Trading Polygamy for Statehood

Mormon Hereticcivil disobedience, history, marriage, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, politics, polygamy, temple, Utah, women 67 Comments

If one searches around the bloggernacle, you’ll find a snarky comment about how the church traded polygamy for statehood, or that the church just wimped-out on polygamy.  Such comments don’t seem to take into account how much pressure the US government was putting on the church–it was literally trying to snuff it out if the church didn’t back down from polygamy.

I’d like to get into some of these details leading up to the Manifesto.  (This is a shorter version–more details are found here.)  I talked about the Manifesto previously in the context of whether the prophet would ever lead the church astray.  It should be noted that the church had been fighting federal anti-polygamy legislation for nearly 30 years, so I think it should be noted that the Manifesto banning polygamy in 1890 was not a spur-of-the-moment quick capitulation.  I’ll be taking my quotes from 2 books: Forgotten Kingdom by David Bigler, and Great Basin Kingdom, by Leonard Arrington.

It was during the administration of Abraham Lincoln that the first federal anti-polygamy legislation passed Congress, but Lincoln wanted to ignore the issue.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln’s first priority was slavery.  In 1862, Lincoln signed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which (from Wikipedia)

banned plural marriage and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000.[1] The act targeted the Mormon church ownership in the Utah territory. The measure had no funds allocated for enforcement, and President Lincoln chose not enforce this law; instead Lincoln gave Brigham Young tacit permission to ignore the Morrill Act in exchange for not becoming involved with the Civil War.[2] General Patrick Edward Connor, commanding officer of the federal forces garrisoned at Fort Douglas, Utah beginning in 1862 was explicitly instructed not to confront the Mormons over this or any other issue.

The footnote at Wikipedia is especially interesting.  Quoting from the book, Firmage, Edwin Brown; Mangrum, Richard Collin (2001), Zion in the courts, University of Illinois Press, p. 139, ISBN 0252069803,,

“Having signed the Morrill Act, Abraham Lincoln reportedly compared the Mormon Church to a log he had encountered as a farmer that was ‘too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plow around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone.'”

If the church had capitulated at this point, I can understand critics who say that the church traded polygamy for statehood.  The church had been applying for statehood for 40 years when it finally happened, and were always ignored by Congress.  In fact, the state of Utah is less than half the size of the original territory of Deseret.  Congress split the Deseret Territory, and created the territory of Nevada.  Congress continued to take away slices of Utah and added them to Nevada in 1861, 1864, and 1866.  Check out this map.  Nevada even became a state before Utah, even though it was created after Utah.

Utah continued to practice polygamy in defiance of federal law for another 20 years following the Morrill Act.  Congress made several attempts to handle “The Mormon Question”.  Leonard Arrington (former church historian) documents some of these laws on page 357 from his book called Great Basin Kingdom.  (Much more detail is in the book.)

  • The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 – passed.
  • The Wade Act of 1866- failed to pass.  It would have prohibited church officers from solemnizing marriages, would have taxed the church, taken over the Nauvoo Legion, and sent federal officials to take over all government responsibilities, among other things.
  • The Cullom Bill of 1869-70 – passed House but failed Senate.  Plural wives would have been deprived of immunity as witnesses involving their husband.  It would have authorized the President to send army of 25,000 to Utah, and would confiscate all property of any Mormon.
  • The Ashley Bill of 1869 – failed to pass.   Here’s an exact quote:  “The bill provided for “the dismemberment” of Utah by transferring large slices of it to Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado.”
  • The Poland Act of 1874 – passed.  Gave federal attorney general and federal jurisdiction  over criminal, civil and chancery (equity) cases in Utah.
  • The Edmunds Act of 1882 – passed.  Quoting from page 358, the act

put teeth” in the 1862 law and attempted to eliminate the Mormon Church as a power in Utah by vesting the political machinery of the territory in federal non-Mormon appointive officers.  Specifically, the Edmunds Act provided heavy penalties for the practice of polygamy: defined cohabitation with a polygamous wife as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $300, by imprisonment not to exceed six months, or both; declared all persons guilty of polygamy or cohabitation incompetent for jury service; and disfranchised and declared ineligible for public office all persons guilty of polygamy or unlawful cohabitation…all elective offices were declared vacant…persons professing belief in polygamy or cohabitation as a religious principle, whether or not proved guilty of their practice, were ineligible to vote and to hold public office…in the first year of its existence it had excluded some 12,000 men and women from registration and voting.

when, on March 3, 1885, the Supreme Court denied  Clawson’s appeal and upheld the constitutionality of the law, territorial officials commenced the intensive prosecution of Mormon leaders in Utah and elsewhere known as “The Raid.”

Polygamous marriage being difficult to establish in the courts, the most common charge against the Mormons what of unlawful cohabitation, punishable by a $300 fine or six months in jail, or both.

There were 1,004 convictions for unlawful cohabitation under the Edmunds Act between 1884 and 1893, and another 31 for polygamy, but these hardly measure the magnitude of the effect of the Act upon Mormon society.  The period from 1885 to 1890 was marked by intensive “polyg hunts” for “cohabs.”  Officials of the church made a grave decision to fight each and every charge under the law.  Having taken sacred covenants to remain true to their wives “for time and all eternity,” they regarded it as unthinkable that they should desert these women in order to avoid punishment provided in the law of Babylon.  Accordingly, when it became clear early in 1885 that rigorous enforcement and interpretation of the law were to be held constitutional, church leaders–nearly all of whom had one or more plural wives–went “underground.”

…page 360

With almost all leaders of Latter-day Saint communities in prison or in hiding, business establishments were abandoned, or were kept in operation by inexperienced wives and children.  The ownership of the co-operatives drifted into the hands of a few individuals and eventually were converted into private enterprises.  Those United Orders which had survived until this period were discontinued.  There were no further meetings of Zion’s Central Board of Trade.  Almost every business history, in short, shows stagnation; almost every family history records widespread suffering and misery.  Above all, the church, as prime stimulator, financier, and regulator of the Mormon economy, was forced to withdraw from participation in most phases of activity.  The Raid, in other words, was a period of crippled group activity of every type, of decline in cooperative trade and industry–a period when, above all, church economic support was essential but not forthcoming–a period when planning would have saved much, but when planners dared not plan.

A more despairing situation than theirs, at that hour, has never been faced by an American community. Practically every Mormon man of any distinction was in prison, or had just served his term, or had escaped into exile.  Hundreds of Mormon women had left their homes and their children to flee from the officers of the law; many had been behind prison bars for refusing to answer the questions put to them in court; more were concealed, like outlaws, in the houses of friends…Old men were coming out of prison, broken in health.

The Edmunds-Tucker Act

Nevertheless, the Edmunds Law was unable to force a change in the attitude of Latter-day Saint authorities. It was an unwilling cross, but one which the create majority of members seemed prepared to bear rather than yield on what they regarded a religious principle.  Congress therefore moved almost immediately to increase the pressure, and after considering several proposals during a number of sessions, adopted, on February 19, 1887, an amendment to the 1862 law known as the Edmunds-Tucker Act.  Enacted into law without the signature of President Grover Cleveland, this “Anti-Polygamy Act,” as it was entitled, amended the 1862 law to provide as follows:

1.  That the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, insofar as it had, or pretended to have, any legal existence, was dissolved.  The United States Attorney General was directed to instituted proceedings to accomplish dissolution.

2.  That the Attorney General institute proceedings to forfeit and escheat all property, both real and personal, of the dissolved church corporation held in violation of the 1862 limitation of $50,000, which was reaffirmed.  The property was to be disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior and the proceeds applied to the use and benefit of the district schools of Utah.

The books continues on, with 3 more items, including the abolition of women suffrage.  (Utah was the first or second state to allow women to vote–quite progressive, eh?)  Continuing from page 361,

The Edmunds-Tucker Act was a direct bid to destroy the temporal power of the Mormon Church.  Congressional leaders reasoned that the church would have to yield on the principle of plural marriage or suffer destruction as an organization of power and influence.  Church leaders did not see the matter in this light, however.  They believed (and were supported in this belief by several constitutional lawyers of national reputation) that several features of the Edmunds-Tucker Act were unconstitutional.  They further declared that they could not revoke the principle of polygamy:  Only God could do that; and, if He so decided, He would do so by direct revelation to the church–not by prohibitory national legislation.

