Mormons hate polygamy thiiiiiiiiis much

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polygamyThere’s an interesting finding tucked away in the recent book Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics (see here for an interview I did with the authors on Mormonism’s increasingly one-sided political affiliation, a topic for another day).

The national survey research on which the book is based reveals, among many other things, how Mormons feel about various moral issues.

When asked whether they felt an issue was immoral, morally acceptable, or “not a moral issue,” here’s a breakdown of how many Mormons declared that certain activities were “morally wrong.”

  • Drinking alcohol: 54%
  • Having an abortion: 74%
  • Sex between unmarried adults: 79%
  • Practicing polygamy: 86%

Hold the phone. 86% of Mormons say that polygamy is morally wrong?*

It seems that Mormons hate polygamy even more than abortion. Remember that abortion is discussed in the church handbook as a sin that requires serious repentance — and sometimes disciplinary action on the part of the church. Abortion is permissible only in rare circumstances.

I’ve certainly never heard a Mormon say that abortion is an ideal practice that we’re not living now but will someday be living in heaven. The thought is preposterous. And that’s a strange disconnect, because despite contemporary Mormons’ even greater revulsion at polygamy, we do sometimes (less so in the 21st century, but more commonly a couple of generations ago), hear it extolled as the order of heaven, as explained in Doctrine & Covenants 132.

We have sanitized D&C 132 enough that we now safely appropriate the term “celestial marriage” to refer to any temple marriage for time and all eternity.

But this is a tenuous reading, since the context of everything in that section is apparent from its very first sentence, which clarifies that the ensuing words will all deal with “the principle and doctrine of . . . having many wives and concubines.” The revelation on marriage calls upon the historical precedent of Old Testament patriarchs, some of whom were polygamists. (If you want to make a case for monogamy being subversively present in D&C 132, though, you could build upon the fact that Isaac is also listed there, even though he did not, like his father and his son, have more than one wife. Isaac remained a stubborn monogamist even when Rebecca experienced fertility problems.)

Even if we can perform Cirque-du-Soleil-level hermeneutical gymnastics and somehow fit the entire text of D&C 132 into a single figurine of one man and one woman atop a wedding cake, there’s still the problem of de facto polygamous sealings in LDS temples to this day. Men whose wives have died can be sealed again to another wife for eternity, as is the case with current apostles Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks, and past prophet Howard W. Hunter (and many others).

I would like to see additional sociological research that compares these findings on how Mormons feel about the morality of polygamy with how many of them believe they will be living in polygamous families in the afterlife.

How many Mormons confess to hating polygamy, yet imagine themselves practicing it for all of eternity?

How many believe on the one hand in a loving God who desires their eternal happiness and, on the other, that this same God would make them grit their teeth and be obedient to a practice they consider “morally wrong”? And what does this say about what we believe about God?

 

* Of the remaining people surveyed, 11% said polygamy was “not a moral issue,” and only 2% declared it morally acceptable. I’m assuming that the other 1% had no opinion; see Campbell et al, p. 58.

 

 

 

  • Fred M

    My guess would be that the vast majority of LDS members don’t like the idea of polygamy, past, present or future. I think most members don’t understand it, but take it on faith that the Lord had a reason for it, while others may suspect that it didn’t originate from the Lord but would never dare vocalize that thought. And others are more than happy to vocalize that thought!

    Most members file it away in a “not related to my personal salvation” folder so they don’t have to deal with it. I myself did that for years, but these new essays are forcing me (and I imagine many others) to pay a lot more attention to this stuff. I think I speak for many members when I say I wish it had never happened.

    I think that if President Monson approached any faithful member of the church today and said that he needed to marry their sixteen-year-old daughter or else an angel with a flaming sword would take him out, most would be more likely to think he’d gone insane than think it was a great honor. At least I hope they’d think that. Maybe not. I believe he’s a prophet, but if that happened I’d attribute it to the human side of him, not the Lord.

    It’s pretty clear to me that the priesthood ban was man-made, and the essay on “Race and the Priesthood” seems to support that. Maybe someday it’ll be clear that polygamy didn’t come from the Lord either.

  • GP

    Fred: ‘Most members file it away in a “not related to my personal salvation” folder so they don’t have to deal with it.’

    I kind of did the same thing… just put it out of mind without thinking much more about it. It’s only when you look at the details of how it was practiced (particularly in Nauvoo), there are some pretty disturbing details that a faithful member needs to reconcile. Once I looked at the details and sat down to think about it, I knew right away that it was not acceptable to me and never would/could be as it went against my core morals.

    I’m with you on the hypothetical with President Monson… at least for the vast majority of members today. But based on previous conversations with members both face-to-face and online, I know that some folks would actually accept it since it is the prophet speaking – at least that’s what they’ve told me. Members certainly did in the case of Joseph Smith.

  • ron

    Its probably disapproved of so heavily because it is not a current authorized practice, with absolutely no grey area interpretation. Current mormons see current day polygamy as clear as adultry with no sugarcoating.

  • Jen K.

    I heard a total of 2 things about polygamy at church during my growing up years. One stomach-churning Sunday school lesson where we heard a tape-recorded dramatization of a conversation between Heber C. Kimball & his wife. All I remember is a woman’s shrill overly-dramatic voice saying “Oh! Heber!” (something about them finally coming around to the idea & submitting to it.) And another time a YW leader made an off-hand comment (paraphrasing), “As long as I’m the FIRST wife & get to approve who the other wives are, I’m ok with it.”

    When my mother died, my father made it clear to my siblings & I that if he ever remarried it would be for time only. He was not going to marry another wife for eternity, even if he could. He never openly spoke about polygamy, I don’t know if he thought it was doctrinal – or maybe he just didn’t want to engage in it if it was.

    My own opinion (right now – it’s not set) is that it doesn’t seem to me to have been from God. I could be wrong. But I also have some pretty liberal views about eternity and eternal progression. I think it’s a possibility that we may have multiple mortalities (it makes sense if we have forever to progress and perfect ourselves… there’s no learning like mortality – why not several mortalities to keep progressing?) What happens to the different eternal spouses we accumulate if we marry for eternity each time we have a mortal experience?

    I think there are more possibilities for the eternities than our finite minds can even fathom. I’m reticent to say I know anything for sure about anything at all these days. Dogmatic certainty has become a red flag for me. Maybe that’s my way of dealing with the new essays and all the contradictory statements and proclamations.

  • Porter

    Jen K., if you really don’t think polygamy came from God, then you might want to re-think the church you belong to. And if you don think the church you belong to teaches it today as doctrinal, you might want to re-read section 132 in your D&C.

    Too many members are content to stick their heads in the sand on this issue. I highly recommend the book “In Sacred Loneliness” by Todd Compton if you are interested in learning more about this.

