I’ve always been rather fascinated with the “fruits” of Joseph Smith’s polygamy.
Orson Pratt, who was an early defender of plural marriage, often explained that its purpose was to participate in the blessings of Abraham and to more effectively populate worlds:
“Therefore, a Father… could increase his kingdoms with his own children, in a hundred fold ratio above that of another who had only secured to himself one wife. As yet, we have only spoken of the hundred fold ratio as applied to his own children; but now let us endeavor to form some faint idea of the multiplied increase of worlds peopled by his grandchildren, over which he, of course, would hold authority and dominion as the Grand Patriarch of the endless generations of his posterity. …the one-hundredth generation would people more worlds than could be expressed by raising one million to the ninety-ninth power.” (The Seer, March 1853, p. 39)
Brigham Young concurred with Pratt when he stated:
“This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed, that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197.)
The Book of Mormon is supportive of these conclusions. Although Jacob teaches that many of David and Solomon’s marriages were not sanctioned
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord…there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. (Jac. 2:24-29)
he also outlines the conditions under which he would approve polygamy:
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30)
If the purpose of polygamy was to populate this world and the next, why did Joseph Smith have so little success in raising up posterity from his polygamous wives?
Over the years, there have been claims that some of Joseph’s plural wives had children by him. A thorough search of all children who could possibly have been sired by Joseph has been made. Each of the children of Joseph’s polygamous wives between the time they contracted marriage and Joseph’s death in 1844 were considered. Nine people have been identified by historians as being possible children of Joseph Smith:
- George Algernon Lightner (son of Mary Rollins Lightner who was also married to Adam Lightner), and Orson Washington Hyde (son of Marinda Johnson Hyde who was also married to Orson Hyde). These two children died as infants.
- Moroni Llewellyn Pratt (son of Mary Ann Frost Pratt, who was also married to Parley P. Pratt), Zebulon Jacobs (son of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith, who was also married to Henry Bailey Jacobs) and Orrison Smith (son of Fanny Alger). These three alleged male descendants were ruled out by DNA testing in 2005.
- Mosiah Hancock (son of Clarissa Reed Hancock, who was married to Levi Hancock), Oliver Buell (son of Prescindia Huntington Buell, who was also married to Norman Buell). DNA testing also ruled out these two males in 2007.
- That leaves John Reed Hancock (son of Clarissa Reed Hancock, above) and Josephine Rosetta Lyon (daughter of Sylvia Sessions Lyon, who was also married to Windsor Lyon.)
I have included the Hancock sons despite the fact that Todd Compton and most reliable Joseph Smith specialists do not recognize Clarissa Hancock as being one of Joseph Smith’s wives. Josephine Lyon cannot be tested with current technology because Y-DNA genetic testing for non-male lines is not possible. Researchers are currently using autosomal DNA testing on descendants of Josephine Lyon and should be able to make a conclusion within the next two years.
Ugo Perego, director of operations at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, where these DNA tests are ongoing, has stated: “I’m not saying the list I have is definitive or complete at all. But out of those we have data for, there is no evidence from DNA at this point that Joseph Smith had any children from women other than Emma Smith.”
One must ask the question: If the purpose of plural marriage was to propagate additional posterity, why did it seem to have failed in the case of Joseph Smith, the first modern Prophet to restore the practice?
I can’t think of a single good thing that has come from polygamy. It almost destroyed the church in the 19th century and it continues to haunt us to this day with the antics of the FLDS and others who continue to practice it. Besides, by doing away with it for what appears to be pure political expediency — by renouncing it so easily — we are left with the haunting notion that maybe it was never a true doctrine to begin with.
“If the purpose of plural marriage was to propagate additional posterity, why did it seem to have failed in the case of Joseph Smith, the first modern Prophet to restore the practice?”
Maybe we can use the same explanation with Joseph Smith as we do with Jesus Christ on many things (no blasphemy in that comparison!)–that the introduction of plural marriage was part of his mission on earth, but its fulfillment was not necessarily a part of it. In other words, it was for him to promulgate it, but it was for the Saints to practice it and give it fulfillment.
Book of Mormon aside, I don’t really believe that that was the purpose, ultimately. That was a rationale posited later to accomodate aspects of it in early Utahn society, and I’ve never seen a convincing reason, really.
Excellent post BiV!
With the position that polygamy truly was restored by God to propagate additional posterity I would answer that it was not required for Joseph Smith to have posterity. God may have used him to restore the practice but not actually benefit from it. This sentinment resonates with Joseph Smith’s life as he rarely was able to enjoy the fruits of his success, inspired or not. Only for a brief time in Nauvoo was he able to live a life remotely close to being considered succesful in any sense (and that can be argued). That is a characteristic of Joseph Smith’s life that I have always found fascinating. He did so much to establish Mormonism, but rarely benefited personally from its success.
With the position that polygamy was not inspired by God and Joseph Smith simply taught the principle to justify his permiscuity you could say that his intention was never to have children.
BiV: I think the question is a wrong one. JS could have made that statement, and even if it wasn’t fulfilled in his own practice of polygamy (remember, he only lived until he was 39 years old), it certainly made for some HUGE polygamous families once the Church was settled in Utah. The sad economic truth of polygamy is that it requires tons of income to support the family’s needs; I’m reading Annie Clark Tanner’s autobiography right now, which bears witness to the difficulty polygamous families had to attend to the educational (and sometimes merely basic) needs of their children. Quite simply, it is an unsustainable principle if applied to a community-at-large. No wonder only the richest and most powerful men in history practiced polygyny.
Jon: I can think of at least one good thing that came from polygamy: my wife! Her great-grandparents practiced the Principle, and if they hadn’t, she wouldn’t be here today. In fact, I would bet that at least 25% of all Utah Mormon have polygamous ancestry.
The comment on your wife resulting from polygamy reminds me of an experience. I received my patriarchal blessing from the brother of Bruce R. McConkie (I no longer remember his name). I remember that during the same time I was preparing to receive the blessing I was struggling to understand polygamy (I was in my twenties). When I sat down to meet the patriarch for the first time he immediately started talking about polygamy, which I thought was odd. He went into a dissertation on how many leaders of the Church resulted from the practice. With this in mind I believe any honest observer would have to admit that polygamy was successful in increasing membership and establishing the early Church and its leadership.
“I can’t think of a single good thing that has come from polygamy.”
Then you don’t know very many Intermountain West Mormons. In terms of influence if not numbers, the descendants of polygamous marriages have been the backbone for much of the church’s 20th Century leadership, missionary work and growth. Today’s members who have no polygamists in their family line were likely baptized by someone who did.
I have a number of polygamous ancestors, and they accepted its discontinuation much more easily than they took it on. Many seemed to view polygamy as an Abrahamic test of their obedience and required some pretty powerful spiritual experiences in order enter in. The post-manifesto generations that followed have been (with the exceptions of the offshoot churches) stridently monogamous, partly because I believe there was little to be desired in polygamy. It was considered a hard thing, and those who grew up among older polygamous families likely saw enough to reinforce a sense of relief that monogamy would be the order of the church.
A strong, monogamous foundation for church growth was the fruit of polygamy. That’s a good fruit. And the descendants of these plural marriages, by and large, have become very high quality citizens and leaders within their communities and within the church.
“Quite simply, it is an unsustainable principle if applied to a community-at-large.”
The FLDS have certainly proven that. The Lord had to know this was unsustainable for more than one long generation, even if he didn’t tip his hand to the early Saints. But for the 40 years it was practiced, he got some wide coverage on some very faithful blood lines, and the church has benefited greatly from the generations who have followed.
I don’t understand the eternal blood lines significance or relevance, but I think the worldly results are strong enough to rebut the notion that this never could have been inspired.
I too have polygamous ancestry. I’d bet that your 25% estimate of native Utahns coming from polygamy is conservative.
A timeline of Joseph Smiths polygamy can be found here: http://www.i4m.com/think/images/JS_Polygamy_Timeline.png
I find it most intriguing that Polygamy is practiced in the afterlife according to LDS theology. Polygamy might be necessary for the heavenly father and heavenly mother to produce millions of offspring in such a short amount of time. How would it be physically possible for a father of flesh and bone to have millions of “spirit children” offspring? Just how much sex is there going on in heaven?
“…I will say that I was naturally begotten; so was my father, also my Saviour Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, he is the first begotten of his father in the flesh, and there was nothing unnatural about it.” (Journal of Discourses, 8:211) [my note: Jesus was not the first begotten, HE WAS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN]
The Apostle Orson Pratt said this in The Seer, pg. 37-38;
“Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters…each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world… where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones…. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited…If we admit that one personage was the Father of all this great family and that they were all born of the same Mother, the period of time intervening between the birth of the oldest and the youngest spirit must have been immense. If we suppose, as an average, that only one year intervened between each birth, then it would have required over one hundred thousand million of years for the same Mother to have given birth to this vast family…”
Polygamy is simply a method of obtaining power for men in the LDS (and FLDS faith). Women require their husband to someday become a heavenly mother. The Celestial Kingdom can not be acheived by a single woman. What better way to control your wife (or wives) than risk her eternal destiny if she leaves you or the church?
The LDS faith appeals to the most common sins of men: Pride, lust, and control. Polygamy is simply a means to accomplish these sins, and build up false pride in a man. In fact, if a man believes he is close to becoming God (in the next life) this pride can lead to many forms of abuse on women and children. I’ve been very close to women in this situation.
Whenever I see Thomas Monson’s actions he is swelled up with tremendous pride. He is able to interupt Jerry Sloan at a basketball game and nobody cares. He has the full attention of the Utah population, and the complete blind devotion of his followers. He is able to stand in front of people and direct their lives. How much more powerful can a man become on earth? It is sickening to me.
POLYGAMY IS A SIN, AND IT CAN NOT BE TOLERATED IN THIS LIFE OR THE NEXT.
Polygamy created a separate ethnic group in a very real way. It’s interesting to consider early Mormons as an ethnic group, much like the Hebrews and the Jews.
Also, I don’t think “raising up seed” needs to mean “having more kids”. I think it can mean simply creating a generation whose testimonies were burned deeply into their souls in the furnace of affliction. Those were hellish times, and polygamy tied them together in ways that might have been impossible otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like it. However, to say it did no good is simplistic and naive, imo. It helped forge a community that would have been VERY different (and not nearly as strong) without it.
BIV Great post as usual. I thought I heard that Joseph Smith Papers touches on Joseph Smiths polygamy! I think soon those lagging behind or in denial of JS being a polygamist will start to hopefully feel more comfortable and at peace with it.
Do you think will start to see more candidness say at the Joseph Smith memorial where it will show Joseph Smith with Emma and his other wives? Or is there a historical problem with that as our history denied polygamy to the Government and it could open a can of worms where the church may not want to go?
This post and the comments give us a good opportunity to celebrate the lives of friends and family members who have a connection to polygamy; and to state plainly that polygamy was not then, nor is it now a true principal.
Thanks for putting this post together.Very interesting!
Re #1 I agree with others that the leadership creation was one “good” that came of it. I know in the central corridor, the leadership pool is curretnly abundant, but out in the frontier wards, the pool of male priesthood holders with the talents needed to run the auxiliaries in a highly functional way can be slim. The sisters who have been to singles wards (including my biologic sisters) can probably vouch for this. (Remember DeVerle of The Singles Ward?) With many of the new converts in the pioneer era being destitute and inexperienced in church leadership, it would take them a generation or more to learn the gospel, become self-reliant, and create a heritage.
Re #2 Thats a very interesting point.
Re #3 If it was practiced to provide an outlet for Joseph, then he must have been expert at practicing the primitive forms of contraception that were known at the time! He was certainly fertile with Emma. Any truth to that story that Eliza had conceived a child while living with J and E in the Old Homestead?
Re #4 I think you have to consider what rich and powerful meant during that time. More chickens, cows, bigger farms, creation of more food storage, slaughtering more animals to put food on the table. Daynes book “More Wives Than One” (which Bruce Nielson recommended to me) reports that Polygamy resulted in a “redistribution of wealth”. It often provided a family, home, and occupation for new converts or others that needed all three. It became unsustainable as the economic climate shifted to industrialism. Lets hope that newly elected advocates to “spreading the wealth around” don’t look to polygamy for that answer!
Re #6 Although some may have considered it an Abrahamic test, others took advantage of the liberal divorce laws to get out of it and others practiced it in name only rather than with a testimony of the principle.
To paraphrase Emerson, exponential thinking is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Once one enters into a defense of polygamy on grounds that it was justifiable for reasons of growth, one must reasonably ask why it wouldn’t be a good idea today.
The facts are, it did nothing for church growth. Polygamy and the attendant federal prosecutions slowed down the worldwide missionary effort, disrupted Mormon communities in the Intermountain West, disenfranchised the local population, bankrupted the Church, and guaranteed bad press for a hundred years. The kind of converts attracted by the idea of living like Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar in the modern world are the kind of converts Mormonism can do without.
The number of children born to Mormon polygamous women was on average lower than the number born to Mormon women in monogamous relationships in the nineteenth century. It’s the numbers born to the men that attract all the attention. So what? As Cheryl has pointed out, it was about celestial kingdom-building, not kingdom of God building, but kingdom of Orson Pratt, Heber Kimball, George Cannon, Anson Call, etc.
