revelation). Now obviously the church wants everyone to believe in option 1, but as Aboz said (and even Brigham Young for that matter), we all need to examine Joseph’s revelations, and gain our own testimony. Nobody should blindly follow their leaders, or we have incidents of the Mountain Meadows Massacre (“but I was just following my leaders”)

    I don’t believe we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the church contends. For people like Doug, they choose option 2 because they think there is no other option. But I say there is a 3rd option. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I think the BoM is praiseworthy, and I seek after these things. There is no need to throw away the good things Joseph did. I love D&C 76, and have a testimony of the 3 degrees of glory. I don’t feel the same way about polygamy, or Abraham’s sacrifice of Issac, or Joshua’s genocide. Certainly polygamy is more benign that Abraham or Joshua’s errors.

  44. Aboz:

    I can partly agree with your comments, which also means I partly don’t. I think for our own sakes we each have a responsibility to ourselves, to God, and to those we associate with, to make sure that the positions of Doctrine, Initiatives, and Policy, that we embrace as coming from the Church, to the best of our knowledge and intentions, actually represents the mind, will, and voice of God. On the other hand, we are commanded to recognize as taught by Scripture that “whether by Gods mouth, or the mouth of his Prophets, it is the same”. There is clearly no established pattern, such as in the case of Pentacostals speaking in tongues, where the Prophet speaks and the members are to interpret/verify. The counsel to test the Prophets words has never been an encouragement to make sure the Prophet is right, rather it has been a call to obtain a testimony independent of blind obedience that the Prophet is speaking in behalf of the Lord. In other words, it is entirely the Prophets responsibility to verify his words.

  45. MH,

    Yes, the people are in the minority that do that, and that is an education issue in the Church. However, if more people were educated in that way, then weird crap from the past such as Adam God or any other weird stuff you’d like to bring up wouldn’t throw people, and we’d have less people coming to places like this venting.

    Cowboy, there is the established pattern, and it is precisely what I just said it was. Seldom will stuff from the top always be “the mind and voice of God”, because you have a group of people that are mortals struggling to get revelation on where they should take the Church. There is no difference between the Quorum of the Twelve, and a bunch of people in Elder’s Quorum presidency trying to get revelation. Except, the keys and responsibilities are weightier. And how well does a bunch of people in an Elder’s quorum presidency get revelation? Sometimes they will get it right, and sometimes they wont. And when they don’t, then the pieces have to get picked up. Sometimes the consequences are no big deal, and sometimes they are huge. The difference is, these people are all actually trying to do it as well as they can, and so, I propose to you that the prophet and apostles ALREADY try to verify it to the best of their ability, but they fail on occasion as anyone would rationally expect.

  46. Whilst i have no fondness for polygamy,or human sacrifice,I have been led to think of Abraham’s behaviour,and that of JS as tests of both obedience and sacrifice.On this level i can see them as necessary parts of our development,paradoxical as this may be.Abraham was consequently known as the friend of God-because he had shared the experience of being required to sacrifice his son in order to fulfill God’s requirements.The intervention of the angel was symbolic of the Saviour’s intervention on our behalf-Christ is the lamb in the thicket.We sacrifice a tithe of our son’s lives through their missions,and JS was testing the saints to destruction-possibly by revelation.I’m open to finding out.I think.Or maybe not.He did say something to the effect that a religion that did not require the sacrifice of that which is most precious to us is not a true religion.Scary stuff eh.But,unfortunately for me,I kind of see his point.

  47. “I’ve often said that I believe most LDS have an inaccurate perception of prophetic inspiration, and we probably assume more of a prophetic infallibility than we should. (Of course, the church does seem to encourage some of these claims as well.)” Ya think? Biographies (and lesson manuals) of church leaders only show minor peccadillos on the scale of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree (which also didn’t happen). When the lesson manual doesn’t even mention the fact that Joseph drank beer, why would it cover something that most people would consider an obvious major sin like a “dirty filthy affair”? Yet, I also agree that it’s not uplifting or spiritually useful to me to catalogue the faults of others. So which is the greater error – the original error or the subsequent rationalization and justification of the error that renders it difficult for us to sift truth from error organizationally without greatly diminishing the role of prophets?

    MH – feel free to bring the Unholy War discussion over in another post this week here. Good idea!

  48. This type of rational does not bode well for revelation to be quite honest. It is highly unclear, to the point where Church leaders can make unequivocall claims that people of the black races are part of a lower order and cursed class, and then just change their minds. They can similarly state policies on unusual marriage practices, in one case that the true order of marriage is polygamy, then in another monogamy is the Lord’s way (now?), but always most certainly not homosexuality. As a check the members can individually recieve their *own* revelations to know where the leading Brethren were up a creek and where they got it right. Som conclude that the Polygamy was wrong but political action on divisive campaign (Prop 8) is God’s will. Some conclude that Polygamy is the proper order, and the current Church has fallen into a state of apostasy, etc. Some conclude that the Priesthood ban was a literal commandment from God but the former “folklore” is incorrect justification for it. Others conclude the ban was just the Lords way of being patient with his imperfect Prophets. Some finally conclude that established patterns for revelation exist, but most of the membership is uneducated about the proper methods. If I were a PR consultant for God, I would encourage him to adopt a strategy for improving communication in his organization, and then most certainly some sort of quality control measures for monitoring and making course corrections.

  49. Cowboy,
    Improve the communication … or just teach obedience and that the Lord will not let his mouthpiece lead the church astray, and with a sweeping statement like that, you can keep running the church with imperfect communication.

    Sometimes the frustrations felt by many that seek website forums like this one are caused by the church sometimes seeming to go the easy route (latter option).

  50. Wasn’t this the very issue that Sydney Rigdon left the church, believing Joseph was a fallen prophet?

    Do we have any of his writings that share light on the subject?

  51. KG McB – Sidney Rigdon claimed the succession and was excommunicated by the standing twelve who favored Brigham Young as Sidney had not been endowed (he had been off on a traveling mission). Sidney in turn excommunicated all of them and went off to become prophet of his own branch of Mormonism – the Ridgonites – attempting to restore a communal living arrangement (law of consecration to you and me) as he had done when he was a Campbellite preacher near Kirtland. So, although Sidney didn’t believe JS was a fallen prophet at the time, he also did not accept polygamy as he had not been endowed. However, by 1845, the Rigdonites had concluded that JS was struck down as a fallen prophet for his practice of polygamy. Although the Rigdonites are no longer a sect, a breakaway group, the Bickertonites, still have 12-15K members worldwide.

  52. Instead of trying to parse out whether a prophet is speaking as a prophet and following him either way…I think I’ll just flip a coin. I mean if God’s message can be spread by men who show remarkable signs of fraud for personal gain and offer troubling and contradictory advice in spiritual matters than God can surely influence something as simple as a coin toss. Heads we drink beer, Tales we drink Postum. Come on HEADS!!!!


