Bushman’s Perspective on Polygamy, Alger, and Snow

Thanks to Tara, my recent post announcing my perspective on polygamy has received a recent boost of activity (and is my most commented post ever on this blog, currently with 97 comments.)  We had been discussing some of the more controversial aspects of polygamy:  (1) Was Joseph’s polygamy revelation really a disguise for his real motive as a womanizer (libertine)? (2) What is the true nature of the Fanny Alger relationship?  (3) Was Eliza Snow pushed down the stairs by Emma?  Let’s look at how does Richard Bushman, author of Rough Stone Rolling sees these issues.

(1)  Was Joseph a Libertine?

I have never been especially fond of this position, and neither is Bushman.  I don’t think it adequately explains Joseph’s actions.  From page 323,

One of Emma’s cousins by marriage, Levi Lewis, said Martin Harris spoke of Joseph’s attempt to seduce Elizabeth Winters, a friend of Emma’s in Harmony.  But the reports are tenuous.  Harris said nothing of the event in his many descriptions of Joseph, nor did Winters herself when interviewed much later.  Considering how eager the Palmyra neighbors were to besmirch Joseph’s character, their minimal mention of moral lapses suggests libertinism was not part of his New York reputation.

Was he a blackguard covering his lusts with religious pretensions, or a prophet doggedly adhering to instructions from heaven, or something in between?

Rumors of Mormon sexual license were circulating by 1835, when an “Article on Marriage” published in the Doctrine and Covenants said that Church members had been “reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy.”  Coming from faithful Mormons, this evidence of marital irregularities cannot be ignored, but neither can it be taken at face value.  From the Munster Anabaptists of the sixteenth century to the camp meetings of the nineteenth, critics expected sexual improprieties from religious enthusiasts.  Marital experiments by contemporary radical sects increased the suspicions.  John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida community, concluded that “there is no more reason why sexual intercourse should be restricted by law, than why eating and drinking should be.”  With old barriers coming down, people were on the lookout for aberrations.  What, if anything, lay behind the accusations of the Mormons is uncertain.  They were apparently on edge themselves; the seventies resolved to expel their members guilty of polygamy.

… page 325

On that principle, the date when plural marriage was begun will remain uncertain.  Todd Compton, putting the evidence together in his massive history, concluded that Joseph Smith began practicing plural marriage around 1833.  The sources offer conflicting testimony on when the principle was revealed.  When a plural marriage revelation written down in 1843, it referred to a question about Old Testament polygamy:  “You have enquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I the Lord justified my servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; also as to Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.”  Joseph frequently inquired about biblical practices while revising the scriptures, and it seems possible that he received the revelation on plural marriage in 1831 while working on the Old Testament.

Because plural marriage was so sexually charged, the practice has provoked endless speculation about Joseph’s motives.  Was he a libertine in the guise of a prophet seducing women for his own pleasure?  The question can never be answered definitively from historical sources, but the language he used to describe marriage is known.  Joseph did not explain plural marriage as a love match or even a companionship.  Only slight hints of romance found its way into his proposals.  He understood plural marriage as a religious principle….As Joseph described the practice to [Levi] Hancock, plural marriage had the millennial purpose of fashioning a righteous generation on the eve of the Second Coming.

… page 437

Joseph exercised such untrammeled authority in Nauvoo that it is possible to imagine him thinking no conquest beyond his reach.  In theory, he could take what he wanted and browbeat his followers with threats of divine punishment.

This simple reading of Joseph’s motives is implicit in descriptions of him as “a charismatic, handsome man.”  They suggest he was irresistible and made the most of it.  Other Mormon men went along the way out of loyalty or in hopes of sharing power.  But missing from that picture is Joseph’s sense of himself.  In public and private, he spoke and acted as if guided by God.  All the doctrines, plans, programs, and claims were ,in his mind, the mandates of heaven.  They came to him as requirements, with a kind of irresistible certainty….

page 438,

The possibility of an imaginary revelation, erupting from his own heart and subconscious mind, seems not to have occurred to Joseph.  To him, the words came from heaven.  They required obedience even though the demand seemed contradictory or wrong.  The possibility of deception did not occur to him….

Joseph never wrote his personal feelings about plural marriage.  Save for the revelation given in the voice of God, everything on the subject comes from people around him.  But surely he realized that plural marriage would inflict terrible damage, that he ran the risk of wrecking his marriage and alienating his followers.  How could faithful Emma, to whom he pledged his love in every letter, accept additional wives?…Sexual excess was considered the all too common fruit of pretended revelation.  Joseph’s enemies would delight in one more evidence of a revelator’s antinomian transgressions.

… page 440

The personal anguish caused by plural marriage did not stop Joseph Smith from marrying more women.  He married three in 1841, eleven in 1842, and seventeen in 1843.  Historians debate these numbers, but the total figure is most likely between twenty-eight and thirty-three.  Larger numbers have been proposed based on the sealing records in the Nauvoo temple.  Eight additional women were sealed to Joseph in the temple after his death, possibly implying a marriage while he was still alive.  Whatever the exact number, the marriages are numerous enough to indicate an impersonal bond.  Joseph did not marry women to form a warm, human companionship, but to create a network of related wives, children, and kinsmen that would endure into the eternities…. He did not lust for women so much as he lusted for kin.

I found this last statement especially intriguing, because there is no DNA evidence that Joseph had any kin from wives other than Emma.

continuing on page 440,

Romance played only a slight part.  In making proposals, Joseph would sometimes say God had given a woman to him, or they were meant for each other, but there was no romantic talk of adoring love.  He did not court his prospective wives by first trying to win their affections.  Often, he asked a relative–a father or an uncle–to propose the marriage.  Sometimes one of his current wives proposed for him.  When he made the proposal himself, a friend like Brigham Young was often present.  The language was religious and doctrinal, stressing that a new law has been revealed.  She was to seek spiritual confirmation.  Once consent was given, a formal ceremony was performed before witnesses, with Joseph dictating the words to the person officiating.

Joseph himself said nothing about sex in these marriages.  Other marriage experimenters in Joseph’s time focused on sexual relations.  The Shakers repudiated marriage altogether, considering sex beastly and unworthy of a millenial people….

page 441

We might expect that Joseph, the kind of dominant man who is thought to have strong libidinal urges, would betray his sexual drive in his talk and manner.  Bred outside the rising genteel culture, he was not inhibited by Victorian prudery.  But references to sexual pleasure are infrequent.  Years later, William Law, Joseph’s counselor in the First Presidency, said he was shocked to hear Joseph say one of his wives “afforded him great pleasure.”  That report is one of the few, and the fact that it shocked Law suggests that such comments were infrequent.  As Fawn Brodie said, “There was too much of the Puritan” in Joseph for him to be a “careless libertine.”

What was the nature of the Fanny Alger relationship?

Some people have wondered if Alger was ever pregnant.  Bushman says there is no good evidence of this position.  Many people often quote Oliver Cowdery (as does Bushman) as referring to the “dirty, nasty, filthy affair.”  First, let’s provide some background on Alger.  From pages 323-327,

Alger was fourteen when her family joined the Church in Mayfield, near Kirtland, in 1830.  In 1836, after a time as a serving girl in the Smith household, she left Kirtland and soon married.  Between those two dates, perhaps as early as 1831, she and Joseph were reportedly involved, but conflicting accounts make it difficult to establish the facts–much less to understand Joseph’s thoughts.

… page 324

Cowdery, long Joseph’s friend and associate in visions, was a casualty of the bad times.  In 1838, he was charged with “seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jr by falsly insinuating that he was guilty of adultry &c.”  Fanny Alger’s name was never mentioned, but doubtless she was the woman in question.

The Far West court did not accuse Joseph of being involved with Alger.  Some councilors had heard the rumors, but concluded they were untrue.  They were concerned only with Cowdery’s insinuations.  He was on trial for false accusations, not Joseph for adultery.  David Patten, an apostle, “went to Oliver Cowdery to enquire of him if a certain story was true respecting J. Smith’s committing adultery with a certain girl, when he turned on his heel and insinuated as though he was guilty.”  Thomas Marsh, another apostle, reported a similar experience.  “Oliver Cowdery cocked up his eye very knowingly and hesitated to answer the question, saying he did not know as he was bound to answer the question yet conveyed the idea that it was true.”  George Harris testified that in conversation between Cowdery and Joseph the previous November, Cowdery “seemed to insinuate that Joseph Smith jr was guilty of adultery.”  Eventually the court concluded that Cowdery had made false accusations, and cut him off from the church.

Cowdery denied that he had lied about Joseph and Alger.  Cowdery had heard accusations against him when he wrote to Joseph in January 1838.  “I learn from Kirtland, by the last letters, that you have publickly said, that when you were here I confessed to you that I had willfully lied about you.”  He demanded that Joseph retract the statement.  In a letter to his brother Warren, Cowdery insisted he would never dishonor the family name by lying about anything, much less about the Smiths, whom he had always defended.  In his conversation with Joseph, Cowdery asserted, “in every instance, I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true,” meaning he believed Joseph did have an affair.  His insinuations were not lies but the truth as he understood it.

Cowdery and Joseph aired their differences at a meeting in November 1837 where Joseph did not deny his relationship with Alger, but contended that he had never confessed to adultery.  Cowdery apparently had said otherwise, but backed down at the November meeting.  When the question was put to Cowdery “if he [Joseph] had ever acknowledged to him that he was guilty of such a thing…he answered No.”  That was all Joseph wanted: an admission that he had not termed the Alger affair adulterous.  As Cowdery told his brother, “just before leaving, he [Joseph] wanted to drop every past thing, in which had been a difficulty or difference–he called witnesses to the fact, gave me his hand in their presence, and I might have supposed of an honest man, calculated to say nothing of former matters.

These scraps of testimony recorded within a few years of the Alger business show how differently the various parties understood events…. On his part, Joseph never denied a relationship with Alger, but insisted it was not adulterous.  He wanted it on record that he had never confessed to such a sin.  Presumably, he felt innocent because he had married Alger.

After the Far West council excommunicated Cowdery, Alger disappears from the Mormon historical record for a quarter of a century.  Her story was recorded as many as sixty years later by witnesses who had strong reason to take sides.  Surprisingly, they all agree that Joseph married Fanny Alger as a plural wife.

Mosiah Hancock wrote in the 1890s about Joseph engaging Levi Hancock, Mosiah’s father, to ask Alger’s parents for permission to marry.  Levi Hancock was Alger’s uncle and an appropriate go-between.  He talked with Alger’s father, then her mother, and finally to Fanny herself, and all three consented.  As in many subsequent plural marriages, Joseph did not steal away the prospective bride.  He approached the parents first to ask for their daughter’s hand.  Hancock performed the ceremony, repeating the words Joseph dictated to him.  The whole process was formal and, in a peculiar way, old-fashioned.

Most of the other stories about Joseph’s plural marriage in Kirtland come from one individual without confirmation from a second source.  Ann Eliza, for example, included a story of Fanny being ejected by a furious Emma, one of the few scraps of information about her reaction.  Ann Eliza could not have been an eyewitness because she was not yet born, but she might have heard the story from her parents who were close to the Smiths.  Are such accounts to be believed?  One of the few tales that appears in more than one account was of Oliver Cowdery experimenting with plural wives himself, contrary to Joseph’s counsel.  That pattern of followers marrying prematurely without authorization was repeated later when some of Joseph’s followers used the doctrine of plural marriage as a license for marrying at will.  Stories like these, all of them partisan, must be treated with caution.

… page 437

After marrying Fanny Alger sometime before 1836, Joseph, it appears, married no one else until he wed Louisa Beaman on April 5, 1841, in Nauvoo.  (Historian debate the possibility of one other wife in the interim.)

… page 326

The end of Joseph’s relationship with Fanny Alger is as elusive as the beginning.  After leaving Kirtland in September 1836, Alger, reportedly a comely, amiable person, had no trouble remarrying.  Joseph asked her uncle Hancock to take her to Missouri, but she went with her parents instead.  They stopped in Indiana for a season, and while there she married Solomon Custer, a non-Mormon listed in the censuses as a grocer, baker, and merchant.  When her parents moved on, Alger remained in Indiana with her husband.  She bore nine children.  After Joseph’s death, Alger’s brother asked her about her relationship with the Prophet.  She replied:  “That is all a matter of my–own.  And I have nothing to Communicate.”