For every church leader sprung from polygamy, there is another person, maybe two or three, who were forever lost to the Church due to the lack of a paternal figure’s guiding influence. I can’t imagine how what were in essence a bunch of single-parent households can be held up as a beneficial stage in church growth. Read Annie Clark Tanner’s autobiography “A Mormon Mother”, read Sam Taylor’s “Family Kingdom”. These were absent fathers for the most part, and in today’s parlance, deadbeat dads.
Let’s not confuse correlation with causation. If a church leader happened to be born in a polygamous household, does that mean the fact that his or her parents were polygamists endowed the child with leadership qualities and righteousness? Get real.
“Do you think will start to see more candidness say at the Joseph Smith memorial where it will show Joseph Smith with Emma and his other wives?”
You can’t possibly be serious.
“Or is there a historical problem with that as our history denied polygamy to the Government and it could open a can of worms where the church may not want to go?”
Please, please tell me these aren’t serious questions …
“To state plainly that polygamy was not then, nor is it now a true principal. (sic)”
Ah, a serious statement. A statement that implies knowing the mind of God about such things, but a serious statement. I don’t know what God approves or not in terms of plural marriage, and it’s never been much more than a mild curiosity for me. I find the practice distasteful, and many of the modern applications highly immoral. But I know enough to be offended by the narrative that this was about early men in the church wanting to bed as many women as they could. For me, the evidence for motive clearly swings in another direction.
Please read the original post again — the part with no verified pregnancies among the plural wives. Emma bore Joseph nine children. For someone who supposedly needed to satisfy an over-active libido, Joseph Smith sure had lousy follow-through.
Lorin: “For someone who supposedly needed to satisfy an over-active libido, Joseph Smith sure had lousy follow-through.” Ba-dum-ching!
Mr. Divorced: “the brother of Bruce R. McConkie (I no longer remember his name).” That just sounded a lot like the brother of Jared. I wonder if he gets that a lot.
SteveS: “No wonder only the richest and most powerful men in history practiced polygyny.” I think this overlooks the fact that these households also freed women up to essentially pursue professional careers while some of the wives stayed at home with the kids. The principle is so repugnantly anti-woman that it’s hard to be objective about it and see some of the suprisingly feminist byproducts of it. The point made by John N. about the problems due to male parent to child ratio and the problems due to what amounts to an en masse single-parenting household is spot on, too. The FLDS’ practice certainly reveals the problem of mandatory sustained polygyny in terms of devaluation of both males and females.
“very faithful blood lines”
This is nonsense. Blood lines are neither faithful nor infidel. People may be.
The concept of blood as used here is a primitive one which we would do well to set strict boundaries around, so that it doesn’t “spill over” into our assessments of who is faithful and who is not, or who is likely to be faithful and who is not, based on family, race, or tribe. Blood is not a meaningful factor when it comes to distinguishing one person from another, the way DNA can be. DNA similarities and differences often cut across superficial similarities and differences like skin color and facial structure the way an assessment of blood lines, which are socially constructed, never do.
I am curious about your views on polygamy practiced in the Old Testament. Do you see polygamy practiced by Jacob as part of God’s plan to bring in the 12 tribes or just another custom at that time or both? I don’t believe the Bible ever states that God commanded Jacob to practice polygamy so we may be comparing apples to oranges. I am just curious.
I do think the insights and points you have provided are worth considering.
Hawkgrrrl (#13): “these households also freed women up to essentially pursue professional careers while some of the wives stayed at home with the kids.” I know that some household who practice polygamy in the 21st century are doing this as a sort of division of labor approach. Most often, when I have heard of this arrangement, the entire family lives under one roof. I’m not sure (I haven’t read widely on the subject) about how polygamy was practiced in the 19th century, but Annie Clark Tanner and her sister wives, and Brigham Young’s wives didn’t live this way. Each woman took care of her own children, often without much direction or support from the husbands (whose lives were typically spent dealing with public works issues in major church callings). My guess is that most women were busy being both parents back in the 19th century, and had little/no opportunity to pursue professional careers full time.
Sorry for the threadjack. Back to our originally scheduled programming.
Polygamy, like slavery, blood sacrifice, and a variety of other elements found in the Old Testament, was common to many peoples in the ancient world, not just the Hebrews, and is common today in certain parts of the world. It performs various biological and sociological functions, as it does in the animal world. Some species, like penguins, tend to be monogamous. Others, like dogs for instance, seem more inclined to polygamy. Humans have the capacity to reflect on their social arrangements, and therefore are the only species of whom we have evidence who actually argue about these kinds of things. 🙂
I think polygny was probably taken for granted in the early Hebrew worldview. You didn’t necessarily need a divine injunction to do it, it was just an inherited social form. Of course, God is always near in the Old Testament, so it is natural that there will be some implication in the writings of Ezra and Jeremiah (who likely put together much of the five books of Moses from older oral traditions and writings) that God approves of one’s social arrangements, whether slavery, polygamy,or genocide.
By the time you get to Joseph Smith, polygamy is a relic of the Old Testament. I am not aware, for instance, of evidence of polygamy in the New Testament. So in a way it was quite natural for Brother Joseph, who was concerned to get back to the original forms which God had set up, to see the social arrangements of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as something which God approved of and which could be reintroduced into modern life. The main difference here is that there must be explicit divine command to enter polygamy because most Americans in Joseph’s day had reflected on monogamy and believed it to rest on superior moral foundations to polygamy.
Are my views on polygamy clear?
Could the practice of polygamy today have anything to do with government assistance? Thank about it – each wife can claim to be single with children getting free medical care and food stamps from the Government. I am sure in some cases there is rental assistance as well. This would virtually pay for everything except utilities.
Very clean and appreciated. I agree with them. Do you ever get the feeling that Joseph Smith would have made a good historian? He was always concerned about resurrecting the past.
I meant clear, but I guess you could consider it clean too since no profanity was used.
“This is nonsense. Blood lines are neither faithful nor infidel. People may be.”
I agree with this statement as it applies to individuals and individual salvation, but I’m not so sure in terms of the larger human family. Not that I claim to have to have more than the faintest understanding of the big picture on “blood lines,” but as a church we place immense significance on literal family ties. The spirit of Elijah, the work of the temple, is deeply steeped in turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers — for the most part, via literal blood lines. The whole notion of Abraham inheritance is about blood lines, or adoption into an inheritance via blood lines. Lehi’s descendants have been promised multiple blessings because of who their father was, regardless of the intervening unrighteousness of many generations. The work of sealing the entire human family to one another via blood lines is one of the great works that precedes the final judgment and is essentially the only earthly work that will endure throughout the eternities.
Blood lines aren’t everything of course — in both salvation an exaltation, no one will be penalized or rewarded because of the family they were born into. But on earth, who your parents were and what they chose almost always carries significant rewards or penalties.
In the work of exaltation, roles and responsibilities, stewardships and inheritance appear to be organized via family lines, and largely via paternal lines as it pertains to the priesthood. We may see no visible benefit to the fact that polygamy allowed Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball or Orson Pratt to have a highly increased posterity, but that doesn’t mean it was insignificant to God or that he didn’t command it in those particular times for those particular people. We don’t know whether there was some reason certain blood lines needed to be built up and spread out as far and as quickly as possible. We have no idea what their posterity may have been called to do, or what significance those family ties may have in the afterlife.
We know next to nothing about the mechanics of foreordination, but I don’t think I’m too far out of line in speculating that certain families are responsible for certain things, and a quick but non-fatal injection of polygamy in the early was significant and necessary for reasons we may not currently understand.
That’s kind of what I was suggesting with my comment on “faithful blood.” Thanks for the chance to clarify.
Thanks for the compliment. I have never thought of Joseph as an historian, but it’s an interesting thought. His role as a seer certainly seemed to go in this direction, since most of what he saw related to the past, not the future. He seemed captivated by the past, and made it seem present to his followers.
BTW, I followed the link to your site, and can only wish you the best. I have friends going through a similar struggle right now.
So where does earthly adoption fit into “blood lines”?
I agree with your comments as far as their importance in the Church. However, I believe that this is something negative in LDS culture. I find that some members use their bloodline in attempt to exalt themselves. If you can claim a literally bloodline to Brigham Young you must have been valiant in the preexistence. Or for those who can take away from their patriachal blessing a literal bloodline to one of the 12 tribes I have seen a arrogance that really disappoints me.
This is not meant to be a threadjack but how about members that still hold onto the fallacy that African Amercans are the seed of Cain? That isn’t a very proud bloodline in the Church to have when we focus so much on geneolgy.
So where does earthly adoption fit into “blood lines”?
I suppose when you’re sealed, you’re sealed and that’s your family. Kind of like whether we’re the literal or adopted blood of Abraham, the inheritance is the same. Again, I’m really unclear on what significance blood lines play in the whole plan of happiness, other than they’re all over the place and must have some major significance to God. But covenant appears to trump blood, and in fact I wonder if that may be the very point of some of our covenants.
Could the reason they are all over the place be because of culture and customs more than any signifigance to God?
The Jews of Jesus’ time thought they were special because “we have Abraham to our father”. Jesus’ response was about as blunt as anything that has been attributed to Him anywhere, so I personally don’t put any stock in the literalness of blood lines – except for the benefits of being taught Gospel principles from an early age. However, that isn’t true universally in the Church, as some parents are horrible there as well, so I just shrug and accept it as symbolic.
Lorin’s idea I think cuts to the heart of the member belief that I dislike: the notion that by familial association one member is more valiant/special/worthy than another. The basis for this belief (aside from the obvious self-serving underlying premise for those related to church historical or present bigwigs) is that in the pre-existence these people were so awesome they got to be born into these special dynastic families. So, the rest of us by default (and by that I mean non-dynastic multi-gens as well as converts) are a hair’s breadth away from Satan’s grasp and are really only in the church by sheer luck. It’s like the families we are born into are the type of college we get into, and those in a dynastic family got into the Ivies while the rest of us are slumming in state schools. And those who aren’t in the church are what – high school dropouts or night school GEDs??
Funny thing is that the reverse is often true. The converts are the ones who had to make a sacrifice to join, who had to gain their own testimony, etc. The multi-gens are the ones who are Mormon by default or cultural Mormons (more often than converts). That’s a sweeping generality for you.
I’m glad to see Ray restating something that is missed quite often. Rather than it taking a couple hundred years for Mormons to become an ethnic group, they managed it in about forty years due to polygamy. The fact that there is no evidence from DNA at this point that Joseph Smith had any children from women other than Emma Smith goes very much to polygamy as a relationship matter rather than a sexual one, especially vis a vis Joseph Smith.
I think we make mistakes by assuming that our viewpoint and our generation is the greatest, the most correct, the most enlightened and the most evolved in spirit and knowledge, and that all of the past is mere barbarism. As a result, we sometimes miss seeing things because we are too wise for them.
“I find that some members use their bloodline in attempt to exalt themselves.”
“Lorin’s idea I think cuts to the heart of the member belief that I dislike: the notion that by familial association one member is more valiant/special/worthy than another.”
In case it wasn’t clear from some of my qualifying statements above, I’m on the same page as all of you on this. I see zero justification for the notion that one’s ancestry implies anything about one’s own personal worthiness, current or premortal. I’ve met too many people from too many traditions and parts of the world to believe that there’s anything but a relative equal distribution of noble and scoundrel among nations and families of the world. I imagine that distribution holds essentially true among family blood lines.
I’m just getting the sneaking suspicion that my choice of words might be putting me in danger of guilt by association and veering way off of my speculation about why certain blood lines may have needed to be expanded via polygamy. It’s speculation and I’m open to the notion that I’m wrong. I just want to be sure it’s clear that the above statements don’t strike me as rebuttals to my thoughts. If they were intended as rebuttals, then I was obviously not very clear, because they don’t strike me as addressing my core ideas at all.
“Jesus’ response was about as blunt as anything that has been attributed to Him anywhere.”
Agreed. Having the blood of Abraham was meaningless to Him because their works were anything but the works of Abraham. He rejected the notion that blood lines imbue one with nobility or a more direct path to heaven. That much his clear. He didn’t say anything to imply that the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed were meaningless, only that those particular Jews had no claim on them. “Do the works of Abraham and you are Abraham’s seed” seemed to be the message.
Again, I’m not married to the notion that God wanted Heber C. Kimball to quickly expand his blood line because his posterity had a work to do. I don’t know that. But if I’m wrong in that speculation, please address that. I already reject the notion that his descendants are more noble than anyone else on the planet, but it doesn’t follow that blood lines have no relevance in the Lord’s thinking. I don’t know exactly what His thinking is, but it’s hard to read Isaiah, do work for family names in the temple, or read about my lineage in my patriarchal blessing, and come to the conclusion that family lines are entirely meaningless to the Lord. I’m open to other ideas on this topic. But I’m not going to reject my suspicion that that bloodlines have some significance to God’s plan simply because there are people who abuse the idea to exalt themselves.
“Could the reason they are all over the place be because of culture and customs more than any signifigance to God?”