  53. Cowboy,

    You illustrate the paradoxes well in 46 and 51. There are many paradoxes in all of life, not just within our church. For example, many conclude that God saved the passengers in “Miracle on the Hudson”, yet God refused to intervene in the ill-fated flight in Buffalo just a month later. It sure would be nice for God to clarify why he saves one group of passengers, and not another. But I think God likes us to wrestle with these topics–certainly God’s ways are not man’s ways. Frankly, I think he enjoys it when we wrestle with these paradoxes, provided we do so in a civil manner.

    Wayfarer–I’m with you. I just don’t get circumcision either. Perhaps someone could enlighten me as well.

    KG McB–the reasons’ Sidney Rigdon left the church aren’t quite so cut and dried as you mention. Sidney certainly disagreed with polygamy, yet he did tolerate it. Joseph tried to get Sidney fired from the Post Office because Joseph thought Sidney was a traitor. Then Joseph called Sidney to be his VP candidate, and asked Sidney to move to Pittsburgh (because the Constitution mandates the Pres and VP must reside in different states.) Interestingly, Sidney tried to play peacemaker with William Law during the Nauvoo Expositor affair. Sidney learned of Joseph’s death about a week after his arrival in Pittsburgh.

    So, yes, Sidney did make some claims about Joseph being a fallen prophet after his death, but he was still a strong supporter at the time of Joseph’s death. Sidney really left the church in a dispute with Brigham Young over who should lead. I did a 6 part series on Sidney, and I think you’d find Part 4 and Part 5 the most interesting.

  54. Hawkgrrl, are you saying that the Bickertonites are a breakaway group of the Rigdonites? That wasn’t clear to me.

  55. Hawkgrrrl, my very first post as a guest blogger was on Joshua’s Unholy War in Feb. (I was surprised my blog had about twice as many comments on the topic than Mormon Matters, but I was a newbie then.) I can post again, but I think I’ve personally beaten that topic to death, but if anyone wants to revive it here, then go to

    My favorite comment was #4: “This blog post seems like an unholy war against holy scripture.” At least you can see I’m consistent in my beliefs about prophets…

  56. I’ve made this point previously, but I think it’s important to parse D&C 1:38. (“Whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”)

    Summary version:

    It is his “word” that shall not “pass away” but “be fulfilled” – and the wording of the last part that gets quoted extensively (and almost always incorrectly) deals with how we as mortals will hear that word being fulfilled. It says we will hear it either from His own voice or by the united “voice” (singular) of His “servants” (plural). To the resident parser, that means one of two things:

    1) It is the Lord’s word for a particular time when all 15 living apostles/prophets speak unitedly; OR

    2) It is the Lord’s word for an extended time (perhaps an entire dispensation) when every Prophet agrees and they all say the same thing.

    I just don’t see any other meaning for that verse when you actually parse the words.

    This means that polygamy might or might not have been the proper practice for the time, but it isn’t clear that it was the Lord’s “word being fulfilled” in Joseph’s day – since there wasn’t unanimous support of it at the time. Perhaps it had to be introduced then to be fulfilled in Brigham’s time for a few decades; perhaps not. Perhaps the Lord’s “word” is more the concept of eternal sealing of the family of mankind, and perhaps polygamy/polyandry/communal-dynastic sealing/etc. were just attempts to figure out the practical implementation/configuration of His word – and it is yet to be “fulfilled” because we just haven’t figured it out yet. I just don’t see unanimity with regard to it – no matter how narrowly “servants” is defined.

    This also says to me that the Priesthood ban wasn’t the word of God, since there has never been unanimity of voice among the servants of God on it – even when it was at its height. There always have been apostles and prophets (and Prophets) who saw it as strictly temporary policy, not revealed will – and it’s crystal clear that current apostles and prophets are convinced, at least, that the justifications for it were mortal, not divinely inspired.

  57. Let me preface my words by saying I do not wish to offend. My conclusions below are simply a logical approach to all of this. I will freely admit that it is impossible to KNOW the root of all of this, but these are some of my thoughts when I try to think through these issues without reliance on fuzzy feelings of emotion, or the spirit, or faith, or whatever you wish to call them.

    The mental gymnastics taking place on this site trying to conform the ideas that some omniscient god leads and has led this church since its conception and what the church leaders have done since (polygamy, treatment of blacks, etc.) are astounding. It seems to me that god chooses to lead the church and the world in a very confusing hide-the-ball manner, rife with contradictions, illogical actions, and extremely fallible prophets, or he does not exist (or does not involve himself with the world). If any of you ran your families or your businesses in the same manner with which god supposedly runs the world, would they be successful?

    I’m sorry, but JS marrying teenage girls or women who were already married makes no sense whatsoever. So, what do I make of that?

    Well, several possibilities remain:

    1) JS made mistakes, contrary to what god wanted, but was still a prophet.
    2) JS’ actions were not mistakes, but were the will of god.
    3) JS’ actions were not the will of god, but were not really offensive to god either. They were inconsequential.
    4) JS’ mistakes caused him to lose his mantle as prophet.
    5) JS was never a prophet; his mistakes were the mistakes of a man.

    If number 1 is true, then why did god, being omniscient, choose a man with such a great weakness? Number 1 is dubious to me.
    If number 2 is true, how can god teach that adultery is the worst sin besides murder and denying the holy ghost, and then command JS to do the things he did? Number 2 is offensive to me. I would sooner not believe in god than believe he commanded JS to do the things he did.
    If number 3 is true, see number 2. If none of these actions bother god then he is contradicting his own commandments.
    If number 4 is true, then who replaced JS? BY? I think not. While the church teaches of the importance of family, he tore families apart by claiming women for himself who were already married.
    If number 5 is correct, then we actually have a conclusion that does not require mental gymnastics.

  58. Dexter,

    I understand your reasoning, but there is an underlying assumption to your thought process–that God thinks as man does. I do not believe that God thinks as man does. If he does, then I think your propositions are perfectly reasonable. But since God is a higher being, who thinks differently than we do, it seems rather apparent to me that what we view as irrational behavior of God, is really just a product of our own misunderstandings of God. As such, your option 1 is probably the one I agree with most. If we expect God to only talk to the perfect man, then we have to rule out every person except Jesus Christ.

    From your comments, I don’t know if you believe in God or not. If you do, then surely you must accept that all of us are sinners, yet we still receive promptings of the Holy Ghost. Where does God draw the line on what is considered a great weakness? There is no answer to that–Paul consented to the death of Stephen, and Christ still appeared to him later on the Road to Damascus. If one accepts that, then understanding the mind of God is really hard to predict.

    If you’re not a believer, than all this reasoning is going to look like mental gymnastics.

  59. Re: Cowboy no. 31

    (Sorry for coming to this kind of late)

    You say, “Can we really accept on his word, every other revelation where he was the sole link between God and the Church?” I respect what you’ve had to say in trying to understand this issue. But I really think your question presents a false choice. I don’t think the Church says we have to “accept on his word.” I’m thinking about the promise of spiritual confirmation here. We don’t have to believe Joseph’s word, I don’t think. We have to confirm what he said, trust at times, but not just stop at believing on his word. This approach allows Joseph to be a prophet, while not infallible.