Was Eliza Snow pushed down the stairs?

Bushman doesn’t think so.  From page 493,

One story told in Utah in the 1880s had Emma pushing one of Mormondom’s most honored women, Eliza Roxcy Snow, down the stairs upon discovering she was married to Joseph, but the evidence for the incident is shaky.  Snow was a refined, intelligent woman who had been brought into the Smith household to teach their children.  She joined the Mormons in 1835 along with her sister Leonora and moved to Kirtland, where she boarded with the Smiths and taught school.  Slender and ramrod straight, Snow was the most intellectual of all the women converts.  She wrote poetry and prepared a constitution for the Female Relief Society.  Repelled at first by the practice of plural marriage, she concluded that she was “living in the dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all the other Dispensations,” and so “surely Plural Marriage must necessarily be included.”  Brigham Young performed the ceremony for Joseph and Eliza on June 29, 1842.  She was thirty-eight, two years older than Joseph.  She later spoke of him as “my beloved husband, the choice of my heart and the crown of my life.”

In August 1842, Emma invited Eliza to move back into the Smith household.  In December, Eliza began teaching the Smith children and ran a school for them and others until March 1843.  Eliza noted in her diary that on February 11, 1843, while still teaching, she moved out of the Smiths’ house without saying why, though the reason could well be that on the same day, Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, moved in.  Later gossip blamed Emma.  All the versions of the Eliza story, however, were attenuated.  Most of them were tales told many decades after the fact and were second- or third-hand hearsay.  Some had Emma pushing Eliza, others said she beat her.  None hold up under scrutiny.  They have to be read skeptically because of the widespread dislike for Emma among the Utah Mormons.  Brigham Young never forgave her for breaking with the Church and not coming west.  She was considered a traitor to Mormonism because she remained behind and denied, in carefully worded statements that skirted the truth, that Joseph took additional wives.  When her sons, then leaders of a rival branch of Mormonism, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, came to Utah on missions in the 1860s, they tried to trace and discredit every claim that Joseph had multiple wives.  In response, the Utah church secured scores of affidavits from people who knew of the practice in Nauvoo.  Besides proving the existence of plural marriage, the affidavits attempted to refute the hypothesis that Joseph’s relations with his plural wives were purely spiritual.  Some members of the Reorganized Church accepted ceremonial marriages but thought Joseph never slept with his wives.  To rebut that view, the affidavits noted the occasions when Joseph occupied the same room with a wife, facts that might have been omitted had not the Utah Mormons been determined to prove the Joseph and his plural wives were married as completely as the later polygamists under Brigham Young.

Bushman gives so much detail, that it is hard to cover every aspect in a single post.  But, given this information, what do you make of Smith’s practice of polygamy?  Are you comfortable with it?

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108 comments on “Bushman’s Perspective on Polygamy, Alger, and Snow

  1. I think that if the whole polygamy story was ever made into a movie or series, it would be the kind of entertainment that GA’s counsel us to avoid. 😀

    It’s been some time since I read RSR, but reviewing it now after all this time in this post doesn’t make it any easier for me to reconcile. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

    A few things that comes to mind:

    a) How different the real story — realizing that the real story is that we don’t really know the real story with 100% certainty — is so different from what I had been told for much of my life.

    b) How much the practice of polygamy changed between JS and BY. It seems that JS’s main objective was with being spiritually-linked with as many women/families as possible, without ever having anything resembling a marital relationship with the majority of them. (This theory, however, is complicated by the theory that he offered Emma another husband, which I assume would have had to be only a temporal marriage since a woman can only be sealed to one man.) BY, on the other hand, from what I understand, actually lived with all his many wives in a mansion and fathered many, many children. Is that what Joseph had in mind? If so, would he have “stolen” the wives who were already married and had them all living with him?

    c) What was the point? So JS “marries” a bunch of women but probably doesn’t have much to do with most of them after the ceremony. How is that going to help them in the Eternities? I don’t really see a “covenant” or “commitment” by any means.

    d) The sheer number of women being married to one man was unsustainable in a healthy society, IMO. If even just a select few men of the Mormon hierarchy took 20 or 30 wives of child-bearing age, it’s inevitable that the society is going to sooner or later end up with a “lost boys” scenario like the FLDS has seen: young men left without marriage opportunities who, in the case of the FLDS, were thrown out. We all know that a woman can only be sealed to one man. Not only is this unfair to women, but it’s unfair to the men who find that the demand exceeds supply because a select few have cut off supply.

    e) The hardest part about all this is the inconsistencies. It’s not all about sex and yet it’s not purely spiritual. I’m only sure of one thing: it’s not sustainable.

    So, to sum up my feelings, this is my opinion on the matter: IF (and that is a big if in my mind) polygamy was ever a divine doctrine, someone somewhere along the line got something really wrong. But I’m leaning towards the CofC theory of JS simply being deceived in the whole matter.

  2. So the polygamy post has more comments than even the Joshua post or the post on race? I didn’t realize that if that’s the case.

    Having read Bushman’s take, I still can’t say that I feel any differently on the subject. I still feel comfortable saying that plural marriage was revealed by God, for whatever reason(s).

    One thing I had a problem with was Bushman saying that Joseph lusted for kin. That makes it sound as though it was an “urge” that he just couldn’t supress as opposed to an effort to live a revealed religious principle that he really didn’t ask for. And if it was an “urge”, what a truly strange one to have, particularly, as MH pointed out, since there is no evidence that Joseph fathered any children by anyone other than Emma. Maybe that wasn’t what Bushman meant to convey, but that statement was disappointing to me.


    I’m curious to know why you see polygamy as unsustainable. If you use the FLDS as a good example, I can see that, but if you look at the practice in Utah during Brigham Young’s presidency, it seems possible to me. Maybe not perfect, but a definite possibility of sustainability, IMO.

  3. Well, I’m a firm to-death-do-us-part believer in monogamy on earth, and I have increasingly hardening suspicions in the notion that plural husbands and plural wifes are unavoidable in the spiritual realm, so put me down as one spouse per parallel universe.

    I think Joseph saw things he wasn’t yet prepared to understand, and messed up because, from a variety of human weaknesses, he tried to fill in the blanks anyway.

    More importantly, MH, thanks for putting this material together in one place. It was the kind of thing the authorities in my church WERE telling me to stay away from when I was growing up. 😀

  4. I can already tell a follow up post might be in order here.

    Tara, I agree with FD that polygamy is unsustainable. If we follow polygamy as Joseph and Brigham Young did, then there have to be 20-30 righteous women for every man. While I’ll grant a little leeway that women may be more righteous than men (though I still claim it is a sexist fallacy), I do not believe the ratio is 20:1 or 30:1. That’s completely unsustainable.

    FD, I believe that women can be sealed to multiple men under section 132. Originally I believed as you did, but let me paste some comments from the Mormon Matters blog, discounting that claim.


    my biggest problem with polygamy is not the doctrine per se (though I have plenty of reservations there), but how polygamy was practiced. There are many beliefs about polygamy that are flat out wrong–some church members even believe that Joseph Smith never practiced it, and many have no idea that he had at least 30 wives. Even fewer know that women were sealed to multiple husbands, as well as men sealed to multiple wives. I don’t see anything in section 132 allowing women to be sealed to multiple husbands. Van Wagoner and Quinn both talk about a conversation between Joseph and Emma where Joseph offered Emma an additional husband (I believe it was William Marks, but I’ll have to double-check), in exchange for Emma letting him enjoy his wives in peace. Was there another revelation in place to allow polyandry as well as polygyny? I know of no such permission in the Bible.

    May 17th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I have no problem with the concept of eternal polygamy / polyandry / dynastic sealing / communal sealing / whatever, even as I think mortal implementation gets screwed up almost all the time. I think our view of eternity is confined far too much by our mortality.

    Mormon Heretic
    May 17th, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Bruce in Montana, I agree that section 132 gives that impression. However, the recent Family Proclamation says, “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

    Now, this seems to be a departure from section 132–a man, a woman, doesn’t that imply singularity, not plurality of wives? And how does that square with Joseph allowing sealings to women to himself and other men? Certainly section 132 doesn’t seem to allow for polyandry (multiple husbands), but that is what happened.

    Ray, I think your explanation is the best. As we understand Richard Bushman’s writings about the sealing ordinance, it is evident to me that sealing was different than polygamy. Sealing multiple wives almost seems like a “sexless” ordinance, yet it is apparent to me that it is not completely “sexless” either.

    May 17th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    “Van Wagoner and Quinn both talk about a conversation between Joseph and Emma where Joseph offered Emma an additional husband (I believe it was William Marks, but I’ll have to double-check), in exchange for Emma letting him enjoy his wives in peace.”

    That actually appears to be referenced in Doctrine and Covenants 132:51:

    51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

    Seth R.
    May 17th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Section 132 actually does seem to imply that polyandry is acceptable.

    There’s a passage in there that says if a woman is already married and she is with another man without being sealed by God, it is adultery. Which, of course, implies that if a sealing had taken place, it would be OK.

    Mormon Heretic
    May 17th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Seth and Mytha, thanks for those references to section 132. I didn’t realize they were there. That is quite interesting.

  5. FireTag, so there WERE some problems with intellectualism in the CoC at one time…. 🙂 I’m happy you’re over it, but wish the LDS would loosen up a bit too.

    Tara, my Priesthood Ban post has 77 comments, and Joshua just 59, so polygamy blows them both away. (And the polygamy post inspired a “part 2”, while neither of the others inspired a second part, though we obviously reference previous arguments.)

  6. re #2: I may be wrong, but I think I remember reading some rather well-documented evidence that Joseph did in fact father children who didn’t have Emma for their mother. Anyone have the skinny on this?

  7. One of Joseph’s wives, Mary Lightner claimed Joseph had children from other wives (The link is in my previous polygamy post, as well as my post on Mormon Matters–Jared posted the link.) However, DNA tests have proved this claim false. Let me put it this way–all of the current allegations of Joseph’s kin have been proved false. There could be some kin we don’t know about, but I find that unlikely.

  8. “FD, I believe that women can be sealed to multiple men under section 132. Originally I believed as you did, but let me paste some comments from the Mormon Matters blog, discounting that claim…”

    I agree that it seems to make sense that a woman could be sealed to multiple men. I just meant that as the rules are enforced in the Church right now, a woman can’t be sealed to any more than one man. Right? But I think that this policy puts many couples in an awkward situation. It just seems like the reasonable thing in many cases to allow it. For example, a young childless widow who later marries a man and wants to have a family. Why should she have to “dump” her first eternal husband in order to be sealed to the next one? If it were me, I’d feel pretty guilty about doing that to my dead husband. He didn’t ask to die young and he had committed himself to spending eternity with me. So why would I be forced to choose?

    Tara, I think polygamy is unsustainable for the reasons that MH stated. Perhaps it seemed sustainable under Brigham Young for a few years, but over time I think that it would have looked just like the FLDS in regards to their “lost boys” situation. And I agree with MH that the ratio of “righteous” men to women can’t be as lopsided as 20 or 30:1. I don’t believe it’s even 2:1.

    D&C 132:51 certainly takes on a new meaning if we read it with the assumption that an offer of polyandry was indeed made to Emma. Verse 55 is also interesting and raises a few questions for me:

    “But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.”

    I find it a bit strange that the Lord promises him many temporal blessings, “an hundredfold in this world, not just of kin, but of “houses and lands, wives and children.” Assuming that JS obeyed the Lord completely in the matter of polygamy, where were the houses, lands, wives and children? He had the wives, but where was/is the rest of it? It seems almost ironic that his only kin, as far as we know, was via Emma — his only “legitimate” wife in the eyes of most.

    Just my opinion, but a lot of the verses in this chapter are really really harsh regarding Emma. And things didn’t get better once Joseph was gone and she was treated so harshly by Brigham Young and others. I really feel for her.

