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  1. . It can be depressing and isolating to feel alone in your family and social circle when you clearly are not matching the way the others around you are feeling and thinking. It has made me crazy how many of my family and friends say they had no knowledge of these essays when I approach the subject. Even when I inform them that these are put out by the church, they still seem so apprehensive or unwilling to check them out. They seem terrified to find out anything that might make them uncomfortable-even when the sources come from the church itself! It baffles me! I want so much to put this stuff out there everywhere-they need to be exposed to it. But it does no good if they are so scared and won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, regardless of the church being the one’s who released it. I am so annoyed that these good people don’t want to find “truth”. Why are they so afraid of it? These are the same people who seem so willing to jump on political issues, even get on board with conspiracies. Why can’t they apply that same level of scrutiny that they seem so willing to engage in politically, but not with their religion? They are so enraged by lack of transparency in the government or other public organizations. Why does this not concern them when it comes to the church? Is it because the government hasn’t ingrained into their minds their whole life that if they doubt or question or leave that it will affect their eternal salvation? Is that the single threat that scares them so badly that they want to hide their heads in the sand with the church when they don’t follow that mindset in the other areas of their lives? If you are concerned with truth and transparency, shouldn’t that follow through in EVERY area of your life? Why are they so willing to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the glaring inconsistencies and attempts to hide facts that exist in the church-things they would be vocally and publicly outraged about if these things existed anywhere else? Their hypocritical “pick-and-choose” style of what they are willing to investigate makes me nuts! I can’t figure out for the life of me how they are willing or able to live with this type of selective inner-denial.

    1. Hi Rafael,

      You bring up some interesting points. I too wonder why everyone in the Church isn’t intensely studying our scriptures and history. It is possible that some men in our High Priest group know more about the Utah Jazz than the contents of D&C 76. I think that is unfortunate.

      But I also see among them a lot of faith. Faith is a gift (D&C 46:14) and some people are motivated to believe and obey without knowing all the nitty gritty details. For me, the details increase my faith, but they seem to do well without. Some observers may think there’s is a social conversion, but as I get to know many of them, I realize it is not social. Their beliefs are based upon heartfelt convictions regarding the divinity of Christ and the truthfulness of Joseph as a prophet of God.

      Our Church uniquely believes in a premortal existence. Perhaps some individuals bring such faith with them through the veil, sufficient to carry them through their trials with less knowledge. Perhaps.

      Take Care,

      Brian

    2. Hi Rafael

      I am non-LDS but bumped into an LDS colleague at work. I mentioned to her (because it was topical to something she said) that I listen to Gay Mormon Podcasts and her response was, “I don’t listen to anti-Mormon propaganda!” So I said, “This isn’t anti-Mormon propaganda, these are interviews with non-heterosexual LDS members / ex-members, just telling their stories.” She said, “You can’t be gay and LDS, you get excommunicated.” I informed her that somewhere between 5 and 10% of the population are not strictly heterosexual, including the LDS population, and she re-asserted that anyone who was open about being gay in the LDS church immediately gets excommunicated. I said that celibate homosexuals don’t get excommunicated, and referred her to the church website to see the new policy of her church towards homosexuals and she seemed to think it was some kind of trick. She still appears to consider homosexuality to be either a “lifestyle choice” or a Satanic affliction – as many evangelical Christians still seem to think as well. It seems to me that the LDS church ought to perhaps inform its members about such releases at church on Sundays, rather than just on the website. This would also cover your own observations regarding this particular media release. It’s not exactly effective communication if average members say, “I know nothing about this, and they’d tell me at church if what you said was true.”

    3. The JS that is taught at church is very easy to believe in. The real JS, not so much….Some people are able to do it, but more often than not, those who discover the real JS are forced to replace their simple faith with a faith that needs to be either completely re-worked and nuanced or abandoned altogether.

      Very few people feel the need to get to know the real JS.

    4. Dear Rafael,

      I am not a Mormon but I have been studying the LDS for several years. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. The first thing I want to say is that Mormonism itself is a complete lie. From beginning to end. Both The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham have been proved to be fakes. You have only to study the character of the man himself – the Peepstone merchant to realise this. When polygamy was first practised by the LDS it was done in secret. Why ? If it came from God is God not to be trusted ?
      Mormon members lied through their teeth about polygamy right up to 1934. Please note this scripture : ” Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:3 KJV).Brigham Young has said the
      revelation from God about polygamy was the holiest revelation ever given to Man. Apostle Heber C. Kimble says : ” I think no more of taking a wife than I do of buying a cow.” The Twenty Seventh Wife
      (Irving Wallace.p.101.This man Kimble barters his 14 year old child for a promise by Joseph Smith. And she was a child not a street-wise kid of the 20th Century.Get a copy of the CD Mormon Living Scriptures Dramatized Church History. On it Smith says to her that if she will take this step (plural marriage) he can virtually guarantee that her fathers household and herself will be in the Celestial Kingdom. This is ABSOLUTE VERBAL DIAHORREA !There is only one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5. KJV). No one can guarantee that any one is going into God’s Kingdom except Jesus. Let alone a trumped up Peepstone “prophet.” Joseph Smith tells us that the purpose of polygamy was to ” raise up righteous seed unto the Lord.” Where are Smith’s righteous seeds ? Apart from his children to his first wife Emma Smith produced no ” righteous” seeds to any of his wives. Therefore he disobeyed God. He also broke the three rules which God gave allowing polygamy. 1.The first wife must give her permission. 2. The second wife must be a virgin. 3. She must not be avowed to any other man. In his polyandrous activities Smith married other men’s wives whilst the current husbands were still alive. Therefore these women broke their own original marriage vows. Brigham Young, Kimble and others did their duty but when these polygamous marriage’s took place no marriage license’s were issued and non were requested. Therefore all the “righteous seed ” turned out to be was a crowd of illegitimate children. A fine legacy to leave to the church and certainly not a suitable gift to give unto the LORD. As far as I understand current Mormon teaching a living prophet overrules a past prophet. The Greatest Prophet whoever lived is the Lord Jesus Christ, supposedly the Head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Well at this moment in time he is ALIVE AND WELL. He overrules all the trash spoken by the past Mormon “prophets.” I have never known him to have gone around marrying 14 year old girls or other men’s wives whilst the current husbands were alive. I think it would have been a good idea to have followed his example. In other words if Jesus would not do anything then don’t let us do it. This communication is sent to you through the love of Jesus. You seem to be seeing some light. Try and get your peers to do the same before the Lord returns.

      God Bless,

  2. The Essay by the LDS Church in re Joseph Smith and his wives failed to emphasize the relationship of when Joseph Smith married his wives and when the “revelation” was received. 1830 onward and 1844 for the later reference. They allude to it with self serving supposition. Also, Smith’s sermon to his followers when he dared anyone in his Church (primarily William Law) to prove he had more than one wife and he had over thirty at the moment in time.It was this that really costs Joseph Smith his life. The trashing of the Nauvoo Expositor was just a symptom of the problem the Mormon followers had with Joseph Smith “marrying: their wives and soliciting the ones who refused.

    1. Hi Again,

      I agree that polygamy was the primary driving force leading to the martyrdom. I wish Joseph would have let others do the governing so the state sponsored forces could not use their powers so effectively against him.

      However, we should be careful about our “suppositions.” I detect several in your post. The good news is that in the next few months I’ll upload gigabytes of my files for everyone to access and then they can use evidences and not suppositions.

      Take Care,

      Brian

      1. This sounds a lot like “all the answers are in this briefcase here” (Swedish Rescue reference) when in reality the evidence only confirms what @JoeJoseph is supposing.

  3. I believe that there were plenty of members who embraced the Church by ignoring and setting aside those who warned them not to join because the Church had a polygamist past. I believe that there are plenty of missionaries out there in every nations that are now being bombarded with incredulous questions and hopefully won’t be harassed by those who had the spirits of persecution and much more will not suffer a crisis of faith when they finished their missions. I certainly believe (after reading Rafael’s comment earlier)that there are plenty of members who are now in the “frozen” state because they could not respond by either fight or flight mode and could be hurting or hiding their shock as a result of this anxiety-provoking test of their faith. I for one am still reeling from this test. It’s like a bullet that came from a friendly fire numbing the senses at first and then followed by many “why?” My own understanding says for a century the Church remained silent, “is this the grand outcome of bringing the Church out of obscurity?” but there was no reply. Then I read this poem:
    Oct.1987 Balm of Gilead by Boyd K.Packer, Quorum of the Twelve
    Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
    You can call back your kites, but you can’t call back your words.
    “Careful with fire” is good advice, we know;
    “Careful with words” is ten times doubly so.
    THOUGHTs UNEXPRESSED WILL OFTEN FALL BACK DEAD.
    But God Himself can’t kill them, once they are said.

    Yes, the Church should have not spoken to the world about the ill-fated past. It’s my wish that a faith damaging control be done but the counsel had already said, I have to leave it alone.
    Here’s hoping that the Balm of Gilead will heal every one who is still in sorrow.

  4. Brian Hales’ male privilege repeatedly shows in his suggestion that the marriages were “for eternity only.” As if an eternity of polygamy makes the damnable practice more palatable than a lifetime of it.

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      No historical grounding for that? Purely a result of privilege? It seems to me more than anything Brian privileges what D&C 132 says (and that it is revelation to be taken seriously), and from that is alerted to questions of interpretations of the records related to polyandrous marriages made by many historians, and I think they belong in the discussion. To the degree that he is making arguments from silence re accusations of hypocrisy, that is worth challenge or caution, but to say its a result of his male privilege is, to me (a privileged male as well), too broad a brush. I don’t have anywhere close to as clean a view of the revelatory process behind either D&C texts or the utterances of prophets that Brian has, but I’m pleased someone is speaking up for that position, and I think his work is important.

      As far as the matter of a “damnable practice” goes, that is debating polygamy and theologies surrounding it, which wasn’t the task of this episode. Brian admits how troubling it is, but again is at least keeping in the discussion views that take the scriptures and teachings seriously even if the upshot of those is so painful.

      1. Brian claims to take D&C 132 seriously, but he never reconciles Joseph’s behavior with the specifics.

        61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

        62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

        63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

        Not too mention that you have to believe this nonsense is from God in the first place.

    2. Polygamy isn’t fair on earth. But according to Joseph Smith’s theology, every man and every woman must have a spouse in order to be exalted. The promise is that they “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths. . . and a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” (D&C 132:19-20.)

      If we can believe this promise, then the need for eternal plural sealings becomes more easy to embrace.

      My experience is that instead people just roll their eyes and rant about earthly polygamy. But in doing so, I think they may denigrate the polygamous women of the nineteenth century who practiced it for that reason, because it was commanded.

      God commanded it according to the early prophets. Can we call it “damnable”? I guess it is a faith thing.

      Brian

  5. Was it common for women in the 1830s and 1840s to write about their sexual exploits in their journals? We often hear that Joseph’s polygamous wives didn’t write about having sex with him, so we can’t assume the marriages were ever consumated, but I’m not sure that is a reasonable position. In my mind, it would only be reasonable if it was common for women to write about having sex in their journals. In my own life, I’ve never written about having sex in my journals, nor do I have any children. However, using that to claim my wife and I have never consummated our marriage would be fallacious.

    1. Can Barbara, Todd, or Brian address this? Did Joseph’s polygamous wives write about their sexual encounters with their first husbands? Would it have been characteristic of them to do so? Would we expect them to also write about any potential encounters with Joseph, also keeping in mind that polygamy was illegal?

    2. This is a good point. The answer is as you suppose–they didn’t write about it. But all we are left with is assumption. This is a problem.

      Not only with polygamy, but people hear a few historical details, make sweeping assumptions about Joseph Smith and polygamy, and they they judge Joseph based upon their assumptions.

      For example, polyandrous sex would have been adultery according to every known reference from Joseph, Brigham, and other members and leaders. Yet, people so readily assume Joseph practiced it and then complain about it.

      I’m more than willing to say we have little or no evidence and so we shouldn’t judge. I’ll meet the critics half-way. But they don’t want to. They want to assume Joseph was having sex with young and old and unmarried and wed women, without evidence.

      Perhaps another point is that those close to Joseph were just as skeptical as you and me. I’ve often said Fawn Brodie did a hatchet job on Joseph Smith. But she did a bigger hatchet job on those around Joseph because she portrayed them as being too dumb or gullible to figure out the alleged immoralities that Brodie depicted in her book a hundred years later. Brodie wasn’t that smart and Brigham, Eliza, Zina and John (Taylor) were not that gullible.

      Recently Alex Beam said Joseph’s hypocrisy was “breathtaking.” How ridiculous. Beam can detect breathtaking hypocrisy 170 years later that none of the Nauvoo polygamists apparently detected because if they had seen ANY hypocrisy, they would have left Joseph.

      Sorry I got a little carried away.

      Brian

      1. Brian, how many of Warren Jeffs followers see any of his behavior as wrong or hypocritical? When are you going to abandon this silly line of reasoning?

      2. you claim that Joseph smith followers did not abandon him during Nauvoo time is a proof that none of them saw hypocrisy from Joseph. what about his own second counselor in the first presidency of the church William Law who left the church and clearly oppose polygamy and polyandry all together and describe Joseph Smith behavior is wrong..?
        Very convenient to leave this testimonies out. The testimonies of many people who also oppose and suffer the consequences of this practice. it is a slap in the face and an offense to regular members to only show one side of the story and partial truths. This Essay really put more questions in the discussion than answers.

  6. I find that “selling” polygamy to women as an eternal principle is really a bit of a non-starter. Maybe we just don’t understand it well enough, but it’s hard to imagine it as anything but eternal subordination of women.

    Anyway, I know that this wasn’t about debating polygamy but I think the real problem with polygamy is not so much our shady history as our spotty theology (especially as it regards to the role of women in the afterlife.)

    1. “Maybe we just don’t understand it well enough, but it’s hard to imagine it as anything but eternal subordination of women.”