  • Clinton King

    In this context, I remember that it is not unheard of for God to command people to do things that are ‘morally wrong’ that hurt other people. Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac. Joshua and the Israelites were commanded to commit genocide (including the killing of small children). Nephi killed and then robbed Laban. Following this pattern, it does not appear unreasonable (to me at least) for God to command Joseph Smith (and others) to take plural wives, which unequivocally resulted in emotional trauma to the women (including the first wife) and to other men (in at least one case). I also think that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc., may have experienced emotional trauma, as well.
    It seems that we are more willing to accept that God can (and does) inflict traumatic experiences on people when He does it directly (ie Liberty Jail, or Job, or the children whose mother dies of cancer when they are still young). We have a much harder time with the idea that God might command His servants to inflict the trauma in His stead.
    Make no mistake, I believe that Joseph Smith and his successors are prophets of God. I don’t know why God commands His children to do such things, but I do know that God is merciful and loving. I also know that living plural marriage would be an incredibly traumatic experience for my wife. (I don’t think it would be much fun for me, either). Even if an angel came to me with a sword and told me I had to do it, I don’t know if I would have enough faith to obey.
    Will it be different in heaven? I presume so. I have a close friend whose wife died of brain cancer after about 12 years of marriage (and 3 children). He remarried fairly quickly, for time and eternity, to a woman his first wife actually “picked out” (she put them in contact with each other) for him. He has told me that he feels his first wife’s presence and love daily in his current marriage. He has also stated that he is incredibly in love with his current wife; this is not a marriage of convenience for him. I wonder if that is how it will be in heaven for those who have plural wives.

  • Jen K.

    Hi Porter, Yes, I’m aware my views are not conventional. There have been other doctrines spoken of as absolute & unchanging (at the time) that have since been renounced/denounced (or just abandoned) – I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to imagine that’s a possibility for polygamy too.

    I’m willing to take a ‘wait & see’ attitude toward many things I hear from the pulpit (as in, wait to find out in the afterlife). I don’t believe my head is in the sand, but it’s always good to be open to that idea about oneself. To borrow a phrase: ‘I’m certain there’s too much certainty (in the Church).’ That’s just my opinion. I can’t speak for anyone else.

  • Vanessa

    Clinton King, I am willing to allow in cases like your friend’s that eternal polygamy may seem less painful than to choose which spouse to be with. It makes equal sense to me that they allow polyandry in the temple as they did in the early church.

    I am not an advocate for either, but I don’t see how it is any different for a man to have multiple wives than for a woman to have multiple husbands. Joseph and the early saints did it, and polyandry is alive and well in some areas of the world.

  • Clinton King

    I certainly don’t advocate either practice. My point was that I believe that sometimes God commands people to do things that are putatively ‘wrong’ and hurtful to others, and that I also believe that God is loving and merciful. I agree that in many ways there is no moral difference between polyandry and polygyny. The only reason that plural marriage was ‘right’ or allowable, in my opinion, was that God commanded it.

  • Scott Roskelley

    This has been my experience as well – i.e. that most LDS mormons hate polygamy. I believe LDS mormons despise polygamy even more than they hate same sex marriage. LDS mormons are eternally grateful and hold in awesome reverence the foresight and inspiration that the US federal government exercised in correcting the church from gross and primitive marriage practices, and set it right from the despicable and fallen practices of earlier prophets. LDS mormons love and revere William Law more than ever when he said, “If an angel from heaven was to reveal to me that a man should have more than one wife, if it were in my power I would kill him.”

  • W

    “It seems that Mormons hate polygamy even more than abortion.”

    There’s a couple of critical angles from which one might review that thesis, but I think one of the least subjective is to talk about what the survey itself says. Unless it made some attempt to distinguish degrees of moral wrongness vs simply the number of respondents that agreed it was morally wrong, it seems to me it’s telling us about the *frequency* of binary approval/disapproval among respondents rather than *how wrong* they think it is.

    If someone were to ask me if I believe drunk driving and torture are morally wrong, I’d answer yes to both, and no one would have any idea which one I hate more. If such a surveyor tried to aggregate beliefs across the american population from the same wrong/not wrong assessment, that problem would cloud insight into the relative enthusiasm with which the two activities might be supported or opposed. If you threw in a third activity where there’s debate about *whether*/*when* it’s wrong — say, texting or talking on a cell phone while driving — it probably confound things even further rather than serve as a clarifying baseline.

    Something similar could be going on here.

    Though in any case, it’s definitely interesting enough that polygamy is apparently frequently disapproved of.

    There’s a couple of explanations as to why that could be the case that come to my mind:

    I. The straightforward one — most modern Mormons believe it’s wrong (*perhaps* excepting when God commands). Monogamy is certainly the recent central message of the church as far as romance/marriage goes. I also think there’s evidence that we’re still heir to the wider cultural promise of redemption through monogamous romance. And feminism currently has a significant voice and polygamy looks patriarchal and unequal. There’s a lot of angling towards equal monogamy.

    II. A less straightforward looking at the different internal (and potentially gray) teachings of the church regarding abortion and polygamy. Elective abortion as post-hoc birth control is clearly considered a serious sin, but there are also clearly spelled out cases where expressed policy is that it’s an acceptable action left up to individual judgment. There’s really no parallel in policy for current practice of polygamy, and in fact such practice carries not only the weight of the sin itself but overtones of apostasy.

    As pointed out, there is the matter of the uncondemned history, the legacy of canon like D&C 132, and the in-place practice of letting men hold time+eternity sealings to multiple women. I can see why that’s troubling to some people, particularly taken together, but I think it takes a lot squinting to see that as the same thing as clear current guidelines for mortal life set by the community.

    (I’d also add that I think some people who follow the thread of multiple sealings to worries about practice in the eternities are only half-pulling on the thread — really pulling it out means having to come to grips from scratch with the question in posed in the gospels about whose “of the seven” a serially monogamous spouse would really be, and for me really exploring the space of possibilities starts to make worrying about specific cases other than post-mortal oblivion look trivial, but mileage may vary.)

    III. I think it’s possible that many of us are just plain *embarrassed* about polygamy, because we feel we’ve experienced it as something that makes us weird, as something we have to explain/disclaim to outsiders (who often strangely seem to know little about Mormons except polygamy) in order to avoid being othered. Anecdotal, but the ironic thing may be that this is unnecessary — as my life has gone on I’ve encountered many non-Mormons who are far more open about various forms of polyamory alongside Mormons who increasingly ashamed or nervous about it.

  • Clinton King

    I feel that it is true that nearly everyone eventually faces at one time or another, something from God that they just can’t accept. And all too often, men reject God. I know it’s happened to me.

  • Seth

    Jana, you realize about 60% of those Mormons probably believe polygamy is wrong simply because it’s against current LDS policy and not because of actual dislike of the concept itself right?

    Even if I’m pulling numbers out of the air (which I am), did you at least consider the possibility?

  • Seth

    For the record, I don’t consider polygamy inherently morally wrong at all (though I consider it a bad idea in our current culture and circumstance).

    And I think theologically in heaven it’s a lovely idea and our theology is much better off for having it as an option. And yes, before you ask, my wife feels the same way.

  • Wayne Dequer

    This article says: “It seems that Mormons hate polygamy even more than abortion. Remember that abortion is discussed in the church handbook as a sin that requires serious repentance — and sometimes disciplinary action on the part of the church. Abortion is permissible only in rare circumstances.”

