If one searches around the bloggernacle, you’ll find a snarky comment about how the church traded polygamy for statehood, or that the church just wimped-out on polygamy. Such comments don’t seem to take into account how much pressure the US government was putting on the church–it was literally trying to snuff it out if the church didn’t back down from polygamy. I’d like to get into some of these details leading up to the Manifesto. I talked about the Manifesto previously in the context of whether the prophet would ever lead the church astray. It should be noted that the church had been fighting anti-polygamy legislation for nearly 30 years, so I think it should be noted that the Manifesto banning polygamy in 1890 was not a spur-of-the-moment quick capitulation. UPDATE: I just finished Forgotten Kingdom, and I want to add some additional information. I’ve highlighted this in purple below.
While polygamy was practiced during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, it was a secret doctrine. Rumors of Joseph’s polygamy occur in the Kirtland Era of the early 1830’s. The preface to section 132 in the Doctrine & Covenants reads:
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, as also plurality of wives. HC 5: 501â€“507. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.
The practice was not announced publicly until 1852, and the actual revelation was not added to the D&C until 1876. I talked about the Nauvoo Expositor, which published allegations of Joseph’s polygamy. Joseph directed the press be destroyed, which resulted in his arrest and eventual murder at the Carthage Jail.
What is most ironic in all this is Utah’s support of the Republican Party, which was founded June 17, 1856. As part of the initial convention, the platform adopted which included a pointed reference to polygamy.
The delegates got right down to business the first day by adopting a platform. The key plank was firm opposition to the extension of slavery. “It is the duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.” The polygamy reference was aimed at the Mormon settlement in Utah territory.
It should be noted that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President of the US. Prior to becoming a Republican, Lincoln served as a member of the US House of Representatives from Illinois (1847-1849) in the Whig party. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln’s first priority was slavery, so he did not spend much time worrying about the polygamy issue. However, in 1862, Lincoln signed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which (from Wikipedia)
banned plural marriage and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000. The act targeted the Mormon church ownership in the Utah territory. The measure had no funds allocated for enforcement, and President Lincoln chose not enforce this law; instead Lincoln gave Brigham Young tacit permission to ignore the Morrill Act in exchange for not becoming involved with the Civil War. General Patrick Edward Connor, commanding officer of the federal forces garrisoned at Fort Douglas, Utah beginning in 1862 was explicitly instructed not to confront the Mormons over this or any other issue.
The footnote at Wikipedia is especially interesting. Quoting from the book, Firmage, Edwin Brown; Mangrum, Richard Collin (2001), Zion in the courts, University of Illinois Press, p. 139, ISBN 0252069803, http://books.google.com/books?id=9AimifP2a-4C,
“Having signed the Morrill Act, Abraham Lincoln reportedly compared the Mormon Church to a log he had encountered as a farmer that was ‘too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plow around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone.'”
I’ve been reading a book called Forgotten Kingdom by David Bigler, and General Connor plays prominently in that book. He felt the Mormons were treasonous, and did not like them. But I’ll save that for another post….
If the church had capitulated at this point, I can understand critics who say that the church traded polygamy for statehood. The church had been applying for statehood for 40 years when it finally happened, and were always ignored by Congress. In fact, the state of Utah is less than half the size of the original terriotory of Deseret. Congress split the Deseret Territory, and created the territory of Nevada. Congress continued to take away slices of Utah and added them to Nevada in 1861, 1864, and 1866. Check out this map. Nevada even became a state before Utah, even though it was created after Utah.
Utah continued to practice polygamy in defiance of federal law for another 20 years following the Morrill Act. Congress made several attempts to handle “The Mormon Question. Great Basin Kingdom, by Leonard Arrington (former church historian) documents some of these laws on page 357. (Much more detail is there.)
- The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 – passed.
- The Wade Act of 1866- failed to pass. It would have prohibited church officers from solemnizing marriages, would have taxed the church, taken over the Nauvoo Legion, and sent federal officials to take over all government responsibilities, among other things.
- The Cullom Bill of 1869-70 – passed House but failed Senate. Plural wives would have been deprived of immunity as witnesses involving their husband. It would have authorized the President to send army of 25,000 to Utah, and would confiscate all property of any Mormon.
- The Ashley Bill of 1869 – failed to pass. Here’s an exact quote: “The bill provided for “the dismemberment” of Utah by transferring large slices of it to Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado.”
- The Poland Act of 1874 – passed. Gave federal attorney general and federal jurisdiction over criminal, civil and chancery (equity) cases in Utah.
- The Edmunds Act of 1882 – passed. Quoting from page 358, the act
“put teeth” in the 1862 law and attempted to eliminate the Mormon Church as a power in Utah by vesting the political machinery of the territory in federal non-Mormon appointive officers. Specifically, the Edmunds Act provided heavy penalties for the practice of polygamy: defined cohabitation with a polygamous wife as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $300, by imprisonment not to exceed six months, or both; declared all persons guilty of polygamy or cohabitation incompetent for jury service; and disfranchised and declared ineligible for public office all persons guilty of polygamy or unlawful cohabitation…all elective offices were declared vacant…persons professing belief in polygamy or cohabitation as a religious principle, whether or not proved guilty of their practice, were ineligible to vote and to hold public office…in the first year of its existence it had excluded some 12,000 men and women from registration and voting.
there was widespread belief that the Edmunds Act was unconstitutional. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or interfering with the free exercise thereof” read the Constitution, and plural marriage was a holy, religious principle to the Mormons….When Rudger Clawson, a leader of the community of Brigham City, and later to become one of the Twelve Apostles of the church, was convicted of polygamy in October 1884, deputies began to move through the territory gathering evidence against polygamists. And when, on March 3, 1885, the Supreme Court denied Clawson’s appeal and upheld the constitutionality of the law, territorial officials commenced the intensive prosecution of Mormon leaders in Utah and elsewhere known as “The Raid.”
Polygamous marriage being difficult to establish in the courts, the most common charge against the Mormons what of unlawful cohabitation, punishable by a $300 fine or six months in jail, or both.