    On top of that, Joseph’s claims about this or that are not the end of the story. There’s also the structure of the Church he set up, the priesthood ordinances, the good works of the Church, not to mention the years of revelation that followed Joseph. So, again, to set this polygamy question as an “either/or” question is a false set-up. In other words, while much of the Church’s authority and divinity rests on the reality of Joseph as Prophet, not everything rests on him. There’s also Brigham, and Lorenzo, not to mention Gordon, and now Thomas.

    THEN, when you throw in the principle that the Church progresses line upon line, I think you can fully accept Joseph as Prophet, while still refusing to agree that polygamy is an eternal principle.

  60. Dexter,

    If you read D&C 132 very carefully, the major theme in it was Joseph Smith’s concern with adultery and God’s answering his questions. It is not just laying out the law, but answering specific questions with a man preoccupied so much with adultery and not wanting to commit it at all costs that he was afraid to do anything without God’s justification. So your assumption that Joseph just willy nilly did whatever is not a good assumption. there is a more complex truth at play here, something that Occam’s razor can’t minimize.

    Furthermore it seems you default to atheism anyway, and I urge you to not do that, but to seek the Holy Ghost to see through the complexity. This may seem apologetic, but it isn’t so much apologetic as it is optimistic rather than the pessimism I unfortunately think I hear in your words. Please be more optimistic about the issue and give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt, as much as you would probably like people to give you the benefit of the doubt in any difficult issue you may have gone through, that you did the best you could. How is it then that you should not give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt that he did the best he could?

  61. MH,

    I appreciate your response and I too understand your reasoning. I agree that one can always resort to god’s ways are higher than man’s ways to end any extrapolation of human logic to that of deity. But at the same time, how many times has the church, or its members, pointed to logic as a source of evidence for the truthfulness of the church? Many examples exist: the structure and leadership of the church, the way it is the “same” here as any other meetinghouse on the planet, the restoration of the priesthood, the fairness of the afterlife wherein those who couldn’t receive the gospel here will receive it there, etc. It seems the church plays the logic card (or the science card–but I will save this for another time) whenever it suites it but whenever logic cuts against the church or its history it is simply dismissed as inferior to god’s ways and therefore irrelevant, or it is used to show that things are supposed to be confusing so that we will acquire and exercise our faith (faith is another topic I would like to discuss in more detail, specifically, can someone explain WHY it is good to believe in something we can’t see?–but that should be another topic for another day as well).

    Let me clarify a few points, it’s not that I have a problem with the idea of a prophet making mistakes. I don’t. But, again, considering the church’s stance on sexual sin, I do have a problem with the idea of a prophet 1) taking for himself women who are already married and 2) using authority to convince young (sometimes very young) women to marry him because god commanded it. How many times have we heard the leaders say that a man should not say to his girlfriend, I prayed and learned that we should be married, you do not need to pray about it? Yet, it appears JS did just that to convince young girls to marry him. If we look at the squeaky clean image of the prophets of the last 50 years, unless I never heard the gossip or rumors, it is in such contrast to JS and BY. Why wouldn’t god have chosen men of similar caliber to bring back the church?

    It seems very logical to me that god would call prophets and speak to them and have them teach the people. But looking at the track record of the prophets, and the contradictory teachings of the prophets, I’m not so sure the prophet plan is a good one. If they didn’t have 50 wives and they didn’t contradict each other, while god remains the same forever, it would make more sense. I understand that many of you believe that it is not supposed to make sense, because we need faith, but it just doesn’t appear to be a house of order to me.

    However, as MH alluded, and many of you may be thinking, if you don’t believe, why are you here?

    I guess my question is this: how does one justify believing JS and BY were prophets, while believing all the things they did? I understand faithful members who don’t know all the details of JS and BY’s personal lives. I understand people who leave the church based on them. But I have a hard time understanding how many of you can know so many of the sordid details, and yet, still believer. Because now that I have learned some of the specifics, things which I cannot unlearn, I don’t see how I could ever feel about the church the way I did before I learned all of these things.

    And let me clarify, I do not want people’s advice on reading the scriptures and praying, I want to know how one can logically adapt what appear to me to be dichotomous beliefs.

  62. Aboz,

    I appreciate your words. My comments were not meant to be pessimistic. Well, perhaps they were with regard to JS, but not to life. To broaden my comments even further, I just don’t see the benefit of all of this religious zeal. Why is it better to believe in some unseen being than to believe in each other? I truly respect people who live their lives to help other people, whether they believe in god or not. In fact, you could make the argument that it is nobler to do good without believe in god, because then you are truly doing good deeds with NO hope of some reward, either in this life or the next. Why is an atheist a bad thing? It seems to be defined that way by mormonism. Why would god care whether I believe in JS or not if I treat others with charity and kindness, or any other attribute that is not monopolized, contrary to popular belief, by religious folk? Many of you would say religion motivates us to treat each other with charity, with love. And that is certainly true in many circumstances. But it also leads to problems. How many misguided believers have caused harm in the name of god? Polygamy and the pain that it caused, in my opinion, are perfect models for what can go wrong with religion.

  63. Hunter:

    You are right that was a false choice, and one that apparently favored my perspective. A quick response is that in theory I am entirely with you. If God revealed to me that the underlying themes of the Church are all true, ie, Joseph Smith, the Priesthood, and he also revealed that membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was an essential step towards accepting his gospel and qualifying for salvation, then that is the end of the story. At that point it really wouldn’t matter what sorts of details we can dig up about Joseph Smith’s conduct, because God has spoken. Being entirely honest here, I have played the active faithfull believing member role. I strive(d) to live the commandments, to qualify for the Holy Ghost, I have served a mission, been faithfull in my marriage, tried to serve dilligently in my callings, and become more Christlike. While many of those qualities still remain with me, I have hit a point where I feel like it’s time to call a spade a spade. I have not had this powerful witness of The Holy Ghost that erases doubt and demystifies the eternities. What I have had is faith and belief, but no divine manifestations which I can clearly acknowledge as “revelation” about The Church or Joseph Smith, etc. So now, having tried to realize Moroni’s promise, I have decided that it is time to logically evaluate my faith – and to be honest, for the first time things actually make sense. I know others would disagree, and I will not even pretend to know or understand their experiences with God and religion, but for me the answer seems to be clear, somewhat. Given that I usually tend not to consider the possibility that others have had higher manifestations, but if I am being fair then I would have to acknowledge that I can’t speak for the experiences of another.