    That’s the Church’s response to abortion, but how about polygamy? I think we would find that for current members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who choose practice polygamy excommunication would be mandatory and swift. That because in addition to D&C 132 we have Official Declaration 1 and the teachings of current prophets.

    Additionally, in the eternities those practicing plural marriage will be celestial beings with celestial values and attitudes. I believe that will make a difference. How about you?

  • Kevin JK

    Polygamy is NOT objectively wrong. OT prophets practiced it. In 2 Sam. 12:7-12, God says that he gave David all of his wives (and other things) and took them away for taking a wife God had not given him. God gave all of those women to another single man. If God hated polygamy, we wouldn’t have given all of those women to David nor given them to another individual instead of giving them each to single men or returning them to their families. The NT only prohibits polygamy for church leaders. My guess is that having extra wives and families to care for would dramatically decrease the amount of time leaders could devote for caring for their church callings.

    If a single mom thinks it best for her and her kids to be a polygamous wife of a righteous man who could afford to let her stay home with her kids (and perhaps tend the kids of the previous wife while that wife goes to work to help support the family), then who are we to deny that. Currently, the single mom may not be able to find a husband was righteous and able to let her be a stay at home mom. Her kids need a righteous dad and polygamy may be her only option, especially in areas where few righteous men exist.

    I think polygamy is like the United Order…both rid people of selfishness. The UO rids us of our selfishness for money while polygamy rids men of their selfishness of time and their own pursuit of pleasure. it helps women rid themselves of jealousy and putting themselves on a pedestal. Both institutions where practiced for a time and abandoned when it was shown that only a righteous/Zion/City of Enoch type people could practice them as they should be. I believe that if/when my wife and I become celestial and if the Lord asks me to take another wife, both my wife and I would welcome it. In mortality though, we both find the idea abhorrent. We aren’t a Zion people yet.

  • Samuel the Lamanite

    The church will once again live polygamy when the resurrected Joseph Smith returns to clean house. All of the leaders will be released and new ones called to take their place, thus saith the Lord.

    Don’t try to shoot me with arrows, I’m just a messenger.

  • Dave

    Everyone talks about how hard it is on the women, when men are hurt the most by polygamy – especially eternally. With every polygamous relationship a man is denied exaltation, because there is not a woman for him. Throughout history there have been some deviations, but for the most part there have always been a near equal ratio of men to women. If you take a sample of 20,000 humans, there are going to be roughly 10,000 men and 10,000 women. Now introduce polygamy and start pairing up two women to every man, and you end up with 5,000 polygamous marriages of men to 10,000 women, and 5,000 men leftover with nobody to marry. Why would God introduce a practice that at a minimum precludes 50% of men from being saved, or that will not have the opportunity for an eternal companion? Now, run the numbers with a 1:3 ratio, and there are 6,667 men without wives, 1:4 ratio and 7,500 men without wives. Polygamy cannot be an eternal principle if it precludes 50% or more God’s children!

  • Clinton King

    If the scriptures are to be believed, then a great number of biological and physical changes will occur at the beginning of Christ’s millenial reign. (Including, but not limited to: ‘Pangea’ reforming, carnivorous animals becoming herbivorous, and the disappearance of all human diseases.) I have heard some suggest that the majority of spirits to come to this earth will likely come in the Millenium. Perhaps the historically observed birth ratio of approximately 1:1 will also change?

  • I second this: “I think there are more possibilities for the eternities than our finite minds can even fathom.”

    Although concerning your statement about renouncing and abandoning doctrine. I think it is possible and probable that the renouncement and abandonment are in error.

    Concerning polygamy, based on the evidence I have seen I believe that polygamy is of God. However, the Americanized form of polygamy is probably not. I believe that polygamy is a basic aspect of heaven and this is why:
    http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/deep-waters-how-many-wives-how-many-husbands/

  • Seth R.

    Dave, even under Brigham Young it was explicitly stated that a man didn’t have to practice polygamy to enter the Celestial Kingdom. He just had to accept it and not rebel against the Church on the matter.

    That said – I agree with you that polygamy is harder on the men than the women – as a practical matter. One of the big reasons I don’t want to do it.

  • Clinton King

    Practically harder maybe (more people to provide for), but I hope you are not trying to make an argument that it was/is emotionally harder for men.

  • Seth R.

    Not particularly.

    But I wouldn’t say that it’s emotionally harder on the women either.

  • Cody

    Some of the comments on here are astounding!!! How can you possibly call yourselves Mormons and criticize the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Gospel or principles he restored?!!! Do you really think he practiced polygamy because of the weaknesses of his humanity? All the principles he restored were to teach or prepare us to live with God in Heaven! Why don’t you just forget all of the principles that don’t suit your selfish theories or agendas here on earth, then ask God (when you get to Heaven) to have someone more faithful than you do your work by proxy? Seriously!! How far do you go in watering down mormanism before it is no longer mormanism? Keep “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” and see how far it takes you! God does not submit to political pressure, neither did Joseph Smith, and it cost him his life!! Do not belittle or condemn the Prophet Joseph! There would be no Mormons or restored Gospel without him!

  • Kevin JK

    I think that it was harder on then both physically, mentally AND emotionally. the first 2 are readily understandable, but the 3rd may not be. Here is what I imagine –

    The women have to face jealousy and know that it’s wrong. The man feels somewhat responsible for that guilt and feels bad. She is responsible for her jealousy while he feels guilty for the jealousy that all of his wives feel. his quilt i multiplied. he also feels guilty for not being able to spend as much time with each of the wives as they would like and he also feels guilty for not spending as much time with the children of each wife as as he would like. Again, his guilt or feelings of inadequacy are multiplied. he may feel extra guilt for being a bad employee for perhaps having to take extra time off for his family. He may feel guilty for asking one or more wives to work to support the family because he can’t cut it on his own.

    The wives form a built in support group for each other where they can comfort and mentor each other and work together to allay each other’s fears. He perhaps has no such support group. he has to go it alone.

    As i stated earlier, polygamy is best suited to a Zion’s/City of Enoch type of people. It’s a refiner’s fire. If you can take the heat, you come out on the other end a lot closer to being celestial.

  • Daveesacped

    Seth – Spot on with that comment. This was my initial reaction as well; that Mormons will be quick to declare polygamy immoral ONLY BECAUSE we hear it repudiated by the modern church pulpit. We reject believing that it WAS AT ONE TIME of God. Simple as that.More to the point, I think many LDS men would, in private, admit that they believe polygamy might come back and they wouldn’t even be against it.

    LDS survey rejection of polygamy as “immoral” could loosely be translated to mean “currently prohibited by revelation”.

  • Bart

    But Abraham DIDN’T kill Isaac. Yes, God commanded it…and made sure Abraham had to journey three days in order to stew about it. Then, God also stopped Abraham from doing it? Seems weird, right? Why would Yahweh ask such a thing? Well, I could conjecture that, since Abraham grew up in a polytheistic Ancient Near East–where religions sacrificed children to the gods–he might not have thought it strange. Yahweh may have used the opportunity to show, once and for all, that He was unequivocally AGAINST child sacrifice. Just a thought.