Your guess is as good as mine. Whether any of this is connected to why we had 40 years of polygamy, I have no idea. I hope this hasn’t sidetracked too much from the main topic.
I think that the reason “bloodlines” are so important is that it normally (not always) takes a few generations to work out the kinks in families. Most of the time, you need continued exposure to the gospel in order to be raising people who will be strong leaders in the Church. There are notable exceptions (Uchtdorf comes to mind), but there is a short line of influence from the prophets and apostles to the immediate families of the current leadership of the church.
Was that too Utah-Mormon-centric for you? Just calling it as I see it. I am by no means implying that being raised in a few-generations-in-the-Church family qualifies someone; it simply improves the odds if that family has been reasonably diligent.
No guilt by association in my mind. I agreed with everything you said and was just trying to explore it further. Bloodlines are all over the place in Mormon theology. I only question why and if it is a good thing.
As a side note: Even if some one did think that there was truth in the view that bloodlines are inherited by valiance in the preexistence I would be fine with that. Who is to say that isn’t true? Since I cannot remember the preexistence I don’t really know either way. 🙂
32. Captain Melody
Yeah. If you didn’t figure it out the Captain is Mr. Divorced, lol.
John Nilsson wrote in comment #11: “The number of children born to Mormon polygamous women was on average lower than the number born to Mormon women in monogamous relationships in the nineteenth century”.
That factoid raises other questions:
Were there more women than men in the church at the time? (My understanding is that there was a noticeably larger number of female convert immigrants from Europe than male. The larger proportion of female converts/immigrants may have helped feed the “harem building” charges by critics of the church.) If there were more women than men in Utah, then had there not been polygyny those women wouldn’t have had any children. If there were more women than men, then polygyny did create more progeny.
I’m not saying that polygamous men did, or had to, marry single immigrant women. But single female immigrants would have at least added to the pool of women in Utah.
Even if there were no dearth of men to be husbands, was there a lack of [sufficiently] righteous men to be husbands? Supposedly, only men in good standing in the church were authorized to take muliple wives. If so, then the “righteous” part of “righteous posterity” would have come into play, and by marrying “more righteous” men, the polygamous wives may have raised up a “more righteous” posterity than had they [again in the aggregate] married and had children with men who weren’t in good standing with the church.
Another question, in 19th century Utah, was it better for a child to be raised with an absent righteous father, or a present unrighteous father? IE, no example may sometimes be better than a bad example.
Re: blood lines. I can’t read the scriptures with all the references to the tribes of Israel, the seed of Joseph, and specifically the descendents of Lehi without coming away with the idea that blood lines do have some significance in the overall scheme of things. It’s just that us humans too often ascribe the wrong significance.
I too have cringed when reading people’s claims to be “of pioneer stock” as if that were supposed to lend them more credence. The Lord’s retort to the Jews about raising up children to Abraham out of “stones” could also be applied to raising up children to the pioneers.
“The Lord’s retort to the Jews about raising up children to Abraham out of “stones” could also be applied to raising up children to the pioneers.”
Good point, Cicero. 🙂 – and an additional 🙂
I don’t want to downplay the lineage aspect of our scriptures. I think there is powerful symbolism embedded in it that I wouldn’t want to lose completely. I just don’t like the arrogance that occurs when someone comes to see individuals as inherently more righteous and better than others because of lineage. I believe the Anti-Nephi-Lehis shoot down that idea quite nicely.
“Were there more women than men in the church at the time?”
My understanding is there were slightly more men than women. But because polygamy only lasted 40 year, for various demographic reasons there wasn’t an unusually high number of single men. Someone blogged on this a while back and I’m going from memory on this.
“was there a lack of [sufficiently] righteous men to be husbands?”
Hard to know. But considering the number of women who entered into polygamy (I’ve heard at least 20 percent at its peak) despite the fact that at least numerically they had more options if they wanted a single man to themselves, that’s a credible hypothesis. Sharing a more solid husband might have been more attractive to many of these women.
“In 19th century Utah, was it better for a child to be raised with an absent righteous father, or a present unrighteous father?”
Also a good question. Although neither option is ideal, in contemporary life I’ve noted that sons tend to more or less follow the paths of their fathers in terms of what kind of public citizens they are in their communities. Parental involvement can be a mixed bag. I’m working with some boys in the ward who have totally absorbed every low ambition and lazy attitude of their loving, engaged fathers. On the plus side, they’re very secure and emotionally self-assured. But it’s hard to knock the results I’ve seen from fathers who provided a superior example of manhood, even from a bit of a distance.
The end result of things like Prop 8 are this: homosexual and polygamous marriages will be legalized in the lives of the Y & Z generations.
Neal Davis: “Most of the time, you need continued exposure to the gospel in order to be raising people who will be strong leaders in the Church. There are notable exceptions (Uchtdorf comes to mind), but there is a short line of influence from the prophets and apostles to the immediate families of the current leadership of the church.” Urgh. I know that’s your opinion, but here’s why it’s totally unverifiable. If everyone believes that and acts as if it’s true, then you have a dearth of high level leaders from less pedigreed backgrounds for a comparison point. Seriously, aside from Uchtdorf, how many unpedigreed have risen to the level of apostle since the 1950s? So the belief is confirmed by the absence of proof to the contrary which is perpetuated by the belief.
Lorin: I wasn’t rebutting your argument. I think you make a good point, although I didn’t assume you liked it. The other thing that struck me was the phrase “40 years of polygamy.” It reminded me of the Hebrews’ “40 years of wandering in the desert.” Hmmmm.
I would like to echo John Nilsson’s comments. Since I read “A Mormon Mother” a few years ago I’ve never felt the same way about polygamy, the men that promoted it or the men that lived it. Except for the few in leadership it seems to me that the only good effect it had was building strong self reliant women. There were no husbands around to support them or act as fathers for their children. It was truly a matriarchal society and any good that came from it came from those women’s efforts. It makes todays emphasis on families seem very hollow when several generations had nothing that even remotely resembled a normal family. Though I’m sure good people tried to do their best in living the “principle”, I doubt that I will ever be able to be convinced that it was anything more than a bad idea and certainly not inspired.
“why did it seem to have failed in the case of Joseph Smith”
Because of Emma Smith. She never fully accepted the practice of polygamy and, as per the practice, the first wife always needed to give consent. Emma’s biography is a very good source for understanding this polygamy question.
Also keep in mind what some claim, that Joseph was only sealed to some for the next life but not this mortal life, as in the case of sister Pratt. Also we should keep in mind that polygamy as revealed hasn’t changed for life after death, as current sealing policy clearly shows. What changed was the mortal practice of living with several wives at the same time.
The book is “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith”.
By the way, if Emma is described as: “She was a tall, attractive young woman, dark-complexioned, with brown eyes and black hair” maybe she was Latina? Hey? Explains why she was so jealous about other women! 🙂
In his 1943 book, “Evidences and Reconciliations, Apostle John A. Widtsoe explained:
“Plural marriage has been a subject of wide and frequent comment. Members of the Church unfamiliar with its history, and many non-members, have set up fallacious reasons for the origin of this system of marriage among the Latter-day Saints.
The most common of these conjectures is that the Church, through plural marriage, sought to provide husbands for its large surplus of female members. The implied assumption in this theory, that there have been more female than male members in the Church, is not supported by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seem always to have been more males than females in the Church…
The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state. The births within the Church obey the usual population law – a slight excess of males…
The theory that plural marriage was a consequence of a surplus of female Church members fails from lack of evidence…
Another conjecture is that the people were few in number and that the Church, desiring greater numbers, permitted the practice so that a phenomenal increase in population could be attained. This is not defensible, since there was no surplus of women…”
If the first wife had to always consent, why was Joseph Smith able to marry the 30 or so women he did. He mentioned the angel with the flaming sword and the threat to his life if he did not comply but that brings up the question of agency. Was the principle of polygamy so important that God suspended agency in Joseph Smith’s case?
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe God sends angels with swords to kill married men who refuse to take additional wives and those who don’t. 🙂
Don’t forget… god told Emma if she didn’t accept the new EVERLASTING covenant of plural marriage she would be destroyed. God also allowed Joseph to steal wives from other married men… God also wanted Joseph to marry 14 year old children.
If Joseph made this all up (as I know he did) he could take any woman he wanted. The idea that he didn’t have sex with all of his wives is ludicrous. If he wasn’t going to consumate the marriages why didn’t he just support them financially or give them a place to live? Why would he be required to marry them?
Joseph couldn’t keep his pants on. Polygamy was an easy way for him have all the sex he wanted, and all the women he wanted. As I said before its also a great way to control people. Emma you mess up… You get destroyed. You get another husband you’re dead… But, I can have all the virgins I want. I can steal all the married women I want, and there is nothing anybody can do about it.
Why can’t people see how evil this practice really was? To think these were Godly homes is laughable.
John, I’ll drink to that.
“Since I read “A Mormon Mother” a few years ago I’ve never felt the same way about polygamy, the men that promoted it or the men that lived it.”
“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe God sends angels with swords to kill married men who refuse to take additional wives and those who don’t.”
There are two kinds of people in this world — those who think that true commands from God always bear fruit that makes sense within our present framework, facts and understanding … and those who don’t. 😉
Hey, look, it’s not like I have a testimony of polygamy or that the applicable facts or issues are settled in my mind. And yes, the lifestyle was difficult and confusing and often led to heartbreaking results. But I’m pretty comfortable with the notion that God will sometimes command things that don’t make sense to us and he isn’t about to explain them to us, either. Whether polygamy falls under that heading, it’s still on the shelf for me.
But it also comes down to this: Those who entered into plural marriages very frequently reported being repulsed upon hearing the concept. And these same people frequently report powerful and personal spiritual experiences that convinced them to enter into these experiences anyway. So when we conclude definitively that we’ve studied the fruits of plural marriage and know that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were not inspired, we’re not only saying that they were deceived (or as many assert, were deceivers), but we’re declaring that thousands of Saints who obtained a contemporary testimony of a practice they originally abhorred were also deceived. We’re saying they didn’t have authentic spiritual experiences. I’m a very long way from believing I have sufficient evidence to make such a declaration. And I haven’t seen anyone else present such a case either.
On difficult questions like these, I’m not arrive at definitive conclusions about questions that most certainly include facts that are unavailable to me. Sometimes faith isn’t about knowing, it’s about knowing that you don’t know, and knowing that not everything has to make sense or needs closure or conclusions for one to trust his own spiritual experiences.
I’m not accusing you of this, but I’m uncomfortable with definitive declarations on subjects where we clearly don’t have all the facts.
You make a great point. Who are we to question the thousands of spiritual witnesses received by early Saints who entered into polygamy? For whatever reason these Saints did receive that witness and it was strong enough for them to forsake their disdain for the practice (especially in the case of women).
Good, decent, honest people will always do their best when confronted with challenges if they trust and believe in their leaders. A bad situation can turn out well not because of the judgement of the person or persons that instigated it but because of the willingness of others to make the best of it. But that should never be used as evidence that it was a good or inspired idea in the first place. Years ago I heard Elder Pinock tell us in a stake presidency meeting that they, the brethren, had to be careful of what they asked people to do because they’d do it.
And another thing, suspending judgement because we don’t have all the facts is a good excuse to never make a judgement.
GB, as I said in an earlier comment, I don’t like polygamy on a personal level, but I also have ancestors on both sides of my family (and in one of my wife’s lines) who practiced polygamy. Some of them record incredibly powerful spiritual experiences where they were told in no uncertain terms that they were supposed to be polygamous. As Lorin said, I’m not about to dismiss those experiences simply because I don’t like it – any more than I dismiss my own experiences with concepts I would have a hard time accepting otherwise. I respect those people too much to do that to them.
If it were simply a case of, “I did what I was told,” it might be different (and I’m sure there was much of that, as well), but many of the recorded experiences we have are not that – not at all. Therefore, I am left to try to reconcile those experiences with my intial “yuck” reaction – and I just can’t dismiss them as illegitimate or counterfeit.
OK, so with so many powerful spiritual witnesses for polygamy out there (despite initial reservations, lifetimes of deprivation and sacrifice, etc.), I would ask, can ye feel so now? Can people gain a testimony of practicing polygamy and feel prompted to live it in this day and age? Its a question that keeps coming up on a blog I’ve been reading lately (Story of Celeste), where it seems a young woman is asking herself that very thing. If it was a “true” principle for some, to me at least it follows that there is nothing “untrue” about its practice per se. We’ve all heard that only the prophet holds the keys of sealing, etc., but I don’t think that supposing that just because no one on the earth holds the keys of sealing would prevent some people from feeling prompted to live polygamy. Case in point Abraham, Jacob, Joseph Smith, and others, who felt like it was the right thing to do, even if they didn’t really want to do it.
Just to make sure I’m not misunderstood: I personally have not received a spiritual prompting to seek another polygamous wife! I’m not trying to justify myself by asking this question. I know that the phenomenon of modern polygamy continues, however, and I’m intrigued as to what motivation these people have to enter into a practice that is shunned so universally. CAN God prompt people to live the Principle without going through a prophet, or without the priesthood keys to effectuate that marriage in Heaven? If not, are people who feel this way all deceived?
