104 Comments

My Perspective on Polygamy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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104 comments on “My Perspective on Polygamy

  1. FD,

    What was the purpose of marrying women who were already married to other men, some of them older and probably past childbearing age?

    I suppose for the sheer ability to wield his power over his followers. Perhaps he also found older women sexy.

    And in the case of the younger women, such as Fanny Alger, 16-17 year-olds weren’t exactly old maids who needed “one last chance” for security from a husband.

    He liked ‘em old, but he liked ‘em young too. Rrrowww. I suppose he just liked ‘em anyway he could get ‘em, the womanizer. What can I say? He was just a pervert. Heaven help him. I sure hope he repented.

    Also, I’m not sure how much “companionship” it is when you’re one of many wives and your husband doesn’t even necessarily live with you most of the time.

    Well I guess they were desperate enough that anything was better than nothing. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be married to a prophet?

    And when one man has 20, 30, 50 children, it doesn’t seem like it’s in the best interest of child-rearing since one man can’t really be a father in the true sense of the word to so many children.

    I can’t argue with you there. I can’t imagine. But anyway, in our country, we have a saying. Maybe you are familiar with it. It goes like this: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Maybe the men relied on the village to pick up the slack.

    You may not appreciate my humor, but I just feel so much better know. Humor is a good way to vent frustration as opposed to other ugly alternatives, you know. Honestly, I just don’t see the point in responding to these specific questions, even though I could, but likely not well enough to convince you of anything. I just prefer not to go there and extend an already tedious discussion.

    But I would honestly like to know your opinion as to Joseph’s reasons for marrying old ladies and teenagers.

    Let me just sum up my feelings in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Now nothing can be more idle, nothing more frivolous, than to imagine that this polygamy had anything to do with personal licentiousness. If Joseph Smith had proposed to the Latter-day Saints that they should live licentious lives, they would have rushed on him and probably anticipated their pious neighbors who presently shot him.”

    MH,

    You did skip by the Journal of Discourses quote from Brigham and my question. Don’t you view that quote as highly problematic to your position?

    I skipped it because I don’t think it’s relevant to the discussion, and actually, I gave you an answer when I had to pick between Abraham and Brigham, but I will repeat it once more. I’ve stated previously that I don’t want to enter into a discussion on race, and it seems you keep wanting to twist the discussion in that direction. I feel like it is enough to simply say that as long as I believe in the “exception clause,” then there isn’t a problem. God said to Jacob that he would not suffer that they practice polygamy, but then God said immediately after that, if he deems it necessary to change the command, he will. That says to me that God makes exceptions based on circumstances.

    But if polygamy were really “doable” in mortality as Paul seems to suggest, then it seems to me that some of these examples of polygamy should be able to perform much better.

    This is pretty much irrelevant since you’ve pretty much already agreed that the difficulty of a commandment doesn’t make the commandment wrong or evil.

    As far as the fundamentalists go, I think that maybe they have a different view of the world altogether, so I’m not sure that an examination of their practice of polygamy would be helpful in determining whether successful polygamist marriages are possible. From what I understand, (and I admit that I know very little about the FLDS other than an occasional media report) many of the girls and women are forced into plural marriages and some end up being raped. These people are engaging in the practice at a time when God has not permitted it. As such, the men who engage in the practice have not been properly called, and I am led to believe that many, if not all, may not have the purest of intentions which makes for a terrible situation for the women and children. I never said the practice isn’t abused, but the abuse of the practice doesn’t mean that the practice itself is bad when it is undertaken properly.

    I don’t generally support men marrying teenagers, but in the case of Joseph Smith, if he was commanded to do so by God, and the marriage wasn’t consummated until at a more appropriate age, which I believe was the case with him, then I don’t have a big problem with it. It doesn’t make me entirely comfortable, but I am admittedly influenced by the modern Western culture as well.

    Do you think that women should be able to be sealed to multiple husbands (polygyny), as in the days of Joseph Smith?

    It depends on why. The sealings of women to multiple husbands had to do with uniting as many of the Saints as possible to someone who would likely be worthy of exaltation since many, if not most, of the Saints would have family outside the church. Wilford Woodruff said, “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the head of the dispensation.”

    With Joseph Smith standing in the position as the last link of the chain, it shouldn’t be surprising that many women were sealed to him, including women who were civilly married to other men. I think this is what Joseph had in mind with many of the wives that he was sealed to.

    Now if the reason is just because the men in the church decide they want want polygyny so they can “watch”, or the women decide they ain’t getting enough “action” from one husband, suprisingly enough, those reasons just won’t fly with me.

    My question is do you think the FLDS practice “pure polygyny” in addition to polyandry? (I.E, is Warren Jeffs also marrying wives of FLDS apostles.)

    I don’t really know and I don’t really care. Any form of plural marriage that they engage in, regardless of the details, is contrary to God’s command at this time, and it is wrong, period.

    If it is happening, do you have any qualms about this?

