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?
I recommend Eugene England’s essay, “On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage.” http://tinyurl.com/o8qml3
Nice post. I pretty much agree. I don’t know if I would put it in the false doctrine category, but I certainly don’t believe it was a good thing. I just have a hard time coming down one way or the other with any force.
I started reading the Smith book as well, but the whole Napoleon bit at the beginning was just too strange/out there/too much of a stretch for me. I have read RSR though, and parts of Compton’s book–mostly for the accounts about Sylvia Sessions, who is one of my ancestors. 🙂
From a professional standpoint, polygamy just doesn’t make for a secure attachment in a couple’s relationship.
Narrator, thanks for the link. I’ll have to check it out when I have more time.
Adam, I agree that the Napolean bit was strange. I agree that polygamy doesn’t make for a secure attachment in a relationship. I just don’t understand why God would think that it would be a secure relationship. I guess that’s why I have a real problem with the concept of polygamy in any practical sense.
I got to this too late (I’m in Eastern Time) to post in detail on polygamy until sometime tomorrow, but I did want to quickly clarify that the blogger you referenced is NOT the RLDS you know as Community of Christ. The RLDS that formed in the mid-19th century certainly did so in large part because of a disbelief that Joseph had endorsed polygamy in his lifetime. We continue to believe the doctrine is not of God, but most of us don’t continue to argue that Joseph had nothing to do with it.
Our fundamentalist schismatics often do, and tend to cling to the name of the church they grew up in, while feeling that said church has now joined you LDS in apostasy.
As the joke goes, everyone is crazy but me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure about thee.
Yes FireTag–I’m glad you pointed that out. It seems there is a new RLDS movement which broke with the CoC in the 1990’s. So the name is restored, but it is a CoC schismatic group (as opposed to an LDS schismatic group.)
Great post, MH. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
When it comes to stuff like the priesthood ban and polygamy, some Mormons put a lot of pressure on others to believe that all of this really was inspired by God. I think it’s virtually impossible for those who have studied either one in-depth to do so. But once we don’t feel obligated to accept absolutely everything, I feel a burden lifted from my shoulders and I feel that yes, perhaps it really is possible to stay in the Church despite these painful historical facts.
Wow! Set the cat among the canaries on Mormon Matters again, didn’t you? :>)
Since the discussion went from about 35 comments to 60 while I was at the Doctor’s office this afternoon and has moved on to issues of “prophetic quality control”, I’ll make my major comment on the OP here and touch on the latter issue over there if I get time.
I generally believe that Joseph saw true things, but often things that he had no framework to interpret correctly. In regard to the latter, I believe he increasingly let human temptations to lust and power conveniently “fill in the blanks” of the puzzle in ways that caused great harm, compared to what could have been. I believe that the same succumbing to temptation was widespread among the people. So, I do believe that there is an increasing probability throughout his life of any particular prophecy being of corrupted rather than divine origin. How does “gradually falling prophet” sound?
The Community of Christ never endorsed LDS D&C Section 132 and does not accept it as Scripture. In the CofChrist, revelations are never canonized without a vote doing so by the World (General) Conference. The political reality of that is a lot less clear-cut than it sounds, but we’ll save that for another time. In any event, in our understanding, the church, including the leading quorums, and the general membership, is supposed to seek their “personal confirming revelations” before the prophet’s words are canonized, not afterward.
We, in fact, interpret the words of Jacob in the Book of Mormon as strongly prohibiting polygamy. Although our text is the same as yours, the punctuation and versification (which were never provided by Joseph himself) are different, and this is one of the few places where the decisions about punctuation really matter.
To us, the great sermon of Jacob after Nephi’s death and leading up to the parable of the olive tree is primarily an indictment of the sins of inequality among the Nephites. The ultimate example of the inequality, and therefore the most serious sin of the Nephites, is the extension of this inequality into the very foundation of family life itself: Nephite men were, by their taking of multiple wives and concubines for power or pleasure creating inequality and suffering for their wives and children on the deepest human emotional level. We rejected Section 132 because we found it inconsistent with the Book of Mormon and had no personal confirming experience that would override our cultural “default” settings.
Our denomination’s crisis with polygamy came in about 1970. We began baptizing in an Indian-subculture in which the tribesmen were already living in polygamous marriages. After struggling so hard for a century to disassociate ourselves from this particular LDS belief, what were we to do?
The revelation brought to the church and confirmed by the general conference established for us the principle that “monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built” and authorized the First Presidency and the Quorum of 12 (Apostles) in their field jurisdictions to interpret that principle as directed by the Spirit.
The implementation ultimately meant that newly baptized polygamous people were allowed to remain in those marriages for the rest of their lives, but were not allowed to take additional marital partners into the marriage. The latter act would be treated as adultery or fornication under church law (I forget which).
This ruling became a schismatic issue for a number of people. That’s the origin of your offensive blogger who calls himself RLDS and constantly cites sources from the RLDS church in the late 19th and early 20th Century in support of his position. Sorry about his behavior, but he’s undoubtedly said worse about the CofChrist.
So what did Joseph see that was “true”. Well, obviously from my previous comments and my posts on my The Fire Still Burning blog, I think he got the Book of Mormon correctly. And there are dozens of revelations we share in the D&C, and some of the Pearl of Great Price is actually in our D&C and/or Joseph’s “inspired version” of the Bible. That makes me enough of a conservative heretic in CofChrist.
So let me go all physicist on you and suggest some of the things he couldn’t comprehend and stumbled about at another time in my own blog. This comment is too long as it is.
Firetag, I find that I have much agreement with what you said. I have often said that I believe that Joseph didn’t fully comprehend the revelations he was receiving.
It is interesting to hear your perspective from the Community of Christ. I think your stance on polygamy was probably the correct one (at least until 1970.) 🙂 It’s still an interesting question. I discovered that Brigham Young sent some missionaries to India in the 1850’s. The were explicitly told to preach to the English workers there (India was a colony of England), and to avoid the Indians. They had no success. The funny thing is that I read a letter from one of the missionaries complaining that the Indians wanted to be paid to convert to our church, and he found that quite preposterous.
So are you saying that I’m a cat among canaries at Mormon Matters? 🙂
One of the stories I heard an Apostle tell at a summer church camp back in the 70’s was that the Indian tribesmen were testifying that the church must be true because the elephants had not trampled their fields since they had converted. The Apostle said he thought we should get them on a more mature Christian footing before the elephants came back.
More seriously, it was humanitarian work that opened the doors for us there — living the gospel before we taught it. I expect the hope of a materially better life still had its attractions, even if they didn’t ask to be paid outright.
I’m calling it a night.
Community of Christ had a valid reason for allowing that practice to continue in 1970. I was one of the people who took exception to it at the time and made a special trip to Independence to visit with President Shehee about it. I was appalled! He had me to read a couple of books about the culture beforehand and then gave me an appointment the week before World Conference. I went up determined that I was right.
He told me about the cultural situation. In that culture, if the church had insisted that all but the first wife be put aside, those woman and their children would be ostracized in their culture and would never be able to find another man to marry them.
The Indian men considered virginity to be very important.
That was not long after the war between India and Pakistan. Many women were roaming the countryside after being raped by soldiers. No man would marry them. Many of them had children from these terrible circumstances and the women traveled in groups begging for food for their children and themselves. The UN was trying their best to find men who would marry these women and give their children a home. It was very difficult.
We had gone into their villages with a horticulturist to help them to find a better strain of wheat to grow in hopes of alleviating their poverty. That was very successful and then they were more wealthy then their neighbors. The church wanted them to share their technology with the other villages and had to teach them the principles of sharing in love before that would happen. It was very successful!
A few went back to adding more wives but then the village elders excommunicated them for that. That was the agreement. The church has been very successful in a mission there in East India.
Thanks for your insights. It certainly seems to emphasize the dilemmas. Is it better to proselyte to polygamist cultures in India or Arab states, or refuse to teach them about Christianity? I would agree that it is better to teach them about Christ, but politically, I can certainly understand why the LDS church has refused to proselyte among them.
I recommend George Smith’s book, “Nauvoo Polygamy: But We Called it Spiritual Marriage”.
It is very dangerous to proselyte among any Muslim countries as it is forbidden and actually against the law. A friend of mine taught in Pakistan for years and she said one of the American Christians in their village did that and one night he simply disappeared. He had a wife and children but he was never seen again.
If it is possible to improve their lives with technical help, that is the best way of proselyting without proselyting.
Margie, thanks for the clarifications. Are you saying it is illegal for Christians to proselyte in India as well? Were RLDS/CoC missionaries just doing service when Indians decided to convert?