Another polygamous wife? How many do you currently have?
LOL! Wow, how did I mess that one up? One wife is enough for me, and all I have. I meant another as in “more than one” but I guess I didn’t think it could imply that there was already more than one. Ha!
Ray, I believe spiritual experieces are what they are, intense personal witnesses. If that’s what a person feels then that’s the way it is and one could never suggest that what they felt was in any way fraudulent or illegitimate. The problem is trying to decide what the what it meant outside of that person’s context. Is the implication that because of your relative’s experience that the principle was inspired and that Joseph Smith was a prophet? Maybe and maybe not. I remember a Sunday School class where the discussion turned to testimony and one brother recounted his mission in Oklahoma. The testimonies of the truthfullness of the gospel he heard born were as firm and heartfelt as any you’d here in a fast and testimony meeting but none of them were by LDS members and all were convinced the Mormon Church was wrong. It may be that there’s no answer to the question but for me in spite of how people tried to live it, the cost was too great and the end results too dear.
Thanks for that, GB. I have no disagreement at all with the way you phrased it.
There are two kinds of people in this world — those who think that true commands from God always bear fruit that makes sense within our present framework, facts and understanding … and those who don’t.
That makes for an excellent potential topic.
The problem is trying to decide what the what it meant outside of that person’s context.
Exactly. That is why I stay away from absolutes. Everything I believe is tied to my experiences, judgment and life in general. I would never feel comfortable saying that polygamy HAS to be true based on the spiritual witnesses of the early Saints, or that it HAS to be false based on my feelings and opinion of polygamy.
James, in #42 wrote: “The United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance of males in Utah, and in the Church. Indeed, the excess in Utah has usually been larger than for the whole United States, as would be expected in a pioneer state.”
That still leaves open the possibility that there was a dearth of “sufficiently righteous men” who could raise up a “righteous posterity.”
In the un-official church books (ie, books written by GA’s published by Deseret) that I’ve read, the take-away lesson is for women to marry in the temple or not at all. And though it may not have been explicitly stated, that is the message I got from my early church years in 1982 through 1984.
I’m trying to think if the wording was “marry _only_ in the temple”, or “set your sights on a temple marriage.” But anyway, the impression I got was that the message was the former
“If the first wife had to always consent, why was Joseph Smith able to marry the 30 or so women he did”
Yes, as per D&C 132:61 “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent”..”and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him”
Emma varied in her acceptance of this (as per her biography) With Fanny Alger she accepted at first but then seems to have changed her mind, by the time of Eliza Snow Emma was 100% against it so no co-habitation ever happened. In those other cases the marriage was only a sealing for eternity, which at the time was viewed slightly different and no cohabitation in this life was implied -they were like our current sealings by proxy in temples. This would explain why there aren’t any children from those polygamous unions even though many historians have tried to prove that there were some but still fail to do so, as this post explains.
Note also that section 132 explains our current sealing policies, ie consent from first wife nbut only explanation from first husband and sealing cancellation for women but only a clearance for men etc etc.
I’m sorry CarlosJC but Todd Compton in his book, “In Sacred Loneliness”, pg. 313 does indicate that there was a sexual relationship with Eliza R. Snow and it’s likely that she was pregnant with his child but miscarried. As for Fanny Alger, Emmma did not consent to the marriage and when she discovered the relationship, threw her out of the house. Thirty-three percent of his wives (11) were aged 14-20 years, twenty-seven percent (9) were age 21-30, and twenty-four percent (8) were ages 31-40. (Compton pg. 11-12 ) The subject of sexuality is dealt with in several subsequent pages. These marriages were without Emma Smith’s knowledge or consent. Deciding why Joseph Smith did what he did is something a person has to judge for him/herself but deciding what he did is just a matter of looking at the record.
GB, you didn’t list the ones that were over 40. I find that true almost always when this is discussed, and I always have wondered why. I also always have wondered why the breakdown almost always is given as “14-20” – since there is a HUGE difference between those ages. Most of the critics I have read imply a driving lust for young girls (and many flat out call him a pedophile), but the stats simply don’t show that. This is strictly from memory, but I believe only 4 of them were 14-16 – and these are the only ones that would be considered way too young even in our own, modern day.
Again, I’m not addressing the “rightness” or “wrongness” in this comment, but I really do find it fascinating that the stats I read in most critical accounts de-emphasize the older women (which by your own numbers in #59 constitute 2/3 of them) while stressing the younger ones – and defining “young” as 20 or less. If you include 20 as “young”, there are MANY people even now who married a “young girl” – including me.
Ray, the number in the 41-50 group were 2 (6%) and in the 51-60 were 3 (9%). I suppose that the reason older wives are not mentioned is because there were only 5 and in comparison with the other age groups were so much less in number and in percent of total. By my reading there were 4 women 16 and under as you say. The numbers to me say that these were marriages in every sense and the unions with older women were less likely to be so.
“The numbers to me say that these were marriages in every sense and the unions with older women were less likely to be so.”
I’m sorry, but that conclusion doesn’t make sense except to expose one’s personal bias. Critics always leave out the older women because their mention skews the conclusions in the opposite direction. The fact that the women who were past child bearing age bore the same number of children as those on the youngest end (ZERO) would tend to indicate that nature of sexual relationships for both groups was quite similar (rare, if not completely unconsummated).
Back in the 1860s, when RLDS missionaries were saying polygamy was Brigham Young’s invention, the church refuted that with the records of Joseph’s marriages. The RLDS were unimpressed, saying a paper trail doesn’t prove these were the anything but platonic. So the church produced witness accounts of times in which Joseph was to have been alone with some of these wives. That’s the best they could come up with, even though the majority of these women were still alive.
A paper trail and innuendo based on plausibility was the only case the church could cobble together just 25 years after the fact. And those trying to paint a portrait of a man abusing his position to bed women don’t have much else. That’s why they leave out all the mitigating facts (the advanced age of some of these women, the fact that the married ones remained with their husbands, zero confirmed pregnancies) that point away from the suggestion that this was all about sex for Joseph Smith. I think we can get closer to understanding Joseph’s mind on this subject if we take some of his explanations at face value.
I believe, but can’t prove, that at least some of these marriages were consummated. This would only bother me if God didn’t command Joseph to marry these women. I don’t know of any objective way to answer that question. But to repeat a phrase I used earlier in the thread, for someone who supposedly needed to satisfy an over-active libido, Joseph Smith sure had lousy follow-through. For me and my biases, the evidence points elsewhere.
I’ve been saddened and intrigued by the fact that none of Joseph Smith’s children stayed in the church (along with their mother Emma), and no further descendents joined the church until Gracia Jones in the 1950’s.
JS III, the eldest surviving son of Joseph and Emma, was 11 when JS died. His other male children, Alexander Hale was about 6, and David Hyrum was born 5 months after JS died.
“I’m sorry CarlosJC but Todd Compton in his book, “In Sacred Loneliness”, pg. 313 does indicate that there was a sexual relationship with Eliza R. Snow”
Yeah, and the sex video is current on YouTube!
The only problem here to be sorry about is that Compton hasn’t been excommunicated as yet.
I am not an expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages or anything close to it. But some of the accusations made by critics of the practice and some on this thread (I am not trying to hint that it you are anti-Mormon, only critical of the actual practice of polygamy. I am actually quite critical myself) seem to describe 19th century plural marriage in the same light as a 21st century affair. I don’t think you can ever truly understand the motivation behind the practice in this light, even if the direction to practice it wasn’t divine.
“The numbers to me say that these were marriages in every sense and the unions with older women were less likely to be so.”
I’ve written statistical studies, GB, and when “the numbers” are almost EXACTLY the same, it is statistically indefensible to reach different conclusions about their meaning. You might say that your view of Joseph Smith and marriage and sex “to me say that . . .”, but the numbers don’t say that.
Joseph married four young outliers and five old outliers. That says his practice generally was to marry women within 10 years of his own age – and that is common and acceptable even in our own day.
Again, I am not trying to “prove” any particular motivation in this comment; I merely am commenting on what “the numbers” say without any personal bias intervening.
Also, I think 16 years old, on the frontier of America, in the 19th century, would be more equivalent to 18 or 19 year olds in today’s culture.
The minimum age for marriage (with parental consent) for several states, remained 14 well into the latter half of the 20th century. And even today, it remains 16 (with parental consent) in many states. And it’s only been in the last 15 or so years that some states raised it from 14 to 16, or 16 to 17.
As pointed out in comments above, the analysis that lumps all age 14 through 20 together is skewing the perception.
I would say that lumping 14 through 17 together is skewing the perception. 16 and 17 year old brides in the early 19th century, especially West of Pennsylvania or South of the Mason-Dixon line would not even raise eyebrows. And even 14 and 15 year old brides were not scandalous, but perhaps eyebrow raising, if even that.
Polygamy was never put forth as merely a “good idea” or “we think we need to do this.” It was put forth as a revelation and a commandment. Polygamy was a pretty big thing that Joseph and the other leaders not only implemented, but promulgated over a period of many years, and has never been repudiated by the church. No subsequent church leader has ever stated that it was wrong or mistaken for the church to have practiced polygamy. If we accept Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff as the Lord’s prophets in promulgating polygamy, and every prophet since then has not repudiated the church’s polygamy (of that former time), I think we have to accept that polygamous marriage was the Lord’s will for that time.
I’ve tried to be good and avoid this discussion as I’ve expressed my views about polygamy far too often on the board. I just have to say that I believe many members of the church today are appalled by the thought of plural marriage and are very grateful it is not in practice today. My wife will tell you she doesn’t think it was ever inspired by God and would leave the church if someone told her she had to accept it. Fortunately for her, no-one has put her in a position that forced her to choose. I may be naïve, but I don’t think she’s alone.
From reading these comments and those over on the MAD board, I’m fascinated by how many of you work so hard to minimize JS involvement while stating that it’s doctrinal. You’re much like Emma who stated that JS never practiced it and went on to blame Brigham Young for the mess. I personally don’t know if JS had sex with his polygamist wives or not, and frankly I don’t care. The point here is whether or not he started the practice in the first place and encouraged others to join in. I think we can all agree that he did and the result was a church that fit the definition of being a cult for many years after.
I suppose the larger issue for me is what would I being willing to do if commanded by leaders that I believed were inspired and called by God to lead me and my family. And in hindsight what would I say if the end result for me and my family lead to hardship and sadness. I hope I never have to find out.
“I’m fascinated by how many of you work so hard to minimize JS involvement while stating that it’s doctrinal.”
Doug, can you cite which comments do this? I can’t find even one that minimizes Joseph’s involvement. It is possible to interpret Stephen’s #29 in that way in isolation, but not in the context of the entire conversation.
68. Doug G.
I would consider myself a critic of polygamy. However, insinuating that because the practice of polygamy led to the Church being considered a cult it could not be an inspired revelation, I feel is flawed logic. I am gathering this from your comment and could be wrong. The world’s greatest religious movements are rarely popular and almost always have including beliefs and practices that society finds objectionable. Also, the Church’s stigma of being a cult can be attributed to many factors. Especially today I believe the Church is considered a cult more so based on temple worship and the “one true Church” claim than polygamy. With the recent media focus on the FLDS Church it seemed that most media outlets and critics of the FLDS Church were always quick to state that the LDS Church no longer practices polygamy. Just a few thoughts.
#69 – That, GB, is the million dollar question.
I have shared this elsewhere, but a wonderful man in my ward lost an adult daughter in a freak surgery accident. In a lesson about what we had learned in our lives, he said the following:
“I have learned that we draw closest to God in our deepest trials. I only wish I had not had to learn that lesson in the way I learned it.”
In reading their journals, I think polygamy served that purpose for many of the early saints and for the Church as an organization – becoming the furnace of their collective affliction.
I should have spent more time and clarified my post. My comments are from the arguments that always seem to surface when polygamy is addressed. It would seem that many of the faithful today want to show that most if not all of JS other marriages didn’t involve sexual relations. For example, read Lorin’s comments in #62 and the OP. I’ve seen the same type of discussions over at MAD and it leads me to believe that members of the church want to minimize JS involvement and try to show that he really only had Emma.
Another example would be the new book from Deseret Book with all the love letters from JS to Emma. As there were other letters to polygamist wives, why aren’t these included in the book? Why are none of the other wives given the same consideration by LDS authors as Emma is given? And then there’s that movie about Emma… Again, what we have here is a deliberate attempt to minimize JS involvement with other women and paint this tender love story between him and his first wife.
So, as I stated originally, JS began the practice in our day and started the church down a very destructive path that nearly ended its existence. Don’t you think most of the “discussion” here is, in reality, trying to minimize JS involvement? Like bringing up the older women thing, whatever that’s supposed to infer, or that young girls weren’t really his targets, or your statements about most of the women being near his age and therefore ok for him to pursue (comment #66). I’m sorry, but there was nothing ok or legal in the 1800’s with pursuing other women when you’re already married to one, no matter what their age.