    Well yes, inasmuch as I care that the commands of God are disobeyed. But I’m not sitting around here wringing my hands over what the fundamentalists are doing or not doing. I’m not intrigued by nor am I looking for another religion to justify my views toward polygamy.

    Many early church leaders were sent on missions, or went into hiding to escape federal anti-polygamy laws. So, the women were actually on their own quite a bit.

    I suppose the same can be said of members of the military who are deployed, truck drivers, husbands who travel a lot on business, husbands who are in prison, and husbands who just up and leave their families without even paying child support. Traditional marriage–it’s a bunch of crap!

    I’m becoming less attached to the “one true church” idea, and I hold out that maybe he was a prophet.

    Astounding…Just more solid proof as to why we shouldn’t speak ill of our leaders and read anti-mormon literature. Oh, and just because it is written by “believing” members, doesn’t mean it isn’t anti-mormon…ahem (Todd Compton).

  2. Tara, So do you think Richard Bushman, Todd Compton, my father in law, and I are anti-Mormon? Is anyone who has any disagreements with the church anti-Mormon? (Do you ever read my pro-Mormon posts, like the Spaulding Theory?) Is Sidney Rigdon or Joseph III an anti-Mormon too?

    I really think you completely missed my point on the FLDS–you were arguing inequality between men and women was the reason early polygamy had so many problems. Now there is practically equality in FLDS practices, but you continue to focus on the “sinfulness”, rather than the equality. The initial biased media reports on the FLDS are turning out to be wrong in many aspects of the coverage, just as it was wrong about many aspect of the Branch Davidians, as well as in the early days of Joseph Smith.

  3. I didn’t think your humor in answering FD’s questions was very respectful, either.

  4. I didn’t call anyone anti-mormon, but applied the label to literature. I believe that literature critical of the doctrines of the church and the leaders who taught them can range from outright hostile anti-mormon or a subtle “friendly” form of anti-mormon. Even literature whose claim is to simply state the facts, which at the same time doesn’t try to paint the best possible picture with available facts but rather just the opposite in some cases, can be considered anti-mormon in my view. I think this is a very powerful tool of Satan. Mixing truth with lies, or even unfriendly speculation. This plants seeds of doubt and can weaken faith. Of course most members are going to avoid hostile literature, but if Satan can appeal to members in a friendly intellectual way, do you not think he would do that? I’m sorry if you thought I was calling you or any of your family anti-mormon. I don’t believe that, but I might be tempted to put some of your writing in that category, even if that isn’t your intent.

    And I really think you missed MY point on the inequality between men and women. I never said, nor do I think I implied, that it was the reason that early polygamy had so many problems. I was responding to your assertion that polygamy causes inequality between men and women. My only point, so far as I recall, was to say that inequality between men and women during the times in history that we can examine its practice, already existed. You can’t blame polygamy for a condition that already existed. Currently, with the status of men and women being relatively equal, there is no reliable way to determine if polygamy would create inequality. I don’t consider the FLDS to be a reliable indicator because as I stated, their values and worldview seem to be altogether different. They seem to want to live in the past. I just don’t feel comfortable using the FLDS as a model because I don’t know if they ever believed in equality between men and women. Not only that, but as a believing and practicing LDS, I think that exercising the practice without God’s command and/or consent, is likely to not practiced or administered righteously.

    I’m sorry you don’t think I was being respectful to FD. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. But I would like to know how far off the mark I am in my answers though. While I was over the top in my answers, I can’t imagine any reason those questions would be asked if my answers don’t bear some resemblance to the truth in FD’s mind and perhaps even yours. I apologize if I’m way wrong there, but I’d really like to know why she (or you) would ask those questions. I know you didn’t ask those questions, but I’d be interested in your take on them.

  5. Tara, those were legtimate questions. I asked them because I didn’t think that your previous arguments for polygamy addressed them at all. In all honesty, I don’t think that JS was motivated purely by sex, unlike some people think he was. (Fanny Alger may be one that I think perhaps was motivated by sex, but most of the marriages appear to have never been consummated and it appears he never even lived with them. How could he when they already had a husband?) I honestly think there’s more to it than that, but I’m not sure what. But the old-school arguments about polygamy being needed to take care of all the spinsters and widows, etc, do nothing to explain what polygamy practised by JS truly was. So I was curious about how you reconcile those facts in your mind.

  6. Your questions were legitimate. I wasn’t trying to delegitimize them. I just don’t know that my answers will matter on the topics you bring up, and I just think that it will make an already complicated discussion even more complicated. I’ve been tag teamed before and it’s very time consuming and frustrating.

    I agree that there’s more to it than taking care of spinsters and widows and all the other reasons I listed. I believe that those are legitimate reasons, but it’s very likely that each case had its own unique reasons. I don’t have all the answers. It does seem to be an overriding factor that many sealings were for the purpose of uniting as many families to J.S. as possible to ensure all the necessary ordinaces for exaltation. While this was the sole reason for some of Joseph’s marriages, there are probably other practical purposes as well, some of which I may not have named or have even considered as possibilities.