  9. Regarding the issue of Joseph fathering children from other women, there just isn’t any conclusive evidence. Of all the cases where it is possible to test descendants of possible children of J.S., all have shown that he wasn’t the father. There are at least two children who died in infancy and since they had no descendants, there’s no way to test through DNA. One of these children was by Mary Lightner who MH referred to, so it appears that there is no DNA evidence to rule him out, but I’m not sure how strong the historical evidence is that he could be either. Another possible child is Josephine Lyon, but according to FAIRLDS, “DNA testing is ongoing in order to make this determination, but it is rendered more difficult since the Y chromosome evidence of paternal lineage is not present in females.” So, in short, it is possible that Joseph fathered children by other women, but we just don’t have any evidence to say for sure that he did. If he did, it appears that he probably only fathered 1-3.

    I don’t think polygamy was meant to be followed exactly how Joseph and Brigham did it. I don’t think most of the brethren who practiced polygamy had that many wives. I think that, in the early introduction of the practice, there weren’t many men who were called to practice it and some just rejected it. That’s probably a big reason that Joseph and Brigham had so many wives. I don’t believe that gaining as many wives as one could was the aim. You also have to remember that some of Joseph’s wives were polyandrous and didn’t have a “normal” relationship that you would expect from a tradional marriage. Where the relationship was an eternity only sealing, you wouldn’t expect for Joseph (or Brigham) to have taken on temporal care of those women and their children.

    You may recall that some of Brigham’s sermons contained harsh reubkes of those men who wouldn’t or weren’t deemed worthy to engage in polygamy. If more would’ve, then perhaps the burden would’ve been distributed more evenly. It appears that the FLDS aren’t interested in sharing the burden, but are concerned more with how many more wives one can get for themselves.

    As far as ratios, I don’t have any hard evidence on that, and maybe currently there isn’t much discrepancy, but who’s to say that there wasn’t then? Consider the men who were killed either by mobs or by war. Then of course you have the slackers. I think it’s a distinct possibility that there was a surplus of women compared to men at the time.

    Regarding D&C 132:55, it seems to include a disclaimer of “if she will not abide this commandment”. Perhaps even with her flip-flopping, it was deemed that she abided well enough. But then, perhaps, if the prophet’s life wasn’t cut short, he would’ve received those things. Prophecy has contingencies attached to it and is not always as cut and dry as we would like it to be.

  10. Tara, even if a man is supposed to only have 2 wives, I don’t believe that there are twice as many righteous women as men. Much of the reason why there were widows left was because their husbands were either sent on missions, or killed because of polygamy, so I don’t think the “killed by mobs or by war” argument holds much water. It was the polygamist men who were killed or sent on missions that exacerbated the problem, rather than were filling a need.

    As far as ratios, I don’t have any hard evidence on that, and maybe currently there isn’t much discrepancy, but who’s to say that there wasn’t then?

    I find this proposition highly unlikely. Even if there was a surplus of women compared to men at the time, what about the men who weren’t chosen to practice polygamy? Can we assume that they weren’t righteous enough, or could it be simply that there weren’t enough women to support polygamy, which is why they started marrying teenage girls as soon as they started to hit puberty? I just see so much potential for a problem here.

    We haven’t even discussed the dilution of the gene pool, and I’m sure God was aware of all the problems with intermarrying cousins. Pretty soon, birth defects are going to develop because everyone is going to be related to each other, especially if they can only marry Mormons in the temple. The fix is that the missionary work is going to have to progress at a phenomenal rate to keep all the polygamist families going. It just doesn’t seem sustainable at all to me.

  11. I want to also second FD’s statement that current church practice forbids a woman to marry another previously sealed man. If we are to take the position that polygamy is really a communal sealing as Ray mentioned, then it seems to me that sealing a woman to multiple husbands shouldn’t be a problem. And it certainly didn’t seem to be a problem when Joseph was sealed to GA wives who were also simultaneously sealed to GA husbands. Frankly, this is an inequity that should be solved more along the lines of Joseph’s polyandry practices.

    I will say that I dated a widow when I was single. This was an extremely bothersome issue to her. (Her husband was killed in a snowmobiling accident.) She honestly felt like no good Mormon man would want to marry her, because she was essentially “damaged goods.” It bothered her so much that she talked to an apostle, who only responded that God would right the wrong somehow. She ended up marrying a non-member. I believe this was so she wouldn’t have to confront the issue. It seems like a terrible inequity, IMO.

  12. What do you make of the case of Zina Diantha Huntington (Jacobs) (Smith) (Young), particularly her marriage to Brigham Young which was for time only? What was the point? A quick summary can be found here and a longer one here. I haven’t had the chance to read the latter one yet, since it’s lengthy and I’m off to work now. Looks like she had an interesting life, though.

  13. I’m curious what ya’ll think of Julie Smith’s post: Is there another approach?


  14. Nice blog, Clean Cut.

    If I didn’t go over the TimesandSeasons post too fast, the idea of God “allowing” something, even if mistaken, is pretty general — not just focused on polygamy. We are allowed to be complicit in a lot of evil that goes on in the world every day, and most all of the time we don’t want to notice we are complicit.

    Consider when we take the Sacrament, do we really remind ourselves of what the breaking of the Lord’s body and spilling of his blood says about the state of humanity? Is it more comfortable sometimes NOT to “remember Him”?

  15. I am very much in agreement with Julie. I have often said that I think God allows all sorts of things to happen. For those who don’t read the post, I agree with Julie on these points:

    (1) Joseph Smith was devoted to the idea of restoration, which sparked his belief that polygamy needed to be restored.

    (2) God permitted Joseph Smith to restore polygamy.

    (3) When the cost of practicing polygamy became too high, it was ended by revelation.

    Further thoughts on each of the above:

    (1) I think Joseph Smith misunderstood what the OT was teaching about polygamy. It is consistently seen as less-than-ideal in the OT (there’s none in the Garden, it is introduced by Cain’s naughty descendants, it always causes more problems than it solves for those who practice it, etc.). I think the “restoration” of polygamy was as necessary and desirable as the restoration of the monarchy or the rule about mixing linen and wool would have been.

    (2) So why then did God permit Joseph Smith to restore polygamy when it didn’t need restoring? For the same reason that God allows me to ask stupid questions when I teach in Church even when I pray beforehand to be guided in my preparation of the lesson.

    (3) But when the cost of practicing polygamy became–well, you know what it became at the end of the 19th century–then God put the kibosh on it. I think God gives us (and the prophets) an awful lot of leeway in the exercise of our callings, but draws the line at those things that would completely destroy the church.

    It follows from all this that I don’t expect polygamy to be practiced in the eternities by those who didn’t practice it before. (Although I don’t have easy answers for the “loose ends,” including your g-g-grandmother who was Heber’s fourth wife. I trust God to work it out in a way all relevant parties are OK with, though.) But, in general, this theory of polygamy makes sense of all of the major data points for me without making me want to bash my head into the wall.

  16. FD, that first link you provided is an excellent example of how complex these relationships are. It says Zina was married 7.5 months to Henry Jacobs when she was sealed to Joseph. She was also 7 months pregnant when sealed to Joseph.

    That last paragraph is astounding that Brigham told Henry that Zina didn’t belong to Henry. I can’t fathom such an idea. Newel Bringhurst seems to be a pretty reliable source.

    I did a quick skim, but the second link seems to provide some other details of Zina’s life, but not her polygamist marriages to Joseph, Brigham, and Henry.

  17. In the case of Zina, BY seems to almost take the Old Testament approach where if a man died, his brother would “inherit” his wife. But it’s not like Zina didn’t already have a husband. It almost sounds too sensational to be true.

  18. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to comment sooner, but I’ve been busy with other things and at the same time, I’ve been trying to put together this comment. I had to do a lot of digging and it’s rather lengthy, so get comfortable.

    It seems that it doesn’t matter what I say, because for the most part, it’s going to be refuted in some way or another. So, I thought I would just let the people, particularly the women, who practiced plural marriage speak for the most part. I think their words are a powerful testimony and much more convincing than anything I could say of the issue.

    First of all, the charge has been made that Joseph was just deceived or mistaken in the restoration of plural marriage. Most of us are probably aware of the story of an “angel with a drawn sword,” which “stood before [Joseph Smith]… and commmanded that he should enter into the practice of that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed…” (Joseph F. Smith) In spite of this, the charge is still made that he was deceived. What may or may not be understood is that in a conversation with Mary Elizabeth Lightner, she was also concerned that he had been deceived. She asked the prophet, “Well, don’t you think it was an angel of the devil that told you these things?” Said he, “No, it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me.” I’ve read elsewhere teachings of the prophet on how to determine the difference between the two, so we can’t accuse Mary Lightner of lying or being mistaken. So it appears that he had a very clear understanding of the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels, and as such, it seems very unlikely that he was deceived. It seems more likely that he was either telling the truth and was indeed visited by an angel over the matter, or he just flat out lied.

    Joseph’s case is made even more solid, IMO, when you consider the testimony of others regarding their acceptance of the practice.

    Mary Elizabeth Lightner:

    I was not sealed to him until I had a witness. I had been dreaming for a number of years I was his wife. I thought I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to take it from me for I felt it was a sin; but when Joseph sent for me he told me all of these things. “Well,” said I, “don’t you think it was an angel of the devil that told you these things?” Said he, “No, it was an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of light and Satan’s angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me. “But,” said he, “they called me a false and fallen prophet but I am more in favor with my God this day than I ever was in all my life before. I know that I shall be saved in the Kingdom of God. I have the oath of God upon it and God cannot lie; all that he gives me I shall take with me for I have that authority and that power conferred upon me.”

    Well, I talked with him for a long time and finally I told him I would never be sealed to him until I had a witness. Said he, “You shall have a witness.” Said I, “If God told you that, why does he not tell me?” He asked me if I was going to be a traitor. “I have never told a mortal and shall never tell a mortal I had such a talk from a married man,” said I. “Well,” said he, “pray earnestly for the angel said to me you should have a witness.” Well, Brigham Young was with me. He said if I had a witness he wanted to know it. “Why should I tell you?” said I. “Well,” said he, “I want to know for myself.” Said he, “Do you know what Joseph said? Since we left the office the angel appeared to him and told him he was well pleased with him and that you should have a witness.”

    I made it a subject of prayer and I worried about it because I did not dare to speak to a living being except Brigham Young. I went out and got between three haystacks where no one could see me. As I knelt down I thought, why not pray as Moses did? He prayed with his hands raised. When his hands were raised, Israel was victorious, but when they were not raised, the Philistines were victorious. I lifted my hands and I have heard Joseph say the angels covered their faces. I knelt down and if ever a poor mortal prayed, I did. A few nights after that an angel of the Lord came to me and if ever a thrill went through a mortal, it went through me. I gazed upon the clothes and figure but the eyes were like lightning. They pierced me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I was frightened almost to death for a moment. I tried to waken my aunt, but I could not. The angel leaned over me and the light was very great, although it was night. When my aunt woke up she said she had seen a figure in white robes pass from our bed to my mother’s bed and pass out of the window.

    Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, “Have you had a witness yet?” “No.” “Well,” said he, “the angel expressly told me you should have.” Said I, “I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before. I saw an angel and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak.” He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He looked up and said, “How could you have been such a coward?” Said I, “I was weak.” “Did you think to say, ‘Father, help me?'” “No.” “Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal.” I said, “If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?” “You covered your face and for this reason the angel was insulted.” Said I, “Will it ever come again?” He thought a moment and then said, “No, not the same one, but if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that.” And then he gave me three signs of what would take place in my own family, although my husband was far away from me at the time. Every work came true. I went forward and was sealed to him. Brigham Young performed the sealing, and Heber C. Kimball the blessing.

    [Sister Lightner stated that she had ten children; seven of them were boys and she had raised three of them to manhood. She has one daughter in the Church. Being asked concerning her husband, Sister Lightner said: “My husband did not belong to the Church. I begged him and pled with him to join but he would not. He said he did not believe in it, though he thought a great deal of Joseph. He sacrificed his property rather than testify against Joseph, Hyrum and George A. Smith. After he said this, I went forward and was sealed to Joseph for eternity.”]