The original post brought up an interesting point, JS didn’t benefit in terms of posterity with this practice. Despite his best efforts, the Lord didn’t bless him with a heritage in the church he started. The notion that somehow it was needed after his time seems pointless as well if you read John Nilsson’s and GBSmith’s comments. (There were not extra women around and most polygamist wives had fewer children then monogamous ones.) Don’t even get me started trying to argue that polygamist marriages were somehow more beneficial for children then monogamous ones. If you really believe that, the FLDS church is waiting for you with open arms.
I’ll read the last 60 comments again and see if I got this wrong. If I did, then I apologize for the extra long post…
“insinuating that because the practice of polygamy led to the Church being considered a cult it could not be an inspired revelation, I feel is flawed logic”
I actually agree with you to some extent. It was not just the practice of polygamy that would have led most 19th century people to conclude that the church was a cult. Mormons of that century were also isolationist, wanted independence from government controls, practiced the united order, had blood oaths, and the list goes on. I believe the church has made huge strides to rid it of things that would make most folks call them a cult. If you don’t think the church from 1830 until 1904 or so fit the definition of a cult, then you need to go back and read what constitutes a cult. They were the poster child for one in every sense of the word… Having said that, I agree with you. Just because they were a cult, wouldn’t in and of itself, make the church false. It does for me, but that’s just me. Others have obviously decided that they are ok with what the church started out to be and what it evolved into.
Thanks for taking time to comment on my ramblings…All the best!
Doug, there is a huge difference between minimizing Joseph’s involvement and trying to understand how polygamy might have been more than just the result of a horny guy’s uncontrollable libido – or to believe that there was “nothing good” that came out of its practice. I just don’t think those conclusions are clear cut as you appear to believe they are.
For example, I have said multiple times that I don’t like polygamy – and I don’t like that it was practiced. However, I also don’t like criticisms that are over-generalized, dismissive of those who participated, hyperbolic or simply misleading – even if it is not intentional. I don’t have to like it to want to address what I see as inaccuracies, just as you don’t have to like it to want to address those things about my perceptions with which you don’t agree.
I think the original post brought up some interesting things that need to be considered seriously in a comprehensive discussion of polygamy. I just don’t see it in the black and white detail that you apparently do – and I’m fine with both views. I just think if we automatically dismiss everything that we don’t like in history as 100% bad we miss much of what we can learn from it.
“Doug, there is a huge difference between minimizing Joseph’s involvement and trying to understand how polygamy might have been more than just the result of a horny guy’s uncontrollable libido – or to believe that there was “nothing good” that came out of its practice. I just don’t think those conclusions are clear cut as you appear to believe they are.”
I do tend to see things in black and white. As much as I want to understand the past, I can’t justify certain types of actions involving leaders in high positions when those actions brought about so much pain and suffering to so many. You may want to say that this pain actually helped some early members become stronger, but I think that’s a stretch. There are plenty of troubles in life without having to deal with a God who would insist on members living a cult like existence in-order to build their faith. Again, you must find a way to justify polygamy, I don’t. Although my wife has found a way to dismiss it and still believe… I’m not sure how she actually pulled that one off!
One more thing Ray, please show me where I even hinted at the “horny guy” thing as the reason for polygamy???? I’m not going to even pretend to understand what was going through JS mind when he went down that road with Fanny Alger. For all I know, he actually fell truly in love with without ever even kissing her. As I stated in my first post here, I don’t really care what he personally did or didn’t do, I’m more worried about what came of it after…
#72–Hmmmm….So you’re saying polygamy was given to be a refiner’s fire, to increase faith? I guess it would be easier than requiring everyone lose a child. Personally, I think our doctrine should be to find other ways to draw closer to the Lord without creating crucibles.
Doug, there is a huge difference between minimizing Joseph’s involvement and trying to understand how polygamy might have been more than just the result of a horny guy’s uncontrollable libido – or to believe that there was “nothing good” that came out of its practice. I just don’t think those conclusions are clear cut as you appear to believe they are.
That pretty much characterizes too many discussions.
Did you actually have point to make after reading my response to Ray’s post, or are you just taking a shot at me? Those of us on the other side of the fence get a little tired of being told to by apologists that we can’t possibly know what was going on back in 1835 and therefore shouldn’t make black and white statements about it. The truth is, we all take a side and try our best to defend it. Especially you! I’ve read enough of your postings to know how “white” all of this is in your perspective.
Many of the posters here are like Ray; they have stated over and over again that they don’t like polygamy and there very glad it isn’t required today. They also want to paint the early leaders as somehow being victims of the Lord’s commands. That’s looking at the historical evidence through some very rose colored glasses. I’m ok with that as maintaining faith in the church is first and foremost for many of you. But please don’t make statements that infer that only those on the other side of the coin see things as B/W and you and Ray are somehow not guilty of the same thing.
Perhaps I’m not giving you the benefit of the doubt. If you are pointing the B/W finger at yourself and all of us here, then my apologies for taking offence… Happy Sabbath…
In lieu of recent comments I think it is a good time to point out what happened when the Church attempted to discontinue plural marriage. If indeed it was the crucible as it has been painted, then why when the Church attempted to discontinue it were more plural marriages performed (by Church leaders even) and there were several sects of the Church that broke away to continue this practice?
I agree that it was a crucible in the beginning for many, but the historical record indicates to me that there were members of the Church that enjoyed and supported this practice enough to continue it even after the Lord had revealed it should end.
Was this because some members simply didn’t receive confirmation that it should end and wanted to continue bearing this crucible to be righteous? Or was it that this practice did serve benefits (practical benefits for supporting a family, fulfilled lustful intentions, etc.) to some members enough for them not to want to discontinue to practice? Or maybe it was a combination of both? I think it is worth considering. People like Warren Jeffs prove that there is a side of polygamy that does serve the carnal side of man.
“They also want to paint the early leaders as somehow being victims of the Lord’s commands.”
Doug, I never said that. I don’t see them as “victims”.
The difference really is that you see it as a clear conclusion, and I don’t. Let’s leave it at that, since I think we’ve exhausted our own discussion of it. We simply see it differently.
I thought that was what you were saying in #7 and 72. My apologies for misrepresenting your views. There are somethings in church history that just don’t have good answers. I think this issue is one of those, of course there are others we can discuss at a later time…
This is a timely subject as I have spent the entire weekend pouring through “In Sacred Loneliness” and “Mormon Polygamy” which I searched out after watching a recent Oprah program on FLDS women who have escaped their church. This is on the heels of finishing a class on Mao and the history of China. I have slept very little in the past 48 hours and my husband’s eyes are beginning to glaze over every time I walk into the room and want to talk it through once again. I am amazed at the depth of feelings that this issue stirs in me and the fervent prayers I have offered up in the middle of the night. I have a thousand questions but one that Doug G. has mentioned also bothers me. Why is Deseret Book pushing “Love Letters to Emma”? Why are we creating a mythological Joseph? Just like Mao, who is also dancing around in my mind, must we whitewash and sugarcoat every aspect of our history? As a convert, not a recent one, I have spent my life defending my choices to my family. Before my Dad died he said, “Let’s make a little bet, when I get to the other side I think I will be right and you will be wrong.” After this weekend, I am wondering if I may have to pay up.
I strongly believe that once the LDS Church moves away from its mythological history and focuses on the doctrine of Christ (which is truly the most complete) nothing but positive things will happen in the Church. Members will pour in and the Church will explode. The history of polygamy and Joseph Smith’s human flaws will fade into the background.
Doug G. — you already said that you weren’t taking that position, so it would not be a very, err, accurate shot at you. I was just reflecting that too often instead of nuance and consideration things get boiled down to black and white positions on both sides, which is too bad.
I think that most historical situations were nuanced and conflicting rather than black and white.
Why is Deseret Book pushing “Love Letters to Emma”? Why are we creating a mythological Emma?
Well, many in the early Church did not particularly like Emma Smith. I’m not going to go into the details, but in law school I was struck by how Dallin Oaks (not yet an Apostle) defended her in the context of going through the issues in my Trusts class.
There has been a real effort since the 80s to re-explore Emma Smith, an interesting one. Rather than leaving her as a black and white character, and a villain, there has been a new appreciation for her and compassion for the hardships she suffered in burying children, losing homes, and burying her husband.
Anyway, it is an interesting process and people continue to rediscover her.
” maybe she was Latina?Hey Explains why she was so jealous about other women!”
look up the following http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/people/emma_smith.html
“Emma Hale Smith (1804-1879), wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was born July 10, 1804, in the Susquehanna Valley in harmony township (now Oakland), Pennsylvania”
Funny about your latina comment but I don’t think the church was ready for the latinos then.
Biv strikes again.
Where would we mortal bloggers be without her? There have been so many inane comments in this thread that I am going have to switch to Mormon Coffee, where true Christians blog don’t you know?
Doug wrote: “Just because they were a cult, wouldn’t in and of itself, make the church false. It does for me, but that’s just me. “
“Those of us on the other side of the fence get a little tired of being told to by apologists that we can’t possibly know what was going on back in 1835 and therefore shouldn’t make black and white statements about it.”
Thanks. Those comments help explain your position.
This thread illustrates a pitfall in conversations between believers and non-believers. Those who have faith in their beliefs don’t need hard proof, after all that’s what faith is about. A believer can say “I believe in the church, but don’t know how to explain all the past.”
Non-believers who have concluded that the church can’t even possibly be true, always seem to demand proof or evidence that will never exist as long as faith is necessary.
And the spiritual evidences (testimony, answers to prayer, etc) that believers rely upon, is rejected a piori by those who don’t believe, or who don’t want to believer, or who insist on physical evidences/proofs.
Rediscover, reinvent. I tend to agree with Stephen Marsh that the Emma focus is to make up for the criticism of her that has been so common in the past. I for one can’t quite make out her character. She’s so typical and atypical, not a villain or a victim, I think she defies description. But books about the love letters between her and Joseph make me want to take a plastic spoon to my eyes.
“I strongly believe that once the LDS Church moves away from its mythological history and focuses on the doctrine of Christ (which is truly the most complete) nothing but positive things will happen in the Church.” This comment bears repeating. I absolutely agree. I also think early church members would think this obsession with the past is most unhealthy. They never claimed to be perfect or 100% inspired all the time. The point isn’t to determine if they were good enough people that the church is true. The OT prophets and their families were total crap, certainly as bad as and probably a good deal worse than the most flawed LDSaint. But you don’t see the millions of people who believe in the Bible obsessing over it. We need to follow what is good in their example, learn from their mistakes, and be the best we can be. We can’t do that when we don’t acknowledge their flaws. But their flaws are also not the point.
Mr. Divorced (#80):
Divorce and remarriage is the most perverted and corrupt form of plural marriage.
Lucky for us our issue will perform proxy ordinances in the Millennium to correct our mistakes, to restore canceled sealings, and to disannul our covenants with death.
Polygamy: Marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time.
By definition divorce and remarriage is not polygamy. I am not remarried anyway so I should be fine.
“But books about the love letters between her and Joseph make me want to take a plastic spoon to my eyes”
I think that these books on their ‘love letters’ must be a SLC/church HQ lead conspiracy to prove that they weren’t close to divorce, since he was the prophet and divorce is so bad for church leaders nowadays.
#87 Ex-Member. Na, she was definitely Latina -using someone else’s ID for a green card. I can still hear her telling Joseph: “If you ever go near that Fanny girl I’ll have your cojones for dinner ….”
Yeap, she was definitely Latina!
Thanks hawkgrrrl and Mr. Divorced. It is easier, especially this time of year to focus on Christ and his teachings and let the history be shelved for awhile. The angels message is continually ringing in my ears. “Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy.”
Bookslinger- Doug wrote: “Just because they were a cult, wouldn’t in and of itself, make the church false. It does for me, but that’s just me. “
“Those of us on the other side of the fence get a little tired of being told to by apologists that we can’t possibly know what was going on back in 1835 and therefore shouldn’t make black and white statements about it.”
“Thanks. Those comments help explain your position”
And your comments say a lot about you. Your generalized statements about my beliefs are also typical. You call me a non-believer when you have no idea who I am or what I believe. You assume that because I don’t accept polygamy that I don’t believe in prayer or the spirit. That also says a lot about you. It just so happens that the God I worship doesn’t believe in polygamy either. Therefore, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump on “the Lord is on our side” bandwagon. Perhaps you’re the one not listening to Him.
Two your second point, please show me where I ever have asked for hard proof about anything spiritual? I understand the role faith plays in my life just like you do in yours. I don’t happen to believe in a God that wants me to turn my brain off. Perhaps you let feelings overrun your common sense. I’m not sure, but that’s probably how the practice of polygamy got started in the first place. Frankly I’m amazed by the ability of religious zealots to get people to do things that should have sent big red flags up. I don’t point that criticism at just early LDS church leaders. It’s been going on for as long as people have been on the earth to one degree or another.
I know this is just a wild thought, but if people of any religious persuasion had the courage to stand up and say “no” to their leaders when they felt that something wasn’t right, many of the tragedies of the past could have been avoided. For the church, we may have avoided polygamy, Mountain Meadows, the United Order, Danites, and a host of other issues that made the rest of the country think that we were out of control. Let’s not forget the recent Proposition 8 fight. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Good luck Mr. Bookslinger and take heart in knowing that just as you are frustrated with those of us critical of the early church, we are just as frustrated with you.