    I just have to disagree that Fanny Alger was about sex. But I would like to know why you think that and what evidence you’ve seen to give you such an impression. I would also like to know what evidence there is that MOST of Joseph’s marriages to other women were consummated. I understand that certain authors like to make the leap that because there is evidence that it happened in some of the marriages, it probably occured in most of them. That, to me, isn’t evidence.

  7. “I just have to disagree that Fanny Alger was about sex. But I would like to know why you think that and what evidence you’ve seen to give you such an impression.”

    It’s been a couple years since I read Rough Stone Rolling and so it’s not all fresh in my mind, and this is just my opinion, but her age makes it very troubling in my eyes. Honestly, I find it very difficult to see a difference between Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith when it comes to these underage marriages. It just doesn’t seem moral to me, especially since she was a young girl who was surely ripe with potential to find her own husband (which she later did). I’m not saying JS had evil intentions (like I think Warren Jeffs had), but I strongly lean towards believing that he was deceived in this matter.

    “I would also like to know what evidence there is that MOST of Joseph’s marriages to other women were consummated.”

    I never said there was such evidence. In fact, in my last comment, I indicated that it appears that most of them were not consummated. Of course, we can’t really ever know that and it’s just speculation either way, but it seems unlikely that most of the marriages were consummated since those women were still married to their other husbands and probably never had the chance to consummate it (assuming that they even wanted to). As well, there are no known descendents through any women other than Emma (an unlikely scenario if he slept with all his wives). However, it appears that some of the other marriages were consummated (once again, we can’t know for sure). The apparent inconsistencies in his practice of polygamy are what make it difficult to understand, IMO. So, whether one argues that it was all about sex, or that it was only about linking families together, neither of them seem to be sufficient explanations.

  8. But there were other marriages to teenage girls besides Fanny Alger. Since you said that was the only case you considered to be about sex, why wouldn’t you also consider those to be cases where it was about sex?

    But why does it appear to you that most of the marriages were consummated when we can’t really ever know, and must then be left to speculate? Why would you choose NOT to give the benefit of the doubt to Joseph when it appears there is no compelling reason for you not to? That is troubling to me that you wouldn’t want to assume the best when there is no reason to automatically assume the worst. I don’t recall that being the case on the race issue when I brought up statements that seemed to suggest Joseph supported the idea of the curse of Cain doctrine (and no, I’m not trying to resurrect the discussion here).

    But given Fanny’s age, do we know if he had sex with her while she was still a teenager? If he didn’t, which I suspect he didn’t, then how could it be about sex? If her case were about sex, then it would naturally follow that he couldn’t wait that long.

  9. “But there were other marriages to teenage girls besides Fanny Alger. Since you said that was the only case you considered to be about sex, why wouldn’t you also consider those to be cases where it was about sex?”

    Actually, that’s what I meant, but I only mentioned Fanny Alger by name because she’s the only name I remember off-hand. :)

    “But why does it appear to you that most of the marriages were consummated when we can’t really ever know, and must then be left to speculate? Why would you choose NOT to give the benefit of the doubt to Joseph when it appears there is no compelling reason for you not to?”

    You really need to read Rough Stone Rolling. That chapter was lengthy and I don’t have time to type it out.

  10. Tara, thanks for the clarifications about anti-mormon literature. I wasn’t sure about your position, so that’s why I asked. I do think that Mormons can be a bit defensive, and unfairly label things anti-mormon (such as Bushman or Compton’s work), but of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    I do think that even within the church, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. ” (D&C 121:39) I think that even Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were guilty of this at times. I’m not sure that you agree or disagree with that, but I’m sure you don’t like it published. However, I think that when we hide bad behavior, it allows unrighteous dominion an environment where it thrives.

    I don’t consider the FLDS to be a reliable indicator because as I stated, their values and worldview seem to be altogether different. They seem to want to live in the past. I just don’t feel comfortable using the FLDS as a model because I don’t know if they ever believed in equality between men and women.

    Very interesting comments. I’m tempted to parse them, but I don’t want to be accused of taking them out of context. I think their worldview is quite similar to the time of Joseph Smith (though quite different from modern LDS views). Yes, they do want to live in the past. So your comments seem to indicate that the FLDS do not treat women equally with men, and they want to return to the days of Joseph Smith. Well I can’t disagree with your reasoning very much, but I wish you’d leaving out judging them as going against God. I believe they very sincerely believe they are worshipping God, and your comments seem to attack their practices in the same way anti-mormons attack mormons as not worshipping the “real” Jesus.