Also, I don’t know if you noticed the question to you on the MM blog–does the CoC openly teach that Joseph Smith was a polygamist?
I’ll beat Margie to this. The Community of Christ asserts, as I’ve said previously, that “monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built”. The second prophet of the CofC, Joseph Smith III, stated his belief that his father had never been involved in polygamy, but that if evidence ever showed otherwise, he would continue to regard the doctrine as abhorent while not discounting the truths his father had taught before becoming entangled in the error. That has more-or-less been the official default position until recently, but I don’t think that the leadership doubts the evidence of Joseph’s involvement at some point in some way is now “otherwise”.
There does seem to be movement toward tracing our roots to Joseph Smith, and recasting our founding with Joseph III. Expect tremendous controversy in the CofChrist over the next 18 months as this plays out in the context of official guidance from the current Prophet of which the April 5, 2009 Sermon on CommunityofChrist.org is only the first preparatory word.
Thanks Firetag. I guess the case is similar in the LDS church. We don’t openly teach that Joseph practiced polygamy, but we don’t deny it either. (It is interesting to me to hear that some LDS people believe Joseph was only married to Emma, so apparently there is some education to be done.)
Most of the average members of the Community of Christ still probably do believe that Joseph was married only to Emma; that is one reason (but only one) why there is about to be so much controversy.
By the way, I see I inserted a phrase at the wrong spot in 15 above. The second paragraph there should begin “…movement away from tracing our roots…”
This interview of the Prophet/President went up today on the official Community of Christ website and probably represents the most “official” CofChrist position currently in existence on Joseph and polygamy.
Firetag, thank you so much for that link. I may need to do a special post on it!
This is an interesting topic. One that I have studied and pondered about. So here is the truth as I comprehend it:
Joseph Smith screwed up and the Brethren perpetuated it until forced to abandon the practice.
The notes to D&C 132 indicate that there was evidence that JS was familiar with this doctrine as early as 1831. If you read some of the accounts of Joseph’s spiritual wives many of them recount how he told them he was visited by an angel that threatened him with death should he fail to keep this “commandment”. Strange then how he survived from 1831 to 1841 (the year he began aggressively taking multiple wives) but was martyred just a few years later (yes, I am excluding 16 year old Fanny Alger, the domestic helper that he impregnated 1833 [Oliver Cowdrey didn’t think it was a marrige to say the least], and Lucinda Harris, since we can only guess at the date).
IMO, God, as I’ve come to know God, does not command someone to take another persons current spouse as his wife. At least not in secret. There is evidence that suggests that many of the husbands of such wives were not aware that this was happening. Evidence indicates that Emma wasn’t aware of many of these at the time and certainly her permission was not sought nor given in advance of any of the spiritual marriges. Interesting term “spiritual marriges” since most if not all were consumated physically.
If we are to believe that God is a God of order then these secret (or even public) arrangements, which would seem to create chaos, can’t be the intent of such a God.
I am not aware of any practice or doctrine that has caused the Church more hardship and continuing grief, even many years after the practice has officially halted, than polygamy.
I basically agree with dontgetmestarted. I even have a theory of how Joseph talked himself into thinking what he was doing was right. Take something (Chapter 1 of the Book of Moses) you’re seeing that you can’t understand, mix in some human elements of lust and a desire to impress sign seekers (which we know Joseph showed), and you can quickly open yourself to spiritual deception.
I wrote a post today that relates the Book of Moses to implications of today’s standard cosmological models, which predict we all have physical copies of ourselves living in “parallel universes” throughout our own spacetime.
Interestingly, even when we are monogamous on earth (a principle in which I strongly believe) the personal histories of all our copies vary, so “we” all end up with many spouses. I think that’s what Joseph saw, and twisted into a doctrine of polygamy on earth — which others were only too happy to embrace, no matter how it violated the dignity of others.
He should have stuck to one wife per parallel universe!
Yes, I agree with both of you as well, although the priesthood ban was the cause of many problems as well.
If anyone is interested, I also posted this at Mormon Matters, and have 147 comments over there.
Well, for once, I have to agree with narrator on his recommendation of the article by Eugene England. I’ve recommended it to others in the past as well. Excellent essay. Very interesting ideas.
I, for one, DO believe that Joseph was inspired regarding plural marriage. I DON’T, however, believe that plural marriage is an ideal arrangement, but I believe it served a purpose at the time. It has served its purpose well in other times and places as well. Admittedly, it has also been abused and misused as well.
Responding to several comments, I am unaware in all of my studies of plural marriage, that very many people were “only too happy to embrace” the practice. I understand that once accepted, it was embraced as a true principle, but most didn’t just eagerly jump on the bandwagon–even Joseph from what I understand.
You are correct about the view of MOST of the people resenting the doctrine. It is often not what MOST of the people want that determines what an organization does, or the US government wouldn’t be buying GM now.
One of the reasons the CofChrist was able to argue so convincingly for so long that Joseph Smith had not been involved in polygamy (see MH’s more recent post on this blog) was that they could point to plausible sources of the doctrine among other local leaders of the church and to official notices of their being excommunicated for the practice.
I would call it a take-over of GM rather than a buy-out, but that’s beside the point.
So okay. You agree that most people resented the doctrine. So why does it seem that you characterized it quite the opposite? What point are you trying to make?
And with your comment about the CoC, I’m not sure I follow, particularly since I understand that you believe Joseph was, in fact, involved in the practice of plural marriage.
The CofChrist position was and remains that Joseph was NOT inspired regarding a practice that was among the key reasons the RLDS, from whom we are descended, would not unite with the LDS who embraced it (whether they did so resentfully or willingly). The change in the CofChrist position is now to acknowledge that Joseph did indeed wholeheartedly participate in a practice that we continue to condemn.
We hope, for Joseph’s sake, that he DID recognize that he had been deceived before the end of his life and was trying to rid the church of the doctrine.
However, if you are still willing to believe that the doctrine was God-inspired today, I don’t understand your trouble with my saying that there were many people willing to accept it as inspired in the church in the 19th Century. And given that you acknowledge that the practice has been abused by fundamentalists claiming to be “true” Mormons throughout the 20th and early 21st Century, I don’t understand why you regard my saying that there were similar people in the 19th Century.
So where am I confused?
I’d like to add a couple of comments here. There were a few enthusiastic participants in polygamy: William Clayton, John Bennett, and William McCary. William was one of Joseph’s scribes, and recorded several of Joseph’s revelations. At a BYU conference I attended, I learned that he even sent for a girl in England to come to Nauvoo. She was appalled to learn of polygamy and returned to England.
The infamous John Bennett was excommunicated for unauthorized polygamy (called adultery at the time), and Michael Quinn blames him for organizing the mob which killed Joseph and Hyrum. William McCary’s trying to seduce white women into polygamy, and Enoch Lewis inter-racial marriage were the impetus for the priesthood ban, according to historian Connel O’Donovan (see my post on Early Black Mormons.
Tara, have you read Rough Stone Rolling? I just found many of those details of women with multiple husbands, and Joseph’s offer to Emma of William Marks as a husband as quite difficult to reconcile with the generally acknowledged spiritual aspects of polygamy. They just don’t make sense to me, and I don’t believe that Joseph was following biblical polygamy. God didn’t command Abraham to take Hagar, but rather Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham. God didn’t command Jacob to take Leah, but he was tricked into marrying her because he thought she was Rachel. David and Solomon married many women for political alliances, and the prophet Nathan said these marriages would turn their hearts away from Jehovah (which is what happened), so I just don’t see God being a party to biblical polygamy. This is why I think Joseph was deceived, and I recently came across a few references claiming that Joseph even considered dropping the practice–I have some future blog posts about these conversations planned.
I don’t have a problem with you saying that there were people who believed the practice was inspired particularly since I said that many embraced it as a true principle. But when you say things like many were “only too happy to embrace” the practice, it sounds as though you are making an argument that people viewed the practice as appealing for whatever reason and accepted it because they wanted to rather than because they gained a testimony of it and accepted it because it was the inspired.
I guess the reason that I disagree with such a characterization (although you are free to feel about it how you wish) is that think it is a false characterization in most instances and doesn’t give due credit to the majority who viewed it as inspired of God and didn’t undertake the practice because it was going to give them some sort of personal or sexual gratification. They were doing it because it was the Lord’s will and they weren’t, in most cases, not too terribly happy about embracing it.
Since you don’t agree that the practice was inspired, I can see how you would treat such a small detail so casually, and that’s fine. My intent is only to point out that your characterization is not accurate in most instances.
Also, I just didn’t understand what point you were trying to make with some of your comments. Not to pick or anything, I am just truly trying to understand, and maybe I’m a little slow sometimes.