    What’s more, we need to be careful about saying “God commanded it.” God never commanded Abraham to take a second wife. Read Genesis carefully. That was Sarah’s (aka Sarai’s) idea. Isaac never took a second wife. And nowhere was Jacob (aka Israel) ever commanded to take more than one wife. It seems to me that God tolerated it in a people He had pulled from the culture of polytheistic Ancient Near Eastern religions.

  • GP

    Seth, Dave – in general I can agree with you about polygamy *in general*. Of course, the fact that polygamy exists in the church’s past is pretty well-known member or nonmember alike and there are other cultures that practice polygamy as well. For me personally (growing up in the church), I went from a state of indifference towards polygamy to being personally against it but I tolerated it as part of church history and was able to look forward. That said, I certainly don’t find it fair for the women in the relationship and I don’t think that it is an effective model for the needs of the children or the wives, primarily just by the simple fact that the husband’s time and focus must be shared so many ways.

    The big problem that I personally have is when polygamy includes teenage girls, particular down to the age of 14 y/o. And when it involves secretly “marrying” a woman who is already married to another man. I know that there are complicated explanations that apologetic believers come up to justify this in order to keep Joseph within the realm of being a prophet; however, the most obvious reason is that Joseph Smith used the concept of polyandry (and polygamy in general) under the command of God to have sexual relations with these women (and the historical record confirms consummation for many cases).

  • Dave

    Cody, is it all right with you that I call myself a faithful Mormon if I criticize the blood atonement doctrine? Isn’t polygamy in the same category-doctrine that no longer applies and possibly never came from God? Do I need a testimony of polygamy and the blood atonement to be categorized a faithful believing Mormon?

  • GP

    I know, right? We should probably follow the counsel of Elder Neil L. Andersen in the last GC when he counseled:

    “Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.”

    I definitely think that if we do this and eliminate the critical history of Joseph Smith from our lives, and instead repeatedly listen to our own recorded testimony of Joseph Smith, that we will eventually come to the same unified conclusion of Elder Andersen that “Joseph Smith was an honest and virtuous man”. It seems pretty straightforward to me.

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/joseph-smith?lang=eng

  • Seth R.

    Keep in mind “polygamy” covers BOTH polygyny and polyandry. Though I’ll assume we are just covering polygyny.

  • GP

    In my reply, I cited examples of both polygyny and polyandry and represents the scope of the polygamy that Joseph Smith secretly practiced. So your assumption would be incorrect at least as far as my comment is concerned.

  • GP

    Dave, just as a preface, I’m totally cool with you believing in the way that fits you best and makes the most sense. I very much respect you for that.

    One challenge that I have though with the latest polygamy essay is that the essay is very clear that from the church’s official standpoint, polygamy was a commandment of God. The doubling down instead of being at least vague surprised me and reinforced a barrier between my ability to reconcile some issues that I have with the church.

    I could be wrong, but I think that at some point down the road (perhaps a few generations), the church will have to retract this position in the essay much like it had to do post 1978 for several of the statements earlier leadership made regarding the priesthood ban to blacks.

  • Seth R.

    I think 1800s Utah polygamous society was in many ways more fair to women than 1800s Bostonian society was. For one thing, Brigham Young was rather liberal about divorce – when the woman was requesting it – which made it easier for women to leave abusive relationships.

    The fact of polygamy also made it easy for such women to be cared for. Divorcees, widows and such could become a polygamous wife and gain status and support in the community. In Boston they either ended up in the poorhouse or as prostitutes. George Q. Cannon was known for his fiery sermons about how Utah had managed through polygamy to basically solve the problem of destitute widows and prostitution.

    As for Joseph having sex, I believe he had sex with some of the wives.

    I do not believe there is any evidence at all (aside from the bare fact of the marriage ceremony) indicating sex in the case of the underage women and the ones married to other men. In fact, the evidence in most instances points toward a LACK of consummation.

    I do not agree he instituted polygamy as an excuse for sex, which he could have gotten more easily in other ways. I agree with the comedian who quipped that getting married to have sex is like booking an airline ticket for the free peanuts. “If it’s peanuts you want, there are easier and cheaper ways to get them.”

    In any case, any guy who was trying to create an excuse for illicit relationships would have been a complete moron to go about it the way Joseph did – namely by introducing the concept to just about every powerful and influential male in the community. If you want to get yourself publicly flogged for adultery, that’s a sure-fire way of doing it.

    Especially Brigham Young. Anyone who actually knows Brigham Young’s character and temperament will know that he was the last person in Nauvoo you wanted to admit something like this to.

  • Seth R.

    And one of the big problems with discussing Joseph Smith’s polygamy is that people feel free to mix and match the bios of different wives into whatever narrative they want.

    “We have evidence Joseph had sex with Wife B”
    Combined with:
    “Wife D was underage”

    Magically becomes “Joseph had sex with underage girls!”

    It’s a basic logic failure that comes from treating the bios of all the individuals wives as one big sloppy united narrative. That’s why when discussing Joseph Smith’s polygamy – I’d rather not talk in generalities. If you want to accuse Joseph Smith of something – pick a SPECIFIC wife. Name her – and then tell us all what he did with her that was so wrong.

    It’d also be nice if people took the time to read the bios of the wives they are concerned about here:

    http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/history-2/plural-wives-overview/

  • GP

    Seth, although I personally find polygamy as a less-than-ideal relationship for previously-mentioned reasons, I am open to accept grown adults consciously making an informed decision on who they marry – including if they want to practice polygamy. Although I do have a problem in cases when, among other things: 1) it involves underage girls; 2) the girls lived in the Smith household as a foster daughter or maid; 3) other spouses involved are not aware; 4) the pretense is a supposed commandment of God who threatens to slay his prophet if the woman does not accept; 5) an assurance or requirement of exaltation if the woman accepts.

    Regarding the sex, I’m assuming that since you posted Brian Hales’ website, you are at least somewhat familiar with the bios of the women. Brian Hales admits to the possibility of sexual relations with at least three of the already-married women and offers his own suggestion on how a believer may interpret/reconcile these cases (Sylvia Sessions, Sarah Whitney, Mary Heron). He also admits to sex with at least three or so teenage girls (Fanny Alger, Lucy Walker, Sarah Lawrence) and for all women in total, about a dozen cases (other than already mentioned: Louisa Beaman, Emily Partridge, Eliza Partridge, Almera Johnson, Maria Lawrence, Malissa Lott). The historical record includes accounts that make these admissions inescapable as the women admitted to it, including sworn affidavits in some cases. Now, the historical record includes more instances of sexual evidence than what Brian Hales is willing to admit. Hales makes conclusions from liberally applied personal conjecture for which he grants equal value to the historical record. If you poke around the detailed bios that he has captured, you will find that he admits that he favors even slight references to “eternity only” marriages even if that exact phrase is not used and even if “time and eternity” is mentioned in other (and sometimes more frequent) instances in the historical record. Go check it out (e.g. Mary Elizabeth Lightner)… I’ve read through Hales’ website in detail including the bios and his exchanges with well-known historians… he admits to these weaknesses, yet he doesn’t advertise these admissions in his summarized lists and conclusions which I feel is disingenuous and unbecoming of supposed historian.