    My opinion on the FLDS is one of neutrality. I support their right to practice polygamy (despite my obvious problems with the practice), but I am greatly troubled by their apparent administration of it. In Utah, we get much more news on them than you do. They have been known to kick out young teenage boys for listening to rock music and other benign behaviors, to allow the older men to take more wives. This is another reason why I think the “righteous women outnumber men” argument is specious. Some of these infractions of the boys are incredibly petty–akin to Sarah’s banishment of Hagar.

  11. Let me address FD’s questions. (I’m sorry you feel tag-teamed.)

    What was the purpose of marrying women who were already married to other men, some of them older and probably past childbearing age?

    From a TBM perspective, sealing all these women was more of a saving/exalting ordinance than one of childbearing. There may or may not have been sexual relations (I believe both options probably happened.) For those who were sealed without sexual relations, I am much more comfortable with the practice. For the others, I question the need for the sealing.

    And in the case of the younger women, such as Fanny Alger, 16-17 year-olds weren’t exactly old maids who needed “one last chance” for security from a husband. And a follow up question, But given Fanny’s age, do we know if he had sex with her while she was still a teenager?

    I am greatly troubled by the reason Joseph married younger women. Perhaps it was spiritual, and perhaps Joseph was really commanded to do it. But in the case of Nancy Rigdon, which I highlighted before, Nancy felt it was completely wrong (as did Sidney). I think it is a case of human biases influencing revelation here. Eliza Snow is another young single woman married to Joseph, and I believe the Partridge sisters were age 19 and 21 at their marriage.

    I heard a story that Fanny Alger was pregnant, and that Emma treated her very harshly, and may have pushed her down the stairs, just as Emma did with Eliza R Snow. (Eliza purportedly miscarried.) I don’t have the Fanny Alger story down very well, but it happened way before the published revelation on polygamy, and Oliver Cowdery referred to the relations with Fanny as a “filthy, nasty affair.” Fanny was basically a nanny for Joseph and Emma, and I can completely understand Emma’s anger over it, especially since it was done completely in secret. (Oliver had been accused of an affair–perhaps unauthorized polygamy–by Joseph and chastised just prior to the Fanny Alger affair.)

    Also, I’m not sure how much “companionship” it is when you’re one of many wives and your husband doesn’t even necessarily live with you most of the time. And when one man has 20, 30, 50 children, it doesn’t seem like it’s in the best interest of child-rearing since one man can’t really be a father in the true sense of the word to so many children.

    I know TBM’s believe they can make this work, but in light of our modern understanding of how father’s should be much more involved in children’s lives, companionship would be a big problem for both wives and children. In the days of Joseph Smith, father’s were less involved in child rearing, so it wasn’t as much of a problem.

    who wouldn’t want to be married to a prophet? Tara, I know you said this sarcastically, but I think there is much truth to this. I think this is the reason many women were sealed to Joseph both prior, but especially after his death.

  12. FD,

    That’s very interesting that you view all the cases of marrying teenagers as having to do with sex when all reliable evidence I’m aware of shows that these marriages (the ones which there is some evidence that they may have been consummated) weren’t consummated until they were older. Not the profile of a man out for sex.

    I’m not interested in Bushman’s view. I want to know why YOU are inclined to think the worst with regards to whether or not Joseph consummated his marriages when there is no real evidence to go by, by your own admission. I’m just not going to go buy a book so I can read your opinion.

    MH,

    I don’t believe that Joseph and Brigham exercised unrighteous dominion. I don’t think such was consistent with their characters. And no, I wouldn’t like to see that published. So in your opinion, we should be speaking ill of our leaders even if there’s a possibility that there isn’t sufficient evidence available to convict them, all to prevent unrighteous dominion? Tell me, seeing that Joseph and Brigham are dead, how can they exercise unrighteous dominion over us?

    Maybe the FLDS don’t think they are going against God; I’m not sure I made that accusation (other than to say that some may not have the purest of intentions), and in fact have little hesitation in saying that they probably believe very much that they are doing the Lord’s work. I just personally believe that they are going against God, since I believe the LDS church is true and that theirs isn’t.

    With regard to their right to practice polygamy, I don’t disagree with their right to practice it either, so long as all parties engage in it willingly and are not forced into it. I would also expect that they abide by the law regarding age of consent to prevent the abuse of minors. This last view in no way reflects my view of the practice of marrying teenagers in Joseph’s time, since it was a cultural norm and I believe that Joseph exercised propriety with regard to sexual relations being delayed.

  13. MH,

    I only said tag teamed because I have to deal with answering questions from two people whereas you both only have to deal with one person. I don’t think you are doing it to make things difficult for me.

    For those who were sealed without sexual relations, I am much more comfortable with the practice. For the others, I question the need for the sealing.

    I’m not sure if you are aware, but there were sealings for time only, sealings for eternity only, and sealings for time and eternity.

    Nancy felt it was completely wrong (as did Sidney). I think it is a case of human biases influencing revelation here.

    Not sure I understand what you mean by this.

    Regarding the Fanny Alger pregnancy accusation, here is an article which pokes holes in the sources for it. I also haven’t seen any reason to believe that the marriage, if there indeed was one, was kept secret from Emma.