    Helen Mar Kimball Whitney:

    With all the false traditions in which we were born, and in consequence of the degenerate tide with which the human family has been drifting for generations past, and as the Lord had no organized priesthood on the earth, it is not to be wondered at that in our ignorance of His ways the feelings of our natures should rebel against the doctrine of a plurality of wives. I remember how I felt, but which would be a difficult matter to describe–the various thoughts, fears and temptations that flashed through my mind when the principle was first introduced to me by my father [Heber C. Kimball], who one morning in the summer of 1843, without any preliminaries, asked me if I would believe him if he told me that it was right for married men to take other wives, can be better imagined than told. But suffice it to say the first impulse was anger, for I thought he had only said it to test my virtue, as I had heard that tales of this kind had been published by such characters as the Higbees, Foster and Bennett, but which I supposed were without any foundation. My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure for to mention such a thing to me I thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him, short and emphatically, “No, I wouldn’t!” I had always been taught to believe it a heinous crime, improper and unnatural, and I indignantly resented it.

    This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him, but I was somewhat surprised at his countenance, as he seemed rather pleased than otherwise. Then he commenced talking seriously, and reasoned and explained the principle, and why it was again to be established upon the earth, etc., but did not tell me then that anyone had yet practiced it, but left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours, during which time I was filled with various and conflicting ideas. I was skeptical–one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions. This was just previous to his starting upon his last mission but one to the eastern states. Fearing that I might hear it from a wrong source, knowing, as he did, that there were those who would run before they were sent, and some would not hesitate to deceive and betray him and the brethren, he thought it best that I should hear it from his own lips.

    The next day the Prophet called at our house, and I sat with my father and mother and heard him teach the principle and explain it more fully, and I believed it, but I had no proofs, only his and my father’s testimony. I thought that sufficient, and did not deem it necessary to seek for any further, but had I been differently situated like many were without a father and a mother to love and counsel me, probably my dependence, like theirs, would have been on the Lord, but I leaned not upon His arm.

    My father was my teacher and revelator, and I saw no necessity then for further testimony; but in after years the Lord, in His far-seeing and infinite mercy, suffered me to pass through the rough waves of experience and in sorrow and affliction, I learned that most important lesson, that in Him alone must I trust, and not in weak and sinful man; and that it was absolutely necessary for each one to obtain a living witness and testimony for him or herself, and not for another, to the truth of this latter-day work, to be able to stand, and that like Saul, we “must suffer for His name’s sake.” Then I learned that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and that “He is nigh unto all those that call upon Him in truth, and healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds.”

    Zina Diantha Huntington Smith Young:

    “I searched the scripture & buy [by] humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself that God had required that order to be established in this church, I mad[e] a greater sacrifise [sic] than to give my life for I never anticipated a gain [again] to be looked uppon [sic] as an honorable [sic] woman by those I dearly loved [but] could I compremise concience [sic] lay aside the sure testimony of the spiret [sic] of God for the Glory of this world…”

    The Whitney’s according to Helen Mar Kimball:

    Bishop Whitney was not a man that readily accepted of every doctrine, and would question the Prophet very closely upon principles if not made clear to his understanding. When Joseph saw that he was doubtful concerning the righteousness of this celestial order he told him to go and inquire of the Lord concerning it, and he should receive a testimony for himself.

    The Bishop, with his wife, who had for years been called Mother Whitney, retired together and unitedly besought the Lord for a testimony whether or not this principle was from Him; and they ever after bore testimony that they received a manifestation and that it was so powerful they could not mistake it. The Bishop never afterwards doubted and they willingly gave to him their daughter, which was the strongest proof that they could possibly give of their faith and confidence in him as a true Prophet of God.

    Elizabeth Whitney:

    “…our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was merciful to us; He revealed unto us His power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision, a halo of light encircled us…”

    Emily Dow Partridge:

    When Joseph began to teach Emily Dow Partridge about plural marriage, she was so bothered by the doctrine that she shut Joseph up immediately. She would hear no more of it. And Joseph, honoring the girl’s wishes, did not bring up the subject again for months. During those months, however, Emily struggled with the principle and she received her own personal witness. “…[In] those few months I received a testimony of the words that Joseph would have said to me and their nature before they were told me and being convinced I received them readily.”

    Lucy Walker:

    When Joseph taught Lucy Walker about plural marriage, she said of the proposal that it “aroused every drop of scotch in my veins…I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a liveing Sacrafice [sic]…My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me.” She told the prophet that she would not marry him unless God, Himself, revealed to her the correctness of the principle–and He hadn’t done so. Then she emphatically forbade Joseph from speaking to her about the subject again. Lucy recorded Joseph’s reaction. “He walked across the room, returned, and stood before me. With the most beautiful expression of countenance, and said, ‘God almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimoney [sic] that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew.'” That night, Lucy was unable to sleep, and so, she prayed to the Lord, begging for guidance. Near dawn, she finally received her answer. “My room became filled with a heavenly influence. To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud…My Soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being. And I received a powerful and irristable [sic] testimony of the truth of the marriage covenant called ‘Celestial or plural marriage [sic].’ Which has been like an anchor to the sould through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the Joy and gratitude [sic] that filled my Soul. As I descended the stairs, Prest. Smith opened the door below; took me by the hand and said: ‘Thank God, you have a testimony. I too, have prayed.’ He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with Every [sic] blessing my heart could possibly desire.”

    I suppose you could say that all of these people were deceived, but that doesn’t make much sense. If we can all be so easily deceived by angels or tremendous feelings of peace and joy, then how can we expect to discern the truth. Surely Satan can deceive us with his angels, but I don’t believe he can cause us to feel “calm, sweet peace” or any of the other wonderful feelings expressed by those who received manifestations. It’s very clear to me that these people are not being deceived by Satan. The only other thing you can say is that they are just lying.

    Another argument has been made that plural marriage just doesn’t work, basically. Well, many who lived it and witnessed it say that it can and does work in most, though admittedly not all, cases. It has also been said that plural marriage keeps men and women on “unequal footing”. These women will disagree with that charge. Some of these quotes are from the Women’s Exponent which is a rather long, but interesting look at how committed to the practice of plural marriage the Utah women were. Notice that some of the women are Doctors–not hardly what you would expect to see from a practice which inherently keeps women down. The following are exerpts of talks:

    Dr. Romania B. Pratt:

    It has been said by a prominent Federal official that ‘the American idea of government is founded on the Christian idea of home, where
    one father and one mother, each the equal of the other, happy in
    the consciousness of mutual and eternal affection, rear about the
    hearth-stone an intelligent and God-fearing family…

    The above quotation, in point of actual fact, we unhesitatingly
    assert, and with a profound feeling of positive knowledge, to be the
    very ideal and inspiration of the majority of ‘Mormon’ plural

    Has not every woman the undeniable right to be an honorable wife and mother— of fulfilling the end of her creation, and do not the circumstances of life and statistics prove this to be impossible under the monogamic system? And were this the acknowledged law of the land, would itnot lay the ax at the root of the greatest evil that has ever cursed the land?…If the same ceremony seals each wife to her husband, may not each family be a realization of the beautiful picture of one
    father and one mother, each the equal of the other in that family,
    happy in the consciousness of mutual and eternal affection, rear
    about the hearth-stone an intelligent and God-fearing family? The raising of an intelligent and God-fearing family is the very essence
    of the reason for the revelation of celestial marriage, for God has
    said ‘He will raise up unto himself a righteous seed.’ Can the
    children of men who daily pollute themselves in the society of
    abandoned women be a righteous seed? Can wives love, honor andbe faithful to husbands they absolutely know are faithless to them?
    Thank God that by virtue of woman’s inherent goodness, wives in
    the monogamy of the world are more faithful a thousand to one
    than the husbands!

    And a pertinent question arises in speaking of abandoned
    women. If it had been possible for them to become loving and
    beloved wives, would there be so many abandoned?…
    Our faith and confidence in the chastity and pure motives
    of our husbands, fathers, mothers and sons are such that we
    challenge the production of a better system of marriage and the
    records of more moral or purer lives. Hand in hand with celestial
    marriage is the elevation of woman. In church she votes equally
    with men, and politically, she has the suffrage raising her from the
    old common law, monogamic serfdom, to political equality with
    men. Rights of property are given her so that she, as a married
    woman, can hold property in her own individual right. Women are
    not thrown off in old age as has been most untruthfully and
    shamefully asserted. There is nothing in our plural marriage system
    that countenances any such thing. The very nature of the covenant
    forbids it. It is binding through all time and lasts throughout
    eternity. If any woman at an advanced period of her life wishes in a
    measure to retire from her husband’s society with his consent, this
    is her own individual privilege with which no one has the right to
    interfere. Instances of wrong-doing may be found in families of
    plural households, but the exceptions are not the rule; the weight of
    good results of the majority should be the standard of judgment. It
    cannot be true, as asserted, that plural marriage is entered into as a
    rule from sensual motives. It is self-evident that it is not the case
    with the women, and it is unreasonable to suppose that men would
    bring upon themselves the responsibilities, cares and expenses of a
    plural family, when they could avoid all this, yet revel in sin, and,
    in the language of a distinguished man of the world, ‘be like the
    rest of us.’…

    Therefore, we, the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once more make a plain confession of our faith and principles— of
    convictions formed by the unfettered conversion of conscience that
    we do firmly believe in the divine origin and the eternal benefits of
    celestial marriage— that this system conduces to the elevation and
    independence of women— that the men of this faith who are guided
    by the spirit of the Gospel have the highest regard for virtue and
    morality— are the most to be trusted and the most loyal citizens of
    any men who live upon the earth.”

    Dr. Ellis R. Shipp:

    And this is our grievous offense. A certain tenet of our
    religious faith our opponents cannot countenance, because so
    contrary to their own sinful practices. The evil results of these
    practices we have personally observed, particularly in the hospitals
    of the world, where fallen women seek the shelter they cannot
    obtain from those who should have protected them instead of
    throwing them and their offspring upon the mercies of a cold,
    unfeeling world. By consulting the national statistics, we find New
    York with thirty thousand women leading lives of prostitution;
    Chicago twenty thousand; Boston and Cincinnati each ten
    thousand, and other cities with a like ratio according to the number
    of inhabitants.

    “Unfortunately, a record of the opposite sex is not kept….

    “We are accused of being down-trodden and oppressed. We
    deny the charge! for we know there cannot be found a class of
    women upon the earth who occupy a more elevated position in the
    hearts of their husbands, or whose most delicate and refined
    feelings are so respected as here in Utah.

    “True we practice plural marriage, not, however, because
    we are compelled to, but because we are convinced that it is a
    divine revelation, and we find in this principle satisfaction,
    contentment and more happiness than we can obtain in any other

    M.E. Teasdale:

    “‘Mormon’ women have rights that they have exercised intelligently for years,prominent among which is the elective franchise that was thought by some, if given to the women, would be the death blow to
    polygamy; but because we vote for our friends instead of our
    enemies we are branded as slaves to the Priesthood, and it is
    falsely said that we do not vote as we please but as we are
    compelled by our husbands.

    “I assert that we do vote as we please, and our husbands
    nor any one else know how we vote or for whom, unless we
    choose to tell them. We know who are our friends and we have the
    good sense to vote for them instead of our enemies….

    “We know that God lives and that He has spoken from the heavens, and restored the true Gospel with all its gifts and blessings, and we know that He has commanded us ‘Mormons,’ so-called, to practice plural marriage. All true Saints have obtained this knowledge for themselves from God, and we know we are not deceived. This is the reason we practice plural marriage, and not, as is supposed by the world, to gratify the passions.

    “This is the reason we stand scoffs and ridicule, bonds,
    imprisonment and death we know that our religion is true and that
    if we lose our life for the Gospel’s sake we will find eternal lives in
    the kingdom of God. Our homes were happy ones before this cruel
    crusade was urged against us. We were satisfied and happy with the husbands of our choice, and with our children, whom we prize as precious gifts from God. We will not give up one principle of our religion, but will keep the laws of God and sustain and encourage our husbands to do the same, fearless of the consequences; for we are confident that our Father will sanctify all our afflictions unto us, and in his own time will avenge us of all our wrongs and reward us for all that we have suffered.”