      Hey Maggie, I agree, and I do wonder how people would view this whole idea if it was proposed that there were spiritual reasons *women* should marry multiple *men* (and the reverse situation was not on the table because it was deemed unspiritual or incorrect theology).

      Shades of “Animal Farm” in this too.

    2. I could not agree more, Maggie. I’ts a theological abboration.

      D&C 132 cannot be attributet to a God that values the agency of women. So; edit the D&C 132. (And decanonize). If we do not want to (continue) to claim that women have less agency and voice than men.
      Listen to Emma Smith! If not in the past – then now.

      I can live with a weird and shady history. But I will not live with a shady theological future voluntarily.

    3. Nail on the head Maggie, Sue and Marion F.S.
      This is exactly the problem that polygamy poses, the eternal perspective. I have had a few email exchanges with Brian Hales and found that he totally missed the point when I tried to explain to him that I do not desire exaltation without the EXCLUSIVE love of my husband. I further believe that I’m not the only one that feels that way. Nor do I believe that can exist for me but other women don’t need that exclusivity because that is central to marriage. The only women that I know that desire or are fine with polygamy are women who don’t have as close of a relationship with their husband as I have found myself to have. Eternal love to me is EXCLUSIVE if it exists at all.

    4. “Spotty theology”? What an unfortunate term. Read D&C 132:19-20. I see there the greatest promises any religion has ever made to their obedient followers.

      On the other hand, God issues specific commandments to His adherents and those commandments can be hard. I’m glad I don’t have to live the Law of Moses, or build and ark or a ship, or travel to the promised land. I’m also glad I don’t have to practice polygamy, but if it was a commandment, would I complain. I hope not.

      Perhaps it boils down to belief that God commanded it and that He can fulfill His promises (like D&C 132:19-20).

      1. Brian would see sitting on thrones and ruling over his dominions and principalities and continuing his seeds eternally as explained in the D&C as the “greatest promises of any religion.” He loses me before he even begins to try and defend the indefensible…breathtaking!!!

  7. Nobody really cares whether or not Joseph Smith had sex with his other wives. What we really care about is the LDS self-serving method of admitting a truth by claiming it probably didn’t happen.

  8. To answer to the debate at the end of the podcast re: whether or not polygamy was taught by leaders (rather than just believed among members) to be necessary for the highest of exhaltation, I suggest these quotes support that it was. No?

    “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” — Brigham Young (JoD, vol. 11, p. 269)

    “This monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers… Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ It is the only popular religion there.” — Brigham Young (Deseret News, August 6, 1862)

    “… [Joseph Smith taught] the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in the celestial glory.” — William Clayton (Historical Record, vol. 6, p. 226)

    Now to my own comment…. I really appreciated this podcast and the wonderful conversations had. All my own concerns about the essays (and polygamy in general) were brought up and discussed, so that was awesome for me to hear.

    On a personal note, part of what has been so liberating with my historical studies of the bible is how it’s allowed me to drop the “literal” or “historical” aspect to much of it. That in turn has helped me to have a much healthier (and consistent with my own experiences) understanding of the nature of God. Being able to drop so much of the teachings that suggest God to be destructive, punishing, cursing, etc has been a welcome and needed experience.

    Fast forward to current day and the gospel topic essay on blacks and the priesthood, and even that essay supports a truer, healthier nature of God. There was no curse of color. The doctrines taught by previous leaders were in error. Another welcome and needed experience to get that.

    Now fast forward to our polygamy essays. This “revelation” and “commandment” of God to JS is coupled with an angel bearing a flaming sword to threaten his obedience (or be destroyed). His poor wife, Emma, is also threatened with destruction if she doesn’t comply. These examples and others that are still professed through these essays to actually be from God (& not just “understood by JS to be from God”) throw me right back into confusion and frustration and even perhaps fear. It’s one of the major reasons I am so reserved and hold back from being able to believe this “revelation” was even from God in the first place, and not just JS’s error in what he thought was revealed by God. The implications of it truly being from God are terribly disturbing to me, not just because of the practice itself (although that’s plenty), but because of how God is portrayed throughout the practice as well. It disrupts and puts on shaky ground what I think my relationship with God is, who God is, and what my own interpretations through my own personal experiences with God have been like and shown me about the nature of God.

    And the history of polygamy is so close to the present. What I mean by that is, it’s not thousands-year-old accounts passed down orally before made into text, where historical and archeological study can share new and helpful insights, thus distancing the teachings from the present understanding of God. But polygamy, that’s just happened in comparison. It’s not an oral account that could have been shaped and biased before making it to text. It’s from the person we claim as our founding prophet to the Restoration, in his own words, written from him personally. It’s much harder to distance ourselves (and then also our understanding of God) when it’s that close. And what this recent practice, still professed to be by God (and not in error like with blacks and the priesthood) suggests about God, what God is like, and how God behaves is something I can’t work through.

    With the text on the priesthood ban essay, we separated ourselves in current time, not only from the practice being from God, but from the doctrine used to teach it as well. With the polygamy essays, we did neither. And so even though I commend how forthcoming with facts, even disturbing ones, the essay was, I am still left without a way to believe the doctrine, the claims of revealed destruction without obedience, and so on.

    1. Thanks everyone for the very adult conversation that you all had. The Mormon Stories episode on this topic came across to me as trite and immature.

      SLSDM – Very well put. When you start digging into even just a few of the issues: The priesthood ban, polygamy (and all its problems), the perceived rewriting of history in the accounts of the first vision and priesthood restoration, the translation of the Book of Abraham, the KInderhook plates, the endless issues surrounding the translation of the book of Mormon, the temple ceremony and the masons…I keep thinking there’s nothing plain and precious about any of this…it’s all just a big mess. As I try to stay faithful I can’t help but think that we are led by good people who are doing the best they can but at the end of the day are just winging it .

      If the current church’s stance on polygamy is that it was an unfortunate bump on the road to greater understanding and the priesthood ban was an unfortunate misunderstanding of doctrine by good men…how can I possibly have faith that what I’m being told now isn’t going to be condemned by the prophets of tomorrow?

    2. SLSDM…those things you quoted…excuse my cynicism, but to this little non-denominational, grass roots Christian, those quotes have the aroma of people getting a little drunk on the idea that they have a direct line to God and coming up with stuff that looks extraordinarily self-serving from where I stand. On a logical level, it also seems to imply either that the gender balance will be different in the afterlife, or that vastly more women than men will be redeemed and therefore need to be “allocated” much like people in tribal societies were, when wars reduced the pool of available men.

      It doesn’t sit comfortably here, and neither does the idea of “lying for God” or otherwise subverting good ethical standards. Christ certainly didn’t teach that sort of stuff in his ministry in the Middle East 2000 years ago, unless someone thinks all that was supressed. Again, this has a lot of logical difficulties with it, as well as theological difficulties.

      1. Sue, to make clear, my posting those quotes does not by any means suggest I align my own beliefs with them (quite the opposite). I merely added them to show Brian Hales that there are indeed quotes by leaders in authority at the time who taught this practice was necessary for the highest of exaltation, something Brian strongly argued does not exist. That there are is nothing I feel good about, but I want to show that members at the time who believed this were not making these beliefs up in their heads, but in fact believed and followed their leaders’ teachings.

        1. Hey there SLSDM, I got that! 🙂 I just wanted to comment on those quotes too but from an outside perspective and didn’t intend to suggest you didn’t see that, so sorry if that was ambiguous. It must be awful trying to come to grips with this stuff as an LDS, especially if the organisation never admits to making errors because that would suggest they’re no more perfect than any other denomination. The Catholic church, who used to be big on being the one true church, have had longer to come to grips with their quite obvious historical problems, like the Inquisition, so-called heretic Galileo being right, etc, and the comparative humility this has given them rather becomes them, plus church-going Catholics frequently take leave to disagree with the ideas of the people they affectionately call “the career Catholics” as part of the process, without being conflicted over that. It’s good when people let go of the idea of infallibility in any human being or institution. It’s rather problematic when people try to deny that. 🙂

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      SLSDM, Thank you for sharing all of this! I’m with you. I understand why the Church needs to take this stand at this point in its history when we’re so close in time to JS and we feel so tied to his status as a “prophet” in the idealized sense we have (tied to wrong-headed views, IMO, of OT prophets and wanting JS to be continuos with them), but I also struggle mightily to believe in a God that sends an angel with a flaming sword in order to move this practice along. It doesn’t track with my own spiritual encounters either in type or with what I feel has been the character of God revealed through these experiences. Hence I also place polygamy as originating in JS and confusing impulses: restore all things (though I don’t believe OT polygamy was ever God’s command either) along with sexual drive and a sense of specialness that often goes hand in hand with great charisma. I do think JS continued to access spiritual realms (though they are more chaotic ones than I think our clean view of an ordered heavens leads us to imagine) even during this practice, leading him to think he was okay with God (on this and other things), and I believe in his “visionary” states what came through was all a mishmash that didn’t really let him fully tell what parts were God and what parts were more influenced by his own propensities.

      On the other hand, I try to remain open to the idea that God can reveal with a stronger degree of clarity to us as humans than I’ve ever experienced, or that my twenty-five years of studying religion and spirituality has led me to believe. (And here is where Brian intrigues me and compels me to try to stay open.) I DO think humans can have remarkable insights into the character of the unseen world and the beings and forces that seem to be at work there. But, so far, it never seems anything close to the “direct line” model that we seem to want to hold firm to in Mormonism (and wider monotheistic traditions). I’m far more intrigued by the model found in shamanic kinds of traditions (and often see JS more as shaman than prophet–though I can’t see evidence of any OT prophets for sure receiving insights differently): we are continuous with the unseen realm, and through training and ritual actions that help us dissociate from our day-to-day conscious flow, we open to its influence to a greater degree than we allow in normal waking states. But this realm is chaotic–though not because there aren’t deep structures to it but because it is so “full” (because it’s a realm of potentialities all with possibilities that could be realized). All creation is “dividing out” things in this realm, as is spiritual insight. And we are the primary factor in what we select to receive and instantiate in our lives. And in the case of religious founders/leaders, what they cause to take shape in their traditions.

      I love it when what takes shape leads to good, especially (and I think it’s in ALL traditions) those aspects that say “come and do likewise; drink from the same well yourselves; own you own spiritual largeness and connection with this realm of Spirit; etc.” But I hate the pain that can be caused–pain that is especially acute when people have recognized that the person/leader has indeed had amazing experiences in this realm of spirit and then begin to trust that person in all things they say or do rather than stick with the real call to go there themselves. In eastern traditions they warn about this–“If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him”; “Beware of siddhis” (manifestations of Spirit that accompany yogis, so we need to be careful to not get confused that because this person has these manifestations all his/her teachings are pure)–and we get those warnings, as well, in theistic ones. But it’s just so damn hard to follow the disciplines ourselves that it’s easy to forget these cautions.

      But this is the journey we are all called to: GO THERE OURSELVES. I have found a way to do this (still stumbling and bumbling, of course, and with waxing and waning energies) within Mormonism. I think our tradition has all the tools we need to do this, and many gifts that can really help and teach us. And so many fantastic, empowering insights that came from/through JS. But we have a lot of the human to sift through, as well! Your move to less literalism in ancient texts is a fantastic step. Now we step into that with history and texts that are much closer to us in time. Same process. Rich rewards. More power to you, and to us all!

      1. You would think that a careful study of the Race and the priesthood essay, and these essays would cause us to re-think what it means to be a prophet. But GC doesn’t suggest we’re doing that. I relate to what you’re saying, Dan, and SLSDM.

      2. “I love it when what takes shape leads to good, especially (and I think it’s in ALL traditions) those aspects that say “come and do likewise; drink from the same well yourselves; own your own spiritual largeness and connection with this realm of Spirit; etc.”” Dan, that comment made me think back to your podcast just before this one – on the temple clothing and garment video – where that great discussion brought up how in the temple we all look the same. There is no distinction between the prophet’s clothing and the newest member. It’s the same reason I love that this is a lay church. I have a strong testimony that that is the way God would establish a church, where all are asked to partake in the work, and all move around in different callings. Not in a “working up the ladder” vertical way, but in a shared, horizontal way. Those “partake of it yourself” aspects of this church, although not often executed perfectly, are what make me feel I should stay. This church’s potential through this framework is so awesome to consider.

        “But I hate the pain that can be caused–pain that is especially acute when people have recognized that the person/leader has indeed had amazing experiences in this realm of spirit and then begin to trust that person in all things they say or do rather than stick with the real call to go there themselves.” Indeed. But it’s hard to point fingers when it happens because, after all (& this is a point of frustration for me), there is such a paradox that exists where we teach that fear, anger, lack of peace, etc are signs something is not of God because the fruits of the Spirit (and God) is love, peace, joy, etc. But then when we have those feelings about something church related (a teaching, practice, etc) we are told to ignore those feelings because “God’s ways are higher than our ways” and “God works in mysterious ways”, and “If there’s something that doesn’t add up or make sense, it’s just because of our limited understanding, not because it’s wrong. Just trust and obey.” I certainly don’t dispute that God’s ways are infinitely higher than my own. I’m just pointing out the paradox that exists where in some things we’re told to listen to that unsettled feeling, and in others… not so much. It puts the individual member in a terribly difficult position to try to figure out when it’s applicable to “go there themselves” & “do likewise” in gaining (and following) their own access to personal revelation, or to pull back and “trust that [leader/practice/teaching] in all things”.

      3. “It doesn’t track with my own spiritual encounters either in type or with what I feel has been the character of God revealed through these experiences.”

        And that’s basically all we can do as individuals, isn’t it? And not to do that would mean we’re potentially living other people’s errors rather than risking our own. It’s all I’ve been able to do in my own spiritual journey. I remember being a teenager and first reading some outrageous comment on women attributed to the Apostle Paul, and some of the genocides in the OT. I’d hitherto only read the gospels and this other material really disturbed me. I went to God in tears and said, “That’s it, if you’re like that I’m resigning.” Being an imaginative kid I half expected a bolt of lightning to come down, but what I got instead was the sense that God was laughing at me (in a nice way) and saying, “No, you can trust what I’ve shown you about me, it doesn’t matter what others say.”