    Here is an article about Eliza R. Snow being pushed down the stairs by Emma.

  14. Tara, did you read my Part 4 on Sidney Rigdon where Joseph kept trying to get Sidney fired at the Post Office? Joseph seemed convinced that Sidney was undermining him because of a letter received from John Bennett asking Sidney to defect. Sidney went on to become Joseph’s VP candidate, so I think this is a pretty good case for unrighteous dominion (or at least a false accusation) by Joseph. Of course the Nancy Rigdon incident happened at this time too, which didn’t help communication between them.

    I also think your tone with FD is quite accusatory.

  15. I’ll check that out when I get a chance.

    I’m not sure why you think my tone with FD is accusatory. That’s not the tone I intend to convey, although I will admit that my questions and statements are a bit blunt.

  16. MH,

    I’m not sure if you noticed, but I didn’t quite understand how the Nancy Rigdon incident was a case of human biases influencing revelation.

  17. Oh, did you mean to answer my question by directing me to Part 4 on Sidney Rigdon?

  18. Please explain the acronym “TBM”.

  19. Sorry Tara, my wording in that comment was a bit odd. Paragraph 5 in comment 62 should have read,

    —-
    I am greatly troubled by the reason Joseph married younger women. Perhaps it was spiritual, and perhaps Joseph was really commanded to do it. I think it is a case of human biases influencing revelation here.

    But in the case of Nancy Rigdon, which I highlighted before, Nancy felt it was completely wrong (as did Sidney), which is why she rejected Joseph’s proposal of marriage. Eliza Snow is another young single woman married to Joseph, and I believe the Partridge sisters were age 19 and 21 at their marriage.

    —–

    The post (Part 4) deals with many of the polygamy issues we are talking about, and is really relevant to our discussion here. I’ll check out your 2 references as soon as I can–they look interesting. Also, did you read Compton’s book?

  20. Sorry FireTag, I thought you were fully versed in bloggernacle slang. :) TBM stands for “True Believing Mormon”. Generally it describes a person like me, but obviously on this topic I’m a heretic. Tara represents the TBM moniker perfectly in just about all aspects of Mormondom (though I did catch a little heresy from her one time…. shhhh–don’t tell.

  21. One other thing Tara, are you saying that Joseph was only sealed for time to some of these women? If so, that’s not a saving/exalting ordinance at all, and I can’t figure out why he would do that for any reason.

  22. TBM=True Believing Mormon.

    Haven’t read Compton’s book. I’ve read a number of reviews of it, and I’ve seen it quoted and used as support examples as well as examples of leaving out information that would help paint the prophet it a better light (almost as though he isn’t interested in doing so) so much that I feel like I HAVE read it. But I DON’T plan on ever reading it, seeing how TRUE anti-mormon’s hold it up almost as Biblical on the issue of Joseph Smith and polygamy (says a lot about it, IMO). I don’t feel the same about RSR, even though I have reservations.

  23. You beat me MH.

    And yes, I am the TBM here. I don’t know what you are. I need to come up with an acronym for you. Here are some possibilities: SBM=Sometimes Believing Mormon, MBM=Mostly Believing Mormon, LBM=Liberal Believing Mormon, or UBM=Unorthodox Believing Mormon. Which do you like?

    I can’t recall what my heresy was. Refresh me.

    I don’t know a lot, but from what I understand, a time only sealing would apply in cases where a woman was sealed to a husband who was deceased and only needed the temporal benefits that marriage provided–and I’m primarily referring to benefits other than sexual, not that sexual wouldn’t also apply.

  24. On Zelph’s blog they called me TBMH–True Believing Mormon Heretic! I like that one, but MBM or LBM is a good match too. (Even UBM.)

    Tara, your heresy was when I stated that the Holy Ghost might be female, and you agreed it was a possibility. I still need to do a post on that one, but I haven’t taken time to research it enough yet.

    I know that people can be married for time in the temple (in essence sealed for time), but I’m still not clear if you are saying that Joseph was sealed for time only to some of his polygamist wives. If so, what’s the point?

  25. I’m not sure if any of Joseph’s marriages were for time only. I know that many of Joseph’s wives were sealed to Brigham for time only after Joseph’s death. Those followed the levirate pattern of marriage. I will have to look and see if there’s any information on whether Joseph had any time only marriages. But I can see how there might be, particularly with older women who might have more difficulty finding a husband to care for her.

  26. I think I like UBM because I do think you are a little unorthodox in your thinking.

    I remember the Holy Ghost thing now.

  27. Could you identify some of these wives of Joseph that were “older women who might have more difficulty finding a husband to care for”? I’m not aware of any. The closest thing I can think of is Jane Manning James, an adult black sister who Joseph offered to adopt in the sealing ordinance. Unfortunately Jane didn’t accept the offer, but was later sealed posthumously as a servant to Joseph when Lorenzo Snow (I think?) was prophet.