There were 1,004 convictions for unlawful cohabitation under the Edmunds Act between 1884 and 1893, and another 31 for polygamy, but these hardly measure the magnitude of the effect of the Act upon Mormon society. The period from 1885 to 1890 was marked by intensive “polyg hunts” for “cohabs.” Officials of the church made a grave decision to fight each and every charge under the law. Having taken sacred covenants to remain true to their wives “for time and all eternity,” they regarded it as unthinkable that they should desert these women in order to avoid punishment provided in the law of Babylon. Accordingly, when it became clear early in 1885 that rigorous enforcement and interpretation of the law were to be held constitutional, church leaders–nearly all of whom had one or more plural wives–went “underground.” Leading out in this action was the church president, John Taylor, whose last public appearance was in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, February 1, 1885. President Taylor died while in hiding on July 25, 1887–a martyr, so the Mormons thought, to the principle of his faith.
With almost all leaders of Latter-day Saint communities in prison or in hiding, business establishments were abandoned, or were kept in operation by inexperienced wives and children. The ownership of the co-operatives drifted into the hands of a few individuals and eventually were converted into private enterprises. Those United Orders which had survived until this period were discontinued. There were no further meetings of Zion’s Central Board of Trade. Almost every business history, in short, shows stagnation; almost every family history records widespread suffering and misery. Above all, the church, as prime stimulator, financier, and regulator of the Mormon economy, was forced to withdraw from participation in most phases of activity. The Raid, in other words, was a period of crippled group activity of every type, of decline in cooperative trade and industry–a period when, above all, church economic support was essential but not forthcoming–a period when planning would have saved much, but when planners dared not plan.
A more despairing situation than theirs, at that hour, has never been faced by an American community. Practically every Mormon man of any distinction was in prison, or had just served his term, or had escaped into exile. Hundreds of Mormon women had left their homes and their children to flee from the officers of the law; many had been behind prison bars for refusing to answer the questions put to them in court; more were concealed, like outlaws, in the houses of friends…Old men were coming out of prison, broken in health.
The Edmunds-Tucker Act
Nevertheless, the Edmunds Law was unable to force a change in the attitude of Latter-day Saint authorities. It was an unwilling cross, but one which the create majority of members seemed prepared to bear rather than yield on what they regarded a religious principle. Congress therefore moved almost immediately to increase the pressure, and after considering several proposals during a number of sessions, adopted, on February 19, 1887, an amendment to the 1862 law known as the Edmunds-Tucker Act. Enacted into law without the signature of President Grover Cleveland, this “Anti-Polygamy Act,” as it was entitled, amended the 1862 law to provide as follows:
1. That the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, insofar as it had, or pretended to have, any legal existence, was dissolved. The United States Attorney General was directed to instituted proceedings to accomplish dissolution.
2. That the Attorney General institute proceedings to forfeit and escheat all property, both real and personal, of the dissolved church corporation held in violation of the 1862 limitation of $50,000, which was reaffirmed. The property was to be disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior and the proceeds applied to the use and benefit of the district schools of Utah.
The books continues on, with 3 more items, including the abolition of women suffrage. (Utah was the first or second state to allow women to vote–quite progressive, eh?) I want to point out that as a result of the 1862 legislation prohibiting the church from owning more that $50,000 in property, most of the properties were put into the title of individual church leaders. Continuing from page 361,
The Edmunds-Tucker Act was a direct bid to destroy the temporal power of the Mormon Church. Congressional leaders reasoned that the church would have to yield on the principle of plural marriage or suffer destruction as an organization of power and influence. Church leaders did not see the matter in this light, however. They believed (and were supported in this belief by several constitutional lawyers of national reputation) that several features of the Edmunds-Tucker Act were unconstitutional. They further declared that they could not revoke the principle of polygamy: Only God could do that; and, if He so decided, He would do so by direct revelation to the church–not by prohibitory national legislation. Just as they had refused to surrender on the issue of plural marriage after the passage of the Edmunds Act, they now refused to surrender the role of trustee-in-trust in the world of business.
The book details how many properties, including the Tithing Office, were placed or sold into private church members and/or stake hands, and hidden as much as possible. A series of legal battles ensued as federal officials tried to track down church assets. However, the government did uncover many of these transactions, and took control of the assets. Arrington goes into great detail about many of these trials. A trustee was appointed, and he charged enormous fees to maintain records of these properties. He was removed later, but many of the church properties were squandered as payment for his services. From page 376,
administration officials, and Senator Edmunds and the Committee on Territories began to express a not unnatural interest in the handling of the properties confiscated. In general, they were alarmed at the manner in which the receivership were eating into the fund.
Four days after the above letter was written, Dyer resigned from the position of receiver…
In January 1889, the church challenged the constitutionality of the confiscated properties, but lost again in the Supreme Court. From page 375,
The court stated that the church had taken property dedicated to religious and charitable uses and had devoted it to spread and promote the doctrines of the church, “one of the distinguishing features” of which was polygamy–“a crime against the laws, and abhorrent to the sentiments and feelings of the civilized world.” The state had “a perfect right to prohibit polygamy” and to apply the misdirected church properties to “other charitable objects.”
The majority Supreme Court opinion read,
“Under these circumstances we have no doubt of the power of Congress to do as it did.”
However, the opinion was not unanimous. Chief Justice Fuller and associate justices Field and Lamar
wrote a short but vigorous dissent based on the States’ Rights doctrine which had reached its farthest in the Dred Scott decision. Wrote the Chief Justice:
In my opinion, Congress is restrained, nor merely by the limitations expressed in the Constitution, but also by the absence of any grant of power, express or implied in that instrument…. If this property was accumulated for purposes declared illegal, that does not justify its arbitrary disposition by judicial legislation. In my judgment, its diversion under this Act of Congress is in contravention of specific limitations in the Constitution; unauthorized, expressly or by implication, by any of its provisions; and in disregard of the fundamental principle that the legislative power of the United States, as exercised by the agents of the people of this Republic, is delegated and not inherent.