  64. Cowboy, I obviously don’t know the nature of your personal experiences, but from how you described them, I feel very much the same way. My entire life, until very recently, I gave the church the benefit of the doubt on everything. I am trying to look at things with fresh eyes, through a logical approach now, as opposed to faithful/emotional approach. I used to do mental gymnastics to explain away any problems I had with church history, etc., but now I try to make sense of it using my brain, and if god exists, I think he would want me to do that. I’m not saying we have reached the same conclusions, I wouldn’t presume to speak for you, but I simply am saying I also found that viewing things logically make more sense to me than continuing down the path of following the church line.

  65. Dexter, I don’t mean this to be dismissive in any way. I mean that sincerely. However:

    There simply are so many statements that I find to be false assumptions in your comments that it’s impossible for me to address them adequately without writing a thesis and totally derailing this thread. Some examples of such statements:

    1) “fuzzy feelings of emotion, or the spirit, or faith, or whatever you wish to call them” (Read my comments and those of others more closely. There are a LOT of them that don’t come close to fitting that description.)

    2) “It seems to me that god chooses to lead the church and the world in a very confusing hide-the-ball manner, rife with contradictions, illogical actions, and extremely fallible prophets” (or he allows mortals to be mortals and doesn’t dictate everything to them – what we term “Satan’s plan”)

    3) “JS marrying teenage girls or women who were already married makes no sense whatsoever” (There are any number of ways to “make sense” of it, if you look at it as more than just an attempt to get laid.)

    4) “If number 1 is true, then why did god, being omniscient, choose a man with such a great weakness?” (Cause there ain’t no other choice.)

    5) “how can god teach that adultery is the worst sin besides murder and denying the holy ghost, and then command JS to do the things he did?” (God hasn’t taught that [too long to explicate here again], and there is ample evidence that sex wasn’t the primary motivation involved in all the marriages. It seems it was involved in some to some degree, but it certainly wasn’t with all of them – and it certainly wasn’t the primary motive in most, if not all.)

    6) “If none of these actions bother god then he is contradicting his own commandments.” (By letting his prophets be human?)

    7) “While the church teaches of the importance of family, he tore families apart by claiming women for himself who were already married.” (No, he didn’t. Every married woman he married remained married to her current husband – and even kept living with that husband.)

    I’m going to stop here, since I’m not even through your first comment. I’ll simply say that there are so many assumptions and wrong conclusions that there’s no way to address them all adequately – and, remember, this is coming from someone who isn’t convinced it was understood and handled correctly at any point throughout the process but who does believe that monogamy as we know it in mortality isn’t the exclusive state of eternity.

  66. One more thing, Dexter:

    Very, very few people who comment here shut off their brains and “follow the Church line”. I think that’s another projection you are making based on an assumption about anyone who doesn’t condemn polygamy entirely.

  67. Cowboy, I think we’re on the same page, actually. I just wanted to respond because I didn’t feel like my approach to understanding polygamy was being represented. I was not trying to intimate that YOU needed to be more spiritual (or whatever) in your approach to the subject. In the end, no, I don’t think Joseph Smith’s experiment with polygamy was divinely mandated, but I feel that I can logically put aside that aspect of his life and work without throwing out all the rest. That’s all.

  68. Ray,

    First, I’m glad to see you are still posting. I guess that farewell thread was premature.

    Second, in response to your number 2), please don’t insult me with this straw man argument. You act as if there is only the current method of running the world, and Satan’s plan, that is nonsense. There are a million possible methods of being god and running the world without limiting it to those two. You assume, wrongly, that this world can only be run the way it is currently being run, or satan’s plan.

    Third, you simply saying “there are a number of ways to make sense of it” is really quite meaningless if you are unwilling to share some of them. I could come up with a few myself, but they do not make sense. At all. I defy you to provide some that do make sense.

    Fourth, I find it insulting that you are putting words in my mouth. You assume, wrongly, that I was only looking at polygamy as a “way to get laid” as you so crudely put it. I never said that and I never implied it.

    Fifth, talk about poor assumptions, you stated that “there aint no other choice.” Wow, Ray. Really impressive stuff. I know the church’s line on this, I don’t need you to repeat it. Who says there is no other choice? I live in a world of infinite possibilities.

    Sixth, does the BOM not teach that adultery is a very grave sin? Second only to murder? Even if you can come up with other ones that are worse, I certainly could but I’m talking about what the church teaches, you cannot deny that the church and the BOM have labeled sexual sins as extremely serious in nature. Serious enough that, to me, it makes polygamy that much more difficult to explain away.

    Seventh, even if BY’s wives who were already married stayed in the same physical location as their other husbands, you don’t think that would seriously affect their marriage? Are you kidding?

    I love how I am attacked for making assumptions. That is the problem with this site, many of you pretend to be open minded but when push comes to shove you simply rely on your assumptions that the church is true. Kudos for you at your next temple recommend interview but frankly, it stifles truly open discussion.

  69. Dexter, atheism is a bad bet because it is a belief choice that defaults to the pessimistic view of the null hypothesis, as Nibley says, that no can never be as wrong as the answer yes, in the face of lack of evidence. Atheists and agnostics trumpet the lack of evidence in something as a talisman to put on a magic show of well-intended deception, even though they don’t believe it is a deception, to make people think that lack of evidence is a clincher in favor of the answer No. On the other hand, faith in things that are unseen is simply using patience awaiting a better outcome in the face of lack of evidence. Furthermore, it is not right nor is it a good bet to give up one’s promised inheritance just because the null hypothesis has been invoked. Its better to hold out and keep one’s covenants in the hope of a better tomorrow. That is the difference between doubt and faith. Besides, if there is no God in the end, then keeping your covenants to do good things actually made a difference in the world. If you want to do something that makes a difference in the world, you might as well do it as an act of faith, because God is bound when you do what he says. You might as well make it so he is bound to bless you and not be pessimistic about his existence. To have atheism is to not have patience for a good outcome until better evidence arrives, which may well be after death. I can’t make that choice for you, but I can advise you that atheism is not a good thing, no matter how you dress it up in pretty clothes.

  70. MH said:

    “The moral of Abraham’s not sacrificing Isaac actually shows that child sacrifice is not ok”

    I thought the moral (or one of the morals) of the story is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac because he had the faith to belief that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19).

    Paul commends this faith and does not opine that “Abraham was led astray initially.”

  71. Anyone care to respond to Orson Scott Card’s take on polygamy (as elucidated in his novel “Saints” aka “A Woman of Destiny”)? Card portrays Smith as needing something that could bind (one of Card’s favorite concepts that springs up in so many of his books) the Saints together after his death. For Card, Smith’s charisma was the glue that kept the Saints working toward “Zion”, and the removal of the prophet would possibly foment the disintegration of the Church. With polygamy, Joseph created an inner circle of devotees willing to sacrifice _everything_ for the Lord, as necessary. From this core group of individuals, the survival of the Church would be assured.

    If this take on polygamy is correct, I could potentially see God’s hand in it, as His way are higher than our ways, and He may choose to require people to do things they would abhor doing otherwise because those decisions and actions have far-reaching effects. I think of the prophet Hosea, who was told by God to marry a prostitute, who summarily left him.