    Yes, I certainly am unorthodox in my thinking, and wouldn’t object to a UBM moniker. (I have a special spot for the word ‘heretic’ though.) :)

  28. Tara,

    Those were 3 very interesting links. I have to say that they inspired me to pull out my copy of Rough Stone Rolling. It is quite funny to me that you don’t want to read it. It seems very much in favor of both the links you have listed, as well as your reasoning in favor of plural marriage. (In some ways, you almost seem to be quoting Bushman without realizing it.) I reviewed RSR’s treatment of Fanny Alger, Eliza R Snow, and the reasons for plural marriage. I think I’ll have to do a post about it. (It is also surprising to me that FAIR didn’t bother to quote Bushman’s book, since it is very good agreement with their conclusions.)

    RSR also listed Fanny Young, Brigham’s 56 year old widowed sister as Joseph’s last plural wife, which would answer my question about “older women who might have more difficulty finding a husband to care for”. I found it interesting that Brigham performed the sealing.

  29. Very quickly, I was able to find that Joseph married his dead brother’s (Don Carlos) widow. That might be a case of a time only sealing and would follow the levirate pattern. I’ll look for more possibilities.

    In the meantime, I found another interesting article listing reasons for the practice of plural marriage. One of the reasons listed suggests why the RLDS church hasn’t been as successful as the LDS church. Here it is.

  30. “I’m not interested in Bushman’s view. I want to know why YOU are inclined to think the worst with regards to whether or not Joseph consummated his marriages when there is no real evidence to go by, by your own admission. I’m just not going to go buy a book so I can read your opinion.”

    My views are, obviously, influenced by historical information. Isn’t it so for all of us? The interesting thing about RSR is that Bushman doesn’t present the book as a thesis. He simply tells the story as best he can using historical evidence. He gives possible explanations to certain things and admits that sometimes information is lacking in others. And he lets the reader decide for his/herself. So Bushman never told me what my views should be. Anyways, here are MY reasons for believing that some of the marriages were consummated. When I say “evidence,” I’m not implying that it’s irrefutable, 100% certain evidence. I’m simply saying it points in that direction.

    a) According to witnesses, it appears that JS spent the night with at least Fanny Alger, and perhaps others (I’d have to pull out the book and start reading again, but I have to go to work soon so I simply don’t have time). Now, does spending the night with someone mean that you have to have sex? Of course not. But it usually does, especially if that someone is your “wife.”

    b) It’s just my personal inclination to believe that if all of these marriages were simply about being spiritually sealed to each other, Emma wouldn’t have reacted the way she did. I think she knew that this wasn’t just about sealings. And that’s why she struggled with it so terribly, later denying even until she died that it even happened. It was embarrassing and painful for her to know that her husband slept with other women. So much so that she lied to her own children about it.

    I’m also surprised that you don’t want to read RSR, Tara. I know you are probably skeptical about it being anti-Mormon literature, but isn’t it available at Deseret book stores, MH?

  31. I read your part 4 on Sidney Rigdon and did a little digging on the issue of the post office incident you cited as possible evidence of unrighteous dominion. From a footnote in Dean Jesse’s “The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith” we read: Among the early converts to Mormonism, Sidney Rigdon played a prominent role in Church government during the decade of the 1830s as a counselor to Joseph Smith. But by 1843 his influence had diminished, due partly to Rigdon’s ill health and partly to a strained relationship that developed between him and the Prophet. Joseph was convinced that Rigdon was practicing “deception and wickedness” against him and the Church stemming from Rigdon’s position as Nauvoo postmaster. For some time Joseph had regarded the office as exceedingly corrupt,” charging that the mail was being opened and destroyed and money stolen. To a correspondent in November 1842, he wrote, “Few if any letters for me can get through the post office in this place and more particularly letters containing money, and matters of much importance. I am satisfied that Sidney Rigdon and others connected with him have been the means of doing incalculable injury, not only to myself, but to the citizens in general; and . . . under such a state of things, you will have some idea of the difficulties I have to encounter, and the censure I have to bear through the unjust conduct of that man and others, whom he permits to inteffere with the post office business.”

    To me, it seems that Joseph did what any normal citizen would do whose mail was being tampered with. It’s unfortunate that his close associate Sidney may have been involved. Maybe Sidney wasn’t directly involved, but as postmaster, ultimate responsibility would’ve fallen to him anyway. After reading why Joseph did what he did, do you still consider it a case of Joseph using unrighteous dominion? I don’t. Perhaps Joseph was wrong in his accusations of Sidney being involved, but the evidence that Joseph had pointed to Sidney. We don’t have access to that evidence to say whether or not Joseph was justified.

    Perhaps when you read books critical of the church and its leaders you should make sure to check sources and try to verify the information presented before you condemn a man unfairly.