From page 377,
The second effect of the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Edmunds-Tucker Act was the church “Manifesto” proclaiming an end to the performance of plural marriage.
The Supreme Court decision on May 19, 1890 was nearly the final blow. David Bigler, author of Forgotten Kingdom page 354 outlines an even more ominous problem.
What made this ruling truly ominous was the appointment two months later of Henry W. Lawrence, a leader of the Godbeite schism, as receiver of church property. He replace the moderate former U.S. marshal Frank H. Dyer, who had earlier agreed to keep hands off the church’s temples under the provision of the law that exempted building used exclusively for “the worship of God.” The Utah Supreme Court had approved this determination. Now Lawrence and U.S. attorney Charles Varian, reappointed in 1889 by President Harrison, made it known they intended to overturn the agreement on the ground that temples in Logan, St. George, and Manti did not qualify for exemption since they were not places of public worship. If upheld, this move would lead to confiscation of the church’s holiest places, where its most sacred ordinances were performed, including marriages.
Arrington writes in Great Basin Kingdom on page 355 that Church president Wilford Woodruff wrote in his journal on Sept 25, 1890,
“I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church…where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.” On that date, just four months after the fateful decision of the Supreme Court, President Woodruff issued the “Official Declaration” which proclaimed the end of polygamy among the Mormons:
Inasamuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
In the October 6 session of the general conference of the church, the congregation “unanimously sustained” this declaration as “authoritative and binding.” Polygamy no longer had official sanction.
Forgotten Kingdom adds additional detail here. From page 356,
While many treated the manifesto with skepticism, one who took it at face value was the magistrate who had sent more men to prison for violating the marriage laws than anyone else. The day after it was sustained, Judge Charles Zane on October 7 said that he would record the church “opposed to polygamy hereafter, unless something happened to change my opinion,” and he began only to fine violators, but not impose prison time. [Footnote 55 goes further: In a pointed reminder that the manifesto was not issued as a revelation, Governor Thomas said that “we must not forget that they have been taught to believe and do believe that when their leaders speaks with a ‘thus saith the Lord’ he but gives utterance to the will of the Divine Master.” The Utah Commission in September 1891 reported eighteen alleged polygamous marriages over the prior year. See Report of the Governor of Utah, 1891, House Exec. Doc. 1, 412, 425.]
Arrington, author of Great Basin Kingdom concurs with Bigler. He continues on page 377,
“Polyg hunts” by deputy marshals became less and less frequent; judges showed more and more leniency in dealing with “cohabs” brought before the law. Government attorneys adopted the policy of being “light” and “humane” in their prosecutions.
The church’s personal property–or what was left of it–was returned to the First Presidency on January 10, 1894.
The Manifesto declaring an end to officially sanctioned plural marriages also enabled the Mormons to achieve the goal of statehood, which had been denied them for over forty years. Statehood gave them the prospect of getting rid, once and for all, of the unwanted and unfriendly federally appointed governors, judges, marshals, attorneys, and commissioners who had fought against them since 1852. As part of the “deal” by which this was arranged, church officials are said to have given congressional and administration leaders to understand that they would support a proposition to prohibit forever the practice of polygamy in Utah; that the church would dissolve its Peoples’ Party and divide itself into Republican and Democratic supporters; and that the church would discontinue its alleged fight against Gentile business and relax its own economic efforts….The Raid had finally culminated in the long-sought goal of statehood, but had produced capitulation in many areas of Mormon uniqueness, not the least of which was the decline in the economic power and influence of the church. The temporal Kingdom, for all practical purposes, was dead–slain by the dragon of Edmunds-Tucker.
So, what do you make of these events? Did the church wimp out?
MH, you know my position on it but for those who don’t, I’ll preface it by saying that I consider myself a fundamentalist. So, consider that with my opinion.
No, the Church didn’t wimp out. It was self-preservation and the people were tired of the persecution. It would be comfortable to Monday-morning-quarterback the whole thing and say that the members just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to endure to the end. I can’t judge them because I wasn’t there…my family isn’t torn apart…I’m not in prison, etc.
My beliefs are, of course, that John Taylor ordained certain men to continue the practice of plural marriage which continues today.
In other words, plural marriage started out as a law of the priesthood, then became a law of the general Church, and has gone back to being a law of the priesthood. It’s really pretty simple.
Records of the 1886 meeting are readily available. The arguement/misunderstanding always arises, of course, with the Church’s unwillingness to recognize that the priesthood can/has/does exist outside of the Church.
So, no, the Church didn’t wimp out. They did what was practical and best for the majority of the membership at the time.
In addition, we need to understand that polygamy is an eternal law. John Taylor said it in a revelation from the Lord that eternal laws cannot be repealed. But there are times where polygamy isn’t required and this is such a time.
However it also should be realized that it’s been suggested it will come back during the millennium in the book “Mormon Doctrine”.
For those who suggest it must always be practiced, consider the Book of Mormon. I don’t recall it saying anything about polygamy but there is a reference under Jacob I believe suggesting marriage was a man and a single woman.
Oh and yes I do believe in polygamy. I am also a member of the LDS Church. No I don’t see a conflict there. I do believe the practice will return and today we’re not asked to live the principle. Just like there was a time where the Word of Wisdom wasn’t a requirement, things change. Always do. And some day it will return.
O.D.-1 was only Wilford Woodruff’s advice. “I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”
Now read D&C section 98 and you will see why the manifesto means absolutely nothing, and why the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve failed to take the advice given in O.D.-1.