    As for mixing and matching of bios, I don’t do that. When more than one case is involved one can accurately refer to sexual relations in the plural sense. Beyond the historical record and moving into the realm of conjecture, if you read the history and look at the “big picture”, you will still find highly suspect evidence for sexual relations in those cases too. Read the personal accounts of Helen Mar Kimball regarding the anguish that she suffered in grappling with deciding to marry Joseph and dealing with the aftermath. Read the account of the difficulty felt during Heber C. Kimball’s “Abrahamic test” of being asked to give up his wife Vilate to Joseph Smith. Read the wording of the marriage ceremony of Joseph Smith to Sarah Ann Whitney. The more you read the historical record, the more you get a feel for what the marriages meant and allowed. Simply put, there would be no such difficulty and anguish for an “eternity only” sealing. The concept of “eternity only” sealings is a post hoc rationalization manufactured by apologetics to cast Joseph Smith into the most favorable light as possible and if there is any truth to it to be found at all, evidence is compelling in only a very small minority of the cases like Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Young.

  • Cody

    Dave, you can call yourself faithful all you want, I truly hope that you are. That’s far from the point. It doesn’t matter if itis blood atonement or any other doctrine. Either it’s true, or it isn’t! If you are saying that polygamy was revealed and practiced by Joseph Smith, but you don’t think it was not from God, than how can you be certain that anything he revealed was from God? Unbelievers in his day made these same accusations, they called him a fallen prophet! My point was that the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed to us the order of Heaven, and who are we to change that order? Do you really think that God changed how things are done in Heaven because we on earth advanced from its primitive ways (see Scott’s sarcastic comment above)? We are here to learn how to become like our God, that is what was so great about Mormanism and the latter day Gospel, it was the restoration of all things. Only now, in our arrogance, we are going to pick and choose what we think Joseph Smith should or shouldn’t have restored. Is that really up to us? I guess we may just have to eventually die and discover if we are right!

  • Seth R.

    Actually GP, poisoning the well attempts aside, Hales is NOT the one who invented the term “eternity only” with respect to polygamy. It’s used by Todd Compton, B. Carmon Hardy, Jeffery Ogden Johnson, and M. Guy Bishop for starters. Compton’s usage goes all the way back to 1996, and Dean C. Jesse and Andrew Ehat also use the term. It’s also in the Journal of Mormon History back in 1994 – and that’s not even doing a comprehensive search.

    Even Quinn is admitting that Hales didn’t invent the idea.

    What is more even as early a character as John A. Widstoe was talking about “eternity only” polyandry.

    And you don’t even need the “eternity only” idea to get to non-consummated marriages. For instance, in early Utah it wasn’t unheard of to seal young girls with the understanding the marriage would not be consummated until she was of age. Brigham Young put it at the discretion of the mothers. Some such marriages were later consummated, and some were canceled due to the young woman developing affinity to another man.

    My own great grandmother (deceased 1993 at age 103) told me personally the story about how she contracted pneumonia at age eight – a life-threatening thing back then – and, on her sickbed, begged her mother “if I die, don’t seal me to the bishop.”

    Back then it was common if a girl died before marriageable age, to seal her to whoever the standing bishop was at the time. So unless you are suggesting that early Mormons were necromancers, your implication that marriage and the sealing ceremony always entailed sex just isn’t going to fly.

    And Helen Mar Kimball’s “agonizing” had nothing to do with sex. Obviously not.

    Helen was upset because she wasn’t being allowed by her parents to date or go to parties. If she’d actually had sex with Joseph, it would have been accepted by a young woman of that time that she couldn’t do such things. Kind of a no-duh thing really.

    And no, I do think you’re conflating. And privileging only the negative evidence and not really paying attention to the counter-factuals.

  • Dave

    That is the point! We cannot know, unless we question and ask God. The mistake is when we blindly follow. Elder Christofferson’s recent talk supports this statement.

  • GP

    Seth, thanks for your reply. You asked me for specifics regarding Joseph Smith’s polygamy and I gave them to you. Most of your reply shifts back to polygamy in general and after Joseph Smith’s death. I have not researched much about polygamy in Utah; however, I am familiar with stories that are similar to what you mention where eternity sealings were practiced. I do not have enough knowledge to discuss the merits one way or the other, but suffice it to say that I do not doubt the accounts that you share. I appreciate you sharing your account of your great-grandmother.

    In my reply I didn’t mean to insinuate that Brian Hales was the inventor of the “eternity only” concept as it related to Joseph Smith (although he a recent advocate of the concept). My comment was that the historical record does not clearly support the concept of “eternity only” marriages to Joseph Smith – the concept comes from the conjecture of faithful historians. For example, to my knowledge, the specific wording “eternity only” (with an emphasis on “only”) was never used in the context of describing a marriage to Joseph Smith. On the contrary, we have plenty of evidence of “time and eternity” marriages to Joseph including the cases I cited in my previous reply. I’m confident in my analysis that the anguish caused by the marriages to Joseph Smith indicated more than an eternity-only marriage as a primary factor (there are multiple accounts, not just HMK), but of course I realize and accept that others may have different interpretations of what the anguish meant.

    I certainly try to be open in my analysis and I am always open to correction on the historical record. As a faithful member, I spent several months of intense research and prayer trying desperately to make the historical record more believable to me. I can tell you that at that time I was definitely biased and was focused on justifying Joseph Smith’s polygamy/polyandry as a commandment of God. But the data pointed to a much more obvious conclusion that Joseph’s practice of polygamy/polyandry was more rooted in the natural man. It was not my desire to arrive at that conclusion, but the deeper I dug, the more clear the history and that conclusion became to me. It is so clear for me personally, that for me to accept other conclusions would cause me to be dishonest to myself and others. Again, I realize that others are able to make it work through various means, but this is just how it is for me.

    I appreciate the objectivity and respect in your responses even though we don’t agree on the essence of this point.

  • W

    “Hales is NOT the one who invented the term “eternity only” with respect to polygamy. It’s used by Todd Compton, B. Carmon Hardy, Jeffery Ogden Johnson, and M. Guy Bishop for starters. Compton’s usage goes all the way back to 1996, and Dean C. Jesse and Andrew Ehat also use the term. It’s also in the Journal of Mormon History back in 1994”

    Farther, I think — if my memories from the ward I grew up in are trustworthy, the concept of eternity-only sealings was part of discussion at least as far back as the 1980s.

  • Katie

    I find it interesting that you mention the widowed but not the divorced aspect of temple “polygamy”. A divorced man can be sealed again in the temple with only a clearance, meaning he can be sealed to multiple women, while a divorced woman requires a sealing cancellation from her husband in order to remarry in the temple (can only be sealed to one man). There are plenty of remarriages out there with tension over the “first wife” lording it over the second that she’s going to be over her in the eternities.

  • Seth R.

    Thanks for the respectful reply GP. I don’t think I have much to add to it and I’ll just leave it there. It’s nice to not always have to be going to war online (something I’ve done a lot).