    I’m not saying I subscribe to Card’s premise, or that I believe polygamy was/wasn’t inspired of God. For me, I’m still in an information gathering phase on that count. But what does everyone think about Card?

  72. SteveS:

    I think there is something to that, but I think that it isn’t a scriptural conclusion. I’ve heard sunstone presentations coming to that same conclusion based on historic information. I wouldn’t doubt if that is the case, but I wouldn’t bet much on it either.

  73. Hunter:

    Fair enough, and for what it is worth I took your comment to me as a repectful response, so no explanation required – thanks all the same.


    “(No, he didn’t. Every married woman he married remained married to her current husband – and even kept living with that husband.)”

    I like you, but that’s not exactly a great defense. To be honest it makes the whole thing seem much weirder and more doctrinally inconsitent than anything, particularly if these were consumated marriages.


    It sounds like we hold similar views. I find the logical footwork required to make sense out of the official version of Church history, to be a little to demanding of my abilities.

  74. Dexter,

    …And let me clarify, I do not want people’s advice on reading the scriptures and praying…

    There’s a reason you get that advice: it’s hard to believe in the Church without doing that. If you truly let logic be your guide, it will inevitably lead you out of the Church. If you let logic guide you so far and no farther, if you stop at some point and seek and receive a testimony, a spiritual witness, and if you accept that as just as valid as logic, then maybe you can be mostly logical and still believe in the Church. Maybe.

  75. Cowboy:

    “I find the logical footwork required to make sense out of the official version of Church history, to be a little to demanding of my abilities.”


    That’s why most hypothesis that attempt to justify this get complicated, and I really do believe that the simplest explanation is almost always the correct one. It is very easy and simple to argue against the behavior of JS here, and extremely difficult to come up with explanations that support what he did.

  76. Ok, there have been quite a few comments, so I can’t address them all. But in regards to Dexter’s comment about how to think about this all logically, I will once again post one of my favorite quotes from Rabbi Maimonides. (Sorry to those who have heard it before.) This quote comes from a book Titled, “DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews“, by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman. I know he’s talking about a science vs religion debate, but I think it is relevent to our discussion as well about logic vs faith.

    “Although writing more than 700 years ago, [Rabbi Moses] Nachmanides’ message is even more clear and relevant today. His writings directed the person of faith to realize that there is much more hidden than revealed, both in the traditional Biblical writings and also in the natural world. Our challenge is to continually study and investigate both realms, with the realization that apparent conflicts are merely artifacts of temporary incomplete understanding in one or both realms. This avoidance of intellectual pride, allows the person of traditional religious faith to work comfortably within the framework of rigorous scientific hypothesis and empiricism. This is also in keeping with the rationalist approach in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.”

  77. MH–“there are at least 2 references to men being swallowed by sharks or sperm whales, being inside for 2 days, and then coming out alive….. Unfortunately the links no longer work, but I do recall reading them and being quite amazed. I haven’t been able to verify the accuracy of the report. Perhaps it is not accurate, but it does give one pause to the Jonah story.”

    It wouldn’t matter to me if the NY Times had a page one about a family of four coming out of the largest whale every discovered doing cartwheels and telling us all what a great weekend they had inside. Never believed the story of Jonah was any thing other than an allegory, never will.

  78. “That’s why most hypothesis that attempt to justify this get complicated, and I really do believe that the simplest explanation is almost always the correct one. It is very easy and simple to argue against the behavior of JS here, and extremely difficult to come up with explanations that support what he did.” Do you ever listen to the silence on this topic? We aren’t given a clearcut explanation of this by the church. The church isn’t doing the mental gymnastics to try to justify polygamy, much less the polygamy of JS. The topic is neatly omitted from our manuals. Perhaps that’s because there’s not a justification.

  79. “The topic is neatly omitted from our manuals. Perhaps that’s because there’s not a justification.”

    I think this a good observation, but I can see two divergent opinions running from here.

  80. Aboz–“Besides, if there is no God in the end, then keeping your covenants to do good things actually made a difference in the world. If you want to do something that makes a difference in the world, you might as well do it as an act of faith, because God is bound when you do what he says. You might as well make it so he is bound to bless you and not be pessimistic about his existence.”

    Doing good for the sake of doing good and being good would seem to me to be the purpose of our existence. In my mind, “fulfilling the measure of our creation” is not serving God so we can get a piece of candy. Making a difference in the world because the world needs to be different is the highest motivation. Would we feel differently about God if the only reason he cared about us is that he wanted his Father to think he was a good kid?

    The choice to me is easy between a non-caring, obedient church-goer and a charitable person who loses faith along the way, but continues to grow their heart.

  81. I knew the writing style sounded familiar. “Dexter” is a sock puppet name Scottie is using.

    Scottie, I’m not getting involved in a spitting contest that doesn’t even begin to address things point-by-point. Call it what you will, but it simply won’t go anywhere – and I’m not going to engage you.

    Oh, and opening your response with sarcastic, condescending nonsense (your first sentence) doesn’t help a bit. I never said I was leaving; I said I would be cutting back soon.

  82. “The choice to me is easy between a non-caring, obedient church-goer and a charitable person who loses faith along the way, but continues to grow their heart.”

    I agree completely, Holden. Well said.

  83. I’m open to both possibilities that the bible is literal, as well as allegorical. Either one could be correct, and I don’t have enough evidence to say one way or the other, though the evidence of later OT is certainly better than early OT.

  84. Ray, again you avoid all the issues. And Ray, you were rude first, with your first sentence to my post, where you prefaced by saying I dont mean to be dismissive and then you rudely dismissed everything I said. That’s like saying, no offense, and then insulting someone and then acting surprised that they are offended. You are a real hypocrite.

    A sock puppet name? LOL. Are you the secret police of this site? I used to go by Scottie on this site, so what? Why don’t you dig up my e-mail address too and send it to everyone as well instead of addressing the points made? I thought this was a site for open discussion, not scare tactics about being outed. Do I have to have an interview to be on this site? I thought this site was an interesting exchange of ideas, not a sunday school lesson where you can’t share how you really feel. But Ray doesn’t want it that way. Ray, is this site being run by satan’s plan or god’s plan, because as you said earlier, it has to be one or the other.

    Ray, did you ever think that people want to remain anonymous to express some of their feelings? I don’t think Cowboy is Cowboy’s real name, why don’t you announce his real name. Perhaps you’d like to announce my SS# as well? That would show me. How dare I offer an opinion that you don’t agree with. I can’t believe you resort to this kind of third grade nonsense. If you want to address my comments, address them. If you don’t, ignore them. But using the information at your disposal because you have access to the operation of this site is pretty lame. I used to think you were intelligent.

    A spitting contest? You totally attempted to “win” the spitting contest by announcing my other pseudonym. You are hilarious. And I did address things point by point. You are the one who simply dismissed me as not worth your time. You are so condescending it is hilarious to me that you accused me of being that.