“The Prophet did not say that any law passed by Congress is the supreme law of the land. He knew better. He knew that Congress would pass laws that would be invalid. What he said was this – ‘When a people or a church have received a divine command and a law is enacted against it, do they not know whether the law is constitutional or not, seeing that Congress is prohibited by that sacred instrument from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion? And if the Supreme Court, yielding to popular clamor against an unorthodox body rules that the unconstitutional law is constitutional, does that alter the stubborn, patient, invincible fact that the law is in violation of the great guarantee of religious freedom? Any man who says that he really and firmly believes a certain law of God binding on him, and who will not obey it in preference to a conflicting law of man or a decision of a court, has either an unsound mind or a cowardly soul, or is a most contemptible hypocrite.’ A law has been specially framed against the establishment of their religion.
The issue is obedience to God or submission to man; choice between a divine decree about which they have no doubt, and a human enactment that they firmly believe to be unconstitutional and void. It is a matter of conscience” (Deseret News, July 6th, 1886)
Wow, I’m surprised to see so many polygamy proponents here. I think you all should read My Perspective on Polygamy. In short, I agree and disagree with you all. I agree that the church did not wimp out, but I don’t believe polygamy was divinely inspired in the first place.
I must say I took pretty big notice when the book said (last paragraph of my post), church officials are said to have given congressional and administration leaders to understand that they would support a proposition to prohibit forever the practice of polygamy in Utah. Forever is a pretty long time. Now, I suppose if the US government collapses, then the church can choose to back away from this promise, but as long as the US government stands, I don’t see the church embracing polygamy, unless the government allows it first.
Nonetheless, I agree with Bruce–I don’t think the church wimped out. I must say I was truly flabbergasted at the draconian measures the US government went to in order to bring the church to it’s knees. The government really went after the church.
I’m with you and am also suprised to see so many polygamy supporters. I don’t believe Polygamy was divinely inspired in the first place either. Especially due to the fact the Prophet did it in secret for so long and publicly denied he was doing it, when he was.
The government did go after the church though. It makes you wonder if the government would do something like that again…say for gay rights or something the Church takes a political stance on.
And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.
12 For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.
13 And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal.
14 Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.
15 For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me.
The Church failed. The priesthood is just barely hanging on, but there are those who are still willing to face the consequences for living the fullness of the gospel. Consequences that have existed whenever the fullness of the gospel has been on the earth.
I just found this quote and thought is went along with my last comment, so here it is:
John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, vol. 24, p.163
Now, as I said to the Priesthood last night, we are arriving at a political crisis in our affairs. The priests and bigots of Christendom— and of America especially— are driving our law-makers into trying to hedge up our way and to oppress us politically as well as religiously. They are endeavoring not only to deprive us of religious freedom, but to deprive us of political freedom, and to bring us into bondage. Well, now, they will do it as far as the Lord will allow them and no further. He will block their wheels. He will throw obstacles in their way. He will stay their onward progress. But He allows His people to be tried to see whether they will trust Him and have faith in Him, or whether they will deny Him, whether they will deny their covenants and their principles through fear of the power of the wicked, through fear of oppression, through fear of prisons or of death. For we have among us those who will falter, those who will halt between two opinions, those who wish to serve the world. and who, at the same time, would like to serve the Lord a little. Well, can such people always continue in this doubtful and divided condition? No, they can not. They will be tried and proven, and by and by they must take sides one way or another; they must either turn their backs upon the wicked and cleave unto God and His people with full purpose of soul, or they will turn their backs upon God and His people and go down to perdition with the ungodly of the world.
Brent, thanks for the quote and scripture. It’s always good to talk with someone with a different point of view. I don’t know if you read my previous links on polygamy which I posted above. Suffice it to say, our disagreement dates to whether polygamy is even a God-given command, or is essential to salvation. I know we’re on opposite sides of the fence there.
I added some stuff in purple to the original post, which shows the government was going after LDS temples. Now an interesting thing happened around the time of Christ–the Romans took control over the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews rioted, and died defending the temple. The temple was lost anyway, many Jews lost their lives, and the temple has never been rebuilt. Many Jews have been unable to enjoy the blessings of the temple for 2000 years now. I’m sure you agree that this is a great loss, but I also believe you think the law of polygamy is a higher law, and I wonder if you think the Mormons should have acted the same way the Jews did, and die fighting to keep the temple out of Gentile hands?
Now, I expect that you are of the opinion that polygamist marriages don’t need to occur in temples. Certainly the Nauvoo Temple was not completed in Joseph’s lifetime, and Joseph never solemnized any marriages in any temple. I expect you would have considered the loss of the St George, Logan, and Manti temples as significant losses, but not catastrophic losses. I know most modern Mormons would view your position as extreme, because the loss of the temple would make temple blessings so much less accessible to the majority of faithful LDS members.
I want to run a hypothetical scenario for you. If Woodruff had endured the loss of the temples, if all Mormons were systematically rounded up and placed in prison, if it meant the death of all the apostles just as in the days of Christ, are you saying that is the price we should have been willing to pay to keep the principle of polygamy alive? In order to defend the principle of polygamy, should Woodruff have endured the same penalty that Nero dealt to the ancient apostles Peter and Paul? Would the world be a better place if Mormonism was extinct because it tried to defend polygamy literally to the death? When you talk of “Consequences that have existed”, is extinction worth losing the “fullness of the gospel … on the earth” in the name of polygamy? Personally, I don’t see Peter and Paul as martyrs for polygamy, nor David, Solomon, or Abraham, so I guess that is why I’m having a hard time understanding why you think this is such an important principle that you are concluding that “The Church failed.”
I am also curious about this statement. “The priesthood is just barely hanging on, but there are those who are still willing to face the consequences for living the fullness of the gospel.”
Now I understand that there are some who claim that John Taylor created a secret group to carry on polygamy. I have heard that fundamentalist Mormons claim that Woodruff is essentially an apostate. Do you agree with this position? Do you support any LDS prophets after the Manifesto in 1890?
I guess we can see a similar scenario playing out in the New Testament. Jesus only ate kosher food. Peter had a revelation overturning this law. It seems to me that fundamentalist Mormons would be analogous to fundamentalist Jews/Christians who took exception to Peter’s new revelation. In this case, Woodruff would be analogous to Peter. How do you reconcile prophets who give conflicting commands? Why is Peter right, and Woodruff wrong?