The book details how many properties, including the Tithing Office, were placed or sold into private church members and/or stake hands, and hidden as much as possible.  A series of legal battles ensued as federal officials tried to track down church assets.  However, the government did uncover many of these transactions, and took control of the assets.  Arrington goes into great detail about many of these trials.  A trustee was appointed, and he charged enormous fees to maintain records of these properties.  He was removed later, but many of the church properties were squandered as payment for his services.

In January 1889, the church challenged the constitutionality of the confiscated properties, but lost again in the Supreme Court.  From page 375, the majority Supreme Court opinion read,

“Under these circumstances we have no doubt of the power of Congress to do as it did.”

However, the opinion was not unanimous.  Chief Justice Fuller and associate justices Field and Lamar

wrote a short but vigorous dissent based on the States’ Rights doctrine which had reached its farthest in the Dred Scott decision.  Wrote the Chief Justice:

In my opinion, Congress is restrained, nor merely by the limitations expressed in the Constitution, but also by the absence of any grant of power, express or implied in that instrument….  If this property was accumulated for purposes declared illegal, that does not justify its arbitrary disposition by judicial legislation.  In my judgment, its diversion under this Act of Congress is in contravention of specific limitations in the Constitution; unauthorized, expressly or by implication, by any of its provisions; and in disregard of the fundamental principle that the legislative power of the United States, as exercised by the agents of the people of this Republic, is delegated and not inherent.

From page 377,

The second effect of the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Edmunds-Tucker Act was the church “Manifesto” proclaiming an end to the performance of plural marriage.

The Supreme Court decision on May 19, 1890 was nearly the final blow.  David Bigler, author of Forgotten Kingdom page 354 outlines an even more ominous problem.

What made this ruling truly ominous was the appointment two months later of Henry W. Lawrence, a leader of the Godbeite schism, as receiver of church property.  He replaced the moderate former U.S. marshal Frank H. Dyer, who had earlier agreed to keep hands off the church’s temples under the provision of the law that exempted buildings used exclusively for “the worship of God.”  The Utah Supreme Court had approved this determination.  Now Lawrence and U.S. attorney Charles Varian, reappointed in 1889 by President Harrison, made it known they intended to overturn the agreement on the ground that temples in Logan, St. George, and Manti did not qualify for exemption since they were not places of public worship.  If upheld, this move would lead to confiscation of the church’s holiest places, where its most sacred ordinances were performed, including marriages.

Arrington writes in Great Basin Kingdom on page 355 that Church president Wilford Woodruff wrote in his journal on Sept 25, 1890,

“I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church…where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.”  On that date, just four months after the fateful decision of the Supreme Court, President Woodruff issued the “Official Declaration” which proclaimed the end of polygamy among the Mormons:

Inasamuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

In the October 6 session of the general conference of the church, the congregation “unanimously sustained” this declaration as “authoritative and binding.”  Polygamy no longer had official sanction.

Forgotten Kingdom adds additional detail here.  From page 356,

While many treated the manifesto with skepticism, one who took it at face value was the magistrate who had sent more men to prison for violating  the marriage laws than anyone else.  The day after it was sustained, Judge Charles Zane on October 7 said that he would record the church “opposed to polygamy hereafter, unless something happened to change my opinion,” and he began only to fine violators, but not impose prison time.

Arrington, author of Great Basin Kingdom concurs discusses the issue of statehood on page 377,

The Manifesto declaring an end to officially sanctioned plural marriages also enabled the Mormons to achieve the goal of statehood, which had been denied them for over forty years.  Statehood gave them the prospect of getting rid, once and for all, of the unwanted and unfriendly federally appointed governors, judges, marshals, attorneys, and commissioners who had fought against them since 1852.  As part of the “deal” by which this was arranged, church officials are said to have given congressional and administration leaders to understand that they would support a proposition to prohibit forever the practice of polygamy in Utah; that the church would dissolve its Peoples’ Party and divide itself into Republican and Democratic supporters; and that the church would discontinue its alleged fight against Gentile business and relax its own economic efforts….The Raid had finally culminated in the long-sought goal of statehood, but had produced capitulation in many areas of Mormon uniqueness, not the least of which was the decline in the economic power and influence of the church.  The temporal Kingdom, for all practical purposes, was dead–slain by the dragon of Edmunds-Tucker.

So, what do you make of these events?  Did the church wimp out?  Should the church have defended the temples like the Jews did in the days of Nero?  Many Jews died, the temple was taken anyway and hasn’t been rebuilt in 2000 years.

Comments 67

  1. Wow thanks for this. I read somewhere (sorry to copout) that the writers of Edmunds-Tucker were among the old guard of the Illinois days who had intended for Edmunds to finish what was not finished in Missouri, the extermination of the LDS Church as a legal entity. They didn’t care a whit for polygamy for they allowed the Muslims in America to practice it. They figured that they would not back down and would be driven underground and peter out. Didn’t happen, obviously. What comes to mind in that deal was the economic and political changes that Babylonized the Saints. They had to dissolve any cooperative (see Approaching Zion) in order not to seem communitarian and in conflict with the established order of the capitalist system in America. They had to split into the established parties and destroy People’s party which had a libertarian and states rights bent to it. Remember, we were coming into the progressive era.

    The Manifesto wasn’t some sort of sweetheart deal to get statehood and a star on the flag. It was more like an annexation of a foreign power into a political and economic system so as not be be perceived as a threat. In essence, Mormonism since the Manifesto has been occupied or is an occupied state. It has since been left alone religiously as long as it doesn’t get all uppity politically. So it hasn’t.

    Interesting that since then, Mormons have become as American as apple pie and are seen by the government as great cooperating citizens. Yet they have also lost their communitarian glue that was so effective pre-1890. I feel occupied all of the sudden.

  2. Thanks MH. I wish there was some sort of mnemonic device for all the anti-polygamy legislation. It’s very hard to keep it all straight! Is it your sense that President Woodruff had to be the one to pull the plug on polygamy? Would any prophet have acted as did President Woodruff when the pressure got that high? (I am not entirely discounting revelation here, but I suspect different Prophets have different boiling points).

  3. GReat post. I’ve always had a problem with polygamy, just not in the traditional sense. Why would the church capsize on this eternal principle if they have god behind them? It’s obvious they caved to the pressure, where is the revelation in that? The excerpts from Woodruff’s journal don’t even hint at revelation. This was the beginning of a long line of conformity which eventually peaked with GBH. So yes, I think the church wimped out.

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    Peter, sorry to burst your bubble–the sponsors of the Edmunds-Tucker Act aren’t from the midwest at all. The act is named after its congressional sponsors, Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont and Congressman John Randolph Tucker of Virginia. Perhaps someone from Missouri or Illinois helped write the bill, but apparently they didn’t have influence enough to have it named after them. I don’t have any information on co-sponsors or who helped write the bill.

    I do agree with you that the act “Babylonized the Saints.” Leonard Arrington makes the case that the real reason the government pursued anti-polygamy legislation was more the result of economic pressure rather than true anti-polygamy sentiment. The United Orders froze gentiles and apostate Mormons out, and these groups used polygamy as a club to break into Mormon markets.

    DMI Dave, what event are you talking about in 1857? Sanford, I agree that different prophets have different boiling points. I’d love to talk to our friend GM about this–it seems he knows some of the apostles sentiment better than I. I wonder if Woodruff had become prophet sooner, if perhaps polygamy had ended sooner. I think the case could be made either way that Woodruff was the right guy/right time, or wrong guy/wrong time. Depending on one’s point of view, Young and Taylor were too stubborn to see the Manifesto coming, or Woodruff was just not faithful enough to cave in. I subscribe to the former view, though I think fundamentalists subscribe to the latter view.

    I had a few fundamentalists on my blog state that the church capitulated too soon, although there is some disagreement even among them. One guy seems content with the Manifesto, because it drove polygamy underground to a priesthood practice, rather than a church practice, and he is very comfortable with the current state of polygamy. I asked another person if he thought Mormons should have died trying to keep the temples out of government hands (as the Jews did with the Romans), but I never got a response.

    For those who think the church capitulated too soon (they had been fighting this for 40 years–I don’t know how this can be considered too soon), would it have been better to see the church destroyed completely? I’ve never received an answer to that question. With current anti-polygamy problems (Rulon Allred, Ervil LeBaron, Tom Greene, FLDS), it seems the fundamentalists enjoy a persecution complex. On the one hand, I admire their convictions and willingness to stand up to the government to support their beliefs; on the other hand, they are the only group arrested for polygamy. Early Christians such as Paul, Peter, and Christ weren’t persecuted for polygamy, neither was David, Abraham, or any other Biblical figures. One person stated that true believers have always been persecuted. Well, I guess that’s a true statement, but true believers have never been persecuted because of polygamy–if one looks biblically. If Joseph Smith restored biblical polygamy, then I would think one should find at least 1 case of polygamy persecution there. As such, it seems to me that these die-hard polygamists are one-issue theologists, and have greatly exaggerated how important polygamy as a religious principle is.