        So, logical and philosophical holes with that regardless – I mean, we could all be hallucinating when it comes down to it – that’s how I chose to approach spirituality all my life since. My one little argument against my God being psychologically created, and in my own image, is that I never personally was remotely as good as what I saw, and I feel I couldn’t have even extrapolated to that kind of goodness. It’s a personal journey and it always makes me happy when I think others have had similar experiences. Not because it adds any legitimacy, mind you, just because they’re wonderful experiences amongst all that human condition stuff we confront.

        1. Oh, and something else just occurred to me: I think this wonderful yet headachy process is probably necessary if you’re going to attempt an authentic personal relationship with God. If religion really was just checking off what someone or some organisation was telling you over and above your own spiritual experiences of God, then you might as well be an automaton, or a computer programme. I think we’re supposed to wrestle, like in the story of Jacob and the angel. And if it was all presented flawlessly and understandably on a silver platter, then 1) we wouldn’t be wrestling, and 2) it would imply that the things we are trying to understand are within easy reach of our limited brains. I kind of think these things are more comprehensible to our soul than our brains, and that language can’t do anything other than make a charcoal sketch (and with the non-dominant hand too) of something intricate and colourful beyond expression.

      4. Brian, how do you square “I do think JS continued to access spiritual realms” with D&C 121:37?
        “but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
        The moment JS coerced those girls into the sin “next to murder”, any prophetic calling that he might have had disappeared. Allowing for repentance still doesn’t correct this as his actions continued upto his deathbed.

    4. Any response from Brian on these quotes?
      To Dan and each participant, wow. Thank you for this labor of ick and love. This was one of your most skillful efforts, Dan to present a balanced view, exploring many possibilities. I so appreciate the thoughtfulness and professionalism of each and every participant.
      This is such an icky topic, but an important one for us to acknowledge thoughtfully. I think it is a fair reading of history that the simultaneous practice and denials of polygamy was one of the driving forces behind losing a lot of members, splintering families, killing JS and HS and driving the saints out of their homes.
      Plural marriage is a part of the after-birth of the restoration–a smelly, ugly, slippery placenta. But the after-birth is not the baby. I love the baby, the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored with temples, priesthood, primary, service, crazy testimony meetings and funeral potatoes. I love how it helps me to connect with each other and with the divine within and without. At the end of the day, I don’t swaddle any of my kids’ placentas. And I am very glad that the after-birth of the Church is behind us. Maybe President Hinkley’s response to Mike Wallace was the best response on polygamy. That is all a part of our past. I am happy to move on, knowing that we don’t practice it today (at least in this life) and resolved that I won’t practice it in the next.

      1. Well put. I love the “funeral potatoes” of this church too. The after-birth (and I would add some of the on-going post labor pains)? Not so much. But there is a living baby here as a result that can be beautiful to behold when you turn your eyes to it, and I do love that.

    5. Found it interesting that in the same JoD talk where Brigham gave that quote, he also said : “If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by.”

    6. Hi SLSDM,

      I worry that you are falling into the fundamentalist trap that loves proof-texts. A proof-text occurs when someone takes a quote out of context to change its meaning.

      Statements made between 1852 and 1890, when plural marriage was treated as a commandment, can be easily quoted out of context to create the appearance that Church leaders taught that all men in the Celestial Kingdom would be polygamists. Perhaps the most commonly cited quotation is from Brigham Young who made a statement in 1866 that is very popular with Mormon fundamentalists:

      “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory.” By extracting this quotation from the entire discourse, multiple authors create a proof-text that indicates Brigham Young was saying all men in the Celestial Kingdom are practicing polygamists.

      However, earlier in the same discourse President Young proclaimed the more general commandment that the Saints were obligated to follow telling the congregation, “If you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained.” Brigham Young pointed out that the principle of plural marriage, which constitutes one aspect of celestial marriage, must be faithfully accepted by all exalted beings, whether they practice it or not.

      Another similar statement comes from an 1878 discourse by Elder Joseph F. Smith. He taught,

      “Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential, to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false.”

      Alone this quotation can be read to mean that all men, irrespective of when and where they lived, were required to enter plural marriage to be fully exalted, which is a common interpretation by modern polygamists. However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

      “It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle particularly suited to the nature of the work we are called to perform, that it might be hastened to its consummation.”

      Apostle Smith’s statement that plural marriage is “applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment” is perhaps the best available summary of the eternal position of polygamy in LDS history.

      To me, this last statement sums it up. When it is commanded, do it. When it isn’t, don’t. It can’t be practiced without authority (D&C 132:18) so freelancing plural marriage will only bring condemnation.

      Take Care,

      Brian

  9. Wow. Thanks Dan, thanks Barbara, Todd and Brian for taking time for this discussion. I really appreciated hearing their somewhat varying views. Very difficult topic for sure. Though I’ve know this information for nearly 10 yrs, quite by accident, I still don’t know how to make sense of it. Most certainly there a fundamental shift in the foundation of my testimony and a broadening.

    Rafael
    “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”
    Aside from letting your friends/family know the information is available, there is little else you can do. Each person has to decided for themselves whether they want more information. Is it greater faith to avoid having a greater knowledge? I don’t necessarily think so. But it is wrong of them to dismiss this info on the basis of it being anti-Mormon. It will be interesting to see if some of this info becomes a point of discussion in classes on Sunday at some point in time.

    No matter if the women married to other men and sealed to Joseph had sex with him or not, the fact that he was sealed to married women (whose husbands were still alive) is a practice not seen in the modern church. Why not? There is no secular law against that is there?
    What are we to make of that?

  10. I can accept the idea of revelation from God that goes against societal and cultural norms; I can accept the idea of plural marriage (especially when put in the context of the times and recognizing that perhaps some of the patriarchal / sexist nature of it may have been a product of the times more than the end-all eternal law of God). But this whole thing still presents a huge conflict for me, primarily because of so many contradictions in the narrative (that haven’t been mentioned), and aspects of it that present a God I can’t believe in. I believe strongly in the God of D&C 121 (D&C 132, and an angel with a sword, etc. seems to be in direct contradiction of D&C 121). Then there’s all of the “lying for the Lord” surrounding this issue, and acts of violence, such as the burning down of the Nauvoo Expositor, etc. (The very story currently told in Nauvoo about this is rendered wrong by these “facts” we didn’t previously acknowledge.) Something is wrong here. In my opinion, we’ve either accepted some of this as history, when it’s not, or we have some false revelations, or worse. I personally cannot simply accept these essays as making everything right. All apparently has not been, nor is well in Zion.

    1. Hi Tiani,

      I believe your concerns are shared by many. However, I would encourage you to try to see plural marriage through the eyes of women like Eliza R. Snow and Zina Huntington. They knew more than any of us and they were devout and pious. Somehow they saw plural marriage as an opportunity for blessings both on earth and in eternity.

      This probably won’t help, but also we should remember that God is real, but so is Satan and if he can overwhelm us with doubts about this detail or that detail, causing us to forget the eternal promises (see D&C 132:19-20), then he is very successful.

      I believe the antidote for such doubts is more knowledge. But also, more faith because these things are complex and require the Spirit to help us not only understand, but to accept. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).

      Just weeks before he was killed Joseph Smith declared: “I never told you I was perfect—but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” Focusing on his revelations and less on his humanness might be helpful.

      God Bless,

      Brian Hales

      1. Brian,

        I’m late to the conversation, sorry. I get that you’re a good person and I appreciate your opinions but please try to see this from the perspective of the person who might be required to share their spouse with another. Could you share your wife, physically, with another man? What if you were told that you had to, and you had to like it and shut up about it or you were disobeying God? Sorry – that sounds like a cult.

        I would encourage YOU to see plural marriage through the eyes of a woman, not a man.

        I have done my fair share of homework on the topic of plural marriage in heaven and have found more evidence against it than you have found in favor of it. I have resolved both by textural proof and in my heart that it will NOT be a requirement in the celestial kingdom. The mere fact that this topic brings so much contention and frustration demonstrates to me that it is of the devil and not of a loving Heavenly Father.

        It is my hope that you are not one of the LDS men out there who uses this rumor (polygamy in heaven) do emotionally control your wife or to feel superior to anyone in anyway because, in theory, you would be permitted to sleep around to your heart’s content. This bologna about a man having more wives in heaven if he is more righteous is an insult to our sensibilities. Doesn’t it remind you of a certain religion that promises a large number of virgins to individuals who kill masses in the name of a certain fictitious god? To me, this rumor seeks to do the same thing. Do what we tell you to do, and you will be rewarded with sex.

        Both my husband and I believe that this rumor was started by misogynist men who wanted to control their wives or who were having difficulty finding acceptance from women and consoled themselves by believing that maybe they couldn’t have a real relationship here, but they’ll sure as hell get it later! Have you ever met a woman (who was not brain washed) who said, “Hell yes! I want to sit around and wait while my husband has sex with other women without my consent! That sounds like heaven to me!! I better be super faithful in this life so that I can reap such an eternal reward!”

        It’s sick. I’m with Emma on this one. Good for her. She was a woman beyond her time… and I am a descendent of the Smiths.

  11. Thanks for your positive comments, folks. Dan did a great job hosting, and my two co-panelists had really interesting things to say. SLSDM–how did all the vowels drop out of your name?

  12. Dan,
    Thanks for putting together a great panel and discussion! I have been a big Compton fan for a while. I have heard of and seen a few of Brian Hales essays and presentations before, but not like on the panel. I also really appreciated Barbara’s views and contribution to the discussion (I look forward to her book). It has been mentioned about this discussions tone being very different from the similar discussion on Mormon Stories. I think having Brian and your facilitatin Dan made a huge difference and made the discussion much richer and more beneficial. It is fun to know that there are people who can know of and look at all the warts with an eye of faith and still have a testimony of JS divine calling. I myself find it difficult and have to be much more nuanced with my faith and my beliefs, but the Church has produced some good fruits. I remember on my mission giving the excuse of too many women so Polygamy had to happen, and there I left it. I also have friends and family that still want to ignore it, and if that works for them, ok. As a history nerd, I want to know all the background. I also hope these essays will help the general membership know how it all came to be. As all these things started to be talked more about, I thought I would do my own little test. I asked 10 of my ward members and friends, starting with my 63 year old life long active all her life mom. Was Joseph Smith a polygamist? Only 1 knew he was and it was not my mom. What does this say of our curriculum and our being honest in all our dealings? At least the essays being released are a big step, although none of the marketing as used in the”Meet the Mormons” has been used to let people know. Thanks

  13. Hales claimed to have searched high and low for pronouncments supporting the polygamy is required to become God doctrine and found none. It took me all of 2 seconds on google to find this..

    The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.

    Journal of Discourses, Vol.11, p.268 – p.269, Brigham Young, August 19, 1866

    So much for searching high and low…next time try Google…

    1. I wish it was that easy–don’t we all!

      Here’s a re-post from above:

      I worry that you are falling into the fundamentalist trap that loves proof-texts. A proof-text occurs when someone takes a quote out of context to change its meaning.

      Statements made between 1852 and 1890, when plural marriage was treated as a commandment, can be easily quoted out of context to create the appearance that Church leaders taught that all men in the Celestial Kingdom would be polygamists. Perhaps the most commonly cited quotation is from Brigham Young who made a statement in 1866 that is very popular with Mormon fundamentalists:

      “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory.” By extracting this quotation from the entire discourse, multiple authors create a proof-text that indicates Brigham Young was saying all men in the Celestial Kingdom are practicing polygamists.

      However, earlier in the same discourse President Young proclaimed the more general commandment that the Saints were obligated to follow telling the congregation, “If you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained.” Brigham Young pointed out that the principle of plural marriage, which constitutes one aspect of celestial marriage, must be faithfully accepted by all exalted beings, whether they practice it or not.

      Another similar statement comes from an 1878 discourse by Elder Joseph F. Smith. He taught,

      “Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential, to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false.”

      Alone this quotation can be read to mean that all men, irrespective of when and where they lived, were required to enter plural marriage to be fully exalted, which is a common interpretation by modern polygamists. However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

      “It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle particularly suited to the nature of the work we are called to perform, that it might be hastened to its consummation.”

      Apostle Smith’s statement that plural marriage is “applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment” is perhaps the best available summary of the eternal position of polygamy in LDS history.

      To me, this last statement sums it up. When it is commanded, do it. When it isn’t, don’t. It can’t be practiced without authority (D&C 132:18) so freelancing plural marriage will only bring condemnation.

      Take Care,

      Brian

  14. Here’s some more for Bro Hales next book…

    “Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation of exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great an glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blesssing [sic] promised except upon conditions, an no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part – and is good so far as it goes – and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefor, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it.

    DISCOURSE BY ELDER JOSEPH F. SMITH, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, July 7, 1878 http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/9614/rec/20 – page/image 28

  15. Brian,

    How do you personally deal with the angel and the sword? Timothy McVeigh used his free agency to murder 168 people and injure 600 more. An angel with a sword did not come down to threaten his life before he chose to carry out this decision. Jim Jones used his free angency to kill and/or force over 900 people to commit suicide. An angel with a sword did not come down to threaten his life before he chose to carry out this action. There are numerous events throughout human history where an angel with a sword could have actually prevented mass suffering and catastrophe, yet, according to our loving Heavenly Father, Joseph’s reluctance to practice polygamy was the apex of humanity’s failure? This was the one event in modern human history that required this type of intervention?

    1. Hi Ryan,

      I’m not quite sure I expect God to send an angel with a sword to stop wicked people from being wicked. As you adeptly point out, that doesn’t happen.

      With Joseph, the angel brought a sword only on the third visit. Nothing in Joseph’s history required God’s angel three admonitions to get Joseph to comply.