I haven’t read “Rough Stone Rolling”, but it is on my list of books I would like to read someday when I have more time. Right now, it just isn’t a priority since I’m not really sure that it would add anything of significant importance to my understanding of the prophet. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like my understanding of troubling issues in church history is sufficient for now.
As for troubling issues with the plural marriage issue, such as the one you pointed out, I am aware of some of those, but I am also aware of some of the early Saints and the powerful witnesses they received regarding the inspiration of the practice. I don’t really know how to reconcile these issues, but I can’t just ignore the testimonies of those who gained a powerful witness and understanding of the practice. The fact also that the Lord has allowed it in the past without condemnation cannot be ignored either, regardless of just exactly how it occurred. The fact that Joseph considered dropping the practice doesn’t sway me either. He wasn’t “only too happy to embrace” the practice to begin with and it caused him virtually nothing but trouble and heartache for the remainder of his life. I can see how he would struggle with the desire to have nothing more to do with it.
On every great theological question it seems there are some who have strong conviction that one side is correct, some with equally strong conviction that the other side is correct, and a great many who go along doubtfully or passively because of faith in those who have led them aright in the past.
If I can believe that Joseph was deceived by his own human weaknesses, I can certainly understand the majority of the church being deceived if he was and do not hold it against them. I very well might have been among them.
But Mormonism is largely an internally consistent belief system. Later doctrines were built on the foundation of polygamy on earth, and probably would not have been accepted had Joseph rejected polygamy. Those elaborations continue to affect the role of women, singles, and gays in the church. If Joseph was wrong, the trouble and heartache continued after his death and into the present.
There were many, however, who did say, “No!” and kept saying it all of their lives. My religion is descended from them, and has taken a very different theological path. If we are wrong, than the consequences of our error also extend into the present, and (assuming your views are correct) into our eternal destiny. All any of us can hope to do is listen to each other honestly and try to sort out the truth of the Heavenly Father’s will as best we can.
In every religious movement in history, there are those who exploit the innocent. I know of those in OUR church who have committed grievious sexual sins (including, amazingly, secretly teaching polygamy). The scandals within Catholicism are public knowledge, as our your own leaderships’ continuing battles with fundamentalists who cling to polygamy despite current church teachings to the contrary. There are always ravenous wolfs hiding among the flock, and even a few of them can do great damage. They had to have been there in the 19th Century, too. That’s all I’m saying.
“I haven’t read “Rough Stone Rolling”, but it is on my list of books I would like to read someday when I have more time. Right now, it just isn’t a priority since I’m not really sure that it would add anything of significant importance to my understanding of the prophet.”
I can promise you that it will. You will get a whole new perspective on Joseph Smith the man and the prophet, for better and for worse. People often focus on all the troubling parts about JS’s life in RSR(yes, there are plenty of those), but there’s a lot of really positive, inspiring information about him that you don’t get at church. So if you’re willing to accept the challenges that come with reading all the negative aspects, you’ll find that the positive things will really deepen your understanding of him. Of particular interest to me was the part about the translation of the Book of Mormon. There was so much there that I had never heard of, even as a lifelong member of the Church.
Tara, I must echo FD’s statement about RSR. I would put it in the “must read” category for gaining a real understanding of Joseph Smith. I really enjoyed learning about Joseph’s treasure digging–not for the scandal of it, but because I never could understand why people were constantly trying to steal the Golden Plates from him. Once I understood that these other men were treasure hunters, more along the idea of Indiana Jones, it made much more sense to me.
Learning about how bad Joseph’s father was in business gave much more context to Joseph’s mention in the PoGP of Moroni’s charge not to sell the plates for money. I’m sure that was a big temptation for Joseph because they were so poor due to both financial mismanagement as well as being swindled out money in a ginseng deal to China gone bad.
I really enjoyed learning about Zion’s Camp–I never really understood that very well prior to reading RSR. And it was wonderful to see the evolution of the D&C, and see how things like the Law of Consecration came into being. Honestly, I’ve forgotten much, and feel like I need to read it again. If you truly want to understand Joseph Smith, I think this is a must read.
I think I understand what you are saying and I can agree with your ultimate point. Thanks for patiently clearing that up for me.
FD and MH,
Here are my reservations regarding the book, although I must remind you that I’ve admitted I would like to read it–someday. I will use the example of Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon. I have read numerous articles and books which treat the subject in some way or another. I know enough about the subject that I became turned off by all the different theories and speculation. They all have their merits and I find myself accepting aspects of many of them, but none of them completely satisfy me. I guess I’ve had my fill for a while so to speak. I am just tired of theories and all their attendant historical evidence. I know enough that I just want the simple truth now, because much of the speculations, particularly when they give excessive credence to unreliable witnesses, only upsets me. And who can say which witnesses are truly reliable, but David Whitmer stands out to me as a very questionable witness who is relied on heavily by many, including, I believe, the author of RSR–his name escapes me now. I’ve just lost my taste for what the “experts” have to say. I’m afraid that RSR would just upset me similarly. I’m sure there is some wonderful stuff in there along with all the bad, and that’s why I do want to read it sometime, but just not now. A few years back, I had to give a talk about Joseph Smith and I listened to an excellent CD collection by Truman Madsen which gave me some excellent information about the prophet I had never heard of before and I’ve read enough FARMS and FAIRLDS articles about all his warts and such that I think I have a pretty good picture of who the prophet was. Not that RSR couldn’t add to my perspective, but I think I have a pretty good understanding for now. But thanks for the recommendation anyway. You’ve helped raise it slightly higher on my “to do” list.
Now, back to the subject of plural marriage. I’ve had some thoughts about it swirling around in my head as I tried to answer some of the issues raised about it my MH in this discussion. Hopefully, I can put my thoughts into words so that they come across clearly.
MH has stated that plural marriage doesn’t allow for a secure attachment in a relationship. I’m sure MH, that you would also, if you haven’t already, point to numerous other difficulties related to plural marriage. Now I don’t deny that those difficulties are real and troublesome, but it seems to me that those difficulties come about because of human weaknesses and I don’t know that the blame for the failure of plural marriage relationships can be placed solely on the shoulders of plural marriage itself. Insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, impatience, etc. all create barriers which would prevent a fulfilling relationship and that is so in any relationship. Granted, the task of overcoming such barriers is multiplied in difficulty with a plural marriage arrangement, but is the inherent difficulty reason enough to call the practice evil? Consider the opponents of traditional marriage (I’m not sure if that’s an appropriate label, but they certainly avoid and in some cases discourage marriage). They look at the difficulties of marriage and consider it a bad thing simply because of the difficulties it creates. Does that make marriage bad? No, certainly not to us. Similarly, many who believe that traditional marriage is good, see plural marriage as bad because of it’s inherent difficulties which in many cases, parallel the challenges of traditional marriage.
I see the plural marriage arrangement as sort of an AP course in marriage. While there are a number of other possible practical reasons attached to the practice, one may just have been for the development of a celestial people through an intense and rigorous social construct which demanded all that the Saints were capable of giving in striving toward perfection.
When we look at plural marriage, we look at it through our own limited mortal understanding and we can’t find much, if any, good in it. We think that anything so difficult can’t be good, and since it can’t be good it can’t be of God. I’ve struggled myself with the same feelings in the past. I couldn’t see the possibilities or any practical reason (other than for more rapid procreation perhaps) for the practice. I didn’t want to think about having to live like that and so I couldn’t see past all the uncomortable feelings I had towards it. As I’ve studied the subject, my eyes have been opened to the possibility that there is so much more to it than meets the eye. While I don’t wish for the practice to be reinstituted, I can finally see embracing it if it once again became a reality. I’m not sure that it will be practiced in the CK, and I can finally say that it isn’t something that worries me. I know now that whatever heaven requires, I will be happy should I make it that far.
Tara–a minor clarification. It was actually Adam who said polygamy does not lead to a secure marriage. Since he is a marriage counselor, I’ll defer to him, but I agree with his assessment. From biblical history, certainly Sarah and Hagar fought, Rachel and Leah fought, David’s first wife Michal had many problems with fellow wives. I think polygamy elevates men above women. Let’s not forget that in Bible times, women were viewed more of as property to be purchased with a dowry than equal partners in marriage.
Joseph’s version of polygamy was different than biblical polygamy–I think we can agree on that. Joseph didn’t marry anyone for political purposes as Solomon did, Joseph didn’t get married to women who worshiped gods other than Jehovah as Solomon did, Joseph didn’t get tricked into marrying anyone as Jacob did, Emma never offered Joseph another wife as Sarah, Rachel, and Leah did, and Joseph never had concubines like Solomon. Section 132 seems to claim that the Lord was restoring biblical polygamy (and concubines). I see quite a few problems with the justifications in this section, which is why I pretty much reject the position that polygamy was a lost practice from the bible necessary for exaltation. Only Joseph was threatened with a sword to accept polygamy–apparently Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon entered into polygamy willingly. I understand that culturally, it was acceptable in Bible times, but even the Bible says a Bishop should only have one wife.