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    Awesome Dave,

    I think that people have a misconception about inspiration vs revelation. Could it been said that Woodruff was inspired to write “I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church…where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.”

    Now, it’s not “burning bush” type revelation–true. But I think it could be considered inspiration bordering on revelation. Just as Abraham didn’t want to kill his son Isaac, I think Woodruff found it distasteful to stop polygamy. Are we to believe that all revelation must resemble the “burning bush” in order to be called revelation? While Moses had his burning bush experience, I don’t think the entire book of Deuteronomy was received in a “burning bush” way.

  6. I also have a problem with people claiming Mormons receive revelations that change their theology if pressured enough. In both highly publicized cases, Polygamy and Priesthood to all worthy males, the earthly practice ended. However, the theology of both still stands. There is a difference between the Kingdom on Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.

  7. I never thought that the church traded polygamy for statehood. I thought they traded polygamy for continued existence. The church would have literally been snuffed out of American existence if they continued. Wilford Woodruff agreed with that sentiment.

  8. Jettboy,

    However, the theology of both still stands.

    Are you suggesting that blacks will be denied the priesthood again once the world realizes that they were descendants of Cain, and thus deserving of scorn as previously thought? Is that really our theology?

  9. MH,
    You’re correct that we view celestial plural marriage as alive/well and in the hands of the priesthood where it started.

    I would respectfully take issue with the idea that “..early Christians such as Paul, Peter, and Christ weren’t persecuted for polygamy”, however. There is ample evidence that Christ was, indeed, married. He was a Jewish rabbi…it would have brought shame upon him at that time to not be married and there is evidence that Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene were a few of his wives. This could have brought a lot of persecution, especially from the monogamous Romans, on him.
    It could never be adequately addressed in a blog format but here’s a link to an Ogden Kraut publication on the subject:

    A sample quote from the above:
    “Jesus defended and honored His lineage through the grand patriarch Abraham. Is it possible that Jesus would sustain the life of that great prophet, but not the laws and principles that made him great? Throughout the ministry of Jesus and His disciples there is not one word of denunciation against the principle of marriage or plural marriage. Certainly they were aware of such scriptures in the Old Testament as, “If he take him another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.” (Exodus 21:10) Yet He made no change in these instructions. Rather he advocated men to “do the works of Abraham” to be worthy of being Abraham’s seed.”

    Also, we strive to not be one-issue theologists… We try to live the gospel as it was originally restored and Adam-God doctrine, the Law of Consecration, the United Order, blacks and the priesthood, and many more doctrines are observed as closely to original as we can.
    I certainly see how you would come to the conclusion that fundamentalists are “one-issue theologists” though. Plural marriage is a peculiarity in our culture and is therefore emphasized by the media to the point that those who don’t know would assume that it’s the only original doctrine that the fundamentalists care about. That’s not the case.

  10. 5) I think they were among the supporters of Edmunds, not sure if they were the writers. I wish I could remember the website and paper I read this from – thought I’d throw it out there to see if anyone else would know.

    Guys we have to also remember that the Saints thought the end times were imminent in 1890. This correlates with D&C 84 and the prophecy about Joseph living to a certain age and seeing the face of God. Everything was combining in accordance with Isaiah to repeat the Messianic prophecies. You have the Saints under persecution from Babylon–they left into the wilderness, Babylon followed, and they were at the end of their rope. They felt that it was time for the Lord to show His arm.

    I think some began to realize that this wasn’t going to happen and they “felt” that would have to capitulate and go into a sort of captivity. Remember, prior to the manifesto, you have yards of prophecies predicting the imminent end with visions from Woodruff and Taylor and Heber C. Kimball, then post Mainfest, this all goes away. Many of the faithful felt they were incorrect about their timetable. This plays heavily in the polygamy capitulation.

  11. Post

    Dan, I concur with your sentiment that the church traded polygamy for continued existence. It seems to me that Congress forced the polygamy for statehood trade, rather than the church politicking for this trade.

    Jettboy, while there are members who believe the Curse of Cain doctrine, it is my opinion that this is not doctrinally based. Even David O McKay didn’t believe the priesthood ban was doctrinal, so I have a hard time agreeing with your sentiments. Pres Hinckley may have made the first statement stating polygamy is not doctrinal. We may look ahead 50 years from now and look at Pres Hinckley statement in the same vein as McKay’s statement to Sterlin McMurrin.

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    Bruce, while I can accept the idea that Jesus was married (especially in light of “The DaVinci Code” making the claim), the Gospels make it pretty clear that the Jews couldn’t have cared less about polygamy. Matthew 26:65 accuses Jesus of blasphemy, not polygamy. “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.”

    Remember, Pilate wanted to set Christ free, and wanted no part of Christ’s death sentence: he symbolically washed his hands of the sentence of death. Pilate couldn’t figure out why the Jews were so upset with Jesus. So, even if we accept Jesus’ 3 wives you mentioned above, Pilate didn’t seem to have a problem with Jesus or his alleged polygamy.

    Paul’s admonition that a bishop should only have one wife seems to indicate some passive acceptance of polygamy by the Romans as well.

    Thanks for the links–I find them interesting. I did not realize Adam-God and the priesthood ban are “alive and well” in fundamentalism. I don’t know if you saw my post on the priesthood ban, but it seems to me that Joseph Smith did not believe or endorse denying blacks the priesthood. I note also that United Orders didn’t exist in the time of Joseph Smith. As such, it seems to me that fundamentalism embraces Brigham Young fundamentalism, rather than Joseph Smith fundamentalism. I am impressed with the attempt to live consecration, as I view that as a worthy goal, but I know that I am much too worldly to even want to live that way. I have big theological problems with the priesthood ban and polygamy, so I can’t embrace those ideas either.

  13. “However, the theology of both still stands.”

    If I read that correctly as to meaning:

    No, it doesn’t – and we need to stop claiming it does. Polygamy is debatable; priesthood restriction after death absolutely is not – and it was never claimed to be, even by those who accepted and practiced it here on earth. I’ll accept the current prophets’ and apostles’ united voice on this one – especially an extrapolation that continues it past this stage of our existence. That is abominable.

  14. At first glance one might think that it was the law of plural marriage that lead both to the martyrdom and the expulsion of the Saints to Utah. Or was the Lord preparing a special generation all along? The key again lies in faith. Either Joseph was a prophet who had received keys and then “passed them along,” or he wasn’t. We could make a case that the Manifesto was the “ram in the thicket” that was provided after the Saints had done all that they were asked to do. For lots of reasons polygamy doesn’t make sense but for those and their families that went through the process, we have a foundation providing strength for generations. “Faith in every footstep” applies today as church members contine to be bombarded with never ending attacks as to why it “couldn’t be true.” In my opinion the Church leadership in 1890 was moving it along its designated course to meet the Lord’s expectations. With the continued growth of the Church and the blessings it brings to those who live its teachings, the Gospel rolls forth to fulfill its destiny. For those with “faith” it is as true as it ever was and for those withou it, it has never made sense.

  15. While plural marriage was inspired in the beginning, I think we can also see the hand of the Lord in letting it end. Right now, there is enough difficulty in just keeping ordinary marriages together. Bringing plural marriages into this kind of a marriage and divorce environment would be disaster. Right now, as it is, we are the example of good families (well, in theory anyway) in a world that engrossed with immorality and every kind of marriage redefinition (besides the gay marriage question) that there is.

    I think it is telling that during the last election, love him, or hate him, Romney was the only Rep. candidate who had only one wife. (disclaimer – I am not a Republican – this was just an example)

    Heretic – if you want an example of persecution of polygamists in the Bible, look at Miriam criticizing Moses on exactly this- and getting leprosy for it.

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    Zen, thanks for that–it is a story I was not familiar with, and has some very interesting dynamics, not only in regards to polygamy, but race, and criticizing leaders. The story is found in Numbers 12:1-16.