I think there is a flaw in the logic that polygamy is an eternal commandment, and also say things change, like the Word of Wisdom.
I find it hard to believe Polygamy is “required” for exaltation any more than drinking wine is required to do the sacrament correctly. It is a method or means, not a core doctrine, IMO.
I can accept Joseph was commanded to practice polygamy, not because he was in need of justifying personal lusts, but because it was a way the Lord instructed him to build a kingdom of righteous kin, just like he was commanded to build Zion.
Things have changed in the church and Zion is being built differently (in home countries, not everyone immagrate to Utah), and without polygamy because it isn’t necessary, it is just one way of doing things at one time when it is approved (not required).
I think God is concerned with saving His children, and less concerned with if that is accomplished by monogamy, polygamy, or celebacy.
That’s an interesting perspective Heber. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
A bit late, but I think it’s pretty established that polygamy is part of Mormon doctrine in that it is within the parameters of what is possible. Much of Joseph Smith’s life was struggling with this – personally, in his family, with prominent members who left over it and hostility from the outside world because of it. To say it is false would discredit much of Joseph Smith’s ministry and many of his revelations.
Many polygamous groups claim that because once polygamy was practiced, it must now be or else there is hypocrisy. This misses the point; it is possible to know of a true and necessary principle of the Gospel and not practice it. The law of consecration, for example, was practiced at one point, and then rescinded. Consecration will be an integral part of the celestial kingdom, just as polygamy will likely be, but we aren’t constrained by principle to practice them now just because we know about them. Though it is possible that we could be commanded to practice plural marriage, or the law of consecration, it is also possible that we not be required to live them.
I have spoken with Mormon sub-groups who believe what Brent mentioned – that there is a church authority, and a separate priesthood authority. The church is, literally, a corporation – non-profit, and tax-exempt. It is nothing without the priesthood. What happened to the priesthood after John Taylor is the issue that separates the many splinter groups, and their sub-groups.
I agree that the Church is a necessary tool to guide people to greater light and truth, and, ultimately, exaltation. At General Conference, for example, the apostles and authorities are speaking to 13 million saints. They can’t possibly be expected to lay out the heart of the Gospel at that time. There are new members, struggling members, there are political issues, legal issues, and non-members looking into joining the Church – the authorities must navigate all of these when addressing the Church as a whole. It makes sense that they do just what they do – stick to the basics.
Consequently, it is reasonable that, somewhere, there is a smaller body that addresses the deeper doctrinal issues. Issues like consecration, preparedness against turmoil prior to the second coming, and, of course, plural marriage. Exactly where that body is I don’t know. Is it the Church leaders in their private meetings, or a small group of priesthood in rural Texas, northern Arizona, or underground in Missouri…I wish I had a certainty to which that was.
Lou, thanks for stopping by. The early church was much less afraid to teach deep doctrines. Perhaps sticking to the basics is more politically savvy, but I wish there wasn’t an anti-intellectual bias in the church. I think it sure is fun to learn about church history, but it seems most leaders cater only to new members, leaving the older members to die of boredom, or create blogs to talk about these issues.
I’ve tried to answer all of your questions. Let me know if I missed something, or if you need clarification on anything I’ve said.
MH: “…our disagreement dates to whether polygamy is even a God-given command, or is essential to salvation. I know we’re on opposite sides of the fence there.”
The following quote from Joseph F. Smith reflects the fundamentalist perspective:
“Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential, to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.20, p.28 – p.29, Joseph F. Smith)
This is what was taught in the early church. All the prophets and apostles of the early church taught the exact same thing. This teaching comes from their understanding of D&C 132:1-6. Joseph taught that the key to understanding the scriptures is to inquire what the question was that drew out the answer. In verse 1 the Lord tells us the question He is answering.
MH: “I’m sure you agree that this is a great loss, but I also believe you think the law of polygamy is a higher law, and I wonder if you think the Mormons should have acted the same way the Jews did, and die fighting to keep the temple out of Gentile hands?”
Loosing temples is a great loss. Just as it was a great loss to loose the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. However, just as it wasn’t the end of the world for the Saints in Kirtland and Nauvoo, it also wouldn’t be the end of the world in Utah. Many ordinances don’t require a temple, as evidenced by the many sealings done outside the temple. The Saints could have also used an edowment house until another temple could be built. That’s what they did before, right?
The Lord told us in a revelation to Wilford Woodruff what the Saints should do. The following revelation took place on the 26th ofJanuary, 1880, in Sunset, Arizona:
“And what I the Lord say unto you mine Apostles I say unto my servants the Seventies, the High Priests, the Elders, and the Priests And all my servants who are pure in heart and who have born testimony unto this nation. Let them go forth and cleans their feet in pure water and bear testimony of it unto your Father who
is in heaven. And then saith the Lord unto mine Apostles and mine Elders when you do these things with purity of heart and the Lord will hear your prayers and am bound by oath and covenant to defend you and fight your battles. As I have said in a former commandment it is not my will that mine Elders should fight the battle
of Zion for I will fight your battle. Nevertheless, let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake for he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again and have eternal life.”
MH: “I want to run a hypothetical scenario for you. If Woodruff had endured the loss of the temples, if all Mormons were systematically rounded up and placed in prison, if it meant the death of all the apostles just as in the days of Christ, are you saying that is the price we should have been willing to pay to keep the principle of polygamy alive? When you talk of “Consequences that have existed”, is extinction worth losing the “fullness of the gospel â€¦ on the earth” in the name of polygamy?”
By allowing the government to dictate to us which parts of the gospel we can live and which parts we can’t, then we would have lost the fullness of the gospel anyway. Christ told us that “ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22-23) He also said that “if ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (St.John 15:18-19)
As I stated earlier, in D&C 98, the Lord tells us that He will test us to see if we abide in His covenant, even unto death. We know that the fullness of the gospel is going to cause us problems, but if we yield to the persecution then we have failed.