    Helen Mar Whitney:

    “Mrs. President and Ladies:

    “This is a momentous occasion, and the subject which has brought us together would fill volumes were it written. It is our right and our duty to represent our cause, and give the people of the world to understand that ‘Mormon’ women are neither slaves nor toys. Though comparatively isolated, we are not so ignorant of matters pertaining to the women of the world as they appear to be concerning us, and this religion called ‘Mormonism’— a religion which we have espoused and cling to because we love its principles, which require all to live godly in Christ Jesus and keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world.

    “I have been a member of this Church for forty-nine years, and am one of the women who have been tried and tested, and the angels will bear witness of that to-day, I am a stronger advocate of ‘Mormonism’ and the celestial order of marriage, and rejoice more exceedingly in the goodness of God to me and my house, than ever before. I know that this holy order would prove a blessing to all who would receive and practice it in the way that He designed. I received this knowledge years ago, and it is not in the power of man to alter my belief, and no one but myself is responsible for my actions. Whatever has appeared over my signature, has been written independently of any other person. Liberty is necessary to make life endurable, and if I have ever been deprived of that boon under the laws and government of God’s kingdom, I have remained in blissful ignorance to this day, and can say, as God is my witness, it is this Gospel that has made me free.

    “The women of Israel are aspirants after all that is grand and glorious within their reach. They are laboring for the highest glory of womanhood, which can only be attained through the untiring, energetic, pure and holy efforts of those who are willing to fight the good fight, and make the sacrifice of self and the ease and pleasures of the moment. It was among the grand designs of the Gods that woman should be equal with man. At the beginning it was her destiny to be first to partake of the tree of knowledge, and though it brought the fall it was a blessing in disguise. Adam and Eve sinned that ‘man might be.’ The privilege is now offered to His daughters to throw off the shackles and free themselve from the curse which was placed upon them for a wise purpose. The debt she has paid, and it is the plan of the Almighty to make of His noble daughters queens instead of serfs, that woman may reign in the sphere for which she was created. The celestial order of marriage was introduced for this purpose, and God commanded His servants to enter into that holy order preparatory to the day, which is at our doors, when noble and virtuous women, now blinded by prejudice and priestcraft, will be glad to unite themselves to men equally noble and pure— such as are now willing to suffer imprisonment and endure whatever punishment their tormentors may inflict, rather than forsake the wives that God has given them, and dishonor their offspring, which they know would deprive them of their crown.

    “The soul-destroying crimes that are fostered in the midst of Christian civilization, are breaking more hearts and causing them to put an end to their dreary and wretched existence, than all the alleged heart-burnings endured by plural wives in Utah.

    “Could those who look down upon plural wives and cast a stigma upon them and their offspring realize the lamentable and degrade condition of many women in the world, veritable slaves who dare not express their feelings for fear of the lash of ‘public opinion,’ they might change their minds respecting ‘Mormon’ women, who are anything but dupes or slaves. The women who have come out to this meeting and the thousands whom they represent, could not be kept in subjection to an influence that would make them slaves instead of free women. Our only tyrants have been those sent here by the government, who were not the choice of the people, but whose every interest has been foreign to our own.

    These women don’t sound degraded by or unhappy with plural marriage. They seem to have great confidence that it is a true religious principle and that has been a great blessing in their lives. Does that mean that it hasn’t been difficult? No. According to Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, I did not try to conceal the fact of its having been a trial, but confessed that it had been one of the severest of my life; but that it had also proven one of the greatest blessings. I could truly say it had done the most towards making me a saint and a free woman, in every sense of the word; and I know many others who could say the same, and to whom it had proven one of the greatest boons— a “blessing in disguise.” As for its being degrading, it had proven to be the very opposite.

    I thought this recollection by Helen Mar Whitney regarding her parents was quite interesting due to the way that it seemed that plural marriage was practiced so successfully by her parents:

    Though I have not the date, I remember the birth of another son by my father’s wife Sarah, which happened not far from the time that my mother’s was born. I had no knowledge then of the plural order, and therefore remained ignorant of our relationship to each other until after his death, as he only lived a few months. It’s true I had noticed the great interest taken by my parents in behalf of Sister Noon, but knowing their kind, benevolent natures towards everybody that came under their notice, I thought nothing strange of this, but I will confess that during those times, I thought my mother overly kind to always take her into her buggy and crowding me out of what I considered my place by her side, and I sometimes felt to complain, but unless I was willing to sit behind on a lower seat, I was welcome to walk or remain at home, but, not caring to do either, I generally submitted, as gracefully as possible, to ride behind.

    My mother was possessed of a most kind and unselfish nature and her life was filled up with just such noble, self-sacrificing deeds; and by them she won the love of all and among the most devoted were my father’s faithful wives who admired him more because they knew he loved her best and with him they mourned for her as their dearest and most enduring friend.

    He was often heard to say that he did not care how soon he followed her, and he lived but nine months to mourn her loss.

    The following extracts from letters written by my father while upon his mission with Brigham Young and others in the southern part of Illinois I copy with the hope that some benefit may be derived from the perusal of them, more particularly the young and inexperienced. They show the childlike humility and sincerity of heart, such as none but an honest man could feel and express, and none other would ever take the step that he did, nor continue to endure such heart-aching sorrow as I know he did for the wife of his youth, who with him in that early day yielded obedience to a principle that required life-long sacrifice and self-denial. Their all was laid upon the altar to gain that glory which the Lord had given my mother a slight glimpse of, in answer to her humble heart-broken prayer. “Where there’s no cross, there’s no crown.”

    I think that no honest heart can read the outpourings of his soul and ever doubt the motive that prompted him to take upon himself burdens and responsibilities such as himself and brethren were called to do in marrying a plurality of wives, for it did not add to their domestic happiness in this life, but brought not only anxiety, care and sorrow, but placed their lives in jeopardy and they did not know but the consequences would be imprisonment and death, but they knew that it was a command from the Almighty and they obeyed God rather than men.

    I didn’t include the letters that Helen mentions here, but if you are interested in reading them here is the link to Helen’s autobiography where she includes some of them. They are very touching as is this story which, if one believes it is true, most certainly demonstrates that plural marriage can be lived successfully and can be a very beautiful relationship if lived properly.

    Of interest from a FAIRLDS article titled “Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication”:

    As one non-Mormon study of polygamy among various groups noted:

    Women fared no worse (and indeed better) under the Munsterites and Mormons than under the usual monogamous (but just as patriarchal) regime of the age. Indeed, they were better treated if we leave aside the controversial sexual issue. In Munster, they collaborated with the men in the war effort. In Utah, they were given education, the vote and work. It is a curious instance of a movement producing effects opposite to those intended. And women certainly were not subjected to the degradation common in many factories and mines at the time. The fact is that the battle between polygamists and monogamists is a false issue which disappeared as soon as an objective way out of the sexual impasse began to be adopted in the form of easier divorce, birth control and the raising of women’s educational levels and of their rights.

    The claim can be reasonably made that women’s rights were, in fact, better protected in Utah than almost anywhere else in the Union. As early as 1852, Utah passed divorce laws “that provided women much more control over their lives than was given by any other divorce statute of the nineteenth century, save only that of Indiana.”

  19. It appears that the link doesn’t work so instead of trying to do it over, you can just paste it into the address bar if interested:


  20. Oh, very nice. No need to copy and paste. The link works without imbedding it, or whatever you call it.

  21. Tara,

    Here are a few questions/comments.

    (1) Why do you think all these women had witnesses, and Emma did not? Why didn’t God send an angel to kill Emma for disobeying the Prophet, just as in the story of Balaam, Paul, or Alma?

    (2) I agree with you that the women had more rights, because it was a bigger necessity. The men weren’t there to take care of them, so they had to become doctors, property owners, etc. But this completely contradicts your argument that women needed men to take care of them. In fact the women were doing more taking care of themselves and each other. A man can’t spread himself that thin.

    (3) Do you find it ironic that women were more industrious (doctors, etc) in the days of Brigham Young, but now Pres. Julie Beck says a woman’s place should be in the home, rather than in the workplace? (“Women who know”)

    (4) While you have quoted many of the “faithful” stories, my father-in-law talks about how many descendants actually left the church over polygamy. To be fair, don’t you think the stories of jealousy between wives/resentment for having to take care of husbands fighting federal prosecution also ought to be included?

    (5) If we assume polygamy is a righteous principle, and every man should have at least 2 wives, do you really think that is sustainable? Do you see any problems a society’s ability to produce twice as many women as men? Do you see any problems with cousins marrying to support this principle, and corresponding genetic problems creeping into the society?

    (6) Do you have any concerns with Joseph and Brigham effectively taking Zina away from her first husband?

    (7) Let’s assume that polygamy was a God-given principle for a short time, as mentioned in the Book of Jacob (ie to raise up seed). Could it be that God wanted to stop polygamy sooner, and the prophets weren’t getting the message? Could it be that God was using the federal government to get the church to stop the practice?

    (8) With all the persecution on polygamy, why didn’t the church simply move to India where polygamy was and still is legal? (Brigham Young sent missionaries there as early as 1852–I heard a fascinating account at BYU about one of these missionaries by the name of Amos Milton Musser. See this article. I was actually in attendance for this conference, and spoke to Brother Turley. He helped me learn more about Musser, and I have been intending to post on this mission.)

    If you’re going to post comments this long, I’m going to have to give you a login and have you become a contributor! 😀

  22. MH,

    (1)Maybe Emma did receive a witness and maybe that’s why she was accepting of it at times. She obviously still struggled with it, and judging by her actions after Joseph’s death, she decided she would no longer struggle, but would give in to the side that was easier for her. But if she didn’t have a witness, maybe it’s because she wasn’t sincere in seeking one. Maybe the idea repulsed her so much that she couldn’t open her heart to it. That may not have been the case for her but I suspect it was for others. I don’t know which is the case for sure, but I suspect that she did have some sort of witness because of the fact that she was accepting of it at times. If I recall correctly, I’ve read somewhere about her having received some sort of witness, but I can’t recall where. If I find it, I’ll let you know.

    (2)The only time that the men weren’t there is when the government started breathing down their necks over the practice of polygamy and that wasn’t the entire time they lived in Utah. Who said they “had” to become doctors and property owners. Maybe that’s what they wanted. But they probably wouldn’t have been able to obtain doctorates or property if they didn’t have men to help support them in gaining those things. You have no idea how thin the men were spread or of what they were capable. But whatever hardship it was for them, they did it because they believed it was right. I can’t imagine that they would submit to something so difficult if they didn’t have a sure knowledge that it was a divine commandment. It’s not like it was obeying the word of wisdom or something. We’re talking a burden that many compared to placing themselves on an altar of sacrifice. That’s not something you do as a matter of course.

    (3)In today’s world, yes, it is better for women to stay home to care for their children. But for families of plural marriage, there were multiple mothers who more than likely shared the work of taking care of the children. They were large extended families who could trust one another to love their children and teach them correct principles. It wasn’t like just dropping them at day care. And anyway, maybe it was the women who didn’t have children who were out earning doctorates and working. They may not have even used their education in the workplace. Who knows for sure how it was all worked out and handled? And why is it that you have to nitpick at the smallest insignificant thing that doesn’t really matter to the bottom line here?

    (4)My intent was to defend plural marriage, not to give both sides of the story. Your job has been to present the opposite side of the coin, and that was the purpose of the two posts you’ve done on the subject. My purpose here is to try to prove that plural marriage is a true principle revealed by God.

    (5)I wonder how it all worked out with Adam and Eve? I also wonder how it has worked in the MAJORITY of societies in this world for thousands of years where polygamy has been practiced? Bottom line is that the details don’t matter if God ordains a principle. He knows the details and when we are faithful, things work out.