    Miriam was upset that Moses would marry an Ethiopian woman. So, my first question is “why would Moses marry a non-Israelite?” The Law of Moses says they should not be near gentiles, and Ethopia would fit the definition of a gentile. Was this a jewish wedding, or was it possibly one of political expedience such as Solomon’s marriage to non-Israelite (and idol-worshiping) women? I don’t know–I’m throwing it out there as a possible problem. It also seems to fly in the face of any “curse of Cain” doctrines if the great lawgiver would marry someone cursed with dark skin. Also, what was Miriam’s real concern: polygamy, race, both, neither?

    I came across a few websites, and they don’t focus on polygamy as the problem of Miriam, but rather criticizing leaders is the problem. See these two: (the first shows the exact reading in Hebrew.)

    I guess God can persecute someone, but that’s not the typical usage of persecution. Thanks for bringing it up Zen. Finally, Aaron was also criticizing Moses. Why was he not afflicted with leprosy?

  17. I’m confused. MH, you seem to argue with Awesome Dave by saying that even if the prophet said, well, we have to end polygamy of the church is doomed, that is still revelation? Is that what you are saying?

  18. It should say “We have to end polygamy or the church is doomed.”

    If that was all he said, and it was based on the practical concerns, you are arguing that is still revelation?

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    Dexter, what is revelation? Is it only revelation if it is a “burning bush”, or “thus saith the Lord” type thing, or can revelation involve practical concerns like whether the church will survive? Are “whisperings of the spirit” revelation, or must God come with a Booming Voice and destroying Angel?

  20. MH – it depends on who is receiving the revelation. When we receive it, it comes through the spirit’s warm fuzzy feelings, but when a prophet receives revelation, he speaks to god face to face. At least that is how it used to be. If I were receiving a revelation from god, “oh wait, cancel that part about the polygamy, we’re going to put that eternal principle on hold.” I would expect more than a “whispering of the spirit”. Why have a prophet if their revelation is no greater than our own?

  21. Heretic – The story of this Ethiopian woman was told by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, II.10.1-2)- take it for what you will. I don’t remember too many of the particulars, but Ethiopia was invading Egypt and Moses and his army, got around them, and was set to invade the capital of Ethiopia while their army was away, but this Ethiopian princess named Tharbis, saw the danger they were all in and fell in love with Moses, and begged Moses to marry her, and end the war. He did so, and war was ended on two fronts.

  22. I was asking you. I think it is a little ridiculous to say that revelation is whatever practical decisions were made after the fact. But when BY says, “would you like me to tell you the word of god about this matter,” and then does, and somehow that is not revelation. It just seems a little too convenient. After it is all said and done, we will define what was revelation and what wasn’t based on how things turned out.

  23. MH,

    Dan, I concur with your sentiment that the church traded polygamy for continued existence. It seems to me that Congress forced the polygamy for statehood trade, rather than the church politicking for this trade.

    Well said. Because the two were so closely tied, many think that was the case, that the church traded polygamy for statehood. But was statehood really that important for the leaders of the church at the time?

  24. awesome dave and dexter. revelation is difficult to define precisely. if we define it as having god speak face to face, then many ot prophets fail to meet that criteria. i’m saying we shouldn’t rule out whispering of the spirit, because many ot prophets fit that criteria as well.

    now, I don’t believe polygamy was inspired in the first place. perhaps god was using the federal govt to eliminate polygamy and woodruff finally figured that out. as such it certainly is a different kind of revelation than moses had.

    dexter I remind you that the ot says the test of a true prophecy is to view it after the fact, so i don’t think it is out of line to apply that to brigham, joseph or anybody else.

    zen, I need to get a book on josephus. from your comments it sounds like a marriage of political expedience rather than god-commanded so i can understand miriam’s problem as it doesn’t seem to fit d&c 132 criteria of celestial polygamy .

  25. I appreciate discussions like these because they force us to examine a familiar topic, revelation, and seek to better define or understand it. One end of the spectrum would be that revelation is pure Godly knowledge flowing to the Prophet without the Prophet making any man-made contribution, or having any human concern, related to that process. The other end of the spectrum would be that divine revelation does not actually exist but rather is a label we affix to decisions or statements made by those holding authority in the LDS church but that are actually simply the product of human thinking and human considerations, political, economic, etc. Of course, there can be a middle position as well.

    I think the polygamy example presents an interesting clash between these two extremes because it seems that when polygamy was introduced and defended for those many decades, the Saints felt an obligation to do so because their concept of revelation was much like the first end of the spectrum I described. They felt no freedom to compromise a direct order from God through their Prophet, and seemed not to have considered that the institution of polygamy could have been at least partially motivated by human interests in the first place. So when it was repealed, it was cited as evidence that the second end of the spectrum is true: that there is no revelation but that it is all a label we put on the decisions of those in authority who are actually deciding matters based on the normal considerations of human expediency.

    So all in all, I see this episode in LDS history as an apt demonstration of how one end of the spectrum begets the other end of the spectrum. The fundamentalist refusal to re-examine past revelations based on the assumption that they were completely devoid of any human input or considerations and are therefore “off limits” for revision or repeal causes Church members great confusion when those supposedly purely God-inspired revelations are inevitably revised or repealed by Church leaders. The fruit of fundamentalism is complete disillusionment.

    The important question, in my opinion, is to figure out where these fundamentalist ideas within the Church are coming from.

  26. I recently read the very interesting Solemn Covenant by Carmon Hardy which discusses post-manifesto polygamy. Specifically it talked about the Manifesto and other denials of polygamy as ways to achieve statehood— with the initial intent then of using the authority of statehood to enact laws to legalize the practice. Clearly the Church didn’t trade polygamy for statehood as they sought statehood as a means to secure the practice. Also the practice with first presidency approval didn’t stop after 1890 but continued into the early 20th century (even after statehood was granted). There was so much deceit officially promoted by the Church leadership about the practice that many were unsure if the Manifestos and like statements were legit or not. Things like President Joseph F. Smith’s 1904 testimony and denials of polygamy at the Reed Smoot hearings just reinforced such confusion.

    One dilemma is this: If the Manifesto was revelation why did the First Presidency continue to approve (and possibly enter into marriages) after it was received?

    Personally I don’t see either Manifesto as revelation but rather a pragmatic response by LDS leadership to a pressing issue brought on by external forces.

  27. It is an interesting question around revelation for things like the manifestos, because with the restoration of the gospel came the keys to revelation. Not just prophets, but for all.

    In these teachings came principles from the Book of Mormon, such as the Brother of Jared’s experience. Then reinforced with Oliver Cowdery being commanded to study things out and go to the Lord for confirmation of revelation.

    It is a mysterious thing, and something that is difficult to draw a line upon what is and what is not revelation.

    In an isolated analysis…I think it appears the manifesto to end plural marriage was based on pressure from the outside. However, in context of the church needs and seeing the church prosper and grow afterwards, and mormons becoming good citizens with countrymen and globally, even trusted advisors to the President of the United States in multiple administrations, how can one say the decision was not the right one, and that it was not revelation? How we can definitively say it is not revelation, when the fruits of that have shown the kingdom has grown upon the face of the earth? God’s ways are higher than our ways. I just have faith that for whatever reason things happened, it seems to work out and I can trust my leaders…because today the church inspires me and my one-wife family.

  28. Heber13 – #29 You bring up a great point, but the only problem I see with it, is God changing his mind based on pressure from the government. BTW “in context of the church needs and seeing the church prosper and grow afterwards, and mormons becoming good citizens with countrymen and globally” is the same thing as “pressure from the outside”. Why wouldn’t god part the Salt Lake or send fire balls to Washington DC? If he is the same yesterday, today and forever, why would he bend because his creation demands it? And no offense, cause you’re not the only one who has said it, but “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” and all variations of it are a total cop out.

  29. Awesome Dave, I agree with you that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, which is why I reject biblical polygamy as well. It seems there were problems all along: Abraham, Jacob, David, Moses, Solomon. etc. In every biblical story it seems the family is as dysfunctional as a divorced family today which tries to incorporate his kids, her kids, and “our kids.” Joseph of Egypt was the favorite son of the favorite wife, causing tremendous jealousy. Divorced parents today usually show favoritism toward their biological children, rather than the new spouse’s children. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    In my mind, God put up with biblical polygamy, but didn’t command it. I can’t see a solid reference where God commanded it in the Bible (perhaps there are 1 or 2 vague references.) Now, Joseph felt he was restoring an ancient biblical practice, but when I examine biblical polygamy, it is not what I would consider (1) an example of righteousness, (2) God-commanded. So, I reject this revelation on polygamy as God-inspired. Now, early LDS church members (as opposed to RLDS members) did not feel it appropriate to question anything Joseph did. RLDS questioned. I can’t say that I would have known what to do in those days of 1844, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I just can’t endorse modern or ancient polygamy as God-given.