1 Tim 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
This seems to contradict the practice under Brigham Young that a bishop should be a polygamist.
Even if we go with the assumption that polygamy was divinely inspired, in my view, it’s kind of like the Law of Consecration–too difficult for mortals to follow. If the prophets and their wives can’t get polygamy or consecration right, is there any legitimate hope for less righteous people like you and me? Perhaps there is in the next life, but it seems like an utter catastrophe on this earth.
Except for the unusual instances of the City of Enoch, and the centuries after Christ’s appearance in the Americas, consecration is an utter failure every time it has been attempted. Adam only had one wife–to me, that is the correct order of things. Eve was taken from the side of Adam, and there is tremendous symbolic significance there.
Frankly, I am greatly troubled that Joseph was sealed to other General Authorities wives while they were out on missions. These women were married to multiple men (polygyny). Originally, I did not believe that polygyny was allowable under section 132, but someone on the Mormon Matters blog corrected me. I can bring those comments here if you like. This idea that women can be sealed to multiple husbands seems fair if we allow men to have multiple wives, but it just seems to go against everything the church teaches about the practice of polygamy.
Richard Bushman talks about how these were spiritual sealings, but clearly, there were also sexual relations. Joseph compared these spiritual sealings to other men’s wives (with and without the men’s permission) as an Abrahamic test (especially in regards to Heber C Kimball). Well, you know how I feel about the Abrahamic test, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I reject this line of reasoning as well.
There is even evidence that Joseph offered Emma an additional husband if she would quit complaining about polygamy (and there is a veiled reference in section 132 supporting this idea as well.) From all this, I have to conclude that section 132 is not a restoration of biblical polygamy, because there are too many differences to make that claim.
Sorry about the incorrect attribution. I only noticed that you said it and didn’t realize that you were just expressing agreement with what Adam said prior to your comment.
Now you said that polygamy elevates men above women. My observation of history shows that polygamy or not, men were elevated above women until very recently in history. Even during the time the church practiced plural marriage, most of the country didn’t and women were still considered the property of their husbands. This is a symptom of human weakness and does not stem from the polygamous relationship itself, IMO.
The New Testament does in fact say that a Bishop should be husband to only one wife, but we know that a lot of things from the Old Testament changed after the Law of Moses was fulfilled. So we see precedent from this that the Lord’s commandments do change depending on circumstances. Who’s to say that the status of plural marriage didn’t also change and we just don’t have an account of it? The Book of Mormon also states that the Nephites were not allowed to practice plural marriage. But the Lord also adds that “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” (Jacob 2:30, following the command to not practice plural marriage.) I believe there are times when the Lord allows or commands plural marriage, and there are times when he doesn’t.
Now you say that polygamy, like the Law of Consecration, was just too difficult for mortals to live. Just because some in the Nauvoo period weren’t able to abide the Law of Consecration, doesn’t mean there weren’t many who WERE able. Just because some were unsuccessful with plural marriage, doesn’t mean that there weren’t many who WERE successful. And some of those may very well have been some of the so-called “less righteous” people that you refer to. But again, does the difficulty of the requirement make it evil? Do you think the Law of Consecration is evil because it is so difficult? The very idea seems like a cop-out to me. When we face the Lord and he asks us why we didn’t live a law that was required of us and we tell him it was just too hard, do you think that he will accept that as an excuse and grant us exaltation anyway? And to say that if prophets can’t get polygamy right, then what hope have we, is a very sad argument coming from you. You know as well as anyone that prophets aren’t perfect. Ordinary people have just as much potential for obedience as prophets. Prophets are not automatically “more righteous”. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a thing as fallen prophets.
And maybe one wife is the proper order of things. I won’t argue that point. The arguments in favor of that make a lot of sense to me. But plural marriage also makes sense for certain practical reasons. You say that polygamy elevates men above women. Actually, if looked at in a proper perspective, plural marriage gives women greater power. They have more power to demand more of the men they marry. They don’t have to “settle”. They have more options to choose from. Where plural marriage doesn’t exist, there may be a shortage of available men equal in righteousness to available women. If men are compelled to be better in order to get a wife, most will be.
As for polyandry, I am aware of the practice. I am also aware of how it can apply to section 132. And no, it is not very clear that there were sexual relations with regard to the cases of polyandry. But as for the cases we know of, if the sealings to other men’s wives were meant to be anything other than spiritual in nature, don’t you think there would have been more trouble over the issue with these men? Given human nature, I would say so. But there wasn’t, even among some of the men who were non-members. In fact most, if not all of the men whose wives were sealed to Joseph were good friends of Joseph and remained so until his death.
I’m not aware of Joseph offering another husband to Emma, but given the other cases of polyandry, it isn’t very shocking to me and I’m not sure why you have an issue with it, particularly since it didn’t come to pass, and we all know how people can say things out of sheer frustration, right? Even prophets aren’t perfect.
I would like to understand how you see so many differences with Biblical polygamy and section 132. The way I see it, we have very little real information on Biblical polygamy to do an adequate comparison. Anyway, there are many differences with our current church organization as compared with the church organization throughout history to make the argument that differences in practice make it bogus.
I should write a longer comment, but I don’t have time. Let me just ask a simple question pertaining to 132 and the Bible. Why did God justify Solomon in marrying wives who worshiped other gods, such as Asherah?
I’m not sure he was justified in that. I believe he was chastised or at least warned about such marriages. I’m just going off of memory though. If you can explain a little more specifically what you mean, that would be helpful. I will look into it a little more to see if I can get your point.
See D&C 132:1
Well, I left a comment from my cell phone, but maybe it didn’t come through?
Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I started with 1 Kings 11 and found that in no uncertain terms, the Lord disapproved of Solomon’s choice to marry wives who worshipped pagan gods, more so than I remembered from my previous readings of it. Solomon definitely wasn’t justified there. In verse 1 of D&C 132, the Lord explains why he justified Solomon and others having multiple wives and concubines. This in no way insinuates that they were justified in ALL of their wives and concubines, this just states that the Lord allowed them to participate in polygamy. If you refer to verse 38, you will find that the Lord says, David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me. “Those things which they received not of me” probably includes wives and concubines which the Lord explicitly warned Solomon not to take in the account in 1 Kings 11. Seems simple enough to me, but I suspect you have a different interpretation. Is that the big difference you find between Biblical polygamy and the restored polygamy?
Tara, I checked, and there were no messages, so it looks like your cellphone didn’t post the message.
Let me quote some of the big verses subject to question in D&C 132.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law;
Ok, hold on a minute. It is quite obvious to me that we’re talking about Hagar here. Let’s see how well Abraham treated Hagar.
Gen 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
Gen 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac.
Gen 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
Gen 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Gen 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.
Gen 21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
Gen 21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
Gen 21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.
Gen 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].
Gen 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
Gen 21:19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
Now if Abraham is supposed to be this great example of polygamy, and did not sin, then I suppose it’s ok to send your wife/concubine out into the wilderness without enough water, because God will obviously send an angel to save the concubine and her son who were mocking Isaac.
Now, this story is interesting for so many reasons.
(1) Joseph corrected 2 verses in chapter 21 of Genesis, but they have nothing to do with polygamy. He changed verses 31 and 32, and seem completely insignificant regarding Hagar.
(2) Hagar was an Egyptian. As we know from Abr 1:26-7
“26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry
Why is Abraham mixing his seed with a cursed woman? Better yet, why is Ishmael also promised to be a great nation in Gen 21:18, even though he comes from the cursed Egyptian line?
(3) This is another example of where human biases affect revelation. Sarah was mad at Ishmael, and came to Abraham and ordered him to cast out Hagar as well. (Punished for own sins?) This was the 2nd time Sarah threw out Hagar, as well as the 2nd angelic visit to Hagar. Now, would Abraham have thrown out Hagar on his own accord? No, verse 11 says it grieved him. Nonetheless, he received a revelation saying it was ok. So, it is apparent to me that Sarah had much to do with this revelation. Without her, I doubt Hagar would have been thrown out. God even says in verse 12, “in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice.” Sarah very significantly caused this revelation.