    Regarding sealings, I haven’t been able to find information that would definitively define the nature of all the sealings between Joseph and his wives. But I think the case of Don Carlos’ widow provides an example of where a time only sealing might be warranted. In any event, my pointing out the different type of sealings was just in response to your questioning why some sealings were needed. The different type of sealings would indicate different needs and different situations and why there may have been sealings when it seemed that there wasn’t a need in some cases.

    FD,

    I can respect your opinion. That’s a logical conclusion to draw based on the evidence. I have a different opinion of course. I prefer to err on the side of caution in my judgements where there isn’t good evidence.

    MH and FD,

    I never said I don’t want to read RSR. I said I want to someday but that I just had reservations. Nor do I assume it may be anti-mormon. I’ve read interviews with Bushman and at least an article by him and think he is probably very fair with his book, but I will probably disagree with him on some points.

  32. I don’t disagree that the author’s intent wasn’t to put Sidney in the best light. In fact, he probably wasn’t too terribly worried about putting any of the church leadership in a favorable light.

    I didn’t say anything about the Kirtland Bank failure nor did I blame anyone for it. I know nothing about it other than seeing it referenced in the past. I would agree that it may be out of Sidney’s character to steal money, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen by him or under his nose by others. I also don’t think it is in Joseph’s character to accuse his friends falsely or try to get them fired if he didn’t have good reason to. Now, maybe he was mistaken. Maybe he was given unreliable evidence. My main point is that Joseph was to say that this wasn’t a case of exercising unrighteous dominion.

    If you look at all Joseph went through, he was very often betrayed by others, even by those who were close to him. Who can blame him for finding it difficult to trust anyone?

    To be clear, I’m not condemning Sidney. I don’t know if he was guilty. I just think Joseph was acting on evidence that he felt was reliable. I think Joseph probably had need of all the friends and allies he could find. I don’t think he would intentionally sabotage his relationship with Sidney because he had the power to do so. It’s just not that simple in my view.

  33. Correction: My main point is that this wasn’t a case of exercising unrighteous dominion.

    On RSR:

    Well, my birthday is on Sunday. Maybe I’ll have to by RSR as a gift to myself :)

  34. So you’re saying it’s ok to try to get someone fired based on bad information?

  35. Most definitely! JK

    I’m not suggesting it’s okay. Joseph may not have had bad information. I doubt he THOUGHT he did anyway. Being mistaken is not a crime nor is it immoral.

    Is it right to tamper with other people’s mail, or steal, or lie? Of course not. But that’s a possible scenario here, and if Joseph Smith was correct, then he didn’t have bad information.

    Joseph may have been wrong. He may have jumped to conclusions. That is a condition of human weakness and imperfection. I know he was imperfect, but I don’t believe he was malicious.

  36. I had a thought. Actually, it’s more of a question. Sidney Rigdon was President of the Kirtland Bank, right? If so, wouldn’t it have been in his best interests to stick by the prophet after the bank failure assuming there wasn’t anything intentionally illegal going on? It seems like he would bear at least equal responsibility in the matter. I doesn’t seem that Sidney was sticking his neck out here for the prophet, so to speak. Is that what you were saying in referencing this event?

  37. I didn’t mean to turn this into a Sidney Rigdon topic, we probably should visit these issues there, but briefly, you’re right. There is an interesting Wikipedia article. Some brief excerpts:

    Sidney Rigdon served as the KSSABC’ chairman and president, Warren Parrish as signatory, secretary and teller; Joseph Smith was cashier.

    Regardless of the reasons for the KSSABC’s failure, much of the blame was laid upon Smith.

    On January 12, 1838, faced with a warrant for his arrest on a charge of illegal banking, Smith and Rigdon fled to Clay County, Missouri just ahead of an armed group out to capture and hold him for trial.

    From memory, it seems Smith resigned from the bank, and then piled on the people who ran the bank at the time of its actual collapse. Certainly, it was underfunded the entire time of its existence, and other national banking issues affected the bank as well.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday Tara! :D

  38. I’m right about what?

    Not sure what you mean by piled on.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes.

  39. You’re right that Sidney was president of the bank, though Joseph was probably blamed more for the failure of the bank.

    Maybe we should continue the non-polygamy part of this conversation at either the Kirtland Bank Failure or Part 4 of Sidney Rigdon. (Of course part 4 has some other issues about polygamy that we can talk about here.)

  40. I wasn’t able to access the post on the Kirtland Bank failure.

  41. It wasn’t my intent to go off on a different topic, but somehow or other you related it to polygamy. I’m not really sure what that point was. It had to do with unrighteous dominion and human bias influencing revelation. Somehow, I just can’t see the connection you were trying to make.

    Oh, I didn’t realize you had a post on the Kirtland Bank failure. I’ll give it a look.

  42. If you’re using Internet Explorer, there were some strange problems. I also posted it at http://www.ldssundayschool.org/RS-Lesson_27

    It was me who derailed the post into Sidney–in my mind the false accusation of Sidney showed some more of Joseph’s weaknesses, and that he wasn’t always inspired.