    Obviously, Joseph was extremely influential. Brigham and crew carried on the principle of polygamy (I believe in error.) So, since this was an erroneous doctrine, how else would the Lord get rid of the practice but by revelation? Now if God could put up with it for thousands of years in the land of Israel, surely he could put up with it for 40 years in the days of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor. I believe God works through all men, including Presidents Buchanan, Lincoln, Cleveland, Harrison, and Grant to name a few. We all seem to acknowledge that Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson were inspired for slavery, the birth of our nation, and “all men are created equal”, yet 2 of these 3 men were also slaveowners and the other was a racist by modern standards (Lincoln wanted to send the blacks back to Africa to keep American white.) God works through flawed men, including flawed prophets.

    If we can acknowledge that perhaps Miram was right, Moses was wrong, Abraham should never have married Hagar, David should have steered clear of Bath-sheba, and Solomon shouldn’t have married women who worshiped idols, then I think it’s safe to conclude Joseph shouldn’t have introduced polygamy. But he did, so we have to deal with the consequences. I think God probably worked through the federal govt, as well as whispered into Woodruff’s ear to end the practice. God whispered to Jefferson that “All men are created equal”, yet Jefferson was still too deaf to understand that slaves were deserving of equality. Moses, Abraham, Young, and Taylor were too deaf to see that polygamy was wrong. So, the Civil War came about to end slavery, and the manifesto came to end polygamy. Neither was a pleasant experience, but sometimes it takes extreme measures for God to get his message through. I can see inspiration in mormon and gentile actions. Too often, we Mormons get so caught up in believing we are the “chosen people” that we seem blind to the inspiration of others. We think we have a monopoly on revelation, but we don’t.

    Certainly the Manifesto was an accommodation against the honest beliefs of Woodruff, which is probably why he dragged his feet on coming down hard on polygamy. I’m sure they weren’t 100% in favor of the ban (despite the unanimous vote in General Conference), and there were people who still believed in the practice despite the Manifesto. But as Leonard Arrington wrote that church leaders “would support a proposition to prohibit forever the practice of polygamy in Utah”, then I think we should view that as God’s will, despite some cases of polygamy extending through the next decade and a half.

  30. The question of polygamy is a fascinating one. I am amazed at its adherents devotion to the principle, even those far removed from the political intrigues. The following is from my wife’s ancestor, Sarah Leavitt’s journal regarding the Nauvoo period and the emergence of polygamy:

    “It was whispered in my ear by a friend that the authorities were getting more wives than one. I have thought for years that the connection between man and wife were as sacred as the heavens and ought to be treated as such, and I thought that the anointed of the Lord would not get more wives unless they were commanded to do so. But still, I wanted a knowledge of the truth for myself. I asked my husband if he did not think we could get a revelation for ourselves on that subject. He said, he did not know. After we went to bed, I lay pondering it and over in my mind. I said, “you know Lord that I have been a faithful and true wife to my husband and you know how much I love him, must I sacrifice him”? The answer was, “No.” (her husband later died and she never remarried)

    And then my mind was carried away from the earth and I had a view of the order of the Celestial Kingdom. I say that was the order there and oh, how beautiful! I was fill with love and joy that was unspeakable. I awoke my husband and told him of the views I had and the ordinance was from the Lord, (this was the part I thought was interesting) but it would damn thousands. It was too sacred for fools to handle, for they would use it to gratify their lustful desires.

    I have seen so much wrong connected with this ordinance that had I not had it revealed to me from Him that cannot lie, I should sometimes have doubted the truth of it: but there has never doubt crossed my mind concerning the truth of it since the Lord made it known to me by a heavenly vision.

  31. Wyoming and Heber – great posts

    MH – Sure, God could have thrown lightning bolts or fireballs, or any other miracle. But then, He didn’t even do that for Zion’s camp, did He? Nor did He do it for most of the Pioneers crossing the Plains. God could have used miracle after miracle, but perhaps He had other purposes in mind. If we use the miracle argument, then we have some explaining to do about Zion’s camp and the Westward trek, as well as why Nauvoo or Missouri ended up the way they did.

    The real problem with arguments against plural marriage is that every argument used against plural marriage is also used against single marriage. (and perhaps I see this more than you, because I seem perpetually stuck in the world of singles)

    People talk about how often people get divorced, or bad marriages they have seen/been in, or how so-and-so got burned badly, or how marriage is not inspired, but just a cultural thing, or something that benefits one gender and not the other, and so on.

  32. MH #31 great argument, but isn’t that just picking and choosing which doctrines you will follow and which ones you won’t? I agree with you regarding the lack of inspiration on polygamy, but if that was uninspired, what else was? and how do you decide which is which?

    Zen # 33 – just for clarification, my reference to fireballs/lightning was regarding the lack of god intervening in the PROTECTION of the right to practice polygamy, not the manifesto.

  33. I regards to fireballs, I think that whole “sign of God” thing is a little hard to read. We love to attribute great acts of calamity to God sending a message, but I think we often get it wrong. Really, when was the last time God sent a fireball–Sodom and Gomorrah in 2000 BC? Even these acts get interpreted. Brigham Young was pretty convinced that the Civil War was God’s retribution for the US persecuting the saints and polygamy. It seems like a misinterpretation to me. Pat Robertson said the 9/11 attacks were a result of US sinfulness. Anybody buy that? It seems these fireballs are hard to read to me. I guess the plane which hit the pentagon could be considered a fireball–there’s your answer Awesome Dave–just 150 years too late. (The funny thing is that Muslims believe in polygamy, so perhaps it was a sign….) 🙂

    Zen, valid point on polygamy vs monogamy. I think it’s much easier to find monogamous prophets with celestial marriages such as McKay, Kimball, and Monson, than it is to find exemplary polygamists such as David, Solomon, and Abraham as D&C 132 point out. Frankly there are more wives who divorced Brigham than we are led to believe (0). The rest of my argument about biblical polygamy still stands.

    Yes Awesome Dave, I am picking and choosing which doctrines I want to follow. As I mentioned in #25, “the OT says the test of a true prophecy is to view it after the fact, so I don’t think it is out of line to apply that to Brigham, Joseph or anybody else.” As for other doctrines I reject–the Curse of Cain and/or Ham. (I don’t consider Adam-God an official doctrine, despite Brigham’s quotes to the contrary.) Otherwise, I’m in line with most everything else. We are told to gain our own testimony, and not follow the brethren blindly, right? I’ve got my eyes open, and I don’t necessarily follow in lock-step with everything the Bible or the D&C says. (I don’t call myself heretic for nothing.)

  34. Here is ole Zenvis’ viewpoint.
    There are several things that was involved as pointed out in your post but the one that I want to point out is there is a small possibility that Lincoln knew Joseph Smith and his followers while they were in his home state of Illinois and wanted to minimize the damage that Boggs caused in the neighboring state. Having a war on two fronts would of been bad as the Saints still had their militia of 500 strong and a war on two fronts would of cost the USA the war against their confederate brotheren. At that rate there would of been 5 countries by now; CSA, USA, Desseret, Texas and California (forget Alaska and Hawaii as they would never be discovered or purchased by the USA).

    That would of lead to disaster as these 5 feuding countries would fight to maintain the peace. That also would of cost all 5 their countries when the WW1 and WW2 kicked into full effect. Japan or China would of swept into Hawaii and California like a plague of locusts and eventually wiped out the 5 counties….

    So in my opinion sacrifice of polygamy was a necessary loss.

  35. Revelation is not hard to understand. I have figured it out.

    Revelation is whatever influenced any leader of the church to make any decision (or do nothing) that turned out to be beneficial for the church.

    Not revelation is whatever influenced any leader of the church to make any decision (or do nothing) that turned out to be detrimental to the church.

    Keep in mind, something that was revelation in 1890 can easily become not revelation in 2009 based on the original definition.

    Similary something that was not revelation in 1890 can easily become revelation in 2009 based on its original definition.

    Now, before anyone accuses me of anything, honestly, my comments here are exactly what faithful people are saying. If it looks ridiculous, don’t blame me, because I have simply summed up a million different comments into a workable definition for each. These are the definitions of the faithful. If it looks ridiculous, maybe that’s because it is ridiculous.

    This is the way it looks to me. May you all have love and joy in your lives. Thank you.