My comment was long enough, and I haven’t addressed Jacob from D&C 132:37, nor David, nor Solomon. Let me address David here. From D&C 132:39,
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife
Ok, we have another problem. Eight wives of David were named in the Bible, but there were numerous other wives that were not named. Of these 8 were:
(2) Abigail the Carmelitess,
(3) Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur,
(7) Ahinoam the Jezreelitess,
(8) and Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel.
Let’s look at Maachah, daughter of Talmia, king of Geshur. Geshur was a territory in the northern part of Bashan, in ancient kingdom of Aram or Syria. (2 Samuel 15:8; 1 Chronicles 2:23) Its inhabitants, the Geshurites, could not be expelled. (Joshua 13:13)
In the time of David, Geshur was an independent kingdom, and David married a daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur in a marriage of politics. (2 Samuel 3:3) Her son Absalom fled, after the murder of his half-brother. (2 Sam 13:37, 15:8)
I don’t believe this is the type of family relationships we should be cultivating, yet it appears to be held up as a model in the D&C. Why is David marrying someone who came from the area that was supposed to be wiped clean by Joshua?
I’ll stop here–I’ve said plenty.
On the subject of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, there is an interesting FARMS article. I recommend you read the entire article to get a fuller picture of how central the covenant is to their story, but in case you don’t have time, here is an exerpt of the crucial parts:
Hagar and the Covenant
Scripture gives much more information about Sarah than Hagar. And what is available about Hagar is tightly focused on three events— the conception of Ishmael, the fleeing from Sarah, and the banishment (Genesis 16, 21). It is therefore more difficult to ascertain the extent of her involvement in the covenant. However, a careful examination of the biblical text shows that Hagar enjoyed many of the same aspects of the Abrahamic covenant that Sarah and Abraham did. Although the Lord in Genesis 17 states that he would establish his covenant with Isaac (v. 21), Hagar and her descendants occupy a position that denotes some sort of covenantal relationship with the Lord as well. Like Abraham and Sarah, Hagar obeyed the commandments of the Lord, was deemed righteous by Him, and shared in the same blessings of the Abrahamic covenant: a great posterity, a land of inheritance for her children, and the companionship of the Lord.
According to Genesis 16:1, Hagar was an Egyptian who became Sarah’s handmaid. Jewish legend asserts that she was Pharaoh’s daughter, given to Sarah because Pharaoh was so impressed with Sarah’s character. Don Benjamin notes that “Sarah negotiates a covenant with Hagar to be a surrogate mother for her . . . . [then] Peace is restored when Yahweh negotiates a covenant with Hagar and Abraham which is virtually identical to the covenant negotiated with Sarah and Abraham.”
Like Sarah and Abraham, Hagar sacrificed to follow the dictates of the Lord. It is difficult to determine exactly what happened between Sarah and Hagar in chapter 16 that prompted Hagar’s obedience. When Hagar “saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes” (v. 4), and “when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face” (v. 6). Sarah’s reaction to Hagar’s animosity can be better understood in light of common Near Eastern practices.
A similar situation to Sarah and Hagar’s is found in Hammurabi Law number 146: “When a seignior married a hierodule [naditupriestess] and she gave a female slave to her husband and she has then borne children, if later that female slave has claimed equality with her mistress because she bore children, her mistress may not sell her; she may mark her with the slave-mark and count her among the slaves.” In “dealing hardly” with her, Sarah may have returned her to the status of handmaid as was her right according to common Near Eastern practice. Other parallels are found in the Nuzi tablets, an Egyptian text,Assyrian marriage contracts, and a neo-Assyrian text from Nimrud. These examples demonstrate that a barren wife can give her husband another woman to bear children, but the wife is not allowed to treat the handmaid or the children badly.
After Hagar fled into the wilderness, an angel of the Lord visited her and told her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands” (Genesis 16:9). This passage need not be viewed only as a divine sanction or a command of subjugation to Sarah. Perhaps the Lord sought to keep Hagar and Ishmael in the house of Abraham as a protection until they could establish a house of their own. According to Elsa Tamez, “What God wants is that she and her child should be saved, and at the moment, the only way to accomplish that is not in the desert, but by returning to the house of Abraham. Ishmael hasn’t been born. The first three years of life are crucial. Hagar simply must wait a little longer, because Ishmael must be born in the house of Abraham to prove that he is the firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:15— 17), and to enter into the household through the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17). This will guarantee him participation in the history of salvation, and will give him rights of inheritance in the house of Abraham.” Similarly, D. S. Williams notes,”God apparently wants Hagar to secure her and her child’s well-being by using the resources Abram has to offer.” Hagar needed the security of Abraham’s family to see Ishmael through the vital years of his childhood, and Ishmael needed the companionship and example of his father, Abraham.
Finally, Hagar was judged worthy to receive a visit from an angel of the Lord on two separate occasions. Both episodes are exceptional in the Bible because they are granted to a woman who was Egyptian. John Otwell observed, “Both of these passages reveal that the two narrators and their auditors took it for granted that a woman could receive a theophany. Only the use of the messenger (the angel) sets the structure of the incidents apart from similar theophanies to Abraham.” These angelic visitations show that the Lord cared about Hagar and desired to give her covenantal promises.
Hagar was also given the same three blessings of the Abrahamic covenant as Abraham and Sarah: posterity, a land for her descendants’ inheritance, and the presence of God. First, in both of her theophanies in the desert, the Lord promises Hagar a great posterity, saying, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10), and again, “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 21:18). Both promises were made directly to Hagar (unlike the promises made to Sarah.) The posterity of Hagar also fulfills the Abrahamic covenant. Doctrine and Covenants 132:34 reads, “From Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.” Abraham too received a promise of the Lord concerning Ishmael, saying, “I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). Indeed, this promise was realized when Ishmael, like Jacob, fathered twelve sons (see 1 Chronicles 1:29— 31).
From the text it is apparent that Hagar also enjoyed the second blessing of a land of inheritance for her children. The separation of Hagar and Ishmael from Sarah and Isaac was likely a way to divide the inheritances and provide Ishmael with a land of his own. Sarah said, “For the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (Genesis 21:10). Sarah was not being spiteful in her request. According to Josephus, Sarah “loved Ismael, who was born of her own handmaid Hagar, with an affection not inferior to that of her own son.”
The departure of Hagar and Ishmael may also have been a way to grant Hagar freedom from her handmaid status. Hagar’s position turns “more servile” in chapter 21 before she is released, giving emphasis to the fact that she is leaving a menial situation. Some scholars have noted similarities between Hagar’s exodus into the wilderness in chapter 21 and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. McKenna writes, “Theirs is a mini-version of the larger story to come when Yahweh will hear the cry of a whole people in bondage and lean down to their cries as God leans down to this woman and child.” Hence, the parallels within the two stories of the exodus and Hagar’s separation strongly suggest that Hagar was granted freedom and given a place of inheritance.
Hagar also enjoyed the third promise of the Abrahamic Covenant— the companionship of the Lord. Her two visions are as substantial as any vision recorded in the scriptures (Genesis 16:7— 14 and 21:17— 19). In both, Hagar is told of the great love the Lord has for her and her posterity. The second vision, in particular, occurs after Hagar leaves Abraham’s household; the Lord comforts her and reminds her of his promises. “What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink” (Genesis 21:17— 19). Teubal writes that these theophanies were singular in the scriptures. She states, “Notwithstanding, the Hagar episodes record the only time in the bible that God is given a name, and the name is given by a woman. Hagar’s god is a god who knows her, who addresses her in familiar terms: ‘What troubles you, Hagar?’ he asks with the tender concern of a loving relative.” McKenna also notes that the visions were affirmations of an impartial God. He is seen “taking note of her, just a maid, a pregnant slave, and an Egyptian, not even a Jew! God cares about everyone.” In sum, Hagar, like Abraham and Sarah, enjoyed the threefold blessings of the Covenant— great posterity, a land for her descendants’ inheritance, and the companionship of the Lord.
Now I’m not even going to get into the issue of Hagar’s race because that would just cloud the discussion. It also isn’t pertinent to the discussion since I already know where you stand on the issue of a cursed race, so I’m not sure why you would entertain the topic unless it was just to get a jab in.
You say this story mixes human biases with revelation, but then you have assumed that the departure of Hagar had only to do with Sarah being angry with her. Will you consider it possible that you misunderstand Sarah’s intentions? Maybe she was doing what was best for Hagar and Ishmael rather than acting out of anger and jealousy. Maybe she was honoring the covenant between them and the Lord. When we read text, we have to impose our own tone and emotion into it when those things aren’t made clear and this just seems to me to be such a case.