      The Old Testament story of the prophet Balaam bears similarities. When Balak enticed him to curse Israel, an angel with a sword threatened the prophet: “And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way… Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand” (Numbers 22:23, 31). Balaam later goes astray and dies by the sword, not wielded by an angel, but in battle (Numbers 31:8). For Balaam, the angel’s sword became a shadow of his future demise if he continued to disobey.

      Apparently, God wanted to get Joseph’s attention after years of foot-dragging.

      I think both stories require a little faith to believe, but I haven’t found them too difficult.

      Take Care,

      Brian

  16. Brian – I’m trying to work through your rationale for how JS’s private practice of polygamy/polyandry is okay even though publicly he denies it (quite emphatically I might add). The only way it works (at least for me) is to separate the PROPHET Joseph Smith from the MAN Joseph Smith.

    From the PROPHET Joseph Smith’s view: Celestial Marriage > civil marriage (D&C 22:1 – all old covenants are done away …including a civil marriage) therefore JS can practice polygamy and polyandry. Women can’t have 2 husbands or they are committing what I would call “theological” adultery (D&C 132: 41-42) so Joseph’s sealing to them must supersede the civil marriage. Also this allows him to not be accused of committing “theological” adultery since he is “sealed” to all these women (who are not Emma). Therefore in the PROPHET Joseph Smith’s mind he WAS practicing polygamy. This would be his approach to the women he was proposing to (i.e. celestial marriage>civil marriage).

    Now, from the MAN Joseph Smith’s view: When he is publicly accused of polygamy/adultery (William Law, etc), the MAN Joseph Smith must respond with a civil marriage > celestial marriage argument. In IL you can only have 1 “legal” wife and since Emma is his only civil marriage he isn’t, according to the law, lying when he says he has “but 1 wife.” Also, per IL law, when he’s having sex with someone other than Emma he can’t be charged with what I would call “actual” adultery (at least it wouldn’t stand in court, you know the references) because they are not a “open relationships.” Everything was kept quiet.

    So this is the apparent contradiction, is celestial marriage > civil marriage or not? Or maybe it is AND it isn’t…just depends on which argument best suits the situation. The PROPHET Joseph Smith (knowing full well that he was practicing polygamy, including the “time” part) quite easily allows the MAN Joseph Smith to make public statements that willfully contradict (and are quite the opposite of) what the PROPHET was doing and telling his closest confidants. I assume “it’s easy” because the public declarations against his improprieties are quite fiery and passionate. Thanks

    1. Hi RCD288

      I appreciate the analysis and comments.

      For me, the “polyandrous” marriages are not that difficult. Eleven of the women were sealed to Joseph for eternity-only, so they really aren’t “polyandrous,” but consecutive marriages. In two of the remaining three, the women were not having sex with their legal husbands (Sarah Ann Whitney and Sylvia Sessions) and the last (Mary Heron) is too poorly documented to know what happened. Joseph and Brigham and everyone taught that a plurality of husbands was adultery and I believe the did not practice it and would never have tolerated it.

      Of course, many people seems to want to make assumptions and then judge Joseph based upon their assumptions.

      The denials are a big deal to some and you refer to denials as “quite fiery and passionate.” I’m not sure what you mean. Joseph used verbal gymnastics to deny polygamy (as I discuss on my website) like: “In 1844, one month before the martyrdom, the Prophet stated: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” This is not “fiery” in my way of thinking.

      One additional observation. When people get all worried about the denials, it seems they really don’t know what quotations they are referring to. Yet, many are very annoy and bothered at what they think happened.

      It seems that the denials are poor evidence that Joseph Smith was a libertine/hypocrite/fraud. I expect they accuse Abraham equally since he to deceived the King of Egypt and King Abimelech. But what it also seems to say is that they don’t have evidence of adultery or other sexual immoralities with which to beat the Prophet, so they default back to the denials. Having understood the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s deflections away from polygamy, I’m not bothered.

      Thanks,

      Brian

      1. Wow, way to excuse a liar. “It wasn’t THAT bad big of a lie.” Count me out of your moral beliefs!

        Also, Abraham wasn’t a real person so using his behavior as a justification is foolish.

  17. Dan,

    Thanks for the work you do on putting together programs like this. I can’t even begin to express how important your podcasts are for people like me whose faith is morphing in time as I learn more about the LDS teachings and religions while trying to seek God’s counsel and be closer with him. This truly is a journey one ultimately walks alone. But it is nice to have some guideposts, like your podcasts, along the way.

    Todd, Barbara, and Brian,

    Thanks for taking the time to get together to discuss this incredibly strange and hard to understand church topic. I highly doubt that any of us will see eye to eye on what LDS polygamy was/is about. Personally, the more I learn, the more of a big mess it was to me. It’s very painful to read about the experiences that people had with it and the sacrifices they made to follow a teaching their leaders taught them was their ticket back to the highest kingdom. I especially feel hurt for the women who in many instances were strong armed int practicing it and I wish the essays had spoken more about that. Sometimes as I read or hear about 14 year old Helen Kimball and the pressure that was put on her as a young teenager, I project that experience onto my daughters when they were that age and it makes me shudder. Maybe future essays presented on LDS.org will present more truth about this strange and upsetting practice.

    Finally, I am thankful for your influence in studying and presenting history as you have. I have no doubt that the work you have done, combined with the power of the Internet has been a strong influence on getting the corporate church to finally discuss hard topics like this.

  18. Please, will someone give me a plausible explanation as to why there are no children from Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages that can be confirmed? I have yet to see anyone address that issue with the attention it deserves. The excuse that he was just too busy avoiding the authorities or keeping the marriages secret does not hold water for me. Many of these women were very fertile as evidenced in the case of Louisa Beaman who bore four or five children to Brigham Young. It doesn’t take much to impregnate a woman. And even if there were a couple of children that may end up being Joseph’s, like Josephine Lyons, why weren’t there more?

    My suspicion is that when we solve that mystery, we will begin to understand plural marriage as it was practiced in the early days of the church.

  19. Brian,

    I read through the section on your web site that talks about whether exaltation requires polygamy. http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/polygamy-and-exaltation/

    I found your explanation to be presentist in its interpretation. I can understand your logic in isolating verses 19 and 20 of D&C 132, and I like the idea theologically of separating eternal marriage from polygamy. But all these ideas are recent theological developments. I think the burden of proof is on your shoulders to prove a contemporary interpretation of these verses that aligns with your modern explanation.

    Otherwise, you are contradicting the interpretations taught by all of those who practiced polygamy and taught the importance of it during their lifetimes. They viewed plural marriage, not as a separate appendage to the new and everlasting covenant, but as the central piece of that covenant. Everything I’ve read including the good quotes earlier in this message string, show me that this these two concepts were not separate and distinct doctrines as you explain in your modern interpretation, but that these concepts were synonymous with each other.

    You sound like a person of reason and logic, and I really appreciate your work on polygamy and getting the source documentation out there and letting the stories and sources speak more openly. I believe that if you want to convince others that your interpretation is reasonable, you need to work on your logic for this interpretation, and I think that should start with proving that contemporary church leaders understood D&C 132 the same way you interpret it. Otherwise, I don’t see any strength in your modern interpretation.

    1. Hi hope_for_things,

      I have addressed this above but let me try to directly respond to you thoughtful post.

      There is no doubt that plural marriage was taught as necessary for exaltation between 1840s and 1890. And it was required for exaltation for those Latter-day Saints during that span.

      However, I have not found any statement that unequivocally declares that all men in the upper degree of the CK are polygamists, irrespective of the time and place they lived.

      God issues specialized commandments. Abraham had to live the law of circumcision, the Children of Israel lived the law of Moses, LDS between 1840s and 1890, polygamy. God knows why but He never told us why.

      Joseph F. Smith explained it the best: “However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

      It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle.”

      JFS outlines that it can be commanded or not commanded. It is not a law because it didn’t exist in the Book of Mormon–this is certain based upon the text.

      Fundamentalists like to quote a few excerpts and then believe their sealings are valid, but God saw this day (see D&C 132:18) and authority is paramount.

      I hope that helps.

      Take Care,

      Brian

  20. My background is in statistics and I must say that I completely agree with Brian as to why polygamy would be required in the next life. Anyone who truly believes that there is even a remote chance of having the exact same number of women in men in the Celestial Kingdom must be in one of two camps. Either 1) they do not have a thorough understanding of probability or 2) they do not really believe in free agency.

    If you do not believe in polygamy, I would be interested to hear how you think the problem of differing numbers of men and women in heaven will be solved.

      1. You are not the first to assume so. Brigham Young recalled:

        “I recollect a sister conversing with Joseph Smith on this subject [plural marriage]. She told him: “Now, don’t talk to me; when I get into the celestial kingdom, if I ever do get there, I shall request the privilege of being a ministering angel; that is the labor that I wish to perform. I don’t want any companion in that world; and if the Lord will make me a ministering angel, it is all I want.” Joseph said, “Sister, you talk very foolishly, you do not know what you will want.” He then said to me: “Here, brother Brigham, you seal this lady to me.” I sealed her to him. This was my own sister according to the flesh.”

        We cannot conceive the blessing of exaltation. “For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God, besides thee, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee” (D&C 133:45).

        Can we actually choose what blessings would be best for us there?

    1. So, we’re definitely assuming then that women will outnumber men in that version of heaven? 😉 Because noone has it going the other way, do they, with women marrying multiple men… funny that… so, are women statistically the more virtuous then? 😉

      Hmmm, couldn’t an omnipotent God just *arrange* for a point in time where the hypothetical gender balance in such a heaven would indeed be equal…such as by cleverly manipulating the end of the world, and/or or the gender ratio at birth etc, or just because?

      Of course, if you’re not LDS then you don’t have to grapple with the statistics, because other forms of Christianity don’t necessarily discriminate between the single and the married in terms of virtue, or celestial potential…

      1. First of all, you bring up a good point about having more men than women. Probability tells us that you can have either more men or more women (just not the same amount of each). Our theology points to there being more women, but logic tells me that the majority could be either women or men.

        Secondly, God could not just “arrange” for there to be the same number of each; that was Satan’s plan.

        Third, you are exactly right that other religions do not force them to tackle such an issue, but I’m Mormon and our theology does require it.

        Unless we ignore probability and statistics, we need to either believe there will be more men or more women, not the same number of each.

        1. “Probability tells us that you can have either more men or more women (just not the same amount of each). Our theology points to there being more women, but logic tells me that the majority could be either women or men.”

          Actually, that depends on a lot of things, such as the size and nature of your sample population. While the probability of exactly equal gender numbers *in nature* is small, it is not nil. But then that’s not really what we are discussing here: We are discussing the hypothetical gender balance *in heaven / a particular version of heaven*, where, unless you are hypothesising that everyone who was ever born gets automatic admission, there will presumably be other selection factors, which we can probably agree will involve free agency. While the chances of exact gender balance may be small here too, they are not nil either, and I do think that, since no gender seems to be vastly morally superior (for what it’s worth) or vastly more interested in closeness to God, the differences won’t be vast. In fact, they could be so small that at a number of points, as the population of heaven gets added to by earthly demise, they could be exactly equal – and that such events would happen gets more probable as the time interval increases. Which would then make the achievement of an identical gender balance in heaven just a matter of cleverly timing the end of the world. (This would, based on current population data, assume that a very slightly smaller proportion of females than males attain to that version of heaven, although if we waited long enough, given the outcomes on gender ratio of things like the Chinese one-child policy, this gap could quickly close.)

          To get that special hypothesised version of heaven where plural marriage will be a required feature for *every* man, women would have to outnumber men 2:1 *minimum*. This is an interesting speculation on the relative redeemability (by whatever criteria) of men versus women – but one I consider highly far fetched. Of course, some may hypothesise that not all men are “worthy” of polygamy (hmmm!), and therefore a smaller excess of women will be required.

          Which also leaves us with the problem: So how is it supposed to be *known* that this is going to be the case? By divine foresight and revelation? Murky waters there…

          And, we still haven’t dealt with the biological intersexes, or the significant percentage of people who love and partner people of the same gender, and where they fit into this rather simplistic model.

          “Secondly, God could not just “arrange” for there to be the same number of each; that was Satan’s plan.”

          According to your particular version of theology, which I’m not sure even accurately represents LDS theology. I think there would be LDS present here who can see that God choosing to *time* the end of the world (or slightly influence birth rates) so that there are no issues with leftover people in no way negates free agency of the people. The end has to be called at some point, doesn’t it, and how do we know this wouldn’t be a factor, if God indeed thought it was important?

          I personally don’t subscribe to such a view of heaven – I don’t personally see God as discriminating against intersexes or homosexuals, or indeed against people living a voluntary single life. I did want, however, to clarify that statistics isn’t really a valid argument for compulsory males-marrying-multiple-females polygamy within the parameters set here.

          “Third, you are exactly right that other religions do not force them to tackle such an issue, but I’m Mormon and our theology does require it.”

          LDS theology seems to me to have a fair few grey areas – areas that are open to interpretation, areas that are not crystal clear, and areas over which there has been vacillation and inconsistency from the church hierarchy. The fundamentalist notion of forcing all square pegs into round holes surely is not the only interpretation of LDS theology? I certainly don’t get that impression from listening to MM podcasts.

          “Unless we ignore probability and statistics, we need to either believe there will be more men or more women, not the same number of each.”

          I’ve attempted to show how statistics, in concert with divine providence, and without interference with free agency, would not necessarily dictate this as being such a clear-cut impossibility. Of course, I personally don’t think it’s important, because the model being discussed basically excludes anyone who isn’t neatly male or female, and anyone who is not sexually attracted to the opposite sex, and in fact anyone who isn’t sexually attracted to anyone at all…

          These discussions, though, I think are very worthwhile in making everyone acquainted with other ways of thinking and looking, which only enriches all participants. Thank you for your thoughts, and God bless.