  85. “And let me clarify, I do not want people’s advice on reading the scriptures and praying, I want to know how one can logically adapt what appear to me to be dichotomous beliefs.”

    Dexter (66) – I have been working on a post of this nature (i.e. adapting “dichotomous” beliefs, emotion, logic, etc.). Granted, a lot of it will be from my personal experience, but I hope it will explain, at least from my view, why I am not in either of the categories you listed (member who doesn’t know much of the history vs. the member who does who no longer believes). Hopefully it will be up in a few weeks.

  86. MH,

    Near the beginning of this post, I stated that you were very brave in writing about this subject. I think that was an understatement… 🙂


    I realize that our exchange happened what seems like ages ago now, but hopefully you know that my comment about your political correctness was in reality a compliment to you. I actually hope to get better at expressing myself without all the baggage. (Imitation is the highest form of flattery.) You do an admirable job of writing without offending, something everyone here could learn from including me.

    All the rest of you,

    Not that I’m a big advocate of much of the D&C, but Section 9 may have some inspired meaning behind the words. (As many of you know, I believe in God and consider myself a Christian. I realize that makes me an outsider with most of the intellectual sorts as well as being labeled a non-believer by the more conservative types here.) I have found that spiritual promptings can and do have meaning at times, so I’m not willing to dismiss them altogether. Having said that, I have also found that knowledge is power and the more study one can do on any subject, the better the chance of getting the right answer. Therefore the message of D&C 9 is rather profound in stating that answers from God come after properly studying things out and coming to a conclusion based on that study.

    If someone studies polygamy/polyandry, like MH has done, and then comes to the conclusion that it was inspired doctrine from God, I can respect that. Where I have issue is someone not doing their due diligent, but simply praying and searching for a feeling to confirm there already preconceived bias and then stating they believe in the principle. In other words, read the books MH has dared to read with an open mind set on learning and then draw a conclusion about this particular principle after putting in the homework. You have every right to know if it true or not as, according to Mormon theology, it’s the order of heaven. Some of us have been down this path and are very comfortable with the belief that not only was it not inspired, but actually demeaning to women and the source of untold broken hearts. You may come to a different conclusion, but don’t make the mistake that Oliver made. Put in the effort…

  87. MH–You’re well read and communicate well. I hope the Lord will give you a testimony that is equal to your intellect.

    As I read this post, I thought about a talk given by Elder Dallin Oaks:

    Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11

  88. Aboz in 58. I know you addressed Hawkgrrrl, but I think I have the answer. After JS death, there were various people who tried to lead the church, including Sidney Rigdon. He started the Church of Jesus Christ of Children of Zion, and had as many as 300 converts. It went on for about 10 years or so, but eventually faded. One of Sidney’s converts was a man by the name of William Bickerton. Bickerton had a high regard for Sidney Rigdon. When Sidney’s church fell apart, Bickerton actually joined Brigham Young’s movement, though he stayed in Pennsylvania. When BY announced polygamy publicly in 1852, Bickerton rejected it, and formed his own church, inspired by his high regard to Sidney. So Bickertonites consider JS as the 1st prophet, Sidney Rigdon as the 2nd, and then William Bickerton as the 3rd.

    Rigdon never really joined with Bickerton. His later years were filled with declining health. Another man named Stephen Post also viewed Rigdon as a prophet. Sidney directed Post to be a missionary in British Columbia, and Post was successful in gaining some converts, though Sidney was too ill to leave Pennsylvania. Eventually, some RLDS missionaries learned of Post’s work, and I believe most of his converts later joined the RLDS (now CoC.)

    Doug, thanks for your kind words.

    Jared, thanks. I can always count on you.

  89. #102 – or “naked”

    MH – For your next post:

    “My Perspective on Naked Polygamy and Its Effects on Feminist Homosexuals in the Malaysian Book of Mormon”

  90. “not serving God so we can get a piece of candy” you say. Blessings of God are not candy, and covenants are not something to be trifled with. The Lord will not be mocked, and he will have obedience, or there is a consequence. The blessings are the natural consequence of obedience. I never said this is to get candy. This is to obey the demands of a God who is offended if we reject the blessings he seeks to bestow on us, and who will exact justice if we don’t accept those blessings and do what he requires of us. If you don’t want the blessings, then perhaps you should think about hellfire before going into whatever glory you might merit if you want to trifle with this and call it mere candy.

  91. Justice for doing something wrong, or justice for not doing something right and getting the blessings?

    Why is God anxious to punish those who do not deserve blessings? Isn’t that justice enough?

  92. I find it interesting that Joseph Smith declared that he had seen a vision in a grove of trees and knew that God knew it and could not deny it.

    Those who don’t believe God speaks today, and could not understand why this boy would be called by God to do something miraculous like receive revelation, called him crazy and until today argue he didn’t see God, it was all in his head or just made up to satisfy his worldly desires for power.

    Then he is told by angels to live the law of plural marriage, by the same process of revelation, and now both members of the church and non-members alike say it could not be and he could not be a prophet if he declares such. However, Joseph had the same conviction, he had to obey God.

    I see similarities in the two and as a life-long member, can see how believing Joseph can be a hard thing, though I’ve never doubted him on the first vision, yet the second revelation I mentioned above, that one I find it hard to believe. I can see how non-mormons view the first vision with skepticism and doubt.

    I will then have to resolve the issue for myself in receiving a witness like an investigator does on the first vision. However, I do not have faith I can receive an answer on the second topic since it is now of no consequence to my soul (as the law now stands). Therefore, I will continue to read these posts for intellectual interest, but do not believe I will ever resolve the issue, and it will remain an issue of faith in resolving if Joseph could live this law and be a prophet of God.

  93. Too often we want to attribute to the prophet the omniscience of God. But they are men and products of their environment, upbringing and understanding of the universe…but that is another topic.

    First look at verse 66 God clearly wanted to expand on the revelation but doesn’t and to my knowledge he has not produced any scripture finishing the revelation. So any conclusion based on 132 is only a partial understanding of the revelation.

    If we look at Joseph’s life he, and others, clearly practiced polyandry(wives with multiple husbands) and possibly polygyny(husband with multiple wives) at the same time, which is some sort of group marriage. As pointed out earlier, verse 41 implies that polyandry may be acceptable to God if properly anointed. Over time whatever relationship amongst married individuals Joseph has instituted was replaced by only polygyny. Then the polygyny that the church members had started practicing was, and still is, denounced by the church (or God if you believe that the current prophets are inspired by him).

    So to those who believe that polygyny is what was revealed in 132 I say you have misunderstood the scriptures.

  94. @MH

    You better believe it (or at least flip a coin on it)! Surely if I lack the mental gymnastics necessary to believe in modern day prophets, then ancient prophets are no different. There, I’ve said it, I don’t believe in prophets and this post and subsequent comments are a great illustration of my belief.