Regarding David, all I can say is that it is possible that God didn’t approve of all of David’s choices in wives either even if he didn’t go into the hairy details. I think D&C 132:38 makes it pretty clear that it wasn’t polygamy wherein these men sinned, it was when they went over the Lord’s head that they sinned. Or maybe the Lord did approve, and permitted them for reasons that we can only speculate on. I have no doubt that there are many instances where the Lord makes exceptions to the rules he gives (an example that comes to mind is Nephi slaying Laban). He is able to do that. I just don’t think that because polygamy has been abused that it means that polygamy is wrong. Marriage itself is abused, but that doesn’t make it wrong either.
Another thing I wanted to bring up regarding Abraham and Sarah, and Joseph and Emma was earlier when you were comparing Biblical polygamy with Joseph’s brand of polygamy. You said that Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and that Emma never offered another wife to Joseph. I didn’t comment on this earlier because I had come across information regarding Emma offering wives to Joseph in the past, but I couldn’t remember if I was correct in my recollections and I couldn’t find where I had read about it. Anyway I still haven’t been able to find or recall where I read that, but I did find a quote which confirmed my recollection. President Wilford Woodruff said: “Emma Smith, the widow of the Prophet, is said to have maintained to her dying moments that her husband had nothing to do with the patriarchal order of marriage, but that it was Brigham Young that got that up. I bear record before God, angels and men that Joseph Smith received that revelation, and I bear record that Emma Smith gave her husband in marriage to several women while he was living, some of whom are to-day living in this city, and some may be present in this congregation, and who, if called upon, would confirm my words. But lo and behold, we hear of publication after publication now-a-days, declaring that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with these things. Joseph Smith himself organized every endowment in our Church and revealed the same to the Church, and he lived to receive every key of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods from the hands of the men who held them while in the flesh, and who hold them in eternity.” (In Journal of Discourses, 23:131.)
Now as for Abraham and Sarah, D&C 132:34 says that Abraham was commanded to take another wife before Sarah gave him Hagar. This was the law, according to the scripture. And if you doubt the validity of this along with the validity of the rest section 132, then we can look to Josephus to lend some credence to the revelation, “Accordingly Sarai, at God’s command, brought to his bed one of her handmaidens, a woman of Egyptian descent” (Josephus Book 1, chapter 10:4)
But you still haven’t answered my question, and I’ve asked it at least twice. Since when does the difficulty of living a law make it wrong? I would add, if polygamy is so wrong, then why did God send an angel to tell Hagar who was so unhappy in her position to return to it? And why would Nathan the prophet and Joseph Smith the prophet specifically note that all those wives and concubines were given by God to David? And why does Mosaic law include provisions for the proper practice of an institution which he considered sinful? And why would the levirite marriage system actually dictate that some men MUST practice polygamy? I can see the possibility that one or maybe two prophets could’ve been deceived and the Lord would allow it. But here we have a great number of prophets deceiving us, namely, Joseph Smith, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Nathan, and perhaps more that I’ve just overlooked. And these are some of our most significant prophets. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
I’m all for looking at other points of view. I thought you made a very valid point when you quoted from Josephus. That is very interesting to me, and I’ll tuck that one away. It does lend some credence to D&C 132, so excellent point.
Let me answer your question, “Since when does the difficulty of living a law make it wrong?
In theory, I guess you’re right. Even if a commandment is difficult does not inherently make it wrong. From a practical standpoint, however, it seems that God sometimes sets us up for failure. Paul told us that God will never tempt us above that which we are able. Well, there sure seem to be quite a bit of tests given that tempt us above our abilities.
I don’t view any of the biblical polygamy stories as successful, so it does seem that the participants were tested above their ability to pass the polygamy test. If we examine these stories closely, “in all the hairy details” as you said, there are way more problems than we acknowledge in a traditional church setting. All of the people in D&C 132 had major problems implementing polygamy–and they are the ones who are shown to be the “good” examples in 132. The image of a man with 700 wives and a bazillion children living the commandments in constant peace and harmony has never been achieved. From a practical standpoint, these people were tested beyond their ability.
I’m not sure what your point was about quoting the FARMS article. It certainly adds some interesting perspective to the Abrahamic Covenant. I’ll admit that my bringing up Hagar’s race was a bit of a jab, but it is also central to this issue. In previous comments about race, you quoted Abraham 1:26 saying that blacks were ineligible for the priesthood ordinances.
Brigham Young also stated that anyone who mixes their seed with African blood (of which Pharaoh would also be part of) would be cut off from God, and deserved death on the spot. The sealing ordinance gives us the blessings of Abraham. Brigham barred all blacks (men and women) from the sealing priesthood ordinance. So, Abraham’s marriage to Hagar is directly contradictory to Brigham’s policy forbidding all blacks from the sealing ordinance.
So, you’re in a tough position: (1) Abraham was right in being sealed to Pharaoh’s (apparently black) daughter, or (2) Brigham was was right in banning sealing ordinances to black church members. You’ve finally got to pick which prophet was correct, because their positions are directly contradictory. Which will it be?
“But here we have a great number of prophets deceiving us…. Yes, we’ve covered this ground plenty of times, from Joshua, to Abraham, to Joseph, to Brigham. When prophets contradict each other, one has to make a decision as to which prophet is more inspired.
I’d prefer to say that we learn things “line upon line” and are given better knowledge as time goes on. This implies that some prophets lived under lower laws (like tithing), and when we get righteous enough, we can live higher laws (like consecration.) Using this example, Consecration is God’s true will, and tithing was wrong. However our merciful God doesn’t tempt us above that which we are able to bear, so he allows tithing for a time. Perhaps polygamy is a higher law than monogamy, but in my mind, it has some serious flaws that prevent me from believing it is a higher law.
In the past polygamy has always kept men and women on unequal footing. Even if men “grow up” spiritually, it seems to maintain the unequal footing. If a man can be sealed to multiple wives (polyandry), why can’t a women be sealed to multiple husbands (polygyny)? It’s not exactly fair if only the first option is available, does it? Polyandry also seems to have an inherent assumption that women are more righteous than men (which is why polyandry is needed.) This seems to be a fallacy to me. This reasoning seems like just another form of sexism, IMO.
I know we don’t have the full story, but I don’t think your possible explanations match the text. “Will you consider it possible that you misunderstand Sarah’s intentions? Ok, what have you got?
Maybe she was doing what was best for Hagar and Ishmael rather than acting out of anger and jealousy. Maybe she was honoring the covenant between them and the Lord. No, in verse 9 it is clear she did it because Ishmael was mocking Isaac. Your FARMS article also corroborates this.
Regarding Emma giving consent to allow additional wives, I talked about that in Part 4 of my Sidney Rigdon series. Let me quote it again.
the issue of polygamy…
left Joseph and Emma’s marriage hanging by a thread. Emma spent the last three years of her husband’s life jealously battling his errant yearnings, more than once threatening to return to her family in New York. On one occasion, according to Smith’s private secretary, she threatened that if he continued to “indulge himself she would too.” [William Clayton Diary] Although Emma apparently countenanced two of her husband’s 1843 sealingsâ€“to Emily and Eliza Partridgeâ€“she recanted within a day and demanded that Joseph give them up or “blood should flow.” Her change of heart came after she found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. The realization that the sealing represented more than a “spiritual marriage” or “adoptive ordinance” devastated her. [From page 293]
God sets us up for failure? What goal would he have in mind with that?
I believe that God doesn’t tempt us beyond what we are able to resist. Because people fail doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t able to succeed. When I look back at all the times I’ve given in to temptation, it wasn’t that I was simply unable to resist, it’s just that I wanted to give in much more than I wanted to resist. Giving in to temptation was so much easier than standing up to it. I always have a conscious ability to make one choice over another. To say that the temptation was just too great to resist would not be accurate. To say that the temptation was just too great that I didn’t WANT to resist would be. I just can’t think of any instance where I could without doubt say that there was no way for me to resist.
I have no doubt that all of us have the potential to be so much better than we are. I know I do, but I choose not to be. I choose the easier path because I get lazy, not because it makes me happy. It is very hard work to resist temptation, but it isn’t impossible work.
I’m not going to deny that polygamy presents some significant challenges when compared with traditional marriage, but I just don’t think that is a sufficient argument against it. The scriptures are replete with problems that people have. Life is just full of problems and pain and trials and heartbreak, but then that’s life. We came here so that we could face these things and overcome as many of them as we possibly could so that we could grow from our experiences.