  36. Zenvis, perhaps you’re right, but 500 is a drop in the bucket compared to several thousand man Johnston’s army which came west. I think Lincoln was very pragmatic concerning the Mormons. I really liked his “plow around the Mormons” comment, as it seems to sum up his feelings nicely.

    Dexter, I wouldn’t have expected anything different from you. May you have love and joy in your life. Thank you.

  37. MH, I appreciate your compliment. You wouldn’t have expected anything less from me. You expected a logical and rational post. That is what I gave you. The funny thing is, what I said is exactly what you said. That is what you believers have been saying. Give the benefit of the doubt to the leader, and find a way to call revelation whatever works. This is exactly what you have been saying.

  38. MH, do I patronize you (or anyone else) with condescending responses like “I wouldn’t have expected anything different from you.” No, I don’t. It’s poor form. But you can continue to attack me personally all you like. I will stick to making arguments based on the issue. Thank you.

  39. Dexter, you patronize in your own way, and never contribute anything positive to the discussion. Nobody learns from anything you say, unlike Andrew (both S and Ainsworth) and Cowboy. Your goal is to antagonize and provoke, not educate. It’s really what I expect from you–you never have anything nice to say, except for the sarcastic, “May you have love and joy in your life. Thank you.” Even then, it doesn’t feel nice. Yes, those words you wrote felt patronizing.

    You don’t have to be bitter–just make comments like Andrew in #26, instead of picking fights. Please. You’ll gain respect and friends if you do. Until then, you’re just a bitter person who has nothing nice to say about anything. Really, please point me to your last positive comment. #18 was close–at least not bitter by itself, but it was just a setup for later bitterness, wasn’t it?

    I’d love for you to contribute REAL, honest compliments (yes plural) towards Mormonism, in the way Andrews’ or Cowboy does. They don’t believe, yet they don’t antagonize. It’s TRULY a skill I wish you would develop. Their comments don’t drip of bitterness like yours do. May you learn not to be bitter.

    And if compliments are just too difficult for you, I’d love for you to comment on posts without picking a fight with someone. Really. Give it a try. You’ll find pleasant responses from me. From our interactions, it seems you enjoy the conflict and bitterness, and sidetracking the discussion into personal attacks. Then you feign not to understand why people react negatively to you. For someone who prides himself as a “logical and rational” person who “stick[s] to making arguments based on the issue”, you sure haven’t learned tact. Perhaps you should read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” since you’re obviously struggling so much with interpersonal communications. I think the author would easily recommend making comments like “If it looks ridiculous, maybe that’s because it is ridiculous” is a poor choice of words.

    It is ridiculous that you still can’t communicate tactfully, after so much feedback from others. If you really don’t want to pick a fight, choose your words more carefully, or follow the advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your [keyboard] shut.” If you want to complain and belittle, there are plenty of DAMU boards that enjoy that thing. This isn’t a DAMU board, if you haven’t noticed by now.

  40. MH, I’m postivily flattered you have taken such an interest in my words. You call me bitter? Your post is full of “nevers” and “always” about me. You know nothing about me. If you want to interpret everything I say as an attack, that is your choice, my friend. And by the way, I’m not here to make friends, although I think I have made a few. If you decide everything I say is full of bitterness and to pick a fight, perhaps you have trouble understanding. Perhaps you are too quick to determine another’s tone. I had no intention of picking a fight. And how is it a personal attack when I said if it looks ridiculous, maybe it’s because it is? I said that not to pick a fight, but to make an argument. You seem so wed to your beliefs that you label an attack on the logical ends of revelation in the church’s history as an attack on you. I don’t take it personally when people have different beliefs thatn I do. Why do you? Tell me, MH, who am I being bitter toward and who am I picking a fight with when I say if it quacks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Am I bitter towards the duck? Am I picking a fight with the duck or even worse, it’s mother? Or does that mean I am picking a fight with you? I hate to break it to you but it has nothing to do with you. Don’t flatter yourself, it’s not about you.

    But you are the saint here, right? You are doing the Lord’s work when you say that I have “never” contributed anything positive. I applaud your tact. You are a fine example of it.

    And I meant every word when I said, “May you all have love and joy in your lives. Thank you.” If you don’t want to believe me that is up to you.

    And although I am offended at your little homework assignment to produce a post where I wasn’t bitter, 18 is one, and I love how you label it as a set-up for bitterness later. You see the future! Amazing. How about when I said this?

    Sep 29th, 2009 at 5:49 pm
    I would not want my teenage daughter being asked about what she is or isn’t doing with boys. And I’m pretty sure I would feel that way whether I were active in the church or not. Just my personal view.

    Who was I being bitter towards there?

    Who sounds more bitter? Me or you?

    I said if it looks ridiculous it is ridiculous.

    You said I have never contributed anything postive. Never is a strong word.
    You said no one has ever learned from any comment I have ever made. Wow, you can read minds?!?!?!?!?
    You said I am always patronizing and bitter and it seems every post is to pick a fight. Always ia another strong word, one I often hear teenage girls use, along with never, when they are throwing a fit.
    You said I have nothing nice to say about anything.
    You said I enjoy conflict and biterness. Interesting. I don’t remember meeting you.
    You said I sidetrack into personal attacks? That is hilarious. I made a general comment. But you constantly attack me personally.
    You said I obviously struggle with interpersonal communication. Wow.
    You said I can’t communicate tactfully.

    But again, let me remind all of what I said. I said if it looks ridiculous it is ridiculous.

    So who is the one guilty of personal attacks here? Who is the master of tact?

    Truth is truth, to the end of reckoning. I am here to speak the truth, sought through reason and logic, if you take it to be hard, that is your choice. I will leave the niceties to the wonderful examples of kindness, like you, MH, a truly Christ like gentleman.

    And thanks for the readiong recommendation!

  41. MH #43 – So we are only out for positive happy feelings on MM now? Dexter presented a perfectly well-grounded argument based on the issue. Which was on the revelation of polygamy, not “why i hate Dexter”. I think you created a great discussion topic, but shot yourself in the foot by taking dexter’s words so personal. Let’s be honest, he just expanded on my same point, you answered my question, but not his. If you’re only looking for people to reinforce your beliefs, instead of challenge them and help you look at it from another perspective, then why do you come here? Could you at least explain what about his post you thought was so bitter and worthless? I think you owe him an answer to the points he raised.

  42. MH – Well, this will be hard to do w/o repeating his entire post, but…

    He points out, that whenever a “revelation” falls into the category of “right” (according to the beholder’s perspective) it was inspired. But when revelation is considered “wrong” it was uninspired. So basically a prophet could say he had a revelation that 7ft tall men live on the moon that dress like the quaker oats guy, and it can be “right” at the time, but a hundred years or so later it can be “wrong”. it’s a flawed way of looking at things, and (as dexter points out), many people hold this view, including you MH. So, please, if this is a false assessment of your beliefs, explain the error instead of writing him off as bitter. thanks.

  43. I have to say that in this instance I have a hard time finding any instance of Dexter personally attacking anyone, whereas, MH, all of your replies to Dexter have been completely personal in nature. I realize that you don’t care for Dexter, MH, but I think you’re beginning to let your emotions cloud your ability to even respond to his posts, regardless of their tone.

  44. Awesome Dave, I feel like I’ve addressed that before, but perhaps not clearly (or not satisfactorily, depending on one’s point of view.)

    For believers, God says he “will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept.” (1 Ne 28:30.) This means God doesn’t reveal things in their entirety, not even to prophets or apostles. Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly;” (1 Cor 13:12)

    This is not satisfactory for non-believers. Some people (both believers and non-believers) seem to believe the prophet is a fortune-teller, who can foresee perfectly in the future, without mistakes. Such an opinion does not seem to square with the scriptures above, or real life, IMO. I will admit that church leaders don’t seem to discourage this “fortune-teller” type belief, as it is easier to lead when nobody questions a leader. However, I think my previous paragraph is a more accurate depiction of revelation.

    So how do we square “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever” with “continuing revelation?” Conceptually those two concepts are paradoxical. God can’t be the same, and keep offering new revelation. So, I think this is where one has to be pragmatic. As I said before, “the OT says the test of a true prophecy is to view it after the fact.” We know from scripture that God doesn’t offer everything to the prophet. Once we have data, it is much easier to know true prophecy.

    Some will say, “isn’t that convenient?” Well, I suppose it is. I understand that this is a bit of Monday Morning Quarterback. But what other option is there? We can choose to benefit from the data before us, or we can ignore it and continue on in the same direction blindly without course corrections. It seems much more reliable to use the data, IMO.