    (6)I’m not entirely comfortable with the Zina situation, but I don’t know all the facts that she, and her husband, and Joseph, and Brigham knew, so I reserve judgement. I suspect that if there was some kind of wrong done in that situation, her husband would’ve put up a fight over it. He apparently knew something that we don’t.

    (7)No. But why does it matter? You actually think that God has so much trouble communicating with his prophets that He send the government to do his dirty work? You think he communicates better with the governement than his prophets? I suppose an angel with a drawn sword may have gotten the prophets attention. If it couldn’t then heaven help us all.

    (8)I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Brigham that when you get to heaven? My only guess is that maybe a trek across the ocean would’ve proven a bit more difficult than a trek across the country.

    (9)Hee Hee.

  23. True Believing Mormon Heretic? Now I’ve completely gone down the rabbit hole. 😀

    Tara, I find the information you’ve provided fascinating. However, I’ll point out that it still rests on whether Joseph was or was not deceived — since any deceiving spirit capable of deceiving Joseph would not be expected to have a great difficulty in then deceiving many of Joseph’s followers. Your argument there is again somewhat circular: it sounds like Joseph could not be deceived because if he had been deceived he would have known it because he could not be deceived.

  24. FireTag,

    What experience have you had with angels or spirits to be able to say how easy or difficult it is to differentiate between an angel of light or a deceiving spirit? Joseph was a man who was visited by angels and other resurrected beings on a frequent basis. I trust he learned to tell the difference. He stated specifically that the Lord had shown him how to tell the difference. He was also visited several times over the issue because he didn’t want to put the practice into place. As such, I feel pretty confident that he double checked to specifically ensure that he wasn’t being deceived. You can call it circular reasoning all you want, but I’m not sure any other reasoning will convince you because if you won’t believe Joseph himself or the others who received manifestations, I suspect the only thing that will convince you is your own personal manifestation. Have you gotten one? If not, what proof do you have that Joseph WAS deceived?

  25. Just some thoughts on a couple of parts:

    Sister Lightner said: “My husband did not belong to the Church. I begged him and pled with him to join but he would not. He said he did not believe in it, though he thought a great deal of Joseph. He sacrificed his property rather than testify against Joseph, Hyrum and George A. Smith. After he said this, I went forward and was sealed to Joseph for eternity.”

    See, now, whether or not polygamy was a divine principle, I just can’t believe that God sees a non-eternal marriage as being so utterly worthless. In the case of this Sister Lightner and her husband, if we are to believe the story, their marriage was not good in the Lord’s eyes. Their love was irrelevant, really. (Same with Zina’s husband.) I mean, she consciously made the decision to leave her husband — the man she promised to love and honour — for eternity with JS, a man that she couldn’t have loved (unless there was a courtship between the two of them, which would be troubling since she was already married.) So much for doing what you can and enduring to the end and then trusting in the Lord to work things out. I’m trying to imagine leaving my non-member husband and being sealed to my bishop, or stake president, or Thomas S. Monson. What would that say about me? What kind of message would I be sending my husband — and the world for that matter — about how Mormons regard “holy” matrimony. Personally, I find it disgusting that BY had so little regard for Zina’s marriage. So it wasn’t eternal. Was it worthless?

    I have to say that I admire the husband for his honesty. It sounds like he was fair towards JS (he “thought a great deal of him”) and yet he didn’t believe it, and therefore he wouldn’t be baptized. Why should he have given in to her begging and pleading? Imagine if he had. Would it have been better for him to fake having a testimony and then become a member just to appease her? Is that what God really wanted?

    Tara said:

    “In today’s world, yes, it is better for women to stay home to care for their children. But for families of plural marriage, there were multiple mothers who more than likely shared the work of taking care of the children. They were large extended families who could trust one another to love their children and teach them correct principles. It wasn’t like just dropping them at day care.”

    Tara, I used to think just like this. When I first moved to Norway, I was still pretty socially conservative and I thought it was *horrible* that virtually all Norwegian (and Scandinavian, for that matter) women work outside of the home, at least part time. I thought they were selfish and terrible for what I viewed as “dumping” their kids off at daycare and then pursuing a career to satisfy their “selfish desires.”

    Now I see things differently.

    First of all, I think that the most important thing is that women have a choice. I have nothing but admiration for SAHM’s. I grew up with a SAHM and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. But if every woman were like my mom, the world couldn’t function. The world NEEDS women to work outside the home. My line of work (elderly health care) is totally dependent on women and would collapse without it. I work with about 20 other women, and at the moment, 0 men. I think, in fact, that virtually any industry would collapse if all the women stayed at home with their kids for several years. Society needs the contributions and innovative talents of women and some women HAVE to work outside of the home in order to feel fulfilled. I don’t care what Julie Beck says, for some women, it’s simply not enough for them to be at home. If it is, then great! But for a lot of women it’s not and Mormon culture puts A LOT of guilt on these women — especially those who don’t just do it for the money. They have an inner drive to reach their goals and ambitions. And yes, that means that their kids will spend several hours a day at daycare because of their career ambitions. In Norway, even SAHM’s I know send their kids to daycare for at least a few hours a week in order to socialize.

    Don’t get me wrong, kids shouldn’t be living at daycare and I think that parents DO need to spend more time with their kids and of course they need to teach them correct principles. But we’re told to be “in the world but not of it.” Sometimes I think we forget that first part. We need to contribute to the world we live in — and that includes women. Some contribute by raising the next generation at home, while others will become doctors, scientists, and world leaders. I see them as being equally important.

  26. Tara:

    Your argument remains circular to me. If you’ll look at some of the threads MH has put up, and check the links there, you’ll see that there may indeed be evidence that JS himself later became convinced he had been deceived.

    As for convincing me, I’ll admit you’ll probably have to settle for my acceptance of the notion that polygamy in the afterlife is inevitable. I’ll stay monogamous on earth, thanks, since I already have 50 years or so of personal revelations that confirm the general value of monogamy, and too much experience as a minister trying to help people pick op the pieces of their lives when it wasn’t followed.

    What I find wonderous here is that at one point you argue that the evidence of the rightness of polygamy lies in an experience of peace only God’s spirit could bring. Yet you simultaneously rely on an experience in which the Lord’s messenger threatened violence as evidence that Joseph was not deceived.

    I can picture Jesus commanding violence in the greater good; I can’t imagine Him doing it without the greatest sorrow, and never when a simple explanation to his servant would have sufficed (as when Nephi refused to kill Laban). Given that Joseph was practicing polygamy before 1834, I don’t see an angel with a sword threatening Joseph as fitting this category.

    Such an “angel” does sound to me a lot more like the way Lucifer is portrayed in JS’s expansions of Genesis. My spidey-sense is tingling. :>)

  27. Firetag,

    What say you of the angel in Numbers 22:23?

  28. FD,

    I wouldn’t say that God necessarily views temporal marriage as worthless. But we do teach as revelation, that marriages which are not sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise are not of force after mortality. We also teach that a person must have this sealing ordinance in order to obtain exaltation in the highest degree of the CK. My guess is that Sister Lightner probably preferred to be sealed by her own will rather than to leave things to chance. She would’ve had to have that ordinance at some point anyway and I suppose she wanted to be able to choose who she was sealed to. Considering also that because of plural marriage, she had the opportunity (which we don’t have currently) to receive it in this life in addition to her temporal marriage. If after rejecting it here, do we know if she would have the option to obtain it in the hereafter? Perhaps she wouldn’t. And if her husband didn’t accept the gospel here, who’s to say he would in the next life? He may not even get another chance having had the opportunity to accept it here. But if you believe everything will work out in the end, this will too I suppose.

    The topic of whether or not being a SAHM is better than not being one is really not pertinent to this discussion, but since it has been brought up I must strongly disagree that family comes second to society.

  29. Well, Tara, if I don’t see an entirely metaphorical fable designed to teach the futility of a prophet trying to escape God’s will that people be blessed, I see an angel who even then wouldn’t hurt an ass, let alone destroy a prophet who was being disobedient.

  30. FireTag,

    “Metaphorical fable”? What a weak argument. If that’s how you see it, what’s the point of even having this discussion? If one can pick and choose at will what is real or metaphor from the scriptures when no such indication is made in the text, then there is no point in even having a debate. There is no point in debating with people who delegitimize the reality of scriptural passages simply because it doesn’t support their point of view.

    “Wouldn’t even hurt an ass”? But he would’ve slain the prophet Balaam, as was stated in verse 33. But I suppose that’s metaphorical too, correct?

    Metaphor or not, this scripture demonstrates that an angel of the Lord could appear with a drawn sword and it need not be an angel of the devil. That is, unless you have evidence, aside from it being outside your own personal comfort level, that it couldn’t.

  31. I have always found the story of the angel threatening to kill Joseph as troubling. For one thing, the angel threatens that if he doesn’t comply with “the principle,” then he will be struck down. So, he complies, and guess what? He is struck down, in the prime of life, directly related to his compliance with polygamy (and his covering up the practice). If I were JS, I’d be asking for my money back on that one.

  32. Tara:

    If you are a scriptural literalist, then our world views are indeed too different to have a profitable discussion on the topic. You are welcome to your beliefs. The meaning of a metaphor is that the event is not literal, nor is it to be taken that way.

  33. First of all, Tara, it seems like we’re ganging up on you, and that isn’t really my intention. I will say that I am posting a shorter version of this post on Mormon Matters scheduled for Sunday Morning. I expect you’ll have some co-defenders (such as Jared and Jeff–maybe some more.) I don’t know if you’d be interested in seeing other people who defend your point of view–I feel bad that you’re kind of outnumbered here. But you definitely bring some valuable insights.

    So, Tara, do you think it is good for a spouse to leave their husband or wife if they (1) don’t join the church, or (2) leave the church? I think the destruction of the family is much more damaging to one’s salvation than one’s church status. Am I correct in understanding that you believe it is better for Lightner to leave a good husband, in order to get a better husband? Would you advocate this for all women? Do Lightner’s marriage vows (or Zina’s) to her first husband have any importance at all? Would you leave your husband to be sealed to Pres Monson?

    IMO, if the destroying angel came to Joseph, he should have come to Emma as well. I don’t find any of your scenarios in #1 convincing. I could easily say that Emma was the one who had it right, and Joseph was wrong, by providing similar “what if” scenarios.

    It seems to me that you admit that you aren’t trying to objectively look at this issue when you said, “My intent was to defend plural marriage, not to give both sides of the story.” Do you agree?

    It’s funny to me how Balaam keeps ending up in our conversations. I can tell I’m going to need to do a post on this interesting character. Briefly, I think the term “prophet” to describe him is a very loose interpretation. He seems more along the lines of a fortune teller for hire. As such, his vision seems more demonic than angelic, in my opinion. But I’ll save that for another post.

    Sorry to drag Julie Beck into this, but that also sounds like an interesting post idea too. It seems to me that Julie’s view of women, and Brigham’s view of women is radically different. Perhaps I’ll save that for later too.

    Finally, let me ask you these questions. If polygamy is really a true principle of the gospel, and a man can’t enter into the highest order of the Celestial Kingdom without it, then do you think it’s possible that God is trying to restore polygamy with the gay issue? Could it be that God wants polygamy back, and that by allowing gay and polygamist couples to marry, then this is God’s way of bringing polygamy back without the hostility that occurred before? If same sex marriage and polygamy were simultaneously legalized, do you think the church would start polygamist marriages again?

  34. Tara:

    I realized it is not fair to you to simply not respond to you to tell you where we do share beliefs.

    When I try to understand myself well enough to see what is driving my belief decisions, I recognize that personal confirmation of the Spirit through both study and revelation is the most important thing to me. I think from 24 above, that is probably true for you as well. It seems to be for a majority of LDS and CofChrist I have spoken to, but pardon me if my assumption is wrong.

    I have had several powerful experiences in which I believe God was directing my life, but He seems to have directed me in a very different direction than you feel He has directed you. One of those experiences was a “grove” experience at a church camp as a young adolescent when, very angrily after months of wrestling with questions about how God could possibly be loving, I told Him He either showed me an answer or I was going to stop trying to be the “good child”. I walked out of that grove meaning to keep that promise with all my being, and was met by two younger children returning from their evening campfire meeting who couldn’t wait to tell me that their minister had spoken under the influence of the Spirit, “Don’t you Know that I love you? That I have been with you this week?” And I had the peace come over me as a witness of the truth.