    2. Jared, what makes you think that the reality will be more women than men. If it’s related to sin, as a women I assure you we are sinners…your view of sin is extremely naive, time to change your perspective on that a little. I have found women to be some of the worst offenders especially with devaluation of one another, is that not sin? What sins will keep one from being exalted? Can men repent in the next life of these “grievous” sins that will supposedly keep them from exaltation? If not, why? Theology to back that up. Eternal polygamy makes no sense which is why so many of us have a problem with it.

      1. I did not mean to imply that women are more righteous than men. However, Mormon scriptures do imply that there will be more women than men in the Celestial Kingdom since they appear to support polygamy rather than polyandry. This could be due to the fact that there are more women than men that followed Jesus rather than Lucifer or perhaps more women were created in the first place. I do not have the answer as to why polygamy would be supported over polyandry.

        My claim is that it is statistically impossible for there to be the same number; there must be either polygamy or polyandry in Mormon theology where marriage is required for exaltation.

        1. Jared, Thanks for the clarification.

          The Jury is still out for me in terms of D&C section 132 being truly inspired scripture, thus also the subsequent interpretation (more women than men) that you conclude from it. I for one, am one less woman that needs to be concerned with exaltation if polygamy truly exits in the here after, I opt out, thank you very much. I am not sacrificing in this life for that as my reward.

          For me, I think there needs to be more statements like yours from our GA, confirming or denying your interpretation, so that I can personally make an informed decision about my involvement in a faith that I do not wish to be a part of (if you are correct), as I do not support or value a God or any “being” that would treat my value as a woman, or any woman, in such a way (1 righteous man is equal to 5 righteous women, etc). I do not appreciate the lack of information about an important piece of exaltation, it’s a little deceptive.

          This theology does not testify (through the HG) to me nor does it make sense (on a much deeper level), the “numbers” excuse even less so, it makes God appear incompetent.

        2. If you understood statistics as well as you claim to, you would understand that there is no such thing as a statistical impossibility. There are improbabilites but no impossibilities.

    3. Right on, Belle. Well, as I already hinted above, I don’t view statistics as a logical argument to the idea that there would have to be any sort of gender imbalance in heaven due to free agency. And the biggest elephant in the “statistical” argument for eternal LDS polygamy is the unexamined assumption that we could possibly know whether more men or women would end up in whatever version of heaven if the end of the “supply line” – usually taken to mean the end point for life on earth – was randomly selected. Unless the argument here is going to be, “God knows and that’s why he told us that men have to marry multiple women” – which to me is a bit like the argument in Monty Python, “She’s a witch because God said so.” It’s only somebody’s claim… and people’s unverifiable claims have to be examined very carefully.

      Because the hypothetical end point for the earth doesn’t have to be random for an omnipotent God who is selecting that end point. I would expect it would be a statistical doddle for an omnipotent God to select an end point where the gender balance was momentarily equal…and to fiddle with the parameters to make that happen if necessary. Those parameters would not have to reduce free agency, just perhaps a little fiddling with the gender balance at birth, which I expect would be quite minute, because I’ve not seen any huge evidence for the moral superiority of either sex, and there is only a small difference in biological birth rates and infant survival rates, which usually slightly favour female humans.

      Since I actually have no problems with the miracles of Jesus in the gospel accounts – to me an omnipotent God can intervene when he decides to – then this kind of tinkering isn’t a practical impossibility either, and if it was important, then God might do that. I personally have no vested interests here as I’m not LDS and so my ideas of heaven are less circumscribed, and don’t necessarily require this sort of statistical tinkering, or everyone to be married.

      Another thing though, what are we going to do with all the biological intersexes? And why are we assuming that all marriages have to be male to female, in earth or in heaven, if they even exist as such there? The big symbolic marriage talked of in Revelation etc is the one of all of God’s people as a bride to Christ. Go figure! 😉

      1. I appreciate your argument for God tinkering with the timeline, but I believe you are giving more power to God than Mormon theology teaches. Our God is bound by Eternal Laws that require justice and mercy and I believe that arbitrarily picking a time when it all ends does not give everyone an equal opportunity to work out their own salvation.

        Your points about male to male or female to female marriages would be theological arguments as possible solutions to not having the same number of men and women (which I consider a valid argument), but you still run into the problem of making sure they match up correctly. For that methodology to work there would have to be an even number of single men that all happen to be gay (of course, the same would need to apply to the women). Again, the chance of that happening is essentially zero.

        Probability teaches us that you cannot have the exact same number of willing couples. You need to either not require marriage for the highest level of exaltation (which seems to be the most logical answer) or allow for polygamy/polyandry.

        1. Hi again Jared 😉

          I’ve already responded at length to your earlier post in this thread a little further above, and just wanted to jump in on a little point here:

          “I appreciate your argument for God tinkering with the timeline, but I believe you are giving more power to God than Mormon theology teaches. Our God is bound by Eternal Laws that require justice and mercy and I believe that arbitrarily picking a time when it all ends does not give everyone an equal opportunity to work out their own salvation.”

          First of all, justice and mercy is no less important in the non LDS concept of the Christian God, so we’re starting on the same page there, I think.

          How is hypothetically picking and choosing an end time at one of the exact times there would be no problems with leftover people either arbitrary, or somehow less just and merciful than calling the end point at any other point in time? If it’s important, then how would that not be a just and merciful thing to do?

          And, like Belle also implied, I think God is very competent to juggle multiple variables, and to include that one in the mix if it figures.

          The compulsory polygamy thing seems to me far more explicable as an expression of the smallness of people’s minds, and the usual pattern of power going to people’s heads – for both of which there is abundant evidence in this world, both historical and contemporary – than as an expression of some sort of smallness on behalf of God.

          The statistics, I’ve already addressed on several occasions, but I’m always happy to go into that more. I have an actual population biology background and I’m cool with taking it out for a walk. 😉

    4. …and because it’s funny, I just wanted to post this famous application of convoluted logic to, in this case, the concept of hell. It was part of a student essay on the topic “Is hell exothermic or endothermic?” actually posed as an essay question in a university chemistry examination, by a professor with a wacky sense of humour. This student got an A, and here’s an excerpt:

      “First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving? I think we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave.

      Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for souls entering hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, then you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and souls go to hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.

      Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant. Two options exist:

      1. If hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell breaks loose.

      2. If hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.

      So which is it?”

      It’s easy to google the rest if you’re interested. I think it’s an elegant flight of logic, and most entertaining, but logically I don’t think we can assume that souls have mass or that nobody leaves hell. LOL. Hope someone enjoys this comic interlude.

        1. You are welcome, and I hope it made you smile. It *is* so funny. Nice talking to you, and I just want to stress that when I express differences in opinion or theology I’m not trying to get *personal* or *I’m better than you* – I just enjoy debates on fascinating topics, they are so enriching, and make one think about stuff one hasn’t thought about before. I wish you an excellent day! 🙂

    5. Actually it is likely that there will be more men in heaven than women, based on conception and birth rates. Probably around 52% of conceptions are male, about 51% of live births are male, by age 3 the ratio is approximately even and then at about age 20 there are more women living than men. If life (spirit children) begins with conception, and all spirits that die before the age of 8 return to Heavenly Father, that’s a LOT of men automatically getting an automatic pass into heaven!

      1. Post
        Author
      2. “Actually it is likely that there will be more men in heaven than women, based on conception and birth rates. Probably around 52% of conceptions are male, about 51% of live births are male, by age 3 the ratio is approximately even and then at about age 20 there are more women living than men. If life (spirit children) begins with conception, and all spirits that die before the age of 8 return to Heavenly Father, that’s a LOT of men automatically getting an automatic pass into heaven!”

        This is such an excellent contribution to the debate, Julie! 🙂 Of course, if we’re going to go there, should we also include zygotes that never implanted and so weren’t officially conceived? The amount of fertilised eggs that naturally never implant (or abort immediately at the next menstruation) is anything up to half of all fertilisations (more in real terms if you include the effect of “morning after” pills, IUDs, etc). I’m not sure if anyone has studied the sex ratio at fertilisation. I’m also wondering what the sex ratio of miscarriages and stillbirths is.

        We do have a reasonable handle on what implants and goes to term though – for the present time. We don’t have historical data going thousands of years back, and we can’t assume that the ratios have always been the same. They are in all probability to a degree environmentally influenced. Just look at people’s ability to significantly predispose the sex of the zygote with factors like the timing the conception and the pH levels of the internal environment: People who are familiar with using the Billings method of family planning are also familiar with the idea that sperm bearing X chromosomes survive slightly longer than sperm bearing Y chromosomes – while the Y chromosome sperm tend to be faster swimmers. So, conceptions from intercourse around the time of ovulation bias towards male zygotes, and conceptions from intercourse two to three days before ovulation, followed by abstinence until after ovulation, biases towards female zygotes.

        If people do think life begins at conception rather than birth or some biological viability cut-off point, and more to the point, if they think a person gets their soul or spirit or whatever divine spark at that point, I have always wondered what happens with the large amount of zygotes that, naturally or via different contraceptive methods, never implant, or abort spontaneously (most of these happen at the first expected normal menstrual period and are mostly indistinguishable from normal menstruation). Do their souls/spirits get another go at entering earthly life, or is it an automatic pass home, or do they get a choice in the matter? I think that’s an interesting question, but it might be a nonsense question. It kind of presupposes body-soul /body-spirit duality, and sees the body as a mere vessel, which it may or may not be.

      3. Hi Julie,

        Here are a few thoughts.

        The idea that there will may be more worthy men than women at the final judgment is supported by the ratio of male-to-female live births over the past three centuries. Demographers Graziella Caselli, Jacques Vallin, and Guillaume Wunsch observed: “The sex ratio at birth (number of male births per 100 female births) is generally very close to 105. This is one of the very rare demographic parameters that is virtually constant.” According to this ratio 51.2% of births are male and 48.8% are female. The numbers supporting these ratios have been extracted from nearly three centuries of statistical data. From these conclusions one could argue that at the end of times there will be a greater number of worthy men than women. There may be, however, some problems with this reasoning.

        Early records may have suffered from the potential to underreport female births due to prejudices of the time. Even more important are the lapses arising from illiteracy and inadequate record keeping. Paris researcher Louis Sebastian Mercier wrote in 1782: “All the infants who are born there [in Paris] go to be nursed, half die, and the burial registers of the city’s parishes are not filled with their names; therefore counts should not longer be based on the register of baptisms, nor on that of deaths.” Sociologists Eric Brian and Marie Jaisson acknowledge that “the imperfect nature of registration figures are all well-known to specialists.” Notwithstanding these potential weaknesses, more recent data from reliable sources supports a consistent ratio of about 105 male newborns to 100 female.

        Nevertheless, examining the ratio and extrapolating that value to the history of human existence may not be justified. Scientists cannot explain the genetic causes of the discrepancy. In Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question, Marica Guttentag and Paul F. Secord acknowledge: “The results from various studies of reproductive biology suggest that a whole complex of factors are apt to have some influence on the sex of a zygote; moreover, at least some of these interact with each other.” Without understanding its etiology, data gathered during the last three centuries may not accurately predict the preceding millenia. Brian and Jaisson also recognized the “oscillatory nature around a near-equilibrium of the two sexes” that could ebb and flow over millennia, rather than just centuries. Three hundred years of data comprises only a small fraction of human existence. Since the phenomenon arises from as yet unidentified reproductive physiological factors, assuming a constant trend for the previous millennia may not be warranted.

        Multiple surveys during the past century of religious involvement in Christian churches support a greater participation among women. In his 1958 book, Religious Behavior, Michael Argyle concludes: “It is obvious that women are more religious on every criterion.” His published ratios of the involvement of women to men ranged from 1.40 to 1.87. Data from his surveys included attendance, claimed religious beliefs, church membership, and overall attitudes.

        Christian writer Leon Podles concluded similarly in his 1999, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, noting that “men are largely absent from the Christian church of the modern Western world.” Podles assesses:

        “The most exact figures for the United States come from the 1936 Census, the last governmental tally of religious affiliation: in Eastern Orthodoxy the ratio of women to men is .75-.99 to one; Roman Catholics, 1.09 to one; Lutherans, 1.04-1.23 to one; Mennonites, 1.14-1.16 to one; Friends, 1.25 to one; Presbyterians, 1.34 to one; Episcopalians, 1.37 to one; Unitarians, 1.40 to one; Methodists, 1.33-1.47 to one; Baptists, 1.35 to one; Assembly of God, 1.71 to one; Pentecostalists, 1.71-2.09 to one; Christian Scientists, 3.19 to one.”

        A more recent 2009 study by the Pew Forum reported the respective ratios for women to men for several religious activities: “Are affiliated with a religion” (1.09); “Have absolutely certain belief in God or universal spirit” (1.18); “Pray at least daily” (1.35); “Say religion is very important in their lives” (1.29); “Have absolutely certain belief in a personal God” (1.29); and “Attend worship services at least weekly” (1.29). An even more recent study of Episcopalian “adherents” showed a ratio of 1.63 women to men.

        In an 1992 article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Tim B. Heaton discussed the gender distribution of Church members: “Latter-day Saints in Utah, other western states, and the South Pacific have gender ratios of approximately 95 males per 100 females, which is the value for the total U.S. population. Ratios in the Church are somewhat below the U.S. average in the eastern United States, Canada, and Asia, and females outnumber males by a large margin in Latin America and Europe.”

        These observations could support an enhanced propensity among women to obey a celestial law on earth but they are not conclusive. Just as the birth ratios appear to have favored males 105 to 100 over the past few centuries, the opposite trend for participation in Christianity has favored women to a greater degree. Unfortunately, neither observation allows for sweeping conclusions regarding the preceding millennia. In short, it does not appear that demographic observations can accurately predict whether more men or women will be eligible for exaltation. The only conclusion, perhaps, we can draw is that D&C 132 allows for a “plurality of wives” and disallows a “plurality of husbands.”