I’m sorry my point in quoting the FARMS article wasn’t understood. I believe the article presents a plausible case that Sarah wasn’t evicting Hagar simply because she was angry with her or jealous of her. Maybe Hagar did upset Sarah by overstepping her role or maybe Ishmael WAS acting like a brat, but why shouldn’t Sarah be upset by those things? Does that mean it was just the excuse Sarah needed to boot them out? No? As was pointed out in the article, Josephus even said that Sarah loved Ishmael as her own son. If that’s true, then it couldn’t have been as simple as Sarah just needing a good excuse to get rid of them. That’s why I think it makes sense that because of the covenental promises God made for Ishmael, it was necessary for Hagar and Ishmael to leave so that Ishmael could inherit his land and become a great nation. That’s why Sarah stated that Ishmael would not be heir with Isaac. Not because Sarah was weilding her power and being spiteful, but because that’s what the Lord said. The promises the Lord made were made specifically to Hagar (well before she was ever kicked out), not Abraham and Hagar together, whereas the Lord made promises specifically to Abraham regarding his posterity with Sarah. It seems that the Lord intended for Hagar and Ishmael to leave eventually. You’ve asked before in our discussion about Joshua why land was so important and why the Jews couldn’t have just settled somewhere else. The article I reference points out that in the ancient world, good, cultivated land meant the difference between life and death. That’s why an inheritance of good land was so very important to these people. It wasn’t just any gift. It was one of THE most important gifts. We take for granted the ease and comfort we are blessed with. These people had none of that. I just suspect that there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye and that it isn’t just another example of a failed attempt at plural marriage. I hope my point with the article is more clearly understood now.
So now I have to pick Abraham or Brigham….hmmm. That’s a tough one. Not! Like I’ve said before, there are exceptions to many of the rules God makes. I am not going to argue his ability to make those exceptions. There are examples throughout the scriptures where there were exceptions made on the issue of race and the priesthood ban and I believe I’ve brought them to your attention before, so I won’t bother rehashing them.
When prophets contradict each other, one has to make a decision as to which prophet is more inspired.
The thing is, on the issue of plural marriage, no prophet has condemned it as being wrong or immoral except when God forbids it. In fact, most evidence points to it being a true and correct principle that God allows and in some instances commands. There just isn’t a case of contradiction here in which we would need to decide between two conflicting stances on the issue.
You consider polygamy as keeping men and women on unequal footing, but when we examine polygamy we are examining it from time periods where men and women were already on equal footing. I believe it was part of the practical reasons behind polygamy to begin with. Since women didn’t have the same rights, marriage was important to a woman’s physical survival. Plural marriage allowed women the aid and protection they needed, as well as allowing them to be more selective and able to find a righteous mate, and also meet her needs of companionship and motherhood. I’m not saying that men can’t be more righteous, but just by my observation in places I’ve lived, there are generally more sisters active in church than brothers. If you consider the male casualties in the church from various events during that time period, you can imagine that there would probably be a shortage of righteous men to choose from. I’m not trying to be sexist and maybe I’m wrong. But that’s my personal observation, and Brother Brigham seems to have felt similarly at the time. You can call him sexist if you like. We’ll just add that right down there under racist. How’s that sound? 🙂 Hmm. A man who is sexist against his own gender. I guess it’s possible.
One interesting little gem in favor of women’s rights (sort of?) that I gleaned from the article is that in the Jewish culture, one is not considered a Jew unless his mother was a Jew. I kind of already knew that, but the article points out that the Jewish people are descended primarily from Sarah rather than Abraham. Not all Abraham’s descendants are Jewish. I only point this out because maybe the picture history gives is not as bad as we make it out to be from our modern perspective.
As for Emma, my only point was that Emma did give some wives to Joseph herself. Whatever happened after that is irrelevant to my point. But anyway, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and later recanted as well, you could say. It just seems to make the point that Biblical polygamy wasn’t all that different than restored polygamy, that is if this is one of the elements we should judge it by.
If he continued to “indulge himself she would too”? Blood should flow? What does that say about Emma? I feel sorry for her, but at the same time am disapointed by her.
I feel like you’re arguing theory, while I’m arguing practice. When Paul said we won’t be tempted above our ability, was he talking in theory, or practice? I think he was talking practice. If he was talking theory, then theoretically, someone besides Christ would have been able to achieve it. And I don’t believe that just one person would be able to do this–there should be hundreds or thousands who showed that we won’t be tempted above that which we are able. Surely some of these exemplar prophets would be able to avoid temptation, and didn’t give in to temptation because they were lazy.
I just disagree with your reasoning on the FARMS article, and I don’t believe the FARMS people support it either.
I believe the article presents a plausible case that Sarah wasn’t evicting Hagar simply because she was angry with her or jealous of her.
I disagree completely. It seems rather evident that Sarah was angry and upset with Ishmael and Hagar. She wanted Isaac to get the sole inheritance, rather than Ishmael. Let’s remember that it was the eldest son who gets the inheritance. Looking at Jacob and his 4 wives, Joseph was the oldest son of Rachel, not the oldest son overall. All the oldest sons of each wife had claim to Jacob’s land, which is why they faked Joseph’s death. Since Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, I think the motives were quite similar with Sarah.
Maybe Hagar did upset Sarah by overstepping her role or maybe Ishmael WAS acting like a brat, but why shouldn’t Sarah be upset by those things? Sarah should have been upset. But you don’t kick your kids out of the house when they upset you for mocking another child, do you?
Josephus even said that Sarah loved Ishmael as her own son. Then Sarah should have kicked out Isaac too to show equal love.
it was necessary for Hagar and Ishmael to leave so that Ishmael could inherit his land and become a great nation. Ok, so do you also believe that the Arabs have a right to the land of Israel, or is it merely Saudi Arabia? Aren’t the Arabs trying to right the wrong of Ishmael’s banishment? Is the land of Israel solely the land of Isaac and Jacob, or does Ishmael and Esau have claim too as descendants of Abraham?
It seems that the Lord intended for Hagar and Ishmael to leave eventually. Ok, so is Sarah and Abraham blameless for their mistreatment of Hagar and Ishmael? Were Joseph’s brothers blameless for their mistreatment of him as well? Is faking Joseph’s death and selling him into slavery therefore justified, because it all worked out in the end? Do the ends justify the means?
It is interesting to me that any prophet can make an exception to any rule. I don’t understand how Abraham marrying a black woman ineligible for priesthood ordinances and Brigham Young saying that black’s were always denied is somehow not a problem in your world, but I don’t think I will ever fully understand your point of view. “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p.109) Isn’t this exactly what Abraham did by marrying Hagar?
You seem to want to give the prophets broad leeway for bad behavior, simply because they’re prophets. I doubt you would give anyone else this amount of leeway for acting exactly the same. For example, the early church sustained all of the following as prophets, seers, and revelators:, Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, etc. They did some of the same things Joseph did, yet you view these things as wrong. James Strang translated the Brass Plates, practiced polygamy, and had a letter from Joseph Smith proclaiming him the next prophet, but I’m pretty sure you reject him. Joseph also gave Joseph III a blessing making him the next prophet. Why do you reject Joseph III? What do you make of Joseph’s blessing to Joseph III? Why is Brigham the exception to the rule of Joseph III leading?
Can a prophet ever make a bad revelation? How do you view Balaam or Jonah? Was Balaam a prophet? Was Balaam correct in telling the non-Israelite kings to induce Israel to sin? Was Jonah correct in not preaching to the Ninevites initially? Was he correct in waiting under a gourd to watch the destruction of Nineveh? Has any prophet ever done anything not in harmony with God’s will?
Are you saying Sarah was acting in God’s will by kicking out Hagar? Were the 10 sons of Israel doing God’s will by selling Joseph into slavery? Did God really want Joseph mistreated, or was God simply using events to show he is God and in charge?
One other quick thing. Now that men and women are on more equal footing, do you believe the FLDS have it right with polygamy (ignoring the problems with priesthood authority)?
When Paul said we won’t be tempted above our ability, was he talking in theory, or practice?
Well, I hadn’t really thought about it, but I suppose he was talking in theory.
If he was talking theory, then theoretically, someone besides Christ would have been able to achieve it.
Theoretically, yes, someone besides Christ would have been able to achieve it. But of course we know that in practice, it hasn’t happened. That’s human nature though. Part of our challenge is to overcome human nature. It takes a lifetime or more to do that though. That’s why we are here learning. There would be no point to our being here if obedience were easy. Exaltation isn’t a cheap reward.
I think that part of the promise that we wouldn’t be tempted above our ability to resist doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have no problems resisting temptation the first, second, or third times we encounter it and never have any problems with it thereafter. I think it means that as we learn and grow and gain experience we will eventually be able resist temptations that at one time we had difficulty with. Does that make sense?
I just disagree with your reasoning on the FARMS article, and I don’t believe the FARMS people support it either.
Well, I guess I just completely misread and misunderstood the article altogether.
It seems rather evident that Sarah was angry and upset with Ishmael and Hagar. She wanted Isaac to get the sole inheritance, rather than Ishmael.