    I didn’t have solid personal answers to my questions for another two years; those answers grow and change even today as I learn more. But I knew that God was not the monster I’d begun to imagine Him to be.

    I’ve had experiences with evil that joyed in the destruction of the innocent, until I wanted to lash out at it and destroy it in return. And when that happened, I’ve sometimes had the experience of the Spirit coming over me as described in the vision of Enoch, and sensing overwhelming sorrow about the soul that had become so corrupted it would refuse to be saved. I know that God sorrows; He does not rage when He judges, and Satanic forces never feel sorrow toward another at all, even their allies.

    And I’ve had the experience of being shown my wife before I ever met her as an adult, so that I would know that I would not have to go through life alone in order to do what God wanted of me.

    The second thing that drives my beliefs is what I have learned in science. The two are not inconsistent in priority for me. I became a physicist because of what I believe to be an inspired dream in which the Lord commanded me to study science after telling me “Science is part of my divine plan.” I had not even planned to study physics; I didn’t need it for my planned career path., but the very next day, I was called on to commit between physics and an English lit course, and the only way to respond to the command was to choose physics. So I did, and my life changed. For me to ignore what science finds about the Scriptures and the world in favor of a literalist interpretation would, BECAUSE OF MY PERSONAL REVELATION, be rebellion to what the Lord commanded ME.

    The third thing that drives me are the testimonies of those who have proven themselves (by standards 1 and/or 2) as my most reliable guides in seeking the truth. My parents and grandparents, of course, stand at the top of the list of those guides, and have shared with me their experiences of conversion and, sometimes, of love even when not sharing my religious beliefs.

    Only fourth, but still deeply, do I try to be guided by the Scriptures. I say fourth in recognition of the truth that the books I consider Scripture are those my parents taught me to regard as Scripture. I do not regard scriptures from Islam or Bhuddism or Hinduism as scriptural without forming an opinion because I have too much in my own canon to study without tweaks to do so from higher up the priority list.

    If I had been born Baptist, I probably would have felt the same way about the BofM and D&C.

    We may be different in that priority and in what we accept as part of our Scriptural canons. I suspect you might switch my second and fourth priorities based on your personal revelation or testimonies of your mentors, for example. I think, however, that we may both be the same in trying to be committed to what we believe despite pressures to the contrary. I can very much respect you for that.

  35. FireTag in 26–I need to do an official post on some of the alleged conversations Joseph had about abandoning polygamy. I’ve discovered it in two different books.

  36. “If after rejecting it here, do we know if she would have the option to obtain it in the hereafter? Perhaps she wouldn’t. And if her husband didn’t accept the gospel here, who’s to say he would in the next life? He may not even get another chance having had the opportunity to accept it here. But if you believe everything will work out in the end, this will too I suppose.”

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with what “I believe.” At church we’re usually told to just be good, endure to the end, and God will take care of the details (especially in the cases of those who never find a husband/wife). But that’s not what some of these polygamists did. They seemed to feel that this life was their only chance to make it happen, so they better do it, even if it means leaving their earthly spouses. Has the Gospel changed since then? Or just the rhetoric? Being married to a non-member, my husband and I have definitely felt the pressure first-hand to “upgrade” our marriage to a “better” one as Russell M. Nelson would put it 🙂 , but I have to be honest, I’ve never felt pressured to actually leave my husband for a man in the Church.

    “I must strongly disagree that family comes second to society.”

    That’s not what I said, Tara. I don’t believe that family comes second. What I do believe is that we need balance and that it’s not the best decision for ALL women/mothers to stay at home with their kids. For some, yes, but not all. Women need to contribute to society in other ways than simply being mothers. In fact, the world is dependent on it. So that was my argument.

  37. FireTag,

    I understand the concept of metaphor, thanks.

    MH and FD,

    Whoever said that Sister Lightner LEFT her husband? Do we not remember that some women were sealed for eternity to Joseph while continuing to live with their husbands?

    Since when does the prophet AND his wife receive visitations from heavenly beings? When has that ever been a requirement? The reason the angel appeared to Joseph, was that as prophet, he was the one reqired to introduce the doctrine, and he kept putting it off. I could easily ask why shouldn’t everyone who was going to be expected to live such a hard commandment as plural marriage receive a visitation by an angel with a drawn sword? But come on MH, can we please have a discussion without introducing fruitless arguments which require us to try and discern the mind of God?

    I HAVE looked objectively at plural marriage in the past and I came to my own conclusions about it. My intent HERE is to defend it.

    MH and FireTag,

    And you can call Balaam whatever you like. Fact is there was an angel with a drawn sword in the account. Will no one admit that? And will everyone stick their heads in the sand and still say that there’s no such thing as an angel of the Lord with a drawn sword? Even if it is metaphorical, it is still representative of the truth or else it wouldn’t be instructive. Can we at least admit that? And, since everyone is certain that angels don’t appear with a drawn sword, can anyone point to evidence that angels of the Lord can only come in the form of goodness and love and warm fuzzies?

    Here’s a link to a discourse by Joseph Smith which demonstrates that he had a thorough understanding of how to discern between and angel of the Lord and a deceiving spirit: http://www.hopeofzion.com/articles/try_the_spirits.htm


    The only time plural marriage is a requirement for entrance in the CK is when it is a commandment. It may not even be found in the CK as we know it. And no, I don’t believe that God is trying to reestablish plural marriage through the homosexual marriage issue. The church will only reestablish plural marriage if the Lord commands it, regardless of what the rest of the world does.


    I know that isn’t what you meant. But as a firm believer in the free market, the world would be just fine (if not truly better off) if all mothers decided to stay home and raise their children. Everything would work out, believe it or not. I mean, what did the world do before large numbers of women entered the workplace? That isn’t to say that women don’t make wonderful contributions to society outside of motherhood. That isn’t to say that the world isn’t a better place because of women and their talents and abilities. It is only to say that we shouldn’t use the excuse that the world needs some of us to work more than it needs us to be mothers. That notion puts family second, IMO. And I understand that there are family situations which require mothers to work. I have no problem with that. I only believe that being a SAHM is the “ideal” and that should be the goal.

  38. Sorry Tara, I misspoke concerning Lightner. But here is some other troubling information about her from Carter, Kate (1962). Our Pioneer Heritage. Salt Lake City, UT: Daughters of Utah Pioneers. pp. 308. Does her young age bother you?

    (9 April 1818 in Lima, New York–17 December 1913 in Minersville, Utah) Claimed that Smith had a private conversation with her in 1831 when she was twelve years old,[Newell & Avery 1994, pp. 65][Compton 1997]

    [At age 12 in 1831], [Smith] told me about his great vision concerning me. He said I was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife. … In 1834 he was commanded to take me for a Wife … [In 1842 I] went forward and was sealed to him. [Brigham Young performed the sealing … for time, and all Eternity. I did just as Joseph told me to do[.]

    After Smith’s death, she would go on to become the twenty-fourth plural wife of LDS Prophet Brigham Young. They married in 1845 and she bore him no children. Mary Elizabeth and her sister Caroline were also instrumental in salvaging printed pages of the Book of Commandments when the printing press was destroyed by a mob on 20 July 1833.[36]

    Joseph was 25, and propositioning a 12 year old? You don’t see a problem with that? Regardless that I misspoke, you still didn’t address whether you found it proper for Zina to leave her husband, or whether her marriage vows were at all significant. Doesn’t this situation look eerily similar to Warren Jeffs giving/removing polygamist wives? It sure does look similar to me.

    Perhaps it is an unfair question to try to ascertain the will of God. But nonetheless, we are all entitled to revelation, including Emma. If Joseph was to be killed for disobeying polygamy, why not Emma as well? And Hawkgrrrl’s question stating that Joseph was killed anyway seems to have put him in a no-win situation, doesn’t it? He was going to die whether he lived polygamy or not.

    Even though you don’t think the current issue of SSM/polygamy is not God-inspired, let me ask you a hypothetical question. If polygamy was made legal today, would the church restart polygamist marriages? Why or why not? Also, do you think God inspired Abraham Lincoln to abolish slavery? Does God use government leaders like George Washington?

  39. Here also is some additional teachings of Joseph Smith about how to tell the difference between angels of God and false spirits. It comes from “Revelations of the Restoration”, by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler. This exerpt gives insight into D&C 129.

    True religion, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, is one of individual participation. If one man can dream dreams, see visions, entertain angels, or stand in the presence of God, so can all others by complying with the same principles. Thus, it was necessary to educate the Saints that they not be deceived by counterfeit revelations or by the devil appearing as an angel of light. As previous revelations had been given to teach the Saints how to distinguish a true revelation from a false one, this revelation announced principles or keys by which the devil or one of his own could be discerned when posing as a messenger from God.

    When the Prophet first learned these principles is not known. We can be confident, however, that it was some time before this section was recorded. Given that all priesthood and keys restored in this dispensation were conferred upon the Prophet by angelic ministrants, and given Satan’s insatiable desire to deceive, the keys of discernment must have been given to Joseph Smith quite early. As it is presently found in the Doctrine and Covenants, this sections comes from the journal of William Clayton. He recorded it as the Prophet gave it in conversation with Parley P. Pratt, who had just returned from a mission in England. It was first included in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (Cook, Revelations, 286).

    Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal on 22 June 1839 as part of the instruction given to the Twelve by the Prophet prior to their departure for a mission to England:

    “In order to detect the devel when he transforms himself nigh unto an angel of light. When an angel of God appears unto man face to face in personage & reaches out his hand unto the man & he takes hold of the angels hand & feels a substance the Same as one man would in shaking hands with another he may then know that it is an angel of God, & he should place all Confidence in him Such personages or angels are Saints with there resurrected Bodies, but if a personage appears unto man & offers him his hand & the man takes hold of it & he feels nothing or does not sens[e] any substance he may know it is the devel, for when a Saint whose body is not resurrected appears unto man in the flesh he will not offer him his hand for this is against the law given him” (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 6).

    On 2 July of the same year, the Prophet taught that “an angel of God never has wings. Some will say that they have seen a spirit; that he offered them his hand, but they did not touch it. This is a lie. First, it is contrary to the plan of God; a spirit cannot come but in glory; an angel has flesh and bones; we see not their glory. The devil may appear as an angel of light. Ask God to reveal it; if it be of the devil, he will flee from you; if God, he will manifest Himself, or make it manifest” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 162).

    The version of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s instructions contained in this section (D&C 129) was given for the benefit of Elder Parley P. Pratt. The Prophet’s earlier instructions to the Twelve in late June and early July 1839 concerning the keys to discern angels of God and angels of the devil had been given after Joseph and his fellow prisoners were set free from Liberty Jail but while Elder Pratt was still in the jail at Richmond, Missouri, so he missed this instruction. Following his return from England, where he had remained a year and a half longer than the other apostles, presiding over the Saints there and serving as editor of the Church publication, the Millenial Star, Elder Pratt and the Prophet Joseph visited for the better part of the afternoon. The following day, when these instructions were given, the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded in his journal: “Spent most of the day in conversation with Parley P. Pratt and others” (History of the Church, 5:267). As part of these instructions, the Prophet told of a man who came to him “in Kirtland,” saying he had seen an angel and described his dress. “I told him,” the Prophet said, “he had seen no angel, and that there was no such dress in heaven. He grew mad, and went into the street and commanded fire to come down out of heaven to consume me. I laughed at him, and said, You are one of Baal’s prophets; your God does not hear you; jump up and cut yourself: and he commanded fire from heaven to consume my house” (Smith, History of the Church, 5:267-68).

    The Prophet recorded that Michael (Adam) appeared to him “on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!” (D&C 128:20). It would appear that this experience took place while Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon in Harmony, Pennsylvania. It was here that John the Baptist restored to the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery the “keys of the ministering of angels” (Joseph Smith–History 1:69; D&C 13:1). Thus, the right to receive the ministration of angels and the ability to discern true messengers of God from counterfeits came before the Church was organized.