    Certainly, people in the here and now are at a disadvantage when a prophet speaks, because they are without data. We have a few options. (1) We can choose to follow the prophet, right or wrong. That works for some people. We risk following the prophet when we shouldn’t have. (2) We can question the prophet, as the RLDS did. At this point, we risk failing to follow the prophet when we should have. Some people take this risk, others do not.

    In statistics, this is analogous to Type 1 and Type 2 error. Neither error can be eliminated, but we like to make these errors as infrequently as possible. Usually we are forced to choose one of the other. In a medical study, we balance not telling a person when they have cancer (type 1), vs falsely telling a person they have cancer, when they do not (type 2). Whether a person chooses Type 1 error vs Type 2 error depends on the ramifications of the error. Losing a non-cancerous body part is generally preferable to dying from a cancerous tumor. If it turns out the body part was non-cancerous, some people sue the doctor, while others are relieved it was benign. Religion can offer the same dilemmas, as well as the sue/relieved reactions.

    We are told to gain our own testimony of every principle. Most people would rather rely on a church leader. It is easier to be told what to do, because if it’s wrong, one can then blame the leader. It is much harder to work for a testimony. Even when one does work for a testimony, one can be mistaken, once again because “we see through a glass, darkly.” It’s a hard decision to make–I grant that. But I believe that God is merciful toward those who truly try to seek his will, and he does know the intents of our hearts. We will make Type 1 or Type 2 errors in regards to following prophets. It is not foolproof. We still have to make decisions on incomplete information, just as a cancer doctor does. God is the ultimate judge, and I’m sure we will all second-guess him just as we second-guess each other down here, though I expect he is a better judge than any of us. Believers believe a prophet type 1 error is small, non-believers don’t.

    Finally, to answer your question about the “7ft tall men live on the moon that dress like the quaker oats guy”, that sounds like a fortune-teller type prophet, which I think is an unsophisticated view of prophets. In cases where such pronouncements are made by a prophet, we seek our testimony, and we can use our benefit of 20/20 hindsight to evaluate things. I don’t think God cares about such issues nearly as much as he cares how we treat each other. I can be a hypocrite sometimes, as we all can be. I’m sorry when I fall short. But I strive to be an improver, and not too optimistic or pessimistic. (See Andrew A’s post–I highly recommend it.) Yet I still fall short often, just as current prophets do. When prophets tells us they have weaknesses, we still want to ignore those pronouncements in favor of a more romantic, perfect fortune-telling prophet. Pragmatism isn’t romantic, but it is realistic and incorporates both healthy optimism and healthy skepticism, IMO.

  45. Was Abraham really “married” to Hagar? The account, if I remember correct, is that Sariah could not give Abraham a son (or any child for that matter), so Sariah gave Abraham Hagar, her servant, so Abraham could have a son. Then, not only did she provide a son, but Abraham and Sariah both were apparently displeased with Hagar (most likely because she was Egyptian), but they both left her and her son out in the wilderness to survive on their own! Now, talk about a knock against polygamy!

    Then what’s our next example? Jacob, given Leah before the woman he truly desired, Rachel. That didn’t go so well either, except of course, Jacob had like five kids with her! And then some servant or slave, and then finally Rachel. Weren’t Joseph and Benjamin his only kids with the woman he truly loved? And how about the other kids? How did they turn out? Well, Dinah goes out and has sex outside the covenant, and her brothers think she was raped, so they go and murder everybody in the town, against their sister’s wishes. Lovely.

    What’s next? David? I can’t remember, maybe someone else can help, how many wives he had before he laid his eyes on the lovely Bathsheba. The silly man apparently didn’t get enough.

    Solomon? Didn’t he have like 600 wives and concubines? Wow. Can’t get those these days can you?

    Are there any examples from the Old Testament of polygamy done by any standard of right?

  46. I have to agree that Dexter’s comment was not out of line – he has a point. It’s one that JS made when asked which revelations were right. He said some were from God, some from man, and some from the devil (paraphrasing). Even Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” That sounds a lot to me like what Dexter is saying (whether he is bitter, I can’t judge) – that something was real revelation if it bore good fruit (or turned out for the benefit of the saints). What seems to be difficult for many is determining the difference between a prophet’s own will, the will of god, and what is good, workable social policy.

    However, I also agree conceptually that future-prediction type prophets are less interesting and less important than ones making simple changes and policies. It’s easy to be Nostradamus. Make a few cryptic statements or write a few lines of bad poetry, and let people spin it for the next thousand years.

  47. Hawkgrrrl – ‘I also agree conceptually that future-prediction type prophets are less interesting and less important than ones making simple changes and policies.’

    Although I personally think future predictions would be far more interesting and exciting than simple changes and policies, (Darren Brown Style), I do agree they are less important, my only wish is that these simple changes would be more proactive than reactive, the church has struggled with this for a long time. Revelation such as WoW, Perpetual education fund, building of Temples, paying for church programs out of tithes, and many more have been proactive. The Manifesto sadly seems to be a reactive change.

  48. dan, you’re making the same arguments I have made opposing biblical polygamy. in regard to your question about abraham and hagar, it is pretty well accepted by most biblical scholars that they were married, though hagar held a lower position than sarah. the bible clearly states abraham was grieved to send away hagar and ishmael, and did this more to please sarah than any other reason.

    the d&c 132 also talks not only about wives, but concubines as godly too. while think could apply to hagar rather than a full wife, I just don’t think concubines are godly. abraham is an example of righteousness regarding polygamy which seems to ignore his treatment of hagar, which I find reprehensible.

  49. Yeah, see, I don’t think Abraham is an example of righteousness when it comes to polygamy. Leaving one wife in the wilderness to fend for herself with her young child is just not righteous in my eyes. I mean, com’on, be a man dude! At least give her some child support, and maybe a tent.

  50. MH #50: “This means God doesn’t reveal things in their entirety, not even to prophets or apostles”

    If that’s the case, then what’s the point? It’s not an issue of my being “satisfied” with it, this just seems pointless. It’s the blind leading the blind of prophets have no more access to god then you or I.

    “Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly;”

    This doesn’t apply to prophets/apostles. Paul had a pretty clear image when jesus appeared to him.

    “This is not satisfactory for non-believers. Some people (both believers and non-believers) seem to believe the prophet is a fortune-teller”

    They don’t have to predict the future, but when they prophecy, it better be spot on. They are called the mouthpiece of god for a reason.

    “God can’t be the same, and keep offering new revelation.”

    Exactly! Spot on.

    “Some will say, “isn’t that convenient?” Well, I suppose it is.”

    Awesome. Now you’re getting it!

    “But what other option is there?”

    ummm, apostasy? 😉

    “At this point, we risk failing to follow the prophet when we should have. Some people take this risk, others do not. ”

    what? where is prayer fitting into this? Is your testimony based on risk analysis? Please tell me you don’t believe in god just in case he does exist.

    “But I believe that God is merciful toward those who truly try to seek his will, and he does know the intents of our hearts.”

    road to hell is paved with ^^^

    BTW, thanks for coming back to the discussion!

  51. “Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; This doesn’t apply to prophets/apostles. Paul had a pretty clear image when jesus appeared to him.” I disagree – it applies to everyone. Just some inspiration is more clear than other inspiration. Plus, who’s to say how clear the vision Paul had was – people didn’t even have spectacles back then. Maybe he thought everyone was a bit fuzzy. And the vision he had was of a person he never saw in real life. Perhaps he was being punk’d.

  52. Hawkgrrrl, I have a question about the seeing “through a glass, darkly” quote. I would agree that inspiration can be difficult to understand. It seems to me that misinterpretations of spiritual feelings occur often. Would you agree? But what about the interpretations that lead to one testifying. Countless times in sacrament meeting or on this site someone will say “I know” that the gospel is true, or “I know” that JS was a prophet. These types of spiritual inspirations are rarely deemed as misinterpreted. But when a member has some other kind of spiritual feeling or inspiration many (believers and non-believers alike) are quick to say that the person misinterpreted, even, at times, when that person is a GA or member of the 12. So, my question is, could misinterpretations be just as common in the original inspiration about the truthfulness of the gospel as the subsequent inspirations that are so often deemed personal feelings or misguided inspirations?