I didn’t say that Sarah wasn’t upset with them. I only said that I didn’t think that was the reason she had them cast out. If she was just trying to get the sole inheritance for Isaac, well then she wasn’t the only one, because it was the Lord who said that it was with Isaac that He would establish his covenant. Go ahead, tell me you believe it wasn’t really what God wanted and that the scriptures have just been influenced by human bias, but then that we can trust that we have a complete and accurate picture of what happened to Hagar and Ishmael.
Then Sarah should have kicked out Isaac too to show equal love.
You miss my point here and pretty much everywhere else regarding this story. I stated that I feel that because of her love for Ishmael, she DIDN’T kick them out because of some simple misbehavior. I think there is something else that we don’t have a clear picture of. Maybe it had to do with the covenant promise made between God and Hagar, or maybe it was something else. I don’t know.
Ok, so do you also believe that the Arabs have a right to the land of Israel, or is it merely Saudi Arabia? Aren’t the Arabs trying to right the wrong of Ishmael’s banishment? Is the land of Israel solely the land of Isaac and Jacob, or does Ishmael and Esau have claim too as descendants of Abraham?
What does this have to do with THIS discussion? Now that we’ve touched on racism, shall we also touch on politics?
Ok, so is Sarah and Abraham blameless for their mistreatment of Hagar and Ishmael?
I don’t know. Do we have conclusive evidence that Hagar and Ishmael are blameless in their actions? Do we really know what all they did and that just maybe their actions warranted their treatment?
It is interesting to me that any prophet can make an exception to any rule.
I never said that prophets do this. I said that God can though.
I don’t understand how Abraham marrying a black woman ineligible for priesthood ordinances and Brigham Young saying that black’s were always denied is somehow not a problem in your world, but I don’t think I will ever fully understand your point of view.
That’s because us racists, as mean as we are, do have softer moments now and again. What can I say? We’re an odd bunch.
You seem to want to give the prophets broad leeway for bad behavior, simply because they’re prophets.
Well, in the case of Abraham, the Lord told him to hearken to Sarah, so I wouldn’t consider that bad behavior given that God didn’t think it was either.
For example, the early church sustained all of the following as prophets, seers, and revelators:, Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, etc. They did some of the same things Joseph did, yet you view these things as wrong.
It depends on what things you are talking about.
Why do you reject Joseph III? What do you make of Joseph’s blessing to Joseph III? Why is Brigham the exception to the rule of Joseph III leading?
Well, I don’t know much on this subject, but from what I understand, Joseph indicated a number of men or groups of men who might succeed him. These included his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, his son Joseph III, even his yet unborn son David; and, most importantly, on a number of occasions, the Council of the Twelve Apostles. What we must remember is that it isn’t unusual for fathers to give their sons blessings of this kind. But regardless of what a blessing says, all blessings given under authority of the priesthood are conditioned upon two things: one, the worthiness and faithfulness of the recipient, and, two, the overriding will and wisdom of God. I reject Joseph III because I don’t believe that his ordination as President of the Church would’ve been in harmony with the established order of the church. Tell me, why do you reject Joseph III?
Can a prophet ever make a bad revelation?
I suppose so, but I don’t really worry about it until it applies to me directly.
How do you view Balaam or Jonah?
Balaam–fallen prophet. Jonah–imperfect prophet who disobeyed God and learned his lesson–hopefully.
Are you saying Sarah was acting in God’s will by kicking out Hagar?
I don’t have the answer to that, but it may be possible. Otherwise why didn’t God tell Abraham to tell Sarah she was acting inappropriately instead of telling him to hearken unto her? He set Jonah straight. Why wouldn’t he do so to Sarah if she was so wrong?
Were the 10 sons of Israel doing God’s will by selling Joseph into slavery? Did God really want Joseph mistreated, or was God simply using events to show he is God and in charge?
I don’t think God wanted Joseph mistreated, but yeah, he was probably using the event to show he is in charge.
One other quick thing. Now that men and women are on more equal footing, do you believe the FLDS have it right with polygamy (ignoring the problems with priesthood authority)?
You mean, ignoring the fact that polygamy has been banned in the church? I’m not really sure how to answer that. I don’t really get the point of your question.
“You consider polygamy as keeping men and women on unequal footing, but when we examine polygamy we are examining it from time periods where men and women were already on equal footing. I believe it was part of the practical reasons behind polygamy to begin with. Since women didn’t have the same rights, marriage was important to a woman’s physical survival. Plural marriage allowed women the aid and protection they needed, as well as allowing them to be more selective and able to find a righteous mate, and also meet her needs of companionship and motherhood.”
But this does nothing to explain polygamy as Joseph Smith practiced it. What was the purpose of marrying women who were already married to other men, some of them older and probably past childbearing age? 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.
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.
Tara, I’m impressed that you answered most of my questions. There were a few “I don’t knows” in there, which is fine, but it isn’t a very strong argument for your case.
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 think it means that as we learn and grow and gain experience we will eventually be able resist temptations that at one time we had difficulty with. Does that make sense?
Yes it does, and I even agree to a large extent. We talked earlier about perfection, and I think it does take more than a mortal lifetime to achieve. (In that sense, God is setting us up for failure again with his command to be perfect, but it is possible if we extend the time frame to include eternity, not just mortality.) 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.
I didn’t say that Sarah wasn’t upset with them. I only said that I didn’t think that was the reason she had them cast out. Well then what was the reason she cast them out? You haven’t provided any plausible scenarios in support of your position to this point. Are you saying God inspired Sarah to be angry? That doesn’t sound logical to me.
I’ll admit we don’t have the whole story, but of the 75% we have, I can’t think of any scenario to cause me to discount the 75% we know. Certainly there is a previous history of strife between the two, and it is clear that Hagar was a threat to Sarah for a long period of time–ever since Hagar announced she was pregnant. Perhaps Ishmael mocking Isaac was the straw the broke the camel’s back, but it just strikes me as an extremely cruel act to send Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert. I can’t think of a scenario except murder, rape, or other heinous act to merit banishment into the desert, and all we get is “mocking” as the reason. In legal terms, I don’t have any reasonable doubt that Sarah threw Hagar out because of Ishmael mocking Isaac.
I’m glad to see you admit that Jonah and Balaam acted contrary to God’s will. Of course, I think these examples apply much further than your limited scope.
Here’s the reason I brought up the FLDS. You said, “My observation of history shows that polygamy or not, men were elevated above women until very recently in history. Even during the time the church practiced plural marriage, most of the country didn’t and women were still considered the property of their husbands. This is a symptom of human weakness and does not stem from the polygamous relationship itself, IMO.”
So, if we ignore all the religious problems that the LDS have with the FLDS practices, and look at polygamy only, then we are now living in a society where women are more equal with men. (Not equal mind you, but much less unequal than before. I’d say women are much nearer equality than ever before). Women are no longer considered property of their husbands, so theoretically our society has evolved so that polygamous relationships should have a chance to be more successful.
In the PBS show, “The Mormons”, they even interviewed some polygamists who currently practice. Do you feel these relationships still put women and men on equal footing? Do you support their right of religious expression? Do you think that they are practicing the ideal form of polygamy? Do you think that the experiences they relate properly convey the true practice of polygamy in their community? Do you support men marrying teenagers as Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs did?
Do you think that women should be able to be sealed to multiple husbands (polygyny), as in the days of Joseph Smith? Do you think the FLDS practice polygyny? To clarify this question, they do practice polygyny, because I have heard of women getting “assigned” to a new husband, when the previous husband gets kicked out of the community for sin. But I don’t view this as the same polygyny that Joseph Smith practiced. 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.) If it is happening, do you have any qualms about this?
Plural marriage allowed women the aid and protection they needed. Actually, I think this is not true. 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 was talking with my father-in-law who is a descendant of polygamists. He stated that the 4 wives of his great-something grandfather were quite annoyed that they had to constantly sneak food to their husband who was on the run from law enforcement. They felt it was his duty to provide, and they ended up providing for him. There was quite a bit of resentment. To avoid prosecution, he initially signed over all 4 of his homes to them. After he served his jail sentence (with Lorenzo Snow, I might add), he expected them to give him the titles back, and at least 2 of them did not because they were so angry. Some of the children and grandchildren from this polygamist arrangement ended up leaving the church because they were so bothered by the whole mess.
My father-in-law is a former bishop, very active in the church, and extremely well-respected in the community. I asked him point blank what he thought of polygamy. I was mildly surprised when he said, “I think it’s a bunch of crap!” Of course, I agreed with him. I didn’t realize my father-in-law was a fellow heretic until just this week. 🙂