“You call me a non-believer when you have no idea who I am or what I believe.”
Doug G, if you are a believer, well.., then maybe I for one will need to find a new religion.
“Doug G, if you are a believer, well.., then maybe I for one will need to find a new religion.”
Not cool. Let’s play nice, kids!
I do think CarlosJC and Doug G represent two different ends of the belief spectrum. I’d like to think, tho, that the tent is big enough for both.
Doug wrote: “Just because they were a cult, wouldn’t in and of itself, make the church false. It does for me, but that’s just me. “
Maybe I read the above wrong. I took it to mean that you think the church is false.
“Those of us on the other side of the fence get a little tired of being told to by apologists that we can’t possibly know what was going on back in 1835 and therefore shouldn’t make black and white statements about it.”
I took the above to mean that you place yourself on the opposite side of church apologists. I suppose I did jump to a conclusion about which or how many apologists you were referring to, and what the issues are on which you oppose them.
Also, the tone of that second quote (and most of your comments) are very “New Order Mormon”-ish, or “Post-Mormon”-ish.
Perhaps I was a bit quick to label. But then, you still haven’t written anything (on this thread) to change my mind.
LDS blogs such as this one have turned me into a part-time student of church history. I probably know just enough to be dangerous. But I also see you co-mingling things which the church has apologized for, or denounced, such as MM massacre and the Danites, and things which the church has not apologized for nor denounced, such as polygamy and the United Order.
Here’s another quote that leads me to believe that you don’t believe the LDS church is God’s “true” (or “official”) church:
“Again, you must find a way to justify polygamy, I don’t. Although my wife has found a way to dismiss it and still believe… I’m not sure how she actually pulled that one off!”.
Again, I’m sorry if I interpreted incorrectly.
One thing blogs like this have exposed me to, is the wide spectrum of beliefs among members. I thought I understood “cultural Mormons”, but I still don’t quite get New Order Mormons or Post-Mormons.
My position is that if Joseph Smith was a true Prophet, and if the legitimate succession came through Brigham Young, then Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet too, and the church he heads is God’s “official” church.
Four prophets (Smith, Young, Taylor, Woodruff) defended and promoted polygamy. And no prophet since then has denounced it as not being legitimately of God back in its day. If one doesn’t want to accept it as legitimate back in its day, then your wife’s position of shelving or dismissing it while still believing is the way to go.
The truth is I hate labels, just as Ray hates being called TBM. When you call me a non-believer and follow it up with things like:
“And the spiritual evidences (testimony, answers to prayer, etc) that believers rely upon, is rejected a piori by those who don’t believe, or who don’t want to believer, or who insist on physical evidences/proofs.”
You’re assuming that only those that believe in your particular religion have faith. I believe I have has much faith in God as anyone on this blog. To me, that makes me a believer. Now if you’re going to define a non-believer as someone who doesn’t except much of the restoration claims of the church, then fair enough, I’m a non-believer in that. Then again, if your faith is in a church or a man, what does that tell you about your faith?
To your other point about co-mingling things the church has apologized for with those they haven’t. To me, it doesn’t matter either way. Those things I listed made the church look like a cult and if they were still in effect today, we would be labeled a cult just like the FLDS are. You may not like the label, but according to every definition I’ve read, the early church met it in spades.
I could call you a non-believer for not seeing my way of thinking and even follow it up with the kind of statement you said above. It’s just as hard for me to think that we’re praying to the same God when you believe and defend much of what transpired in the early church.
I like what hawkgrrrl said: “I do think CarlosJC and Doug G represent two different ends of the belief spectrum. I’d like to think, tho, that the tent is big enough for both.”
For the sake of my wife and my marriage, I hope so. It means the world to my wife to have me sit with her in church, so I do it. On rare occasions, I even feel the spirit there and get uplifted by someone’s talk. So perhaps Carlos needs a new religion, because he may be sitting next to me in church Sunday and not even know it. 🙂
“I believe I have has much faith in God as anyone on this blog. To me, that makes me a believer.”
Sure, an Evangelical one!
Maybe its you that needs to find a new religion, one that doesn’t have polygamy, or mountain meadows or blacks no priesthood and especially God making in its past.
But you can stay for now, the tent is big enough, I mean even Ray, the TBM, is still here 🙂
“Now if you’re going to define a non-believer as someone who doesn’t except [accept] much of the restoration claims of the church, then fair enough, I’m a non-believer in that.”
Ok, that’s what I meant within the context of this discussion on this blog. So you’re not an LDS-believer, or a believer in the LDS church’s foundational claims. That puts your earlier comments in better perspective.
“Then again, if your faith is in a church or a man, what does that tell you about your faith?”
I have faith in the Spirit of Truth which convinced me of the restoration claims of the LDS church. Here’s what I believe, and I’ll try to say it plain:
1. The Holy Ghost convinced me that God the Father exists.
2. The Holy Ghost convinced me that Jesus is the Son of God the Father and is the Savior, in that he worked out an atonement for the sins of all mankind, and then was resurrected, and thereby brought about the resurrection for all mankind.
3. The Holy Ghost convinced me that Joseph Smith Jr did have a vision in which he saw God the Father and Jesus.
4. The Holy Ghost convinced me that the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is the same Jesus of the Bible, that there really were Nephites, and that Jesus visited them.
5. The Holy Ghost caused me to believe (not quite the same level of “convincing power” as the above, but still enough for me to recognize who was talking/communicating) that David B. Haight was a true Apostle of Jesus Christ, thereby resolving logic-type questions I had about succession at the death of Joseph Smith Jr. (IE, items 1 through 4 could still be true and the CoC/RLDS could be God’s official church.) Therefore, based on a spiritual witness of the apostolic calling of DBH, I could logically deduce that succession came through Brigham Young, and all his successors were then true prophets.
Items #1 through #5 are things I “can hang my hat on”. Those are givens to me now. I know those things with greater surety than what I can figure out with my own human reasoning. Those five spiritual communications, or experiences, or testimonies, are my personal “foundational” items for all my other associated religious/spiritual beliefs.
Items #1 through #4 are not subject to much interpretation. I know them as I know that I exist. #1 through #4 have gone beyond faith for me. I can honestly say I have faith in #1 through #4, but the full story is that I _know_ them. #1 through #4 are “I know…” testimonies, not “I believe…” testimonies for me.
#5 requires a little interpretation, but not much. If I’m wrong on #5, I’d have to go investigate the CoC or the Strangites, because for me, #1 through #4 are not negotiable.
Oh, and then there’s all that temple and missionary work I did that also confirms and strengthens the testimonies of #1 through #5.
“You may not like the label, but according to every definition I’ve read, the early church met it in spades”
So did the church in Abraham’s time, Jacob’s time, Moses’ time, David’s time, Jesus’s time, and in 60 AD. As pointed out by previous commenters, even today, things like our view of the nature of God, temple covenants and ordinances, temple garments, Word of Wisdom, etc., lead many to consider the LDS a cult (going by the popular definition, and not the dictionary definition.)
By the dictionary definition, all religions are cults. In your, and in the popular definition, “cult” is either a derogatory term usually meaning “not mainstream” or “an organization that is harmful to individuals.”
I think that to the Jews all Christians are cultists.
As to whether any LDS-believer has faith in a man (JS Jr), that’s like asking a follower of Moses whether the follower has faith in Moses, or asking one of Paul’s converts if he had faith in Paul.
Accusing an LDS-believer of “having faith in a man” because he believes in modern prophets, yet if the accuser believes in dead prophets, while discounting even the possibility of a live one, such an accuser is on the same footing as the pharisees, who claimed to believe in dead prophets, but rejected the live ones.
When someone today believes a modern prophet or apostle as being a true representative of Christ, they are on the same footing as past believers who held their contemporary prophets and apostles as true representatives. Believing that Joseph, Brigham, and down the line to Thomas Monson are prophets, is no different than accepting Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, down through Peter as prophets.
And I respect your and everyone else’s right to ignore those who claim to be modern prophets.
I would suggest that human reasoning alone is not sufficient to test a supposed prophet’s claims. Analyzing polygamy or other historical facts is not sufficient. Spiritual claims need spiritual discernment to know if they are true or not.
As a late comer to this thread, I want to make points on a number of things others have said or at least implied.
But first, let me state where I am coming from—
I am a TBM. I believe all that has been revealed, all that is now revealed, and I believe that God will yet reveal many things to man—and that many who have been/are/will be members will leave (perhaps at times even in large droves) as happened to the Savior during his mortal ministry.
Jesus’ teaching on eating his flesh and drinking his blood was evidently too much (and too gruesome) for many—sounded like possibly thousands to me.
I too am a thinking being, and I try to face everything, polygamy and even polyandry (one person, such as Joseph Smith, being married to women who were, when he married them, wives of other men—some of the men whose wives he married were members of the Church, some were not).
Polygamy I conceptually, at least, understood, as it applied both to those who practiced it (lawfully and properly)in the Bible (from Abraham and Jacob to Moses, Samuel’s father, and possibly even Jesus Christ?), to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others, including some of my ancestors.
Emma had a tough time with plural marriage. But so did many others, including Marinda Johnson Hyde (who later divorced Orson, apparently because he was paying attention only or largely to newer, younger wives). Marinda was the sister of Lyman and Luke Johnson, both original apostles. One of the Johnson brothers came back into the Church after apostatizing, the other didn’t. Marinda always remained, as far as I know, a faithful Church member.
Todd Compton’s book, while being very instructive, and I believe (outside of his much speculation) likely being mostly accurate, I have to (almost) agree with the one who wondered why he (Brother Compton) has not been kicked out. But, too, from what most of us write, I wonder why most of us have not been “cast out”!
Close to a month ago, while the lesson in our HP group on Joseph’s letters to Emma were being read, I contradicted some of the erroneous conclusions some of my brethren in my HP group had reached, they being unaware of the fuller history of Joseph and Emma’s often tumultuous relationship. A dear brother and good friend of mine, sitting next to me, literally slammed a book on the table (we were sitting around the table in the HC room), and took me to task for saying things that were not “faith promoting”.
I apologized. Not because I said things that were untrue. But because at least this brother (a former bishop and current high councilman) was apparently not strong or secure enough in either his testimony, or his fear of the testimony (or lack thereof) of others to abide a fuller examination of the facts.
I have come to believe that what Joseph Smith declared regarding polygamy (and even his polyandry) are true (ie., the revelation indeed came from God, and not from his own carnal desires), and that (polyandry) at least was, if not commanded by God, at least allowed to Joseph Smith. And, if either so commanded and/or so allowed, it becomes for many (myself included) a test of our faith and faithfulness (or faithlessness), as the case may be.
I believe we are inclined to hold him as a true prophet of God, or not, according to our own inclinations.
Regarding “blood lineage” arguments given above, I would agree that, ultimately, at least, as “righteous is as righteous does & intends”, so also “Israel is as Israel does/intends”. Many of those who were born into either Abraham’s family or Israel’s will not be included in the family, because of their faithlessness. And, likewise, many who are not “in the bloodline” literally will, because of their actions and intentions, will ultimately (if not now) are included as among Abraham’s (and Israel’s) posterity.
After all, both literal bloodlines and priesthood are essential to fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant, which of course was renewed with/in Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).
God covenanted and promised blessings to these men and their seed because, as God said himself, he knew that these men would teach their posterity his commandments, to keep them.
Those who still practice polygamy, I believe, are committing whoredoms. Man has changed legal ages of marriage as our society has changed in attitudes and what they deem acceptable and not. God has too. Plural marriage was commanded in the Church for most of the 19th century, as I believe it was not only allowed, but I believe commanded of the patriarchs, of whom God calls himself of the God of (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). That association should not be taken lightly.
However, in the same D&C section the revelation on both eternal marriage and plural marriage were given, it points out that these patriarchs (with, of course, their wives, by necessity) are now Gods! I believe that when God told Abram, “Be thou perfect…”, that is what that command given both to the Jews during the Savior’s mortal ministry and in his Nephite ministry ultimately refers to. That is, to become a god (as the Savior showed that as a resurrected being AND A GOD, his example became the paramount of what was to be followed.
I have to get to work. May expand on this later.
Continuing what I was saying, reiterating my 2nd to last paragraph in that post, and then correcting my line of thought—
However, in the same D&C section the revelation on both eternal marriage and plural marriage were given, it points out that these patriarchs (with, of course, their wives, by necessity) are now Gods! I believe that when God told Abram, “Be thou perfect…”, that is what that command given both to the Jews during the Savior’s mortal ministry and in his Nephite ministry ultimately refers to. That is, to become a god (as the Savior showed that as a resurrected being AND A GOD, his example became the paramount of what was to be followed). Hence, when we are commanded to “do the works of Abraham”, we are commanded to do as he did or would have done (according to what God did or did not command him to do).
This is what the Lord tells us, through Joseph Smith, as found in the 132 section of the book of Doctrine & Covenants—
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
(Doctrine and Covenants | Section 132:37 – 38)
So, here, explicitly, it says that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all justified in what they did. I do not believe it indicates that Isaac took a wife other than Rebekah (I could be wrong, so please correct me on this if you have and know scripture & verse). And Abraham took not only Hagar, but other multiple wives, and was married to them polygamously, after Sarah’s death.