    Speaking to the Saints in the grove on Sunday, 1 May 1842, the Prophet said, “The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages my be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed….There are signs in heaven, earth and hell; the Elders must know them all, to be endowed with power to finish their work and prevent imposition” (Smith, History of the Church, 4:608).

    So from all of this and the article I linked to, it appears that there are numerous ways to tell the difference between angels of God and deceiving spirits. I don’t think Joseph was as easily deceived as some of you have suggested. If he could still be deceived in spite of all of this knowledge, the power of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood, and the keys of the ministering of angels, then how can anyone be reasonably expected to be able to prevent being deceived? It seems we can trust no one, not even ourselves. It seems the only other possible explanation is that he was a fallen prophet and he lied.

  40. I’m through with trying to defend all the reasons behind who married who and why and what if. I’m wasting my time with all that. I don’t have a crystal ball to be able to read those people’s minds or to be able to discern God’s will in those situations or if he even had anything to do with those situations. Enough speculation. I trust that the prophets did their best to do what is right even if it doesn’t look right to us.

    If polygamy was made legal today, would the church restart polygamist marriages?

    I already answered that. Here is what I said, “The church will only reestablish plural marriage if the Lord commands it, regardless of what the rest of the world does.”

    Also, do you think God inspired Abraham Lincoln to abolish slavery? Does God use government leaders like George Washington?


  41. I know that Sister Lightner and others probably didn’t LEAVE their husbands physically, as it appears that Zina did, but they “left” them for eternity. And that makes me wonder how “there” they were for their temporal husbands. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if I were to believe that if I die, that’s the last I’ll ever see of my husband and in the next life I’ll be with someone else for eternity, and that my life with my husband becomes worthless and irrelevant. Let’s say that Sister Lightner’s husband accepted the Gospel in the next life. It wouldn’t have done them any good, would it? Because she had already been sealed away to another man.

    “But as a firm believer in the free market, the world would be just fine (if not truly better off) if all mothers decided to stay home and raise their children. Everything would work out, believe it or not.”

    I agree that more mothers (and fathers for that matter) should consider working part time, or not at all if possible, to stay at home with their kids at least for a few years. But I disagree that it’s the “ideal” for everyone. I think a lot of LDS women put themselves through a lot of guilt and sometimes even depression for staying at home with their kids when working part time outside of the home would help them and society. My line of work is totally dependent on that. I disagree that “everything would work out” if all mothers dropped out of the workforce. The health care sector alone would be totally devastated and unable to function. And I’m sure it’s the case with almost every industry in today’s world.

    “I mean, what did the world do before large numbers of women entered the workplace?”

    You’re right, the world still turned and society functioned, but there’s no way that the world would be what it is today if women dropped out of the workforce. I suppose if you think that the way of life back in the old days was better than it is today, you’re right. But if we want to progress and have modern conveniences like stores, hospitals, banks, and all of the technology and innovations that have benefitted the human race, we need women to contribute in more ways than giving birth and raising the next generation. And the Church can encourage women to get all the education they want, but in today’s world if you don’t “use it, you lose it.” I’ve seen girls go to university and become teachers, nurses, financial advisers, and specialists in other fields, only to get married and never work outside of the home. If they don’t use their education, it won’t be worth much if they’ve been a SAHM for 15-20 years and suddenly find themselves having to get a job. Who wants to hire a 40 year old with an MBA or BA who has never actually worked for the last 20 years?

    So, my point is that it’s a personal decision what people and families decide to do about work. It’s annoying when feminists demean SAHM’s, isn’t it? I think it is. But I think it’s just as annoying when Mormons demean women who choose to work outside of the home. We should be grateful for both and realize that each family has their own “ideal” according to their individual needs/desires.

  42. MH,

    And Hawkgrrrl’s question stating that Joseph was killed anyway seems to have put him in a no-win situation, doesn’t it? He was going to die whether he lived polygamy or not.

    Yeah, I suppose he could’ve just said, “No thanks, I think I will just die now rather than a few years down the road, and forget my hopes of obtaining celestial glory so that I don’t have to obey this plural marriage crap. Do your worst, sir.”


    Okay, so you picture Sister Lightner pining away for Joseph and just biding her time with her earthly husband? Do you not even consider that maybe she loved her husband very much, but in order to ensure salvation for herself and her children, she did what she thought was best in spite of what she really wanted? I guess in our lives of ease and convenience, we just have no idea what it means to make hard decisions and sacrifice everything for what we believe. My best guess is that her husband had his chance to accept the gospel, but if he gets another chance, I wouldn’t be suprised if they were able to be sealed if that’s what they want. But like I said earlier, had Sister Lightner passed up the opportunity to be sealed, knowing it was a requirement, she might not get another opportunity. It is indeed better to be safe than sorry. If we are obedient, everything will work out in the end.

    As far as your husband goes, who said you would never see him again? Do you not know that beings from higher kingdoms can visit lower kingdoms? And you don’t have to be with someone else forever if that isn’t what you want. But I doubt you will view your relationship with your husband as irrelevant. We take our memories with us, and I’m sure if they are good ones, they will still be meaningful to you. Have faith. I don’t think you will be unhappy. Just do what is right and everything will work out for the best.

  43. Faithful:

    “Just do what is right and everything will work out for the best.”

    Sounds to me like you and your husband have a pretty good handle on that already. Of course, that’s only me, the CofChrist apostate talking. 😀

  44. Tara, I can see my questions are proving to be a source of irritation to you. Perhaps we should just leave this alone, and realize that we just disagree on this.

  45. I am curious why you answered “possibly” to my Lincoln question. Could you expound a little as to why you think God might not have inspired Lincoln?

  46. BiV did a post documenting alleged children sired by Joseph. Check it out at http://mormonmatters.org/2008/12/11/populating-worlds-joseph-smiths-legacy/

  47. “Okay, so you picture Sister Lightner pining away for Joseph and just biding her time with her earthly husband?”

    That’s not what I meant, but I can understand why you got that impression from my comment. So I apologize about that. Actually, what I thought was that her reaction was the opposite of “pining.” I’m just trying to imagine it myself from her point of view. If I knew that as soon as I die I’m going to be with Thomas S. Monson for eternity, I think it would affect my marriage with my husband. Not because I’m “pining away” for the prophet, but because it would just feel so weird. I would feel sad if I believed that for me and my husband, this life is all that we’ve got together. I know that most Mormons would say that is the case, since we haven’t been married in the temple. Maybe they’re right. I don’t know. I just don’t believe it. I used to, and to be honest, it made me depressed. It could have caused problems in our marriage. It almost did, because of a few over-zealous members who pushed baptism on my husband, who feels like Sister Lightner’s husband. It’s hard for a lot of “outsiders” to deal with the weird things in Mormonism. It’s hard for us “insiders” as well. 🙂 Anyways, my point was that I think that it would cause problems in my marriage if I and my husband knew that he was going to lose me for eternity to the prophet. I can’t imagine anyone truly being OK with it.

    “Do you not even consider that maybe she loved her husband very much, but in order to ensure salvation for herself and her children, she did what she thought was best in spite of what she really wanted?”

    Yes, I can consider that. If baffles me, but I trust that she did what she thought was best. Her obedience is mind-blowing and a part of me really admires that. What I don’t admire, frankly, is the audacity of the prophets in how they laid claim on some of these sisters. I have a real problem with respecting that, to be perfectly honest.

    “I guess in our lives of ease and convenience, we just have no idea what it means to make hard decisions and sacrifice everything for what we believe.”

    You’re right, I haven’t been asked to sacrifice everything for my faith. I think there are limitations to my obedience. I’m not sure whether that makes me strong or weak in God’s eyes. After studying Mormon history, I think I can say pretty confidently that there’s no way I would have followed BY west. As well, I think I would have probably written of JS as a prophet as well, at least if I had been a personal witness to polygamy. I have a hard enough time reconciling all this stuff now. I think it would have been all the more harder if I had witnessed it first-hand. I used to view Emma Smith as being kind of “weak” because she didn’t “endure to the end.” Now I have nothing but admiration and pity for her.

    “But like I said earlier, had Sister Lightner passed up the opportunity to be sealed, knowing it was a requirement, she might not get another opportunity. It is indeed better to be safe than sorry.”

    I think you’re probably right about her thought process. She wanted to be “safe” and she wanted to be obedient. I admire her be willing to submit like that. I guess I just don’t admire the fact that any God or man claiming to be speaking for God would require such a thing from her. I just can’t accept that God wants to break up marriages, temporal or not, and seal people to each other for eternity who don’t even love or know each other. I can’t believe it’s what God really wanted from them or from us, and so that’s why I think the whole polygamy business was simply a big mistake.

  48. MH,

    I think that part of my frustration is that I feel like I’m seeing this bigger picture and everyone else seems to want to focus on peripheral issues which can neither prove nor disprove that plural marriage was inspired. It can only prove to us whether or not we like the practice or think it will work successfully and we shouldn’t judge doctrine on such a basis. If God inspired it, those things shouldn’t matter.

    I’ve calmed down today though, but I must say that I am disappointed that you still believe Joseph was deceived when the evidence strongly suggests that Joseph knew how to tell a deceiving spirit from an angel of the Lord. As I said at Mormon Matters, I just don’t see how God can overlook serious sins such as unauthorized plural marriage and not take action to keep the Saints from going so seriously off track. That is illogical to me. The Lord reprimanded Jonah and might have let him die for disobeying. Joseph had his gift of translating taken away for a time over the issue of the lost 116 pages. Hiram Page was corrected when he was deceived by Satan. David Whitmer was chastized by the Lord. I could go on. But by comparison, these were small in comparison to plural marriage, yet the Lord saw fit to chastize and set things straight. But he says nothing about plural marriage being wrong? Nothing in all these many years? Please tell me how this is supposed to make sense to you.


    I understand that it can all be very baffling. All I can say is to never stop doing what is right. Don’t close your mind to what the prophets have said is inspired just because it doesn’t make sense to you. Reserve judgement and open your heart to a better understanding.

    When I first learned of plural marriage and that we might be required to live it in the future here or in heaven, it took me a little while to digest that possibility, but then I decided that if that’s what it took to live with God, I would do it, even if it was hard. Years later, after I considered it some more and had a chance to consider what that really meant did I decide that I didn’t think I could live with God if that’s what I had to do. It was only when I took on the task of defending plural marriage to non-members or less-actives, and studying the apologetic side of it that I came to understand it and gained a testimony of it. I had a very powerful spiritual experience in which it finally “clicked” and I knew that I could live such a principle if the Lord asked me to even in spite of how difficult it might be. That experience helped me develop an even firmer commitment to following the Lord in spite of extreme difficulty. I am so grateful for how much stronger I feel and how much more at peace that I am and how much more I am able to see God’s love for us, though I would’ve never thought that I didn’t have a complete understanding of that. Perhaps that is part of my frustration here. I just wish you all could “see” what I have seen.

  49. Clarification: “though I would’ve never thought that I didn’t have agood understanding of that already.”

  50. Tara,

    I think we’ve tried hard enough to convince each other of our point of view. I don’t think you’re looking at this objectively, you think I’m not seeing the bigger picture. I guess we’ll have to call it a draw.

    As for the destroying angel, let me talk about the First Vision for a minute. We all assume the Joseph Smith History 1:15 talks about the Devil just before he sees God and Jesus,

    “15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
    16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction— not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being

    Now, isn’t it interesting that the devil would be part of the First Vision? Doesn’t the destroying angel sound much more like this than the following, which literally continues in the same verse 16,

    — just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
    17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other— This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

    Then in verse 20,

    It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?

    Are we to think the devil was going to try to quit interfering in Joseph’s life? Isn’t it interesting that Joseph went to pray, and the Devil first came upon him? While Joseph should be aware of a true vs counterfeit vision, I’m not aware of Joseph asking to shake hands with the Destroying Angel. Are you aware of this? Would you say, “Well I know you just told me you’re going to kill me, but can I shake your hand first to make sure you’re real?”

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