    And I really dislike your tactic — if you disagree with JS then you must disagree with *fill in the blank with your choice of holy person* by comparing vices. It doesn’t move the conversation forward, it only becomes a battle of insults.

  95. Jared,

    I read your link, and found it very interesting. Here are some impressions of mine. (1) Quoting from the link, “An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him.” I have always found this difficult to believe (and even self-serving to Joseph.) It does not seem to square with Biblical practicies of polygamy, IMO. Now I know that “we belive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly”, yet to my knowledge, Joseph made no changes to the Bible regarding polygamist practices, nor did he say that Sarah giving Hagar as another wife to Abraham to be inaccurate.

    (2) If Lightner received this angelic visit, why didn’t Emma? (or Hagar, or Leah, or all the other polygamist wives.) Certainly Joseph said the same thing to Emma. If Emma had received a visitation, surely she would have felt the same way as Lightner. If this was such an important principle, why didn’t Emma receive a visit like Paul on the road to Damacus, or Alma the Younger?

    (3) I thought it was interesting she referred to RLDS as “Josephites”, named after Joseph III. I was familiar with “Brighamites”, but not “Josephites.”

    (4) She made a very interesting reference to Joseph having children with other wives. “I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.” I found this very interesting. Leonard made a similar reference. I have no idea who she is referring to, but DNA evidence has failed to produce evidence of Joseph’s offspring except through Emma’s line.

  96. Ray,

    You didn’t include depression, evolution, the Spaulding Theory, or atheism in your title. Thanks for the invite, but I think I’ll let Andrew S tackle that topic. 🙂

    Monkey, I think you bring some excellent points that most people don’t consider (including myself.) Thanks for pointing that out.

    BEMG, No insults were intended. I’m sorry you took it that way. I will say that I often encounter people who are inconsistent in their arguments, proclaiming to believe in biblical prophets, but not mormon prophets, so my question was intended to be a consistency check. Congratulations, you passed. I’m not trying to convert you to my way of thinking, but I do want you to be consistent.

    You will also notice that I am disagreeing with Joseph Smith here, so I have no problem with disagreement with prophets (modern or ancient). I’m not sure if that’s what you were saying about my position, but that is how it sounds to me.

  97. RE: Bible literal or allegorical?

    Perhaps this is best suited for a different thread but does it matter whether it is literal or allegorical? Do we need to know which parts are literal and which parts are allegorical? I grew up believing it was literal so I was disappointed to be told, after reading the entire thing, that parts may be allegorical. But perhaps my disappointment was misguided? What does “true as far as translated correctly” mean? Is it not “true” if things expressed in a literal fashion were allegorical? If the church said the same about the BOM (literal or allegorical) wouldn’t we be disappointed? Have church leaders stated that specific stories in the bible are allegorical?

  98. Adam F

    Thanks for your words, I look forward to reading your future post and I will read your previous post. By the way, I think cognitive dissonance is a fascinating subject.

  99. Adam’s post states the quote we have all heard, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray… If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God…”

    I have always been troubled with what does it mean for him to “lead [us] astray.” What level of impropriety is enough to be considered leading astray? If polygamy was inspired, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for many. If polygamy was not inspired, is that an error large enough to be considered leading the people astray?

    Have other members of the 12 clarified the phrase “lead you astray?

    Personally, if polygamy was the choice of a man and was not inspired, it seems like a glaring enough error that I don’t understand why God would not step in and clarify the matter. If the prophets walk and talk with God why wouldn’t this be corrected immediately or prevented? And for those who would counter by saying he needed to allow them to make their choices and grow individually, I just don’t see that. Isn’t the point of a having a prophet to have at least one clear conduit of communication for the sake of all the people even if it means less personal growth for the individual serving as prophet?

  100. Aboz—from your last post—-“The Lord will not be mocked, and he will have obedience, or there is a consequence.” “This is to obey the demands of a God who is offended if we reject the blessings” “and who will exact justice if we don’t accept those blessings” “If you don’t want the blessings, then perhaps you should think about hellfire” “if you want to trifle with this and call it mere candy”.

    Thankfully, Aboz, I am totally unfamiliar with the God you are talking about.

  101. Great Holden, then I guess I’ll continue to worship my God, and you can have yours. Its great to live in a free country.

  102. Holden Caulfield:

    “Thankfully, Aboz, I am totally unfamiliar with the God you are talking about.”

    I believe his name is Skeletor.

  103. Aboz,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that your comments at least allude to the general principle that when in doubt, you are better off believing, just in case the Church is true. I have also seen other posts (one was entitled, I believe, “What if the Church isn’t True”) on this site where people have said something to the effect of: if the church is not true, being a member is still a noble and therefore satisfying way to live my life and I wouldn’t change my life much anyway, so it wouldn’t really bother me.

    Frankly, I find this type of reasoning to be very simplified. I mean no offense as I used to think the exact same way. But really, such a belief cheapens the value of expanding one’s mind in search for truth. I believe the journey of contemplating and trying to discover for one’s self his/her purpose in this world and trying to answer the following questions: why am I here? where did I come from? what do I want to make of my life? what happens when I die?, has an immense and immeasurable value. I realize that these are the very questions the Church advertises to help people along the path. But the difference is that I think there is much greater value in the process of trying to discover the answers to those questions for one’s self, even if no clear answer is reached, than to be told the answers by someone else. I think life is most fully lived when individuals are true to themselves and live to best fulfill the potentials that they have come to realize they possess. I do not believe it is best lived by following another’s rules and trying to fill the potential that another says that one has. I think this pattern remains true of members: those who truly adopt the teachings of the Church as their own are probably the happiest. But the theory of when in doubt, believe just in case it is true contradicts this principle and I think leads to unhappiness.

    In short, I don’t think the value of truth lies in possessing it. I believe its value lies in the journey of discovering it for one’s self, whatever it may be.

  104. Aboz—I will let you know my wife sometimes say I can be an a**, although she is too nice to say it that way.

  105. Holden, I have no argument with her on that one.

    Dexter, more power to you then in your search for truth. From my perspective, faith is a gift of God, and without it, you cannot get an answer at all. And as a prerequisite of faith, obedience is required. This is why, as a missionary, I couldn’t expect anyone to get an answer to their prayers about if the book of Mormon wasn’t true if they didn’t keep a commitment to actually read first, and keep all the commitments that they were committed to. As I see it, yes, my logic is simplistic, but I see you making excuses for not getting answers to prayers when the requisite obedience isn’t there. And of course you won’t get what you are looking for if you don’t obey the principle on which it is based.

  106. you people commented about my “simplistic” outlook so I made it simple for you, elaborating. And now it’s a judgment of personal righteousness. Interesting….