    My own background with Joseph Smith is I grew up in a very orthodox household, well versed in the scriptures and so forth. But I was always a real skeptic underneath it all and cynical about people and their motives.

    Honestly, my first reaction to hearing about Joseph Smith’s skeletons in the closet was secret delight that I had figured out something no one else seemed to know about. Like I had the inside scoop.

    Oddly enough, it made Joseph a LOT more interesting to me – as I’d frankly found him a rather boring character previously. It’s fair to say that Joseph’s failings are what made me so passionately interested in Mormon history in the first place.

    But I was never interested in letting go of my Mormon identity. It wasn’t a crisis for me or even something that I seriously considered. As much as I liked to poke cynical fun at my fellow Mormons, I firmly considered myself one of them and still do. I have a rather intense sense of ethnic pride at the end of the day.

    I’m pushing 40 now, and as I’ve gotten older my opinions on Joseph Smith have probably hardened a bit. The days of wicked delightful discovery are sort of over… sort of. He’s become something of a hero to me at the end of the day – precisely because he is human. And because I found that at the end of it all – he is a saint – but not for the reasons I always assumed as a kid growing up in my dad’s household.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it there.

  • This article proves that the Church is doing too goo of a job selling its lie. The lie is as follows:
    “…the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise. Latter-day Saints believe the season the Church practiced polygamy was one of these exceptions.” – LDS Newsroom

    This lie is propagated in Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo and Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah.

    But anyone that knows the Lord’s doctrine knows better. The scriptures are the only things binding to the Church, so I won’t be bothering with arguments made in articles. Let’s start with the scriptures the Church is misquoting.

    “the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son….For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.” – Jacob 2: 23, 31-32

    It is clear here that polygamy wasn’t the sin. The fact that it was used as an excuse to further male lust was the sin. It is true that vs 24 reads;
    “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”

    But we know this isn’t exactly true, after all the Lord told Joseph Smith that they were in fact “justified” in D&C 132: 1.

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

    But thus is NOT a contradiction. After all, the Lord did NOT give David Bathsheba (D&C 132: 39). The fact that he murdered to get her was an abomination. It is also clear that Solomon also took wives that lead him astray in his old age, so they were likely not women/marriages that were pleasing to the Lord (1 Kings 11: 4-13). This is likely why only David and Solomon were mentioned in the book of Jacob and not other polygamists, as we see in D&C 132. After all, D&C 132 8-10 reminds us;

    “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name? Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?”
    Clearly, these marriages were not offerings in the name of the Lord. (Further conditions that the Nephites and kings David and Solomon broke can be found in D&C 132: 26-27, 41-43)

    It could be argued that only dispensations that had/have the fullness of the gospel had polygamy, but this is not true. After all, the Law of Moses was NOT the fullness yet clearly allowed for polygamy. Exodus 21: 10 mentions that a man my take another wife (and the following verse states that she may leave him if he doesn’t care for her financially). Deuteronomy 21: 15-17 is clear what to do with an estate if a man had 2 wives, and only likes one of them. Deuteronomy 25: 5 commands a man to marry his dead brother’s wife, it gives no exception for him if he already married. Thus, polygamy is just an option for the Israelites. Like Latter-day Saints today, there is no commandment from God to be or not be a polygamist.

    While it is true that there are exceptions, kings forbidden in Deuteronomy 17: 15-17 for example, we saw that this Law was not followed, and the Lord stated this was fine in D&C 132. Why? Lets look at the reason behind the band…

    “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” – Deuteronomy 17: 20

    One could conclude that David and Solomon were blessed when they did not lift their hearts above their brethren, then cursed once started seeing themselves as greater than they truly were, a story as old as Lucifer himself.
    Likewise, the New Testaments forbids individuals from polygamy (1 Timothy 3: 2 for example) but does not condemn the practice as a whole. Yet seeing that this is Paul speaking, the same man that stated NO ONE should should marry, unless they could not end their human lusts, I’m not sure how serious to take Paul’s opinion on the matter (1 Corinthians 7:9).

    It is clear that the Lord doesn’t care if we are polygamists of monogamists, as long as we keep His covenants. Monogamy appears to be the rule when men are not faithful to their wives, their covenants or when Paul seems to think it best. (It has also been argued by some that Paul was stating these leaders must have AT LEAST one wife). It also seems to be the rule for men that have too many responsibilities and cannot care for more than one wife (Paul, see above) and it is clear that monogamy is required without the first wife’s permission to enter into polygamy (D&C 132: 61). To state that monogamy is the Lord’s will with exception is simply not the case and I fear that pretending like it is will make returning to polygamy harder when the time comes.

    Conclusions:
    Knowing Smith had 49 wives isn’t going to get anyone into heaven, knowing Jesus will. That said, the real reason the Church is sharing this information may very well be to hide truth. The fact is that polygamy is still a part of our religion. No man may have 2 wives that are living, but if a man’s wife dies and he marries another he is a polygamist in the next life. yet the Church is putting out these papers to make it seem like polygamy is a sin now for the Lord’s reasons. This is a lie. We clearly only ended the practice because our scriptures tell us to obey the law of the land.

    “Inasmuch 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.” – Official Declaration 1

    The law of the land made polygamy legal in Utah, so the Church appears to be putting out propaganda to hide their disobedience to the Lord and our religion. One may call it transparency or a revelation, but in truth, it appears more to be a scam.

  • Dave

    Cody,
    I just figured out your misspelling of Mormonism as “Mormanism” must have been on purpose, and you are just messing with me. You got me all agitated – nice work! I love how you spell it, because it represents the power of men in the church. You had me going for a while you were a TBM!

  • WI_Member

    @Seth R…as for your conjecture that “For instance, in early Utah it wasn’t unheard of to seal young girls with the understanding the marriage would not be consummated until she was of age”, please take note of my great-great-grandmother’s situation. She was a14 year old orphan who crossed the plains with her elderly grandmother. When she arrived in Salt Lake, she was quickly snatched up by a mid-30’s man who had an infertile wife. So she was married at 14, a baby 9 months later, then 13 more children roughly every 12-15 months after that. When her first husband died, she was left with several young children she couldn’t care for on her own. She was able to remarry a man (in her words, “this time for love”) to whom she was the only wife. When do you consider a young girl to be “of age”? This happened during the Mormon Reformation years when Brigham Young was trying to get the Saints to breed their way into the Second Coming by “encouraging” more men to take more wives, regardless of what it meant for the women. What part of that story sounds like it’s something God would command?

  • Seth R.

    Interesting story WI.

    Are you saying this represents a trend or something?

    Because, I’ve heard a lot of stories like that from monogamous America too.

    Let me put it this way – if a polygamous man beats his wife “because he’s a polygamist”, wouldn’t it be equally logical to say that a monogamous man beats his wife “because he’s a monogamist?”