MH: “Would the world be a better place if Mormonism was extinct because it tried to defend polygamy literally to the death?”
If Mormonism renounces eternal principles then it dies through apostasy. Would you rather die a temporal or a spiritual death?
MH: “Personally, I don’t see Peter and Paul as martyrs for polygamy, nor David, Solomon, or Abraham, so I guess that is why I’m having a hard time understanding why you think this is such an important principle that you are concluding that “The Church failed.””
Living every principle of the gospel is necessary, and anything less is failure.
MH: “Now I understand that there are some who claim that John Taylor created a secret group to carry on polygamy. I have heard that fundamentalist Mormons claim that Woodruff is essentially an apostate. Do you agree with this position?”
I have a testimony that John Taylor made provisions for those with sealing keys to continue the practice. I don’t believe that Wilford Woodruff was an apostate. I believe he tried to trick the government by lying, just as Joseph Smith did, but unfortunately many of the membership believed him. We know that the other general authorities didn’t buy it, as they continued in the practice.
MH: “Do you support any LDS prophets after the Manifesto in 1890?”
MH: “I guess we can see a similar scenario playing out in the New Testament. Jesus only ate kosher food. Peter had a revelation overturning this law. It seems to me that fundamentalist Mormons would be analogous to fundamentalist Jews/Christians who took exception to Peter’s new revelation. In this case, Woodruff would be analogous to Peter. How do you reconcile prophets who give conflicting commands? Why is Peter right, and Woodruff wrong?”
I suspect that Peter learned in his revelation the same thing Joseph Smith learned. Joseph taught that “it is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day…will be continued.” (D.H.C. 4:212)
We, today, are no longer bound by the law of Moses. Just as Peter learned that he was no longer bound by the law of Moses. I also suspect that the dietary law in that day followed the pattern that we’ve seen today with the word of wisdom. What started off as good advice, and not by way of commandment, eventually transformed into law that one must follow to be considered righteous. I suspect that if Jesus walked the earth today that He would follow the word of wisdom, not be cause He has to, but because it’s good counsel.
Plural marriage has been given to us as a commandment for this dispensation. The Lord has never rescinded this commandment. The Lord told us directly His feelings on this subject in a revelation given to John Taylor:
“Thus saith the Lord, all commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant; for I the Lord am everlasting. My everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; but they stand for ever. Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandment and yet have I borne with them these many years and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not. And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph, all those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law and have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so Amen.”
Brent, thank you so much for your answers–I really appreciate hearing your perspective.
As you know, I’ve been reading Kathryn Daynes book, and she has several conflicting quotes from church leaders about whether monogamists were eligible for Celestial Glory. I love her book, and have about 4 ideas for posts right now. Perhaps you can check back when I post on a few more topics from her book, and we can talk about the topic of early church leader quotes in the future. You definitely have some I am not aware of.
Your statement is very interesting: “By allowing the government to dictate to us which parts of the gospel we can live and which parts we can’t, then we would have lost the fullness of the gospel anyway.”
So, it seems to me you believe the current state of the LDS church is in essentially the same state of the early Christian church after the death of the apostles. It seems to me you believe that Woodruff and company should have been willing to suffer the same fate as Peter and Paul. I get your point about apostasy being not that much different than extinction, but as I look at biblical polygamy, it doesn’t strike me as a principle that early Jews and Christians felt was worth dying for.
I guess it seems to me an apostate church is better than a dead church. For example, the Gnostics are now extinct, but I believe that they had some truths that were rejected by the Catholic Church (especially Deification, which I find similar to Exaltation–see this post comparing the two if you’re interested.) Gnostics had some definite falsehoods too, as well as the Catholic Church. Is the world better because the Gnostics were exterminated and the Catholic Church wasn’t? Personally, I think the world would have been better with the Gnostics still here–while we don’t believe many Gnostic teachings, certainly they indirectly influenced the Orthodox Church. Anyway, I don’t mean to turn this into a Gnostic discussion. (I’ve got plenty of posts on that subject already.)
I want to turn back to the Peter/Woodruff parallel. I was surprised to hear that you support prophets after Woodruff as well. Is there a point in time where you think LDS prophets went astray, or do you continue to support most things right up through Pres Monson? Also, do you believe that polygamy is not required for the general membership of the church, but is to be practiced only by “the elect” in this day and age?
If we view polygamy and kosher in similar terms, then Joseph Smith and Christ were both polygamy/kosher believers. Along comes Woodruff and Peter that change the law, causing much consternation among believers. If a prophet such as Woodruff/Peter says essentially that we shouldn’t live polygamy/kosher, then it seems to me that if we accept them as prophets, then we should accept these revelations. To believe that polygamy/kosher should continue to be practiced seems to put Fundamentalists in the same category with Zealots in New Testament times, who continue to believe polgamy/kosher should be practiced, despite prophetic admonitions to the contrary. Do you understand my point? (You don’t have to agree, and I don’t expect you to, but I would like to hear why you think this parallel might not be accurate/appropriate.)
It would violate the law of agency to tell someone they weren’t allowed to live the higher law. If you have a sincere desire to receive the blessings associated with living plural marriage then you have every right to engage in those things in which those blessings are predicated. Lorenzo Snow spoke of this principle in the sermon below.
“It is argued by some that when the principle of tithing came in, it superceded the principles of the United Order. The law of Moses was given to be a school-master, to bring the people to a knowledge of the Son of God, and induce them to obey the principles of the fulness of the Gospel. The higher law was given to the children of Israel when they were first delivered from Egyptian bondage, but in consequence of their disobedience, the Gospel in its fulness was withdrawn, and the law of carnal commandments was added.
Now, do you imagine that there would have been any wrong if the people wanted to find the principles of the higher law and obey them as near as circumstances would admit? Do you suppose it would have been wrong to search out the fulness of the Gospel, while living under the Mosaic law?