        Thanks,

        Brian

  21. Very interesting podcast on a very complex issue. All four (including Dan) of the of the participants (I think) are LDS but all four admitted that at least on its face polygamy is sexiest and degrading to women. All four agreed that while there were successful polygamous families polygamy and positive results from its practice that it often brought a lot of sorrow and stress to its participants. All four agreed that the essays of the Church are a positive step forward. I think all four would agree that woman’s voices need to be heard more in the polygamy discussion. However as to the divine origin of the practice only Brain made it clear that that he accepted Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants as a revelation from God. To me that it what makes it so interesting and so complex. Was plural marriage of God’s origin or the origin of man? The Essays are amazing. They are honest and straight forward — not perfect but a great step forward. My congratulations to the Church.

  22. Brian Hales comments in the podcast bothered my regarding his assertion that polygamy was only required during the time period between the 18 40’s through 1904. Not only have other posts shown definitive statements to the contrary, I am living proof of the Church’s continued policy which can only be concluded as doctrine to deny me two times my appeal for a sealing cancellation to my ex wife as I am sealed to my current wife as well. I believe polygamy is abhorrent. I’m forced to be a party of it spiritually. So for Brian Hales to say it was only required for a small part of history is not true in current church practice. What do you say?

    1. Forgive me for posting this four times here, but I think it is a clear declaration from Joseph F. Smith:
      However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

      It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle.

      Polygamy is not always commanded and it hasn’t been according to the Bible and Book of Mormon. I think that conclusion is historical. But neither do I find a quote saying every man in the Celestial Kingdom will be a polygamist. Do you have one?

      Brian

  23. Hey,
    Just adding a bit of light fun, am currently divorced from the one wife I was married to.
    Plural marriage, a lawyer’s dream!
    Lol.

    1. Speaking of light fun: Dave Allen (Irish comedian) once told a joke about an engaged couple turning up at the Pearly Gates after a car crash, and going to St Peter’s office to complain about the bad timing and could they please get married up here? St Peter grumbled into his beard and told them to return in a month. They did and were duly married. Another month later they returned to St Peter’s office and said, “We’ve made a terrible mistake. Can we get divorced?” and St Peter got really mad at them, and shouted, “I spent a MONTH trying to find a priest up here to marry you, and now you want me to look for a LAWYER???”

  24. I was really hoping that the church would use these essays to first come clean and then next distance themselves from polygamy. I wanted them to at least use the excuse,”We have no clue why this happened,” the same one they used regarding blacks and the priesthood until recently. In my opinion the conclusions that are drawn in each essay are overly simplistic. It disappoints me that they suggest that there are “innumerable” blessings that came from polygamy. I understand that they have taken something ugly, disturbing, and complicated and tried to make it into something palatable, but I think a more nuanced analysis would have been more useful.

  25. A neighbor investigating the Church asked me recently if the Prophet J.Smith was a Mason. I told him that during the Prophet’s era there was an excitement going around because of the masonry movements and if ever there’s a possibility that the Prophet was once a Mason then that will be an exercise of his right and discernment for what is good. I then followed it up for him the #13 of the Articles of Faith pointing out the line saying, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
    The next thing this neighbor asked me was about the Prophet’s practicing plural marriage and how he practically disregarded what he wrote in the BoM particularly in Jacob 2:27. I was not able to answer his question immediately because the Articles of Faith #13 prevented me from saying anything that will only appear as a defensive attempt on my part boarding on hypocrisy.
    Now, I just learned that after being a member for thirty years and thinking that I have all the answers but could not refute a question without contradicting what was written in the keystone of my religion, I guess it has become a futility to influence anyone especially for the non-believers who has an ax to grind at.

    1. I just have to comment on the idea that non-believers have an axe to grind. By non-believers, do you mean non-LDS, or non-Christians, or non-affiliated, or agnostics, or adamant atheists, or a combination or all of the above? And do you mean ALL individuals of whatever category you mean, or just SOME individuals? Because SOME people do perhaps have an axe to grind – but many people who ask questions or are skeptical of positions held by various religious and indeed other human organisations are motivated by very good reasons. They may not, for instance, want to be involved in organisations which have a shady past, or a shady present, or don’t stand up to logical scrutiny – and I would suggest that is a rational position to take. If people aren’t discerning, then the opposite of that is gullibility, which is far from being a good thing.

      I am writing about this because it’s very similar to this common evangelical misconception, “If people don’t want to hear about Jesus it’s because they prefer living their life of sin.” I think that particular argument is a very cheap argument, and actually a presumptuous and offensive argument, which unfortunately seems to satisfy a lot of (but by no means all) evangelicals, but is clearly not a foregone conclusion when you consider it logically, or indeed if you have talked to people from different belief positions and understand their actual reasons for sitting where they do.

      Some evangelicals don’t understand just how offensive their presumption of moral high ground can be to others, and are probably unaware of just how much they are assuming, not very educated about religion and philosophy in general, and generally not known for asking questions rather than leaping to conclusions. So when they get negative responses based on what is actually their obnoxiousness of approach, they often like to chalk it up to people preferring lives of sin: Message, “There’s something wrong with YOU, not with me.”

      I’ve seen that happen lots of times: And it’s usually the evangelising person who has their head in the sand. (Granted, they also meet people who are just rude and looking for a target to ridicule, but that’s not everyone, and I think not the majority.)

      People who have not had personal spiritual experiences have no strong reason to suppose that such things exist, and are right to be skeptical and ask questions. People who have had such experiences usually start looking.

      And while I’m writing about such subjects, as a non-denominational, grass roots Christian (holding that position based on personal spiritual experiences and the depth of the story of Christ) whom many people have tried to evangelise (absurdly) into Christianity, and (less absurdly) into their particular denominations, I’d like to commend every LDS missionary I’ve ever met for never, ever making presumptions about where I’m at with God. Total A+ to LDS here. So many others go around assuming others who don’t already go to their particular church are heathens and spiritually “empty bottles”!

      1. I was obliged to reply because of your interesting inquiry and I have to admit that I may have tread on someone’s toes lately because of my obnoxious approach but that was not really my intention when I mentioned the word “non-believers.” Since your effort to clarify was a healthy reaction, I have to re-educate myself and was able to learn further that there were 7 different types of non-believers as expounded by Valerie Tarico on AlterNet. This article made me aware that I don’t need to use the catch-all category word “non-believers” next time which doesn’t apply to my skeptical neighbor. I should have labeled him as that of a confrontational seeker whom I appraised as having an ax to grind.
        I also appreciate how you mentioned that you are a non-denominational grass roots Christian and found to my relief that your identification as I was reading from that article does not include you as a non-believer but just the same no offense meant on my part. God Bless!

        1. Hey Jeshuron, God bless you too, and I didn’t think you were being obnoxious! 🙂 Just, this MM blog group is one of the most unobnoxious and carefully considering online groups I’ve ever seen debating religious issues (which is why I’m still here), and that (mild) comment (and generalisation) about non-believers with axes to grind just tapped my head and all these things fell out, so I thought I’d share them, hoping they might be useful to somebody. When people debate things, and it’s a good debate, it’s a bit like sharpening each others’ wits and widening views…and this is certainly such a place. Thank you for your comments and sorry if there was any lack of clarity. Have a brilliant day! 🙂

  26. A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast (can’t remember which) and somebody used a quote that went something like this: “Those who are hurt the worst by a faith crisis in leadership are those who placed the most faith in the group/organization/religion.

    Can anyone help me find the quote?

  27. One question I had for Barbara Jones was where we can find scans of the Juarez High council minutes 1890 – 1904, and the diaries of Abraham H. Cannon also from this period. A few quotes from the prophet and members of the first presidency certainly speak of continuing to raise up seed through concubines after the 1890 manifesto.

    “Father [George Q. Cannon] now spoke of the unfortunate condition of the people at present in regard to marriage.
    I believe in concubinage, or some plan whereby men and women can live together under sacred ordinances and vows until they can be married…. such a condition would have to be kept secret, untill the laws of our government change to permit the holy order of wedlock which God has revealed, which will undoubtedly occur at no distant day, in order to correct the social evil.” AHC April 5, 1894, vol 18, p70

    “I have no doubt but concubinage will yet be practiced in this church, but I had not thought of it in this connection. When the nations are troubled good women will come here for safety and blessing, and men will accept them as concubines.” Lorenzo Snow AHC April 5, 1894, vol 18, p70

    “If men enter into some practice of this character to raise a righteous posterity, they will be justified in it. The day is near when there will be no difficulty in the way of good men securing noble wives.” President Wilford Woodruff, April 5, 1894, vol 18, p70

  28. Brian,
    Thank you for all the research you’ve done and for participating in this podcast.

    Question for you:
    You mentioned a couple of times (I think) that there are historical records that the church still won’t release but they let you look at them and that there wasn’t anything real noteworthy (sorry-I know I’m putting words in your mouth. Please forgive me).
    Why are they hiding ANY records at all? Are their legal reasons? Privacy issues? Verification issues? What’s the hold up, do you know? If there is nothing to hide why hide anything?

    Let’s just lay it all out there…. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again to you and all of the panelists!

    1. Hi Jay,

      I hope I’ve never said that the Church Historical Library ever denied me access because they never did and never have.

      However, there are three categories of documents they will always restrict: (1) sacred temple documents; (2) documents dealing with Church discipline; and (3) Minutes from meetings held by the leadership.

      I argue this is not an attempt to hide things or sensor history.

      Recently I sat by Michael Marquardt on a plane ride to Kansas City. He was raving about how open the Church has become. At the John Whitmer Historical Association meeting in Iowa, I mentioned this to Elder Steven Snow, Church Historian. He said: “Transparency is important” and added: “The Internet is allowing the Church to do many things it couldn’t before.”

      I personally hope that the voices that cray “cover-up” will take a new look and stop their unjustified criticisms.

      Thanks,

      Brian

  29. Brian, Barb and Todd, that was a wonderful podcast, I enjoyed each person’s contribution.

    Brian, you said that the leaders did not teach that all had to live the law of polygamy and the other panelists were not with you on that point. How is it that you have studied so much for so long and say you cannot find any place where the Saints were commanded to live the law of plural marriage?

    “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).

    Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire….Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, AND THE LORD’S SERVANTS HAVE ALWAYS PRACTICED IT. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ it is the only popular religion there.
    Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

    Isn’t the whole doctrine of the church about becoming gods? Isn’t that what the whole temple ceremony is based on?

    If you heard those kinds of pronouncements from the mouths of ‘servants of the lord’ and you wanted to rise with the just to the full measure of your creation, would you not think that it was required of you to live that law?

    It is demeaning to the early Saints who sacrificed so much to live up to all the ‘scripture’ that Brigham claimed he taught.

    1. With respect, Jeanikins, the wider Christian view as to why polygamy was practiced in the OT is that it was in part a historical necessity in a society where a lot of the men were killed off in unceasing wars, leaving a large number of widows, and a general high proportion of women as opposed to men. Also, of course, in OT times the social status of women was not exactly equal, it was more like “property of men” and a status symbol for some guys to commandeer as many as they could, which is really rather Darwinian, not so much a symbol of such people’s personal maturity and higher-level ethics.

      An aside though, just on a logical front: So how would those OT polygamous marriages end up in heaven? Would a widow whose first beloved husband died in a war and was married polygamously by his brother, as was the practice in Levirate marriage, in the eternities be returned to her first love, or be stuck with the brother, if he happened to be some patriarch considered of higher importance? And what if she loved both equally in the end, how would she choose – or do you think she wouldn’t get any choice in the matter? I personally think all this gets kind of fishy and difficult. You might end up with a sort of hippy commune where everyone in a group is married to everyone else for historical and/or emotional reasons. Or not. My head hurts. Sometimes leaving some things open-ended is far less migraine-inducing than insisting they will conform to some dubious piece of theology, no matter what the logical and ethical difficulties.

    2. PS: Not trying to assign you to any particular side of the fence, just responding to some of the things quoted, and sorry if that’s unclear. 🙂

    3. jeanikins,

      I was having the same thoughts that you expressed and was even thinking of the some of the same quotes.

      I know that Brian gave a very specific set of circumstances of which he said he has not found historical evidence. If I remember correctly, I think he was giving himself an out by saying he has never found a teaching by a prophet which said “all people, at all times, are commanded to obey the law of plural marriage”.

      But clearly from your quotes and many others it was taught that to be in become a God you must enter into polygamy. Now did he say all people at all times need to obey this?

      Brian is correct.

      But did he also clarify that only people living between 1840 and 1890 need to live this law in order to become Gods and then everyone else in all other times have a different law?

      NO. He didn’t teach that either.

      Which would leave a rational and faithful saint to take his prophets teachings to their clear conclusions.

      The issue for me, is did a prophet at any time teach principles and/or doctrines that would lead a saint to believe that polygamy or the acceptance of polygamy is a requirement to get into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom?

      The answer would be yes.

      Did a prophet teach at any time a principle and/or doctrine that demonized the practice of monogamy, which would lead a rational and faithful saint to believe that since monogamy is an evil practice that it would not be the standard in heaven.

      The answer would be yes.

      Brian’s carefully worded statement is true.

      But so are these other statements.

      Prophets teach doctrines and principles all the times and then clarify them or directly contradict them in the future all the time. I see this as just another example of the mormon experience.

      Just take birth control as an example.

      Is birth control allowed by members today? Yes.

      Was it ever taught that the practice of birth control was evil and that if you used it you would have the ability to procreate taken away from you in the eternities? Yes.

      Mormon leaders teach conflicting doctrines and policies all the time.

      This is an example where I see Brian Hales as technically correct according to his carefully worded statement and completely wrong at the same time with regards to the impact on the saints at the time.

      With all due respect to a person who has dedicated himself to defending and clarifying a very challenging principle.

    4. Hi jeanikins,

      Thanks for the post.

      Perhaps you have looked at my responses to several who have quoted the proof text from Brigham Young—the same one that you mentioned. “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory.” By extracting this quotation from the entire discourse, multiple authors create a proof-text that indicates Brigham Young was saying all men in the Celestial Kingdom are practicing polygamists.