  • Scott Roskelley

    “Knowing Smith had 49 wives isn’t going to get anyone into heaven, knowing Jesus will.” Precisely, knowledge of the personal relationships of the founding prophet of the restoration requires elite access to high level mystery, revelation, and oracles, (Hebrews 5:14). It is known “among long-term and well-read members”. The rest of the membership of the church can use the Mormon.org, Liz lemon Swindle, depiction of Joseph Smith who may have been theologically polygamous, but monogamous in his personal relationships and did not let the “heavy burden of leading the Church [to] distract Joseph from his responsibility to his WIFE and children; it increased his love for them.” As for Jesus and his personal relationships, let’s track the history. First Jesus was an Essene-like, peripatetic, Luke 20:35, most definitely single, social revolutionary. Then with Joseph Smith Jesus was the Lord who appeared to him in his first vision, then he became a distinct and separate glorified social trinitarian person, after which he became the literal son of an anthropomorphic super evolved now exalted former man/Christ 1.0 who was married to a goddess wife. Then Jesus became the son of glorified Adam who is our real God and one of his wives Eve. Then Jesus became a polygamist married to both Mary and Martha according to Wilford Woodruff in 1883. On March 17, 1963, Jesus “must have been married” and “Yes! but do not preach it!” with the rest of the world considered swine and unworthy of this great redemptive secret. Finally, a conclusion on the matter when Deseret News on May 17, 2006 preemptively leaked a comment by President Newsroom (Dale Bills) that the doctrine had changed when they declared that “LDS doctrine does not endorse claims made in a popular book and movie that Jesus Christ was married.” Dale Bills finally declared to the world the most important, theologically rich statement of all time when he said, “the belief that Christ was married has never been official church doctrine”. So there we have it, the writings and journals of previous prophets are now null, void, and embarrassing. It is so sad that we no longer believe in an exalted Jesus. The Jesus I knew growing up was exalted and inherited the highest glory, but now we have that pesky doctrine in D&Cov 131:4, that prevented Jesus from receiving His exaltation, and prophets have still not had the time to go to the temple and perform the proxy sealing for Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Hopefully, when the time is right Jesus will obtain his exaltation again.

  • Kevin JK

    The writings of the prophets are NOT official Church doctrine. They have also stated that if their words contradict scripture, that we are to ignore their own words and stick with scripture. The prophets, like the rest of us, are mortal men and like us, have their own ideas and opinions.

    the only way for any writing, declaration, proclamation, etc… to become official doctrine and therefore binding upon all church members is to have it sustained by the membership via Common Consent. Short of that, such statements are policy and/or opinion and with which we are free to disagree.

  • GP

    Really? The prophets have said that their words are not official church doctrine and we can ignore their words and stick with scripture if their words contradict scripture? I’m kind of curious how this would have gone over when Joseph Smith instituted polygamy in very clear contradiction of Jacob 2:27-30 and the 1835 D&C 101. Did JS have Common Consent for polygamy and polyandry? Did BY get Common Consent for Blacks/PH? Did BY get Common Consent for Adam/God?

    Beyond that, with this logic, if prophets can be wrong and we’re left to our own interpretations and opinions (which of course will vary from person-to-person), then what’s the point in having a prophet in the first place? I was told that having a prophet was to clearly communicate the will of God and that they would never lead me astray or they would be removed from their place.

    Look, I get your point on them being people and infallible and I certainly don’t expect perfection from anyone. But when it comes to doctrines, I expect the signal from God to be very clear through His prophets or else God cannot expect me to follow such ambiguity. We have had very clear signals from LDS prophets on losing topics like Blacks/PH, Adam/God, Polygamy, and others. Then at later times they back out of these positions and state vague statements like “people aren’t perfect” or “we don’t know why” when it comes to having to reconcile them.

  • Kevin JK

    D&C 132 was given 10 years after D&C 101 and would supersede it (and the BoM) in any areas that may conflict just as the NT supersedes the OT. Both were accepted by Common Consent and are official. The mentioned teachings by BY were not official doctrine.

    The prophets are inspired by the Lord and we should give heed to their counsel, unless, as Joseph Fielding Smith said, if we find where their teachings contradict scripture. The idea of them being perfect or being removed if they teach their own opinions is not official either, just folk Mormonism. The prophets, have do and will make mistakes.

    When a teaching is brought to the Church and sustained via Common Consent, there is your clear signal from God.

    Your last paragraph describes a problem with LDS culture, not doctrine. Our culture says, “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don’t go astray…”. But sometimes they’ll give an opinion and suddenly it becomes pseudo-doctrinal. The oral sex ban of 1983 is an example. It was quickly rescinded and I know stake presidency members and institute teachers that have never heard of it.

    Just because the prophets say something, even in First Presidency letters or in Proclamations signed by the FP and the 12 does NOT NOT NOT make it official doctrine.

  • Clinton King

    I find that God is often ambiguous in the scriptures on a doctrinal level(cf Moses: Thou shalt not kill, then Joshua: Thou shalt kill every man, woman, and child). I also find that God is also ambiguous with me on a personal level.
    I don’t know that I’ve ever heard any leader of the LDS church say that Brigham Young was in the wrong to withhold the priesthood from those of African descent, or that David O McKay was wrong to decline to send missionaries to west Africa.
    I don’t understand how Jacob 2:30 contradicts DC section 132?

  • GP

    JS, BY, and others practiced polygamy secretly until 1852. The standing scripture was the BoM and 1835 D&C (until 1876). Please provide the reference for the common consent of this doctrine when it was practiced by JS.

    The Blacks/PH was not doctrine? I don’t know how much clearer it can be:

    “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is NOT A MATTER OF A DECLARATION OF POLICY but of DIRECT COMMANDMENT FROM THE LORD, on which is founded the DOCTRINE of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.” (The First Presidency on the Negro Question, 17 Aug. 1949) – emphasis added

    The same is the case for Adam/God – it was taught for a few decades by BY and others. They did not state it as opinion, but as a matter of fact.

  • Clinton King

    I don’t see how the 1949 First Presidency statement contradicts Declaration 2.

  • GP

    Clinton – I was responding to these comments from Kevin JK:

    “The only way for any writing, declaration, proclamation, etc… to become official doctrine and therefore binding upon all church members is to have it sustained by the membership via Common Consent. Short of that, such statements are policy and/or opinion and with which we are free to disagree.”

    “The mentioned teachings by BY [Blacks/PH] were not official doctrine.”

    The Blacks/PH was clearly stated by the FP as doctrine as given in the quote I provided. I’m not aware of any voting or consent from the general membership on this other than to just follow what BY and others pre-1978 (as their prophet) said.

    You and Kevin may disagree with what “doctrine” actually means in that statement or somehow otherwise discredit the quote, and that is fine with me… you can interpret it any way that you want. I’m just stating that to me the message is very clear. I’ve seen this rationale used to try and back-peddle against doctrines that were later overturned… blame it on a personal opinion. The trouble is, that is not how these were presented to the church membership by their prophet.

  • Kevin JK

    D&C 132 was given in 1843. I don’t know offhand when it was sustained via Common Consent. Also, personal revelation trumps scripture. Nephi violated scripture in murdering Laban, but because the Spirit said to, it was OK to violate scripture. The Lord/Spirit may likewise have commanded JS and others to take wives in direct violation of scripture. If that was the case, I have no problem with it.