But, in the Book of Mormon we find this point more fully illustrated. We find that the inhabitants of this continent had a knowledge of the fulness of the everlasting Gospel and were baptized for the remission of sins, many generations before Jesus came into the world. We find that Alma was baptized in the waters of Mormon, and some four hundred and fifty other individuals. Alma, by his energy and perseverance, had discovered the fulness of the Gospel and obtained revelations from the Lord, and the privilege of observing the Gospel in all its fulness and blessings. Do you think the Lord was angry with them? They were under the Mosaic law, and yet considered it a blessing to observe the higher law.” (JD 19:345)
Lorenzo Snow asked some good questions. Is it wrong to search out and live the fullness of the Gospel, while those in the church are living under the lessor law?
Has the Lord Himself ever said not to enter into Celestial Plural Marriage? I’ve seen “advice” given to whom it may concern, not to violate the Constitutional law of the land, which states that congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, but I’ve never seen a revelation from the Lord revoking plural marriage.
It’s up to the individual, using their own agency, to determine if laws preventing the living of D&C 132 are Constitutional or not. It’s up to the individual, using their own agency, to determine if they want the blessings associated with living plural marriage. As the Lord told John Taylor, “it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters.”
MH: “Brent, thank you so much for your answers–I really appreciate hearing your perspective.”
Thank you for allowing my perspective to be shared. I’ve been banned by many LDS blogs for sharing the very things I’ve posted here. Some are scared by differing perspectives, which is something I find to be very limiting. Just because I don’t agree with those I’m discussing things with doesn’t mean that I can’t gain valuable knowledge from what they say. We need more perspective in the Church, not less.
MH: “As you know, I’ve been reading Kathryn Daynes book, and she has several conflicting quotes from church leaders about whether monogamists were eligible for Celestial Glory. I love her book, and have about 4 ideas for posts right now. Perhaps you can check back when I post on a few more topics from her book, and we can talk about the topic of early church leader quotes in the future. You definitely have some I am not aware of.”
No problem. I’ll look forward to your future post, and I’m sure I’ll have some more quotes to add.
MH: “So, it seems to me you believe the current state of the LDS church is in essentially the same state of the early Christian church after the death of the apostles. It seems to me you believe that Woodruff and company should have been willing to suffer the same fate as Peter and Paul. I get your point about apostasy being not that much different than extinction, but as I look at biblical polygamy, it doesn’t strike me as a principle that early Jews and Christians felt was worth dying for.”
In the days of the early Jews and Christians polygamy wasn’t something that would have gotten you killed. Polygamy being evil is a relatively more modern concept.
Obviously there are varying levels of apostasy. From my perspective, the Church today is in a state of apostasy, but the Church still offers knowledge and blessings that can’t be obtained elsewhere in Christianity. You can still find the path to exaltation within the Church, however that path may eventually get you excommunicated. From my perspective, it’s not obedience to the Church that is required, but obedience to the laws of God, so excommunication isn’t that big of a deal.
MH: I guess it seems to me an apostate church is better than a dead church. For example, the Gnostics are now extinct, but I believe that they had some truths that were rejected by the Catholic Church (especially Deification, which I find similar to Exaltationâ€“see this post comparing the two if you’re interested.) Gnostics had some definite falsehoods too, as well as the Catholic Church. Is the world better because the Gnostics were exterminated and the Catholic Church wasn’t? Personally, I think the world would have been better with the Gnostics still hereâ€“while we don’t believe many Gnostic teachings, certainly they indirectly influenced the Orthodox Church.
The pattern that I’ve seen is that the more gospel principles you reject, the better your standing with worldly authorities. If the Gnostics would have compromised more of their true principles then the greater the chance they would have still been around today.
MH: “I want to turn back to the Peter/Woodruff parallel. I was surprised to hear that you support prophets after Woodruff as well. Is there a point in time where you think LDS prophets went astray, or do you continue to support most things right up through Pres Monson? Also, do you believe that polygamy is not required for the general membership of the church, but is to be practiced only by “the elect” in this day and age?”
When Heber J. Grant started making war with those who continued to live the fullness of the gospel is when I think apostasy really set in with the leadership. That doesn’t mean that the leadership never did anything good, or that there weren’t righteous men and women still in the Church. It just means that as an institution, the Church lost favor with God. On the flip side, they gained favor with the world, as Heber J. Grant testified to in General Conference.
“I am thankful that wherever I have traveled during the past six months
I have found a feeling of respect, a feeling of love in the hearts of many for
the Latter-day Saints, in the hearts of those not of our faith. I heard many
very splendid compliments while in Washington by members of the president’s
cabinet, by senators and representatives, and by officials of the government
in the Federal Reserve banking departments, and in others, wherever I went,
and with all the people that I met, bankers in New York, Chicago, San
Francisco, and other cities, I heard good things said of the Latter-day
Saints; we are coming into our own, so to speak.” (Heber J. Grant, Conf.
Rept., April 4, 1920, p. 12)
MH: If we view polygamy and kosher in similar terms, then Joseph Smith and Christ were both polygamy/kosher believers. Along comes Woodruff and Peter that change the law, causing much consternation among believers. If a prophet such as Woodruff/Peter says essentially that we shouldn’t live polygamy/kosher, then it seems to me that if we accept them as prophets, then we should accept these revelations. To believe that polygamy/kosher should continue to be practiced seems to put Fundamentalists in the same category with Zealots in New Testament times, who continue to believe polgamy/kosher should be practiced, despite prophetic admonitions to the contrary. Do you understand my point? (You don’t have to agree, and I don’t expect you to, but I would like to hear why you think this parallel might not be accurate/appropriate.)
The difference in the dietary law and the law of plural marriage is that one is an eternal principle and one is not, as evidenced by what Joseph taught on the law of Moses (posted earlier), and what he taught on plural marriage (posted below).
“The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and stengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on Celestial and plural marriage and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time hence forth. And they say if I do so, they will kill me. O, what shall I do? If I do not practice it, I shall be damned with my people. If I do teach it, and practice it, and urge it, they say they will kill me, and I know they will. But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.” (The “Contributor'” 5:259)
Brent, I’m sure we won’t see eye to eye on this issue, but I do enjoy hearing your perspective.