      However, earlier in the same discourse President Young proclaimed the more general commandment that the Saints were obligated to follow telling the congregation, “If you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained.” Brigham Young pointed out that the principle of plural marriage, which constitutes one aspect of celestial marriage, must be faithfully accepted by all exalted beings, whether they practice it or not.

      You also quoted: “Why do we believe in and practise polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it.” In that same sermon, Brigham also said: “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of Heaven among men.” This is totally true. Polygamy will exist there. There will be no “restriction” to monogamy.

      Yet through thousands of searches by scholars, polygamists, fundamentalists, and other interested parties, no unambiguous statement declaring that to be exalted, a man must be a polygamist in eternity has been found. But. . . maybe we have missed something?

      Let me observe that if that were a true teaching, as so many fundamentalists hope, it would be a very easy statement to make. In fact, I just said it. One sentence or maybe two would teach it. However, I affirm that no presiding priesthood authority has ever said it. It is not a true doctrine.

      Let’s not forget that between 1840s and 1890, the Brethren sought to encourage their listeners to comply with the commandment then incumbent upon them. Those leader had no motive to discuss how other peoples living at other times could be exalted through eternal monogamy, but when we look closely at their statements, it is plain that eternal monogamy, when polygamy is not commanded, will bring exaltation and “godhood.” See D&C 132:19-20.

      Feel free to disagree but I’d hate to be the person who has to tell all the righteous Book of Mormon believers that they will miss out on exaltation due strictly to their monogamy.

      Thanks,

      Brian

  30. I just finished this very well done podcast. Each participant did an excellent job of presenting their points and Dan did a great job of interviewing.

    I am a “decades out” former Mormon that likes to keep in touch with Mormon issues, and should say that in the 90s, while discussing these things with local leaders, was told that these very facts were not true and promoted by anti-Mormons. Even though many apologists seem to claim that “everybody knew these things about Joseph,” I will say it is not so.

    I am anxious to read/hear Brian Hales’ response to the quotes listed above. I suspect he may say that these were their opinions at the time (?) rather than unchanging doctrine, but his response will be very interesting.

    Thanks!

  31. I wanted to thank Barbara for her stunning insight on the perspective that has forever been absent from any discussion on polygamy… that of the women who participated. It is absolutely true that the Church’s essays not only come at this from a male perspective, but also with the intent of painting all of it in a glowingly positive light.

    I also wanted to thank Barbara for bringing up the fact that even post second manifesto “plural” marriages were conducted by and with the approval and knowledge of the First Presidency. Todd’ story of a woman standing up in a California conference defending her ancestors is pretty close to mine. My great grandfather was John Canon. He married two women after the second Manifesto (IN UTAH, NOT MEXICO or CANADA) with the knowledge and approval of Joseph F. Smith.

    Many relatives have left the Church because of the lies and deceptions by none less than the president of the church in matters relating to our own family history.

    I was frustrated that the Church’s article attempts to paint a squeaky clean picture that after the second manifesto the leaders got serious and started excommunicating anyone who entered into plural marriages. That just isn’t so. I’m getting tired of the secrets leaders seem to hold. This continues into our day where there are secret groups and privileged people receiving their second anointed etc. What kind of a church is this? So many secrets….

    Brian. Why do you insist that there will be more women than men in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom? You do see that you are interpreting scripture right? I mean… D&C 132 does not say *exactly* what you say and interpret. (A rhetorical/reasoning device you use to argue for past leaders never saying exactly that polygamy was/is/will be required for full exaltation).

    Why do you assume there will be a finite number of people “in” the CK? Doesn’t God have infinite posterity? Wouldn’t that infinite supply of sons and daughters make it possible for everyone to have one spouse?

    Why is sealing required for a fullness of existence?

    You (Brian) seem to be concerned that if people are correct that leaders have taught that polygamy is required for a fullness of glory then we will all either have to fall in line with that and become fundamentalists or leaders are clearly out of line and therefore not prophets at all. You seem reluctant to see yourself as an apologist… but you are pushing your interpretations on your analysis. Which is okay, I just think you need to acknowledge this. After all, there is no such thing as objective history. The best historians are the honest historians… in other words, the historians who are able to acknowledge their own bias and view it’s weaknesses as well as strengths.

    All in all a very, very good podcast. I would like to hear more from Todd. I’m looking forward to Barbara’s work on post manifesto polygamy.

    1. Hi DP,

      I have answered your first question about the disproportion of worthy men and women above. D&C 132 anticipates more worthy women than men. Scientific studies into birth ratios and receptiveness of men/women to Christian theology cancel each other, but neither contain data back more than 300 years.

      As Christ said, there is not marrying in the Celestial Kingdom (Matthew 22:30). These things must be attended to here on earth. Let’s remember that Joseph Smith asked about how God justified polygamy and God’s answer was that every person needed an eternal spouse or they can’t be exalted (D&C132:16-17). Sometimes people discount my discussions on this, but it is very plainly taught in D&C 132.

      You ask why a “sealing” is required for exaltation. I’ll have to refer you to Joseph Smith’s God for an answer. He hasn’t given us that level of detail.

      I do not believe any presiding priesthood leader has ever taught all men must be polygamists to be exalted, irrespective of the time and place they have lived on earth.

      You say I am reluctant to see my self as an “apologist.” I’m not a fan of labels, but I can live with them. My experience is that people resort to labels when they run out of evidences to support their contradictory opinion. It is called ad hominem attacks.

      I say, let’s talk evidence. We may not agree, but everyone wins.

      Take Care,

      Brian

      1. “I’m not a fan of labels, but I can live with them. My experience is that people resort to labels when they run out of evidences to support their contradictory opinion. It is called ad hominem attacks.”

        Way to put a label on it.

  32. Quinn “New Plural Marriages” Spring ’85 Dialogue paints the picture that leading up to the Manifesto virtually nobody believed polygamy could end:

    President John Taylor never gave the impression that the Lord could ever rescind the law of plural marriage. In 1879 John Taylor told the October general conference that “no legislative enactment, nor judicial rulings” would stop the Latter-day Saints from obeying God’s command to practice plural marriage. In 1882 President Taylor responded to the Edmunds Law by asking “Are we going to suffer a surrender of this point? . . . No, never! No, never!” He also refused to appoint Seymour B. Young to the quorum of Seventies as a monogamist, plural marriage was a requirement of presiding church leaders. As pressures to abandon the practice mounted President Taylor dug in even deeper. In 1884 he underlined this requirement by asking all monogamists in ward bishoprics or stake presidencies to either marry a plural wife or resign from church office. Again on February 1, 1885 in a public address he answered the question about giving in to the federal government and renouncing polygamy: “No, Never! No, NEVER! NO, NEVER!”

    During the 1884-86 period there were numerous appeals by prominent Mormons and friendly non-Mormons for President Taylor to issue a statement or new revelation that would set aside the practice of plural marriage. Burdened by his own exile and the sufferings of other church members, he “asked the Lord if it would not be right under the circumstances to discontinue plural marriages,” in response to which President Taylor received “the word of the Lord to him in which the Lord said that plural marriage was one of his eternal laws and that He had established it, that man had not done so and that He would sustain and uphold his saints in carrying it out.”

    In 1881 Wilford Woodruff told the Latter-day Saints in two published sermons that “if we were to give up polygamy today,” we would have to give up revelation, prophets, apostles, temple ordinances, and the church itself. At the October 1884 general conference, George Q. Cannon said that the appeal for a new revelation to “lay polygamy aside” was in vain because such a revelation would be useless “unless indeed the people should apostatize.” In April 1885, the Deseret Evening News editorialized concerning “the demand that plural marriage relationship be abolished,” and stated, “Were the church to do that as an entirety God would reject the Saints as a body. The authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn . . . and the Lord would raise up another people of greater valor and stability.”

    George Q. Cannon declared in November 1885 to George L. Miller, an emissary from the Cleveland administration, that even if the First Presidency issued such a statement, the Latter-day Saints would not accept it, “and if they did, and we were to repudiate this principle our Church would cease to be the Church of God, and the ligaments that now bind it together would be severed.”

    At the dedication of the Manti temple on May 17, 1888 President Woodruff said, “We are not going to stop the practice of plural marriage until the coming of the Son of Man.”

    In a meeting with the quorum of the twelve (around 1889), President Woodruff offered a document “asking them to conform their lives to the Laws of Congress,” and told them “it is of the greatest importance that we decide by the Spirit what decision to make regarding the same” then asked the apostles to express themselves. After an overwhelming repudiation Woodruff praised the apostles, “Had we yielded to that document every man of us would have been under condemnation before God. The Lord never will give a revelation to abandon plural marriage.”

    On November 24, 1889 Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal a revelation which reads in part: “Let not my servants who are called to the Presiden­cy of my church, deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men…. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.” Which, it seems would eliminate the possibility of publicly denouncing polygamy, or promising to abandon it.

    With such strong statements fresh in the minds of the Apostles it is no wonder President Woodruff did not attempt to gain a consensus before issuing the Manifesto.

    1. Hi Orson,

      You have correctly portrayed the teachings of several leaders during the 1880s. Other similar quotes could be found from that period.

      However, regarding the cessation of plural marriage, it might be argued that only one view really matters. That is the interpretation of the “one” man designated in D&C 132:7, 18, and 19, who must authorize all eternal sealings. His opinion is the only one with any practical importance because he alone controls the power to continue or discontinue the practice of plural marriage. Yours and mine really don’t count for much.

      It might be argued the Joseph Smith foresaw the day when individuals would try to practice polygamy based upon their interpretations of old quotes etc. D&C 132:18 states:

      “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.”

      Notice that the individuals could be very sincere and feel they were guided by the Holy Spirit. They could also use an alter and a man could use the same words that are spoken in the temple afterwards declaring that they are sealed for time and all eternity. BUT IT WOULDN’T MATTER according to this verse. Why? Because they must have the authority of the “one” man, the keyholder mentioned in D*C 132:7. At least that is how I read that verse. Isn’t it interesting that God says that His house I “a house of order” twice in D&C 132:8 18. Order not sincerity governs new valid plural marriages.

      The need for the authorization from the key holder might be illustrated in a story about a group of teens playing baseball. After many hours of exertion and enjoyment, they congregate on the pitcher’s mound to decide if they should quit or play more innings. Just then, the boy who owns the groups’ only baseball grabs the ball and states: “I’m going home now.” He walks away with the ball leaving the other athletes. At that point, the remaining baseball players could share strong testimonies that they should keep playing or they could engage in a group prayer. They might feel strong personal burnings that they should not stop. Regardless, they could not proceed because they have no baseball. They might proceed using a rock, or dirt clod, or apple in place of a ball. Yet, they would not be playing true baseball but rather a counterfeit. Similarly, it seems that the only opinion that matters regarding the significance of the 1886 revelation or the 1890 and 1904 manifestos is the opinion of the key holder mentioned in D&C 132:7, 18, 19.

      This is the situation of all fundamentalists today. They are certain they must practice polygamy, but their claims to authority (and I’ve researched and written on all of the primary lines), are not defensible historically and theologically—at least in my view.

      John Taylor was the “one” man prior to his death and then the keys passed to Wilford Woodruff who issued the manifesto. Joseph F. Smith in 1904 was the keyholder and after his return from Washington in April, he stopped authorizing any new plural marriages. This is the truth.

      Attempts to practice it today are “not valid” and Brigham Young would declare them to be adultery See Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1835-1893, Salt Lake City: Privately Published, 2010, 130. See also Hosea Stout’s record in Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844-1861, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964, 1:289. See also Minutes of Public and Private Meetings [Dec 2-Dec7, 1847]: Meetings of Apostles, Ms, 16 pages, handwritten, in MS1234, Misc Minutes, BY Papers, CHL

      Take Care,

      Brian

      1. Brian,
        Your bold statements about “the truth” is what concerns me the most about many of your positions and many of the doctrines of the church.
        Real Truth, to me, is unchanging. Eternal truths, to me again, cannot change. There are so many documentable “changes” to the truth within the “one true church” that it becomes very difficult to believe that it can even be a true church. On my personal quest for truth the most egregious truth contradiction comes in the Book of Commandments that was changed in the first issue of the D&C pertaining to Joseph Smiths authority.
        There are so many evolving and contradictory thruths within the church that make a truthseeker question the authenticity of it all. Now I believe I could continue in faith if these truths were actually just evolving but many of the doctrine truths we have been taught are contradictory. Truth, especially Eternal Truth, cannot be contradictory. So when a prophet makes a statement as prophet it cannot change if he, presumably, is speaking for the Lord. Eternal Truth can’t change. If what he says is eventually blatantly contradicted (especially when speaking about eternal truths) then he was never speaking the truth, he is, to me, lying. I don’t believe any man who under the pretense of divine authority could indeed be speaking with divine authority if his “truths” are eventually contradicted by those who follow him, or in many cases eventually contradicted by himself. I don’t feel any of our prophets are legitimate because of the untruths they themselves spoke or penned. I also feel strongly that under the guise of speaking for the Lord, it should always be true. It could be written in stone, UNCHANGING. My interpretation of eternity is that it started in the BEGINNING so we are actually living relatively early in eternity right now. So if an eternal truth is taught it must be lived by now.
        Many Divine Prophecies have also been made that have failed to come to pass at the appointed time. To me, one failed prophecy spoken as coming from God makes illegitimate the prophet himself because God’s will shall be done.

        Please give my your thoughts on mine.

        Thank you,

        1. I’m clearly not Brian, but I read your post with interest and agreement. It’s the kind of issue that keeps me out of truth claim churches, and firmly nondenominational.