  107. FYI:

    If I recall correctly in the New Testament, when Jesus gives his famous words of caution to the would be judges of mankind, “judge not, lest ye be judged”, the Joseph Smith translation indicates that the specific judgements spoken against were of the sort which attempt to address that final judgement where souls are ultimately reconciled to their final and Eternal destiny. What he is saying is that the final judgement is strictly the prerogative of the Lord, and we have no business meddling in this affair. I think that is part of what is intended with the recently quoted warning that “God will not be mocked”.

  108. I think I’m quite done with overly sensitive souls here that are now finding fault with my thinking. It is so typical that people that don’t like what you think about what they are doing or acting instantly rush in an infantile way to accuse you of judging them.

  109. Aboz, in the spirit of Ray, blessed be his name, nobody’s judging your character or personal righteousness. It’s just that these digressions are not helpful and detract from the discussion. Holden offered you an olive leaf as a way to move on and not let things get personal. A very civil thing to do, IMHO.

  110. Aboz, I believe you judged me and then Ray pointed it out. I don’t really have a problem with you judging me. You can say whatever you like. But you spoke of my obedience when you know nothing of my level of obedience. That is the real problem, in my opinion. Not that you judged, but that you are speaking of a subject that you know nothing about. This is why I think Ray asked you to stick to the topic. If you want to discuss the points I made, I would happily engage you, but when you comment on someone’s obedience it leaves us all nowhere to go with the discussion.

  111. I’ve been away and haven’t been able to keep up with the comments to the current thread. Could someone please summarize them for me in one post? Thanks.


    We almost never delete comments on this blog – almost never.

    My comment followed Aboz’s comment, and that is unfortunate in one way: It made it look like I was talking to Aboz alone. I wasn’t. We have had to delete at least three comments on this thread, and Aboz’s wasn’t one of them. It was a minor example, but it was the fact that there have been multiple comments that were nothing but personal attacks that prompted my comment. The deleted comments were horrible – and they came from BOTH “sides” of this issue.

    Aboz, sincerely, my comment was not directed at you. I apologize for that impression.

  113. Brjones,

    That’s a tall order. Most of the comments have been saying, “if we can’t trust the prophet on this issue, why should we trust him on anything else?” While the first comments were generally respectful, it did seem to turn into a spitting contest at times.

    Obviously there are many answers to that question. I’d recommend comments 20, 34, 45, 46, 51, 61, 62, 100, 110, 112 for a quick overview. (Of course, others can add to the list.)

  114. MH, to stay on topic, I think you started with this was an idea you wanted to look into and post your thoughts as you read new material.

    Maybe we need the next injection of new material to get us going? just a thought.

  115. Post

    Yes KG, you’re right. I’m going to have to keep a list of all the posts I keep promising. I’ve got South American models, science vs religion, and more polygamy on the docket. And I just found a new (probably controversial) BoM theory that I’m pretty sure nobody has heard of.

  116. …make sure you use Ray’s strategy and put nudity in the title, then you don’t have to followup with anything more than an introductory paragraph and the thread takes on its own life, right?

    just joking. Your posts are well thought out and robust. I just joke about how active things get on the polygamy topic, but I deeply enjoy reading your material and look forward to reading about South American (nude) models.

  117. I don’t know why I waste time on these forums. Dexter, you can say whatever you want too, or think whatever you want, but you are the one that gave the impression that you weren’t doing any of the “churchy” stuff and that you were going off into some atheistic thing. It didn’t take much to assume that you weren’t, and I apologize if you are still doing your church duties. My mistake. It always seems to disintegrate into a pile of BS every time I get on here, no matter how nice I try to be. I should know better. Aboz is now retiring from Mormon Matters.

  118. “It always seems to disintegrate into a pile of BS every time I get on here”

    Sorry Aboz (sincerely), but I couldn’t help but chuckle at this.

  119. Aboz, I hope you don’t make good on what you said. The point I was trying to make is that my personal life, and my level of obedience, and my spiritual experiences are simply not something I am going to share with strangers on this site. Well, I did make an exception for the post about Ray’s son going on a mission, in which I wrote a long and sincere comment sharing advice based on my personal experiences. But that post asked for advice. Most posts are about a theory or principle or historical event, and in those cases, I don’t think personal experiences or advice to others belongs. Thus, I try to limit my comments to logic and facts. Obviously I will share personal opinions based on my experience in this world but I just don’t think advising others to pray more or read their scriptures has a place here. We all know that is what a church leader would suggest. But this site, from what I can tell, is about discussing these issues without the sunday school blanket assumptions that God is behind all this and everything will be ok. I think the best way to learn and grow on this site is to take a different approach by trying to limit our assumptions.

  120. Come on, Aboz, don’t be like that. I think it was just a misunderstanding between you and Dexter. Obviously your point was that you can’t conclusively make a determination as to the truth of the doctrine if you haven’t TRULY put it to the test, which, in your opinion, includes complete obedience. I agree that from Dexter’s posts it seems unlikely that he is currently striving to live every gospel principle, although I could be wrong. I think the frustration on Dexter’s end probably stemmed from the fact that you don’t know what Dexter has been through in the past. He might have been an active member his entire life, served a mission, and otherwise tried his absolute hardest to live the gospel completely, and eventually decided that even at that, the church wasn’t true. Your statement seemed to imply that someone like Dexter wasn’t really qualified to speak to the truthfulness of the church because he wasn’t living it. That might not be what you meant, but that’s how it came off, and it seemed a little judgmental, because it seems to presuppose that he never had tried to live it, and that, it seems to me, is where the frustration came from. Either way, in my experience, most of the serious posters on this board are pretty level headed, and if someone gets their nose out of joint, a little clarification is usually all that’s needed to assuage any hard feelings.

  121. And Aboz, I was never offended at all. In fact, I appreciate your sincere concern for my happiness. I just don’t think counsel to others about how to find God fits here. And the whole recipe of first believe and obey, and then you will find Him, is a principle we are all aware of and we each can choose whether to utilize it in our personal lives. I hope you don’t leave the site of this. You certainly never offended me and Ray clarified that his post was about deleted comments, not yours.

  122. #112 MH–

    Thanks for reading and commenting on Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner. I enjoy reading your post and commentary. I may not agree with you, but please don’t think of me as an antagonist.

  123. Jared,

    I know you don’t intentionally try to come off as offensive, but your comment in 98 did seem quite judgmental, IMO. Now, I did comment on your question, and I left several questions for you to respond to in both 101 and 112. Care to tackle them?

  124. Pingback: Establishing the tribes of Israel: the real reason for plural marriage « LDS Anarchy

  125.  KG McB: Exactly. Thou shall not covet another man’s wife. People are saying that women being jealous of the other wives is a base behavior–marriage is holy, and that feeling of anger is righteous I believe, because someone has intruded on a sacred bond. So many members are comfortable with being content that they’ll just never know what happened with JS picking up other men’s wives. But our church is based on this man–I need to find something to reconcile this, because this could not be and is not Godly. I don’t think it’s something we weren’t ready for–I believe it is in complete violation with the designs of God concerning men, women, and marriage.

Leave a Reply

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