    As far as the FP statement saying that it was a commandment from God, that contradicts what the church put up on their news site saying that we don’t know where the position came from. If it did come from God, we’d have a clear record of it. The FP statement was an assumption on their part. FP statements are not doctrinal. As mentioned, the oral sex ban of 83 came from an FP statement that was quickly rescinded. It stated that such acts were “unholy and impure practices”. If that were really true, that would still be taught to young people and converts going to get sealed. I’ve known bishops who were not yet married after the rescission was given and have never heard of it.

    Again, just because a prophet says it, does not make it doctrinal. ONLY Common Consent makes something doctrinal.

  • GP

    Official FP statements aren’t doctrinal? Then what are they? The philosophies of men, mingled with scripture?

    So many contradictions and subjective scenarios laced with personal interpretations… wouldn’t it be good if God provided some way to have a kind of spokesperson on the earth to clear all of this up? Oh yeah… we have a prophet who’s supposed to do that, but we have to still parse through what is official doctrine and personal opinion, because prophets don’t qualify their statements… or even if they do (as in the quote I gave you above), the interpretation of the statement/doctrine can be revised later in some cases to completely reverse the meaning.

    I think that my point is made and you have helped in doing that (thanks). Prophets are not useful if they issue so many contradictory statements and if we have the burden of parsing their words to somehow glean the doctrine from opinions. In fact, I would argue that they are harmful and lead us in the wrong direction with this line of thinking (e.g. as it was with Blacks/PH).

  • Kevin JK

    If have plenty of GA quotes stating that only Common Consent makes something official and statements outside the scope of scripture, by anyone, including the prophet is opinion. if someone says X is official doctrine, ask them to show you in scripture. if they can’t, they it’s opinion.

    I even told a member of my stake presidency that the Church “steadied the ark” by supporting Prop. 8 in California because scripture forbids us from using our religious opinions from infringing upon the rights and liberties of others and gays had the right/liberty to marry in CA prior to Prop. 8. I’ve told other stake presidencies that same thing. After I told one stake president that, he signed my new temple recommend.

    unless/until something is sustained by Common Consent, it’s only opinion/policy and NOT NOT NOT official doctrine.

  • Clinton King

    Wait, why is the pre-1978 African descent priesthood ban an example of the wrong direction? I think the priesthood ban was doctrinal, and in accordance with God’s will. I think OD2 lifting the ban is also doctrinal, and in accordance with God’s will.

  • GP

    The Blacks/PH ban was a mistake and was instituted by racist theories that BY and others bought into. Even the church alludes to this now in their recent essay, although they fall short of explicitly saying “sorry”:

    https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood

    Now that the church has thrown the earlier leaders under the bus on Blacks/PH, you now find yourself standing alone in asserting that it was doctrinal. Rewind a few decades and you’d fit right in… as was demonstrated in the FP quote I gave.

  • Kevin JK

    The problem comes from LDS cultural thinking that says that the prophets are infallible (though they themselves often state that they are not). If an authority says X is official doctrine, ask to have them show you in the scriptures. If they can’t and say that President so-and-so said it was, remind them of President Kimball’s oral sex ban and his 18 mo. mission term for Elders that too was quickly rescinded when it failed miserably. These show that the prophets make mistakes, even in their role as prophets.

    Show them quotes from the Brethren stating that only the scriptures are the official doctrinal source and that the unsustained teachings of anyone are simply opinions.

  • Clinton King

    I’ve read that essay several times (today even), and that’s not what I got out of it. Was the ban wrong thinking because it was unfair to those of African descent? Because God is unfair all the time.
    What’s wrong with standing alone?
    Also, I fully consider the current LDS leadership to be oracles of God who deliver the will of God to me.

  • GP

    “What’s wrong with standing alone?”

    The ban was wrong. It was not of God. If you know the essays so well and the ban was right, then please list the reason(s) why the ban was instituted. You can do this “open book” and even cite the reasons mentioned in the essay:

    1.
    2.
    3.

    I honestly cannot believe that you still hold this standpoint. It may take a few generations to further purge out this line of thinking.

  • Clinton King

    I believe the ban was of God because Brigham Young instituted it while he was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Why do I need a different reason? I can accept the idea that you need a different reason; we can agree to disagree on this point.
    Again, I believe that God children are often treated extremely unjustly in this life. In many instances, the only individual who can be truly held responsible for the unjust treatment is God Himself. Why should the priesthood ban be any different?

  • GP

    Clinton King:
    “I believe the ban was of God because Brigham Young instituted it while he was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why do I need a different reason?”

    Joseph Smith:
    “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them (even) if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”
    – Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol. 14, Num. 38, pp.593-595

  • Clinton King

    I suppose that this statement demonstrates that I am not a man of God, that I am unintelligent, am a slave, and have it in my heart to do wrong. Now I suppose that you wish to leave me to ponder in my heart how I might repent of these things.
    I still think that if Jesus Christ had desired the ban to be lifted or not be placed at all, He could have visited Brigham Young at any time and told him so. I believe that they had a good relationship.

  • GP

    Clinton, I absolutely do not attach such labels to you. I don’t even know you. Additionally, personal attacks are not my style and I wish to remain objective. The quote was from Joseph Smith, not me.

    My point was that we should question what our leaders tell us. If we don’t, then what makes us different from religious zealots that do things like fly planes into buildings? I wouldn’t put you into that category… I think that in reality, you do have limits and would question certain “commands”. Most of us would.

    But doctrines like the Blacks/PH ban from leaders who profess to speak directly for God (without mistake regarding doctrinal matters) make it tough to justify with so many contradictory statements from leaders over time. So we need to tread lightly and not take a black/white stance. That was my point… and even Joseph Smith agrees, which is why I gave the quote. I hope you understand…

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  • Clinton King

    Would it have been more acceptable if I had said that having studied out in my mind the circumstances surrounding the priesthood ban and its subsequent lifting, I find it consistent with the way God treats His children both now and historically?

  • GP

    Sure. I personally don’t have any problems with the beliefs of others, regardless if we’re talking about LDS beliefs or others… or even non-belief. It is a personal decision. That is, so long as it doesn’t improperly infringe upon the lives of others.

    My main interest is in the historical record – especially information that is not openly talked about in church. I feel that members of the church deserve to hear the truth and then make an educated decision on what to do with that truth. The church has not been forthcoming with this kind of information and it tends to get swept under the rung. This is why I pointed out the historical record above… and the inconsistencies that exist.

    This goes along with the Joseph Smith quote that I mentioned above. You just said now that you have the information already, have processed it, and are able to make it work in your mind, which is great. So you have followed the advice of Joseph Smith and you came out an informed believer (not following blindly). In some ways, I wish that I could do the same because I loved the church so much and the culture. But after looking at the full spectrum of evidence (not just Blacks/PH, but many, many, other issues), I am unable to honestly look someone in the eye and pretend that I believe, because I just can’t believe the whole package… it’s far too illogical and irrational to me. What I was told in church and believed in does not match the complete historical record which tells a different story.

    Hopefully this helps explain my background and you can see that there is a genuine desire to be objective here, even if we don’t agree on the conclusion.

  • Clinton King

    Yes, I think we can agree to disagree respectfully on this and other matters.

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