    Clearly, an important issue that doesn’t really answer the question but makes it perhaps somewhat inconsequential is the fact that a member’s inspiration to believe the BOM does not affect other members lives but a bishop’s “inspiration” to condemn this or that (perhaps something a member deems harmless) would have a strong impact on a member of the ward and cause the member to analyze whether the bishop’s inspiration was truly inspired or misguided.

    I find it curious that so many members “inspirations” are criticized when they may be feeling the same exact feelings they had when they believed they came to a knowledge of the truth of the gospel. So how can we blame them for believing in their inspiration just as strongly? For example, if Bruce R. McConkie felt that the Catholic Church was the whore of all the earth and that blacks would never have the priesthood with the same strength that he felt the BOM was true how can we discount the feelings about the catholic church and the blacks but validate his original feelings about the BOM?

  53. Post

    Awesome Dave, when you chop up comments so much, you risk taking them out of context. I think many of those sentences you quoted me deserved the context of the paragraph. Of course prayer and testimony come into play, and I that’s part of the data we analyze in choosing whether to follow the prophet, or leaving altogether.

    Hawkgrrl, Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus was certainly an instance where he talked with Jesus face to face. But are you trying to say that after this vision this was a common occurrence? I don’t think so, and I don’t recall any scriptures where Paul saw Jesus again after this vision. The visions of Peter, Paul, Moses, Joseph Smith are rare events, which is why we talk about them so much in scripture. I don’t think Pres Monson, or President Young sat down with Jesus on a weekly basis, nor did Enos, or Amos, or Obadiah. Even Pres Snow’s revelation on tithing in The Windows of Heaven isn’t portrayed as a face to face chat. I think too many people act like the prophet sits down in the Holy of Holies and they just shoot the breeze about Prop 8, Main Street Plaza, pornography, or whatever the issues of the day are, and I just don’t buy that.

  54. Dexter #59

    “For example, if Bruce R. McConkie felt that the Catholic Church was the whore of all the earth and that blacks would never have the priesthood with the same strength that he felt the BOM was true how can we discount the feelings about the catholic church and the blacks but validate his original feelings about the BOM?”

    I’ll try to answer the question (it’s in my nature).

    I don’t think McConkie felt ‘with the same strength’ the truthfulness of the BOM and the blacks never receiving the priesthood, or at least he did not sincerely ask God with the same earnestness. JS was comfortable with theorising, sadly a trait of some GA’s is not to ratify personal opinions and to teach them as truth with equal zeal as they would testify.

    In a letter to Eugene England, BRM identified false teachings of Brigham Young and explained that Prophets can err and it is our personal responsibility to compare what’s taught to the scriptures. This highlights the value of correlation.

    my point is I don’t believe BRM, BY and others check and confirm there views are always in line with Gods will, they form opinions based on there environment and “attempt to steady arks” or gratify their pride. if they did we might have different storyline’s to church history.

  55. MH: So based on the idea that I was too “choppy”, you disregard all my comments? Do you really want me to c/p your entire post again. Frankly I think it was a little too long winded for that.

    Q&A: “my point is I don’t believe BRM, BY and others check and confirm there views are always in line with Gods will, they form opinions based on there environment and “attempt to steady arks” or gratify their pride. if they did we might have different storyline’s to church history”

    We’re not talking about views and opinions here, we’re talking about the revelation to practice and then stop practicing polygamy. But if an opinion is what your calling revelation, then (once again) what is the point? As I said to MH (who failed to answer) it is the blind leading the blind.

  56. Awesome Dave, I said my words would be unsatisfactory to some. I’m fine with that. If you want to use the data to say that it’s the blind leading the blind, then you’re welcome to do that. I see the data differently, and frankly, I’ve been long winded enough (as you said.) At this point, I don’t see the point in adding another long winded answer. What I’ve said stands. You don’t have to agree with what I’ve said.

    To put it another way, I’m not confident in my ability to sway your opinion, so at this point, I think it’s just better to disagree somewhat agreeably.


    Mr. Q and A said, “I don’t think McConkie felt ‘with the same strength’ the truthfulness of the BOM and the blacks never receiving the priesthood, or at least he did not sincerely ask God with the same earnestness.”

    I think that is a pretty bold statement. I don’t know how you can answer my question with an assumption of how BRM felt or how earnest his prayers were. Further, it doesn’t answer my question. I said “if” BRM felt those things as strongly as he felt the BOM was true, what then? You answered by simply taking the “if” out of my hands. Let me illustrate, suppose we were on a softball team and I said, “if it rains, should we go to a movie?” You respond, “I don’t think it will rain.” That wouldn’t answer the question because I want to know what we will do IF it rains. Additionally, your opinion about the inner feelings of BRM doesn’t avoid the question either, because even if your assumption is true, there are countless other examples I could use.

    For example, Joseph Smith III, Todd Whitaker, and many more.

    Todd said he never felt the spirit so strong as he did regarding prop 8. Therefore, he felt the spirit just as strong regarding prop 8 as he did about his testimony of the BOM. My question is, how is a loved one who wants him to stay in the church going to tell him to rely on the spiritual feelings he had when he gained a testimony of the BOM and JS while at the same time telling him to disregard the spiritual feelings he had when he felt that the church is wrong about homosexual marriage?

    Or Joseph Smith III. This was the revered prophet’s son. It would be difficult to lecture him on how to interpret and recognize the spirit considering the teacher he had. But he felt that God answered his prayer and told him to lead a different church.

    But Mr. Q and A’s answer was very telling. He said BRM must not have prayed at all (or as hard) about the things he was wrong about or he must not have felt it as strong as he felt the BOM was true. This is interesting. Mr. Q and A took in some information, and made it fit logically with his belief system: the BOM IS true, therefore, BRM (and anyone else) really did feel that inspiration but things that don’t fit (the things they were wrong about) they did not feel as strongly. Personally, I think this is quite a stretch. Based on a personal testimony faithful members KNOW how strongly BRM (or Todd Whitaker, or Joseph Smith III and millions of others) prayed about a matter and how strongly they felt afterward? I’m sorry but there is no way you could know how they felt or how hard they prayed. It seems that some members are so willing to discount the experiences of others and say they misinterpreted this or that. Is this not arrogance? Perhaps one should look inward and wonder, am I misinterpreting? Who am I to say Joseph SMith III didn’t feel God command him to lead this other religion even stronger than any feeling I have ever had in my life? Who am I to say Todd Whitaker didn’t feel what he SAID HE FELT? Who am I to say BRM didn’t pray earnestly over this or that subject? Who am I to say BRM didn’t feel strongly about this or that subject? This is a core reason of why I no longer believe the church is true. I am not willing to define personal spiritual feelings in such a way as to arrogantly devalue the spiritual feelings of BRM, JS III, Todd Whitaker, and millions of people who have had similar feelings to what I had (from what I can tell-I admit it is impossible to know how exactly how someone feels) about different religions. Members seem so quick to scrutinize the spiritual experiences of others and label them as misinterpreted if they don’t fit into their belief systems, but they fully accept spiritual experiences that fit into their belief systems.

    I believe we are all certainly looking through a glass, darkly, and we all see different things. And what I see is not better or more right than what anyone else sees. But it seems that members think they see a beautiful tree. And then anyone who doesn’t see a beautiful tree is wrong. And those who do see a beautiful tree will be welcomed to the fold.

    So, Mr. Q and A, Hawkgrrl, anyone else, how do you justify the feelings of JS III or Todd Whitaker or anyone else who states that their spiritual feelings are something that contradict yours?

  58. Dexter – I don’t want it to sound arrogant but i’m quite comfortable making assumptions. I make many assumptions (hypothesis) in science and then conduct analysis to find in favour or against my hypothesis. As I can’t talk with BRM and analyse his feelings i’m satisfied with my assumptions. There are two articles that help support my theory that BRM did not feel as strongly about his false theories as he did about the truthfulness of the BOM. First is his address at the CES fireside “forget everything in the past we were wrong” etc etc and second his letter to Eugene England in which he explains his views of Brigham Young’s teachings in which he admits Prophets can be wrong.

    “So, Mr. Q and A, Hawkgrrl, anyone else, how do you justify the feelings of JS III or Todd Whitaker or anyone else who states that their spiritual feelings are something that contradict yours?”

    Swedenborg wrote of three degrees of glory, marriage being eternal and many other similarities to JS. however he also taught many things that don’t fit with modern revealed doctrine. My point is 1 Thessalonians. 5:21 – I’m happy with the difficult and laborious task of measuring teachings against my own conscience, there are policies that I don’t fully agree with however God’s time table is supreme and I do my little bit to influence opinions when I can.

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