    Oh, check out http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/04/17/get-a-gravatar/

  43. I agree that Joseph wasn’t always inspired. A prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such. He probably dind’t claim divine revelation in the matter of accusing Sidney of tampering with the mail. But he did claim revelation on the subject of plural marriage and many of the Saints came to believe that he was as well. I don’t think we can ignore some of the powerful testimonies and experiences of those who sought truth on the matter.

    I did end up having to access the post on the Kirtland Bank failure at the Sunday School link. The link you had on another page didn’t lead directly to it, but I was able to find it eventually. It sounded good to me. There was another article that I was able to find yesterday at the FAIRLDS website. It was good too.

    I checked out the gravatar thing yesterday and when I went to get a gravatar, I had trouble with the page loading after I registered. Not sure what’s going on there. I’ll try it again.

  44. I can testify without doubt that polygamy WAS inspired by God. The Holy Ghost and I have spent hours discussing this subject. He has demonstrated its point.

    The principle is simple. The answer is in front of our faces, in so many aspects. Yet it isn’t time to be preaching the practice of this principle. I therefore can’t explain it here.

    But Josesph Smith was inspired with it. Did he get everything right in regard its practice? Probably not. But any new concept requires education.

  45. DougT,

    I appreciate your testimony of the principle of polygamy. I haven’t prayed on the subject, but in my own studies, I have been touched by the Spirit very powerfully even in spite of my own reservations about it. I didn’t understand it, didn’t want to live it and had a hard time understanding why God might expect me to live it someday. Yet I remained open and hoped to better understand it.

    And I agree that it isn’t meant for now.

  46. Doug and Tara. Thanks for helping me hit 100 comments! This is my first triple-digit post!

    Doug, you said, But Josesph Smith was inspired with it. Did he get everything right in regard its practice? Probably not.

    Do you mind telling me what Joseph Smith got wrong in the practice of polygamy? I’m curious.

  47. Tara, normal citizens falsely accuse people of misconduct all the time. The author of the Sidney Rigdon book subtitled it “A Portrait of Religious Excess”, so I wouldn’t say that he went out of his way to show Sidney in a flattering light.

    Like Joseph, Sidney wasn’t good with money. But if we’re going to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt regarding the Kirtland Bank failure (by saying Joseph didn’t steal or swindle money), then I think the same courtesy should be applied to Rigdon. There is no good evidence that Sidney stole money from the mail (or allowed underlings to steal), and it seems completely out of his character to do so. Sidney stood by Joseph in the Kirtland Bank collapse, but Joseph wasn’t willing to stand by Sidney in the Post Office. That doesn’t really seem fair, IMO.

    Your backing Joseph and not Sidney seems to be quite biased, IMO. On the subject of polygamy, you constantly say that “there isn’t good evidence” of sexual impropriety, yet you seem to believe the hearsay evidence against Sidney (or at least give it more credence.) Using your words,

    Perhaps when you read books critical of the church and its leaders [like Sidney Rigdon] you should make sure to check sources and try to verify the information presented before you condemn a man unfairly.

  48. Tara seems to be making separating plural marriage from the New and Everlasting Covenant in this comment. It seems to me she is engaging in an argument of semantics. It is absolutely clear to me that prophets Joseph Smith until Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto, clearly viewed these things as the same. Since then, perhaps a distinction could be made between the two, but clearly there was no separation prior to Woodruff. In fact, some people have believed Celestial (or plural) marriage was so central to salvation, that they have continued the practice. The Allred group, the LeBaron Group, and even some apostles continued to perform polygamist marriages, that a second Manifesto happened in 1904. At least 2 apostles resigned (Matthew Cowley’s resignation led to the appointment of David O McKay as a new apostle.) Clearly Matthew Cowley did not support Woodruff’s revelation banning polygamy in 1890.

  49. Brigham Young commissioned Orson Pratt to write a paper on Celestial Marriage and upon completion to deliver it in discourse form to the church in the Tabernacle. This discourse is recorded in the Journal of Discourse volume 1 pg. 53. In his opening sentence, he equates the topic of Celestial Marriage to Plurality of Wives.

    Brigham Young references this discourse in talks of his own, reiterating what Pratt stated. I have also read a talk by John Taylor (in the JoD) who unequivocally states that the New and Everlasting Covenent is Plurality of wives. I can’t remember the location of that one, but will look it up and post when I find it.

    MH is absolutely correct that the early church did not separate Celestial Marriage (The New and Everlasting Covenant) and Plural Marriage.

    Tara: I’m sorry, but polygamy was not merely a temporary commandment as you state. It was the New and EVERLASTING COVENANT.

    Big difference.

  50. “Laws and covenants don’t change, but commandments do, as I stated previously.”

    Ok, I think some definitions are in order. Tara, what are your specific distinctions between laws, covenants, and commandments?

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