          I spent some time teaching in Catholic schools in my 30s and that included RE. I thought it was really interesting how Catholicism had moved on from where I thought they might sit on many issues. I don’t think their Pope makes many “direct line to God” statements these days (which I really doubt can be claimed by any leader of an institution anyway), and Catholics don’t have nearly the same “truth claim” baggage to deal with these days as LDS – probably because for them, open disagreement – even very vocal disagreement – with their hierarchy and its teachings is a normal part of life and usually doesn’t seem to result in the kind of third degree and threats of excommunication experienced by LDS I’ve heard on Mormon Stories etc.

          I remember once, when I was in Sydney teaching at a Catholic Girls’ School, the local Archbishop made an odious statement to the media in response to the paedophilia cover-up issue in the Catholic church where he infamously said that “Abortion is worse than paedophilia” – i.e. distracting from the actual issue, and counter-attacking the congregation / public. Being a non-Catholic, I kept my lips diplomatically sealed at work the next day, but to my great surprise, the lunch room was filled that day with practicing Catholics voicing my own thoughts in no uncertain terms – not just a few of them, but the vast majority of them. The place was buzzing like a hive of angry bees. After a while, I chimed in and said, “Well, I’m not Catholic so I wasn’t going to say anything, but I agree…so how do you deal with your own hierarchy making statements like that on a regular basis, and still go to your church?” And they said to me, “It’s OUR church, OUR community, that’s why we go, those guys are just the *career Catholics* – a bunch of bureaucrats who think they know more than they actually do.”

          Catholicism, like LDS, has many cultural / community components one is born into and brought up with, so Catholics are often not interested in letting go of their cultural and spiritual identities as Catholics because they disagree with the “men at the top” – the majority of practicing Catholics I’ve met reclaim Catholicism on their own terms instead… and it seems to me that this can be a creative solution that works for them and their communities.

          Interestingly, the Catholic Youth Bible commentary at one point defines prophecy as “seeing past external appearances into the hearts of people and events…commitment to total honesty even if it hurts…inspiration to make needed changes and giving of hope for the future…” and says, “Christians are called through their baptism to be priest and prophet…” i.e. this kind of broadens the definition of priesthood and prophecy, and if a congregation owns that for themselves, then the career people really are just the career people…

  33. If it weren’t for this pesky internet, the LDS Church wouldn’t be admitting that Joseph Smith married a young woman “several months before her fifteenth birthday.” If there were no internet, very few of their members would even be asking them about this. The circumstances unfortunately forced them to be honest. This is not something anyone should thank them for.

    People trusted the church because it professed belief in being honest. But honesty was not Joseph Smith’s virtue. And many of the people around him who knew his dark secrets simply tolerated him. The few who opposed him were demonized and persecuted. Until our day, this seems to be the church’s policy: To portray Smith as though he was a paragon of righteousness. That’s why people like Quinn and those who point out the inconvenient truth are still harmed by the church. That’s how the church has behaved since its founding.

    If the church were a criminal organization whose underlying principle included deception, then concealing the truth would be understandable. If such organization suddenly turned around and became honest, then that would be something to thank for. But the church isn’t a criminal organization. Therefore, there’s nothing to thank it if it practices what it believes.

    Do we thank our banks if they handle our money honestly? No. We assume they will be honest with us everyday. Why then should we thank the church for being honest? Why, especially when we know Google just forced it to be?

    1. Your general statement that the church systematically lied by withholding the fact that JS was a polygamist until Google forced the truth out of them is just not accurate. If it were then I never would have learned about it from a seminar lesson my sophomore year of High School. Before the internet had even been invented. But I did.

      So there’s a difference between preaching it from the roof tops (which the church didn’t do), and systematically lying to withhold it until forced to admit it as you purpose (which it didn’t do).

      Does that mean every seminary kid got the same lesson I did? No, and it’s unfortunate. But I know I’m not the only kid that did from the only teacher that ever taught it. So your assumption about the entire church’s willful deceit is incorrect. That being said, I do wish they’d been more forthcoming so more could have learned about it sooner, to be sure.

      1. SLSDM,

        I am criticizing what seemed to me unnecessary gratitude to the church for being honest. When we do that, we treat the church as if it’s a teenager trying to learn what honesty means. The church is older than us. Most of its leaders are old men. They should behave as such, that is, they should be more honest than teenagers. Do we pat the backs of bankers when they behave honestly? No we don’t. And church leaders shoukd act better than bankers. That’s my point.

        I never said anything about systematic lying by the church.

        However, before Google came along, whenever polygamy was talked about by chapel Mormons, the justification for it has always been “there were more women than men because the men were killed during persecutions.” Now is this a systematic lie? No. It’s a legend that’s been tolerated for so long because it served a purpose. It promotes faith. By hiding gross moral transgressions.

      2. Hey SLSDM, just out of curiosity, were you taught that out of the initiative and personal interest in the subject of the person who taught you, or was that person encouraged from higher up in the ranks to do it?

        1. I have no idea why. I only remember getting the lesson that included an account of JS discussing the revelation with (if I remember correctly) Hyrum, and JS’s dread of telling Emma because he knew how she’d feel about it. It was over 20 years ago and I don’t remember a lot more than that.

  34. I’ve been listening to your show for a while but this is the first time I have left a comment, although I often read them. (I went out and bought the Dramatized History of the Church after reading about it in the comment thread of an earlier episode and love it so far.)

    A name that came up in this episode piqued my interest and led me do some genealogical digging (not a regular habit of mine since I am not Mormon and never have been), and it turns out that there’s a Mormon pioneer in at least one polygamist in my family tree. I’m the only person in my family who’s gotten excited about this fact 🙂

  35. Came across this yesterday. Another quote I believe supports the argument that plural marriage was in fact taught as an exalting doctrine. I wish Brian would respond to these if he disagrees.

    “Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I wish here, to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it to be false. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage IN PART –and is good so far as it goes–and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefore, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain a fulness of the blessings pertaining to the celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. He cannot receive the fulness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism, though he may repent in sackcloth and ashes.”
    “I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in the Church who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned. I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify, in the name of Jesus that it does mean that.” (Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, pp. 28, 30, 31 (emphasis added))

  36. I’m coming into this really late. I’m about half way through the podcast and there has come into the discussion the element of the experiences of men versus the experiences of women on this subject. I believe from what was said that polygamy has been much more traumatic for the women than for the men. So what does that mean? Well, either a lot of men are going to burn in hell or a lot of women are going to be chastised for being so hard hearted. In the end, though, I can’t help wonder what either group understands, or understood, about the Lord’s Church.
    In other blogging discussions I’ve been involved in I’ve heard the statement from LDS and nonLDS alike, something to the effect, that, the LDS church does not have the edge on savation. Well, yes we do!! We are the only group of people on earth to whom the Lord has given the keys of the priesthood making this Church only organization on the face of the earth that can perform a valid baptism whereby we can receive a remission of our sins and be spiritually cleansed wihtout which we would be in hell forever. No other organization can provide that kind of baptism. God has told me these things. If anybody else wants to know these things, He will tell them, also. So, what does that all do? It helps me to deal with any subject without trusting ‘in the arm of flesh’, (sec. 1). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church, no matter what. He organized it and put leaders into it and He will take them out of it when He sees fit and not when we see fit.
    I agree with the comment made, that seems to say, that the leaders of the Church need to come out and just say it the way it is and not worry about whether I, or anyone else, will fall away from the Church or not. If they said anything that made me fall away from the Church, they would have to say something that would show me that what I already know to be true, is after all, not true at all. Sorry, they just won’t be able to do that. This, being true, will help me a lot in my own study of the Church and the quest for truth. If done right, on my part, I will gain a greater strength in supporting the leadership of the Church without depending on them for an understanding of the gospel. I will be pleasing to God, without understanding the whole truth and continue faithful even after learning it.
    I am all for this kind of attention to all subjects in religion. To the scholars, I say, it would not be apporpriate for me to put this kind of attention into it so I am grateful for those can and do put forth the effort. Scholars – Keep up the good work. Everybody else. Study that work with God at your side.

    1. Hey Rich, just a few thoughts from a non-LDS non-denominational Christian here who doesn’t bat for any of Christianity’s many splinter groups…

      “We are the only group of people on earth to whom the Lord has given the keys of the priesthood making this Church only organization on the face of the earth that can perform a valid baptism…”

      And thusly say a number of other “we’re the one true church” restorationist groups – and the Catholic Church also used to claim this initially post-Reformation, before they relaxed and breathed a bit.

      “…whereby we can receive a remission of our sins and be spiritually cleansed wihtout which we would be in hell forever.”

      Wow, it’s funny, none of my LDS friends are that fire-and-brimstone! My previous experience is that of the fundamentalist faiths, LDS are generally unlikely to think everyone outside their organisation is going to hell…

      Anyone here care to be part of another impromptu survey?

      “No other organization can provide that kind of baptism. God has told me these things. If anybody else wants to know these things, He will tell them, also.”

      I think to be fair, rationally you can only say *you believe* God has told you these things – not that God *has* told you these things. I suppose I am now banging on about the same thing I hear often on MM / MS podcasts – nuanced LDS or ex-LDS people being critical of an *objectively* unjustifiable use of words like *know*, where *believe* would be the more appropriate word.

      There are sooooo many people who “know” all sorts of things, many of them contradictory, because “God told them so”… One person will be “told” the exact opposite of what another was “told”… and both will passionately invoke the old chestnut that the other (never the self) is “deceived by Satan”… Very ugly, if you ask me…and a wee bit bordering on pathological…

      God has never “told” me that there is only one acceptable denomination, or that he has one official body only to “represent him”… whereas I actually *believe* that Christ represented him extraordinarily well, especially compared to the competition for that accolade… and yes, I have asked directly. Ask around and you’ll find that lots of sincere people never got a “yes” to the question of whether LDS (or other contenders) is the “true” church – and this includes people brought up LDS. Also, warm fuzzy feelings and a passionate conviction do not necessarily divine revelation make…

      I kind of prefer it when, regardless of the passion of their own personal convictions, people at least preserve an attitude of *intellectual* humility towards all questions that are not objectively verifiable… the objective understanding that there is a possibility that you could be mistaken. This also has the nice side-effect of promoting really deep and genuinely respectful interfaith dialogue, and a “brotherhood of man” (or should that be “siblinghood of humanity” 😉 ) that is not dependent on arguing everyone into your own particular convictions, values and opinions.

      If anyone here feels they can see God reflected in nature, then doesn’t it strike you that nature favours diversity… while many *people* like to make monocultures instead…? Which of these alternatives is the more beautiful, inspirational, synergistic, stable, resilient, rich… (add your own adjectives!)

      Kind regards, from a metaphorical sister! 🙂

      1. Sue:
        “We are the only group of people on earth to whom the Lord has given the keys of the priesthood making this Church only organization on the face of the earth that can perform a valid baptism…”
        “…whereby we can receive a remission of our sins and be spiritually cleansed without which we would be in hell forever.”
        That’s not a statement of boast. It’s a statement of fact. God really came to Joseph Smith and gave him those keys and that being reality why on earth would He give them to someone else? Especially when He disagrees with what they are
        teaching. (“the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight”) Oh, sorry, that’s such a negative statement….or whatever.

        “God has told me these things.” (You know what? I just love quoting myself.) Let me show you a verse of scripture in our Doctrine and Covenants:

        “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.” (D&C 1:2)

        Now what I say is my interpretation of those words. Of all those hearts that will be penetrated, one of which will be your heart, relatively few will ever have seen God or heard His voice in this life which is to say that I’m not backing off from what I have said – God has told me these things. Now as far as going to hell forever goes, I’ve had that one delivered to me a time or two and it’s when I thought I was talking to Latter-day Saints and so, to clear that up a little, the Church teaches that there is post mortal spirit world teaching going on that will keep very, very many people far away from any part or portion of hell.

        “… and yes, I have asked directly.” Good, keep asking. It will be worth your time.

        As far as the “ sooooo many people who “know” all sorts of things, many of them contradictory, because “God told them so”” goes—– I don’t know. Wade through it. I’m sorry that I’m one of them. Just remember, Your heart WILL be penetrated. The soooo many people will not be an excuse for your lack of knowledge. You WILL know.

        “If anyone here feels they can see God reflected in nature, then doesn’t it strike you that nature favours diversity… while many *people* like to make monocultures instead…? Which of these alternatives is the more beautiful, inspirational, synergistic, stable, resilient, rich… (add your own adjectives!)”
        You’ve got enough adjectives. Let’s just end the question.
        “God”….”favors diversity”. Yeah, I suppose He does. He created you and me. That’s enough diversity for me.

        Kind regards, from a literal brother! (Smiley face – I don’t know how to type that stuff.)

  37. Hey Rich, thanks for your reply. We’ll have to agree to disagree about what facts are: I look at those sorts of things in a hard-nosed way, and someone saying that God did XYZ with Person ABC is, legally speaking, hearsay, and scientifically speaking, not *empirically* verifiable, and even things a person thinks God told them don’t qualify as *facts* – they are subjective experiences. I’ve had such subjective experiences and I decided to take them seriously, and periodically, when I reflect on them, decide I don’t want to dismiss them. My particular subjective experiences have definitely *not* pointed me at any particular church. Possibly what we need is different, and we require different paths. But while we can both legitimately comment that each other’s experiences of that sort are *subjective* rather than objective, I think we can’t make truth claims for each other. That doesn’t mean we can’t respect where each other is at! 🙂

    Smilies are easy. Just use : then – then ) all together like on an old phone! 😉

    Greetings from Down Under!

  38. Lots of information that I can’t even begin to shed further light upon in commenting. Nonetheless, this discussion shed some light for me about coping with conflict and remaining a member. I personally have struggled with what I understand juxtaposed to what LDS culture or at times leadership expects or seems to demand. I have experienced much discord or “pain,” as better described by those women who lived polygamy and still remained faithful. After listening and coming to an understanding, I realized that difficulties I am experiencing have not reached the levels of which some of these women experienced. So I have to ask myself, why did they stay? It is far then easier for me to stay and work it out, because I too still feel the call to remain. These woman are now shining beacons in example to me as I work out my spiritual thoughts and beliefs.

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