Jacob (aka Israel), of course, had two wives and two concubines (I think I have somewhat of an idea of the difference between a “wife” and a “concubine”, but I won’t go into that here).
If one believes what Joseph Smith declared on this is truly and unequivocally from God, (and I do declare here and now and whenever it may come up to my knowledge— that I fully believe that it was and is), that in these marital and sexual relationships these “patriarchs” had with multiple women to whom they were married or had sexual relations “concurrently” (no “menage-a-trois ou plus”, though, for those of you who read and understand French), these wives were “given to them”, I believe, of/by God!
However, the most important point in the two verses I cited, I believe, is this—
“…and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods!”
They were given plural wives and/or concubines (at least Abraham and Jacob). However, I believe, we today are not only given them, but as it was to the people in the Book of Mormon, we are explicitly forbidden from taking multiple wives— AND, if we do, we are committing adultery! (statutory adultery, if you please – or don’t – according to what God has said).
Joseph’s letter (a follow-up on a proposal of marriage) to the 17-year old daughter of Sidney Rigdon, Nancy, we have the oft-quoted beginning of that letter—
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God; but we cannot keep ALL the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to KNOW ALL, or more than we now know, unless we comply with or keep those we have ALREADY RECEIVED!”
But then the prophet continues further than this letter is usually quoted—
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, Thou shalt not kill; at another time he said, Thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of Heaven is conducted, by REVELATION adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added.
So with Solomon; first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it EVERY DESIRE OF HIS HEART; even things which might be considered ABOMINABLE to all who understand the order of Heaven ONLY IN PART, but which, in reality, were right, because God gave and sanctioned BY SPECIAL REVELATION. A parent may whip a child, and justly too, because he stole an apple; whereas, if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite; there would have been no stripes; all the pleasures of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost. This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with his children. Every thing that God gives us is lawful and right, and it is proper that we should ENJOY his gifts and blessings, WHENEVER AND WHEREVER he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without REVELATION, without COMMANDMENT, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness, the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will, institute an ordinance or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth BY THE WICKED AND SLOTHFUL SERVANT; the proffered good returns to the giver; the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive, and occupy; for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have ABUNDANTLY, but unto him that hath not, or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.
“‘Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer!
Next day the fatal precedent may plead;
Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time,’ into eternity.
“Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive, and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of his punishments, and more ready to detect every false way than we are apt to suppose him to be; he will be inquired of by his children; he says, Ask and ye SHALL RECEIVE, seek and ye SHALL FIND; but, if ye will take that which is not your own, or which I have not give(n) you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds; but no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things; who will listen to my voice and to the voice of MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE SENT; for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the laws of my kingdom; for ALL THINGS SHALL BE MADE KNOWN UNTO THEM IN MINE OWN DUE TIME, and in the end THEY SHALL HAVE JOY.”
—Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon
In man’s small, yes, even carnal and provincial mind, he/she will limit him or her self to believe and accept only “so much”, and no more. But, just as those, for example, who “have a Bible” and cannot stomach “any more Bible”, even that which they have (or their understanding of it), sooner or later, if they will not accept more, will be taken away. It is ALL a gift from God.
Purportedly, my great-grandfather, a Swedish immigrant, was asked by his bishop (in the Salt Lake Valley) to take another wife. He refused, saying, “One is enough”. God blesses us (and curses us) according to our desires. Whether that great-grandfather did “what is right”, I believe, ultimately are to be determined by God. The same is to be said for great and great-great grandparents of mine who participated in plural marriage.
One need look no further than Biblical examples, Sarah and Hagar, Leah and Rachel, and Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and her antagonist (apparently another wife of her husband who became pregnant much more readily early on) to see what envy, jealousy, bad feelings, and even “hellish” situations “the principle” as some of our 19th Century forebears often referred to it, to realize that polygamy is no “picnic” for most as far as marital and family relationships go.
I don’t know for certain why God established it among our forebears. However, if I were to venture some good guesses, I would give TWO primary reasons, and possibly a THIRD for why the Lord gave/allowed it.
1) Me. I am the descendant of a 2nd wife on at least two lines. If these couples had not married, I believe (whether I am correct or not), I may not have arrived on this planet. And also, genes (“blood lines”) DO make a difference! Anecdotally, I’ve seen how different lives of adopted versus non-adopted cousins and nieces and nephews have turned out. Four of my cousins, who were all adopted, have had troubles than those not adopted. One adopted child of a sibling, out of over 40 grandchildren of my parents, is the first and only one who has become pregnant out of wedlock. I know, largely, how she was treated by her adopted parents, siblings, etc, and I am convinced she was given every other advantage they were.
So it is likewise with my adopted cousins. Not to say cousins not adopted haven’t had troubles, or brought them on themselves. However, those problems of adopted children have been far greater, overall.
One also must ask the question, as President Harold B. Lee did of himself, why God favored Israel over other nations? Was it simply because he had made promises to their parents?
This is what President Lee taught when and as President of the Church—
(Understanding Who We Are Brings Self-Respect – Address delivered at the Friday morning session, October 5, 1973 – Harold B. Lee, “Understanding Who We Are Brings Self-Respect,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 2j)—
“You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.
“It would seem very clear, then, that those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.
“All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here?”
The little song “The Captain” and “Maria” sing between them in that wonderful musical, “The Sound of Music”, I believe, conveys this concept best—
“…Nothing come from nothing, nothing ever could—
So somewhere in my youth, or childhood (or, I would add, premortal life), I must have done something good!”
If you can explain why God has and does favor Israel otherwise, let me know. Certainly, the scriptures have pointed out that keeping the commandments of God here on the earth is what makes God favor ANYONE (but certainly, our premortal life must have had a bearing on our circumstances in this life, at least in many cases – though not all – and that has an effect on what we do, and are able to do, and be, in this life)!
There are more good women, and fewer men of good conduct and of great intellect. This is why I believe, in large part, I am descended from those of whom I am a descendant; and of those who practiced polygamy as much as anyone—
2) I believe plural marriage, those of the 19th century Saints AND Joseph Smith, including his apparently exclusive practice (among Church members) of polyandry, were/are a test for them (that practiced it), as it is something to test our faith, and the faith of any/all who may enter or consider entering our Church.
3) I would agree that plural marriage helped to cause Church members then to coalesce (or flee— which many did). “The principle” truly did set them apart, both perceptually, and for them, according to the experiences they had, which were unique under plural marriage.
Lastly, though on other discussion forums, some members have disagreed with me on this. But I believe that the parable of the 10 virgins was, possibly (and, to my understanding, probably) one of a bridegroom to marry ten virgins in a polygamous marriage!
Yes, I understand that its message was instructive as to what the percentage of Church members would be ready when the Savior comes (to be taken up)— i.e., 50%. However, I think that still, the correct “in the original intent and setting” of this parable was that it was one bridegroom to be married to ten different women, simultaneously! (Note: In the OT book of Hosea, treacherous sisters, “Judah” and “Israel” are used in an allegory of two women married to one man). Why not 10 to one man (the Lord)!?!
However, MY and YOUR guide is this— to do no other thing than that which we are commanded. And we are expressly forbidden by contracting any marriage with more than one wife at a time as it now stands. Truly, the Lord will do nothing (more, less or different) unless he revealeth his secrets unto his servants, the prophets.
Any change in this will need come through the Lord’s moutpiece, who currently is Thomas S. Monson. It may change in the future. But I’m not worried about it. I am only concerned with how I, and those around me (since we all influence each other, to some extent) do in keeping God’s commandments AS THEY CURRENTLY STAND.
Circumstances can and do change. God does not change. But his instructions occasionally have been different to different generations of men.
“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…” —Luke 24:25
I try to believe all that they have spoken, and to abide thereby, as light, understanding, instruction and specific command is given to me IN MY DAY.
“…Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” —Mark 9:24
I think you missed the point of this thread. If you read the original post, you will see that Bored in Vernal asked this question.
“If the purpose of plural marriage was to propagate additional posterity, why did it seem to have failed in the case of Joseph Smith, the first modern Prophet to restore the practice?”
You’ve written a rather lengthy dissertation on what you believe including an interesting twist on the Parable of the Ten Virgins that not even the church would support you in. Unless of course James E. Talmage just wasn’t as inspired as you are. His rendering of the meanings portrayed by this parable are actually very inspired. Perhaps you should read it…
For the sake of discussion here, you might try and show how polygamy and polyandry actually helped grow the church and or produce a royal priesthood. Polygamy was a big part of my family history as well, and yet my relatives would have lived better lives without it. From the discussion above, you will note that Utah had more men than women in 1850 and there are many journal entrees of young men volunteering to help immigrants across the plains in order to give themselves a change at meeting a young lady before she was snatched up by a polygamist. These facts don’t support the “explanations” for the practice taught in seminary to many of us.
Another important observation is the statistics showing the average number of children born to polygamist wives from 1850 to 1900 was far less then children born to monogamist marriages. Fewer children in Utah would stunt the growth of the church, not help it. I think its pure speculation that somehow these polygamist marriages produced a more righteous generation. I would argue that the practice was often abused and the resulting dysfunctional families would outweigh the “good” purported by apologists.
One last point here, the number of convert baptisms as a percentage of the total membership of the church dropped substantially after polygamy became an openly taught doctrine of salvation. Therefore, the growth of the church slowed to a crawl during the last half of the 19th century. These facts combined with the statements in the manifesto would seem to support the notion that polygamy was slowing destroying the church from within and if not abandon, would spell its demise.
Feel free to correct me if I’ve distorted the facts here or show me what I’m missing with regards to why you believe polygamy and polyandry was actually a good thing on the whole. I’m not taking a shot at you or Bookslinger’s beliefs. Both of you are just as I used to be, certain you’re right. “Certainty” is an interesting concept… Good luck with that!
“Both of you are just as I used to be, certain you’re right. “Certainty” is an interesting concept… Good luck with that!”
Doug, I think you now are just as certain you are right as you used to be. The only change is that in which you are certain. Good luck with that! 🙂
Dave, having said that, Doug’s central population point is accurate. It can’t be argued that polygamy produced an increase in children that would not have occurred within monogamy. At best, the numbers were a wash. It is possible to argue about the qualitative aspects of the heritage, but the quantitative argument doesn’t fly.
Also, Dave, fwiw, it generally is considered not kosher to post a comment that is longer than the original post. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate your effort and participation and hope you continue to contribute here. (Truly, I mean that.) You just should understand that LONG comments like that generally don’t get read – specifically because of the length.
I know some of my posts come across as being certain, but in reality I’m less certain about very many things than I used to be. I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of losing one’s faith in the religion of his youth. I participate on this board with the hope that someone can provide a better answer to many of those uncertainties. Thus far, what I’ve found at FAIR or FARMS has been disappointing. I’m not against asking God, but the answers have changed as I’ve learned more information. I don’t trust that method of discerning truth as much as I did in the past.
Thanks for your comments. 🙂
Thank you, Doug, for that very thoughtful comment. I know we aren’t as far apart as it appears in many of the comments – particularly in how we try to understand things and remain open to possibilities outside our current understanding.
“but in reality I’m less certain about very many things than I used to be”
Now the truth is coming out.
“…that someone can provide a better answer to many of those uncertainties”
I doubt that will happen. Only the HG can really convince you and give you the answers you are looking for.
“I don’t trust that method of discerning truth as much as I did in the past”
The biggest problem here, since I guess that the ‘burning in bosom’ was the method you refer to. But only that method will show you were the truth lies.
“I know we aren’t as far apart as it appears in many of the comments”
True. You guys are practically ready to start your own new church with new concepts, beliefs, history and practices.
Good luck 🙂
I would simply say this. If the revelation in D&C section 132 is not inspired, and polygamy is not, was not, and will not be sanctioned by God, then Joseph Smith was not a True Prophet and the LDS church was founded on falsehood, and if Joseph Smith was not a true Prophet of our Lord Jesus Christ then none of you (LDS) have any business claiming God’s blessings or aspiring to be members of His church. If that be true, I shudder to think of the consequences. Vanity, Pride, Tradition, just to name a few, are the very things gnawing at the foundation of truth.
Quote, “We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:” and again, “For the bed is shorter than that [a man] can stretch himself [on it]: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself [in it].” and lastly, “For all tables are full of vomit [and] filthiness, [so that there is] no place [clean].” I would exhort each and every one of you to consider closely the eternal weight of drawing a preconceived notion on matters of principal, priesthood and eternal importance. It is difficult to kick against the pricks, especially when the truth has been given to all as plain as words can be.
By The Way…and I don’t mean “John”. LOL.
There is NO revelation given after that given in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants forbidding the practice of polygamy. Not from God, Jesus Christ or anyone else, no not one. At least, not one that has been published. Those who preach the Manifesto are obviously unfamiliar with revelation themselves, as it is not a commandment from God, but rather a dissertation written; by an inspired man…yes, but still only a press release to the United States Government to get them off the proverbial “back” of the saints. by that time it was becoming more and more apparent that the saints were unwilling to live that law anyway. This was just the excuse they (the church) was looking for not too. President Woodruff very clearly makes the distinction in the matter and his language is specific. “And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” It is his advice to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land. How can any rational mind conceive this to mean that Almighty God said (Verily verily thus sayeth the Lord, or anything remotely similar) that he renounced D&C 132. When did the law of the land take precedence above the law of God. Set them side by side, both D&C 132 and Official Declaration-1……….which one is a commandment and which one is not, but pray before you do it, nothing doubting, that he will manifest the truth unto you, and if done so with an eye single to his glory, he will answer you by the power of his Holy Ghost and you will then know for yourselves and not for another.
As far as Joseph Smith’s lack of posterity on this earth, I think the accounts of Matthew and Mark as well as that given in section 132 are easily forgotten, wherein it states that we are not given or taken in marriage after we leave this earth. It seems to reason then that those who he married here would be with him in heaven according to his obedience to the conditions of that law as outlined in section 132. Otherwise, are they angels and ministering servants to those who are worthy of a far more and exceeding weight of glory. The only recognized, legal form of marriage in the Celestial kingdom is that which is patterned after the marriage of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the romantic (Roman-antic) idea of the Alpha Male-Alpha Female (one man to one woman, but the Alpha Male-Alpha Female-Alpha Female-Alpha Female………….Sorry to burst your bubble, but anyone found not doing the works of Abraham (as outlined in section 132) will be single throughout all the countless ages of eternity.
What will prevail….is it…. order, family, government and love….or is it….party time, chaos, lust and vanity.
Nice, Carlos – if nowhere close to reality, still nice. *grin*
“If the revelation in D&C section 132 is not inspired”…”then Joseph Smith was not a True Prophet and the LDS church was founded on falsehood”
Exactly! People like Pt Hunter and E. Perry, Nelson & Oaks, plus thousands of other men widowed and re-married, all fully expect to be with both wives during eternity, and in the marriage sense not the work companions sense. They believe this because of section 132 and nothing in mormon matters will change this.
Plus sec 132 is also clear in that the first wife needs to give consent for the man to re-marry righteously (which is still the case after divorce in sealing clearances) In Joseph Smith’s case several historical records paint a picture that Emma would accept more wives but then change her mind, reject them, and she kept Joseph away from them if she could. This explains why they probably just married ‘celestially’ for lack of a better word, but no children resulted. Although, since none of us were there to verify it, we are only speculating on the sex life of a man who lived some 170 odd years ago?
Ray, what I’m not close to ‘reality’? Oh dear!
CarlosJC, it’s troubling to read your rehashing the same points we discussed earlier. Your goal seems to sanitize Joseph Smith by saying he didn’t really marry those women (only celestially) since Emma didn’t really consent as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t really produce a significant progeny. I’m not sure if that’s the way you’re reading history or if you just repeat it enough it will be true for you. Lastly as an aside, try reading sec 132 out loud and see if it makes sense as anything other than Joseph and Hyrum Smiths efforts to change Emma Smith’s mind about polygamy.
Carlos, it was a tongue-in-cheek response to the “ready to start your own church” phrase – nothing more. It was typed with a big smile on my face.
Merry Christmas, friend!
Some One Who Knows: If you’lll read Wilford Woodruff’s accompanying words to the Manifesto, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/od/1 , you’ll see that it is based on a revelations the Lord gave to WW. In fact, he claims he was told what to write. I’d call that a revelation.
” I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. . . .
I saw exactly what would come to pass if there was not something done. I have had this spirit upon me for a long time. But I want to say this: I should have let all the temples go out of our hands; I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. . . . “
“since Emma didn’t really consent as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t really produce a significant progeny”
Nope (comes from Emma Smith bio Mormon Enigma plus others). They claim that Emma even witnessed some marriages but then changed her mind about them. She then went on to claim that there were no polygamous marriages at all. This point of view would explain, as a hypothesis not evidence, the why no children were produced not that the other way around.
Ouch, you called me friend! But yeap, mine were all tongue in cheek too. 🙂 Merry Christmas
I’ve sometimes wondered if Joseph not having children grow up in the church was some sort of discipline that the Lord imposed upon him, in a manner similar to the Lord not allowing Moses to go into the Promised Land (for not following the Lord’s directions to the letter at the waters of Meribah). Moses was still translated, and Joseph still had his exaltation sealed upon him. But maybe there was something that Joseph did or didn’t do.
I don’t mean to suggest that the Lord punished Joseph’s children. With the Lord’s foreknowledge, he could have merely sent the spirits to be Joseph’s children who would fulfill His purposes.
My personal belief is that before the 2nd Coming, people will be joining the church in droves. We’ll see a time with more than a million converts per year soon. I also believe that whole congregations will convert at a time, as in the days of Sidney Rigdon in Ohio, and Brigham, Heber and Wilford in England.
So it’s possible that many of Joseph’s descendents, some within the CoC and some not, will still join the church.
Doug G, I have to agree with the others, in that I don’t think you’re going to find suitable answers among historical data and intellectual reasoning. The answers/solutions are spiritual-based. The things of God cannot be sufficiently grasped or perceived with the arm or mind of flesh.
I’m not saying don’t study it out. But in the course of obtaining my testimonies, I had to do enough intellectual study to see that definitive answers were not to be found in intellectual study. That increased my desire and hope for a spiritual or supernatural witness.
I believe that a belief in, a search for, and a hope for that supernatural witness is essential to obtaining it. Granted, I realized that some may see that as a self-fulfilling kind of self-delusion. But, I testify that that is where the truth is hidden, in the spiritual and supernatural side of existence.
Once that first leap of faith is made, and the door cracks open to the supernatural, then there are cascading effects, and the spiritual/supernatural consequences/effects/blessings follow the laws upon which they are based. IE., blessings follow obedience; obedience in the form of both outward actions and inward attitudes/desires.
To tie this back to the original premise: Maybe the good consequences of earthly polygamy are not to be seen in this world, but on the other side of the veil. We just don’t know. We don’t know at which “phase” they kick in either: post-mortal and pre-resurrection (while a disembodied spirit), post-resurrection and pre-exaltation (during the millenium), post-millennium and pre-exaltation (while in the Celestial Kingdom), or post-Celestial-Kingdom (world building phase of exalted beings).
CarlosJC, I read through the relevant sections of “Mormon Enigma” and don’t find the things you referred to in #118. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I know you mean well and for many basing truth on feelings is the only way to go. I’m not going tell anyone else that God doesn’t talk to them. (I actually believe He does have some amount of interaction with us, although I believe it’s usually in unperceived ways.) What I’m saying is I don’t think it’s as simple as my LDS upbringing made me believe.
I’m older than many here and spent my life active in the church. I served a mission, married in the temple, and then held many leadership positions for more then thirty years. During that time, I was certain God was communicating with me almost daily. Sadly, I came to learn that those feels I was experiencing were not a good indicator of truth. I think anyone here who has held priesthood “keys” knows what I’m referring to. Praying about whom to put in certain callings, or what to say in a priesthood blessing, or who was worthy to have a temple recommend, or who to assign to brother “X” as a home teacher usually came out about the same as if we’d used the good old intellectual method of determining all those spiritual questions. After living in many wards and serving in many positions, I came to understand that this problem was universal. What we tend to do is remember those times when things worked out right and use that as a strengthening experience for our testimonies. The things that don’t work out tend to be forgotten or rationalized away. This is all well and good until something really important comes along and a person in a position of authority does something stupid claiming he felt inspired (ignoring good solid reasoning) and ruins someone’s life.
So to get back on topic, I believe polygamy fits this scenario. JS felt like God told him he was justified in pursuing Fanny Alger without Emma’s knowledge and even before the sealing keys had been restored. I’m not going to say that God didn’t do it, but based on all the things that followed from it, I find it highly unlikely. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, although I worry about what else church leaders can justify in the name of God for the determent of mankind…
“I read through the relevant sections of “Mormon Enigma”
Sure, like the preface?
Merry Christmas too 🙂
Surely if you held ‘keys’ you would have seen that light that fills the room when someone confesses a sin, which they usually don’t see only just say ‘its feels good to get this of my chest’? Surely you have prayed after a disciplinary councils when the answer comes down as a bucket of light from heaven saying to excommunicate or disfellowship etc???
If you haven’t seen this light then I respectfully suggest you go back and start again from zero. Do the moroni counsel again, in privacy and without vanity or demand because its a lot more than just ‘warm fuzzy feelings’ this spiritual thing we talk about.
“I’ve sometimes wondered if Joseph not having children grow up in the church was some sort of discipline that the Lord imposed upon him”
I’d say it would have been due to Emma’s reluctance to fully embrace polygamy more than anything Joseph did. Remember that there is also that unsavoury incident when Joseph accused Emma in a conference meeting of trying to poison him -which makes these love letters in the current manual all that more ridiculous.
I don’t know what to tell you, CarlosJC, I read through the introduction, notes on the dust jacket and the chapter dealing with polygamy, the references to Fanny Alger and then he denials later in her life after the RLDS church was organized. I did find one the the points you mentioned. In chapter 10, More Wives and a Revelation it does mention Lucy Walker’s report that she (Emma) consented to her husband’s marriage to at least four women though interestingly was not aware that she, Lucy, was a plural wife. (pg 144). On pg 147 after Helen Mar Kimball’s quote there is the statement, “Secrecy circumscribed the role of Joseph’s plural wives. He hid his relationship with them from the majority of the inhabitants of Nauvoo, as well as from Emma.” As I said earlier, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
“as well as from Emma.”
We should ask ourselves why he did this.
I think we need to read the entire book here, since you seem to be reading bits here and there but missing the full message. But anyway lets agree to diss….etc since this has gone on for long enough.
“missing the full message”. The parting shot. oh well.
I have read it……many times. The pattern of revelation through a Prophet is to an individual(s) or the church at large. I would like to ask that you read my previous posting again as I was very specific in saying exactly what I meant to say. There are a few things I would like to point out; I never said that W.W. did not receive a revelation to write the Manefesto or that he was not inspired to write what he did write. What I did say is that there was no revelation given conflicting with section 132, nullifying it, suspending it or altering it and that no commandment has been given in opposition to it or in place thereof. In fact there have been revelations given in support of section 132 since its publication in the original book of commandments, although their authenticity is not recognized by the Church.
The most obvious answer would be that he didn’t have much marital relations with them. Given that Navou plural marriage was done “on the sneak” I don’t see how he or his wives could ever be “trying” to have a baby.
Because nothing in scripture condones fornication or adultery and, in fact, because every scripture I have studied in the OT, NT, Bof M, and D&C condemn fornication and adultery, I find Joseph Smith’s practice of polyandry very troubling. Nothing I can find in the Scriptures allows any married woman or man to have sexual relationships with another married person when they are already married. I would like someone to explain to me doctrinally how polyandry not polygamy) can be scripturally defended.
As a CofChrist member, I’m not the one to try to justify post-1835 doctrines of the LDS as Scriptural, but in trying to skim through this old topic I’ve just discovered, let me try to offer two sympathetic points.
As a pastor and as a friend, I’ve spent entirely too much time having to deal with consequences of sexual misconduct by the ordained on wives and children. It leads me to realize that the Scripture in Jacob does not just come down to a difference in punctuation between the LDS and CofChrist versions of the BofM. To me, the whole Chapter is an indictment of inequality in relationships, with the abuse of the most personal relationships — with one’s own family — the most serious example. Lives were and are being seriously damaged by loss of trust when monogamous expectations are broken.
But God heals broken lives and always tries to bring good out of any situation. The good fruit He brings forth is often served in the form of lemonade made from even the most bitter lemons — which explains not only the wonderful people who may come into the world as a result of polygamy, but wonderful people who are born as the result of adultery, pre-marital sex, or even incest.
The second point is don’t focus on the prophets. Prophets never get too far out in front of their people. When the people refuse to follow the direction of God, the seers are covered. In the years following the foundation of the church, it grew so rapidly that it attracted many people with less than pure motives, including many whose faith rapidly waned if not given constant new signs and wonders (much like the Israelites coming out of Egypt).
I suggest that Joseph had seen much more than he had told the people, but his own weaknesses as well as the weaknesses of the church as a whole led him increasingly astray. He kept trying to put the fragments together into a coherent whole to satisfy the sign-seekers and to counter his own temptations and discouragements at the persecutions facing the church. And he got some things wrong! All of the Mormon denominations are trying to figure out which parts he got wrong while still struggling with our own spiritual weaknesses and temptations.
“And he got some things wrong! All of the Mormon denominations are trying to figure out which parts he got wrong while still struggling with our own spiritual weaknesses and temptations.” A very interesting perspective! Thanks for sharing.
Mormon plural marriage(polygamy)was taught in the context of the new and everlasting covenant,D&C 132: 1-7 I have found that in any good 20th century english dictionary there appears as one of its definitions, for marriage a concept of any close or intimate union. Joseph Smith had a broad and inclusive nature, I suppose because of great reflection upon God, careful intuitive study of the scriptures, and how his heart responded to other individual hearts. Does anyone find it surprising that Joseph was entering into this coventant with women who were married to other men and who remained also with their first husbands, about eleven women by my count? And would anyone find it strange that he was sealing men to men??
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