What do you make of Pres Hinckley’s statement below?
More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.
The full statement is found on the LDS church website.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous quote Pres Hinckley made on the “Larry King Show” when he said “I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. I know I come down harsher on polygamy than most church members, but I also do not believe it is doctrinal.
There’s also this quote from the LDS church website where Pres Hinckley relates a question from Dan Rather of the TV show, “60 Minutes”, which seems to imply that this “advice” was more than advice, but “inspired guidance.”
Question: “As you know, some skeptics say that major changes in Church policy have come from political pressures, not necessarily as revelations from God. For example, the business of ending polygamy, say the skeptics, wasn’t because it was revelation but because Utah wanted to become a state.”
Response: “One of the purposes of a prophet is to seek the wisdom and the will of the Lord and to teach his people accordingly. It was the case with Moses when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. It was the case for the Old Testament prophets when people were faced with oppression and trouble and difficulty. That is the purpose of a prophet, to give answers to people for the dilemmas in which they find themselves. That is what happens. That is what we see happen. Is it a matter of expediency, political expediency? No! Inspired guidance? Yes!”
Finally, you are perfectly welcome to believe that the concept of kosher is not an eternal principle (I agree with you), but I want to point out that Jews and Muslims today believe kosher is an eternal principle, and still do not eat pork today. As such, it seems that your response to polygamy as a fundamentalist Mormon is really no different than an Orthodox Jew or Muslim concerning the kosher laws. They believe kosher is an eternal principle, just as you believe polygamy is an eternal principle. Of course, I don’t believe either is an eternal principle.
Yep, I’m well aware of what President Hinckley said on this issue. Another sermon that was telling on his view of plural marriage was “What Are People Asking about Us?”. Here’s the telling part, and I’ll follow with my comments.
“What is the Church’s position on polygamy?
We are faced these days with many newspaper articles on this subject. This has arisen out of a case of alleged child abuse on the part of some of those practicing plural marriage.
I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.
There is no such thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist.” It is a contradiction to use the two words together.
More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.
What is your Church’s attitude toward homosexuality?
In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.
People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.
We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.” (“What Are People Asking about Us?,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 70)
Polygamy is viewed in the Church today as being a greater evil than homosexuality. There is no quicker way out of the Church than to advocate for the principle of plural marriage, whether you are actually living the principle or not. President Hinckley professed a love of homosexuals, but polygamist are just criminals, and according to newspaper articles, abusers of children.
Prophet to homosexual: “We love you!” Prophet to polygamist: “You’re not welcome in this Church. Get out!”
For some reason President Hinckley’s sermon reminded me of this passage of Isaiah. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter…Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”
As far as his other comments go, I’m more interested to hear what our Father in Heaven, as well as His host of polygamist servants, thought when they found out their eternal marriages where no longer doctrinal and in violation of the law. Do you think any of them would abide in a Church that didn’t welcome their wives?
We have a dilemma in Mormonism today. On one had you have the Prophet John Taylor saying:
“What would be necessary to bring about the results nearest the hearts
of the opponents of Mormonism? Simply to renounce, abrogate, or apostatize
from the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage in its fulness. Were the
Church to do that as an entirety, God would reject the Saints as a body. The
authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn with its gifts and powers and
there would be no more heavenly recognition of the administrations. The
heavens would permanently withdraw themselves, and the Lord would raise up
another people of greater valor and stability, for his work must, according to
his unalterable decrees, go forward; for the time of the second coming of the
Savior is near, even at the doors.” (John Taylor, Des. News, April 23, 1885)
On the other hand you have Gordon B. Hinckley saying:
“I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. …it is now against the law of God.”
They can’t both be right. I tend to put my faith in those prophets whose revelations I’ve actually been able to read for myself. Revelations directly from the Lord. I don’t buy this idea that a prophet can receive a revelation that I’m bound by, but I’m not allowed to read for myself. That I just have to trust in the arm of flesh to relay what the revelation said. If a revelation applies to me, then shouldn’t I be able to read it?
I want to see the revelation in which God said plural marriage is not doctrinal and in violation of Celestial law. I’ve never seen such a revelation, yet I’ve seen numerous revelations to the contrary.
Polygamy is viewed in the Church today as being a greater evil than homosexuality.
No, actually I think they are on par with each other.
There is no quicker way out of the Church than to advocate for the principle of plural marriage, whether you are actually living the principle or not.
Tell that to the recent list of bloggers who have been excommunicated for homosexuality. I don’t follow the blogs, but I’m aware of a few, and they’re not that hard to find.
President Hinckley professed a love of homosexuals, but polygamist are just criminals, and according to newspaper articles, abusers of children.
Ok, I think there is a bit of hyperbole in this statement. I believe Pres Hinckley was referring to FLDS who were marrying teen girls (as young as 14) to older men. From a legal point of view, a 14-year old does not have ability to consent, so it is abusing children. Do you view marriages between older men and 14-year old girls as acceptable? Brigham Young said it was ok for brothers and sisters to marry, because Adam and Eve’s children married each other. Do you believe that is ok too?
Frankly, I think the church tolerates, (almost embraces) the idea that polygamy was an important principle, and most active Mormons believe it will come back in the “restitution of all things” as mentioned in the prophecy. In the comments on my perspective on polygamy, Tara seemed to believe there was nothing wrong with past practices of polygamy, and seemed to be supportive of polygamy if the prophet if it ever brings it back. In some ways, she is more sympathetic to your arguments than I am, and I don’t see her sent out of the church. She’s as TBM as they come.
The problem arises in the church not if someone has beliefs or supports polygamy or homosexuality, it is more if they openly advocate any of these positions. That will get you excommunicated either way. Pres Hinckley loves polygamists too, but just as he can’t condone open homosexuality in the church, he can’t condone open polygamy in the church either. I think this is a consistent position, and I don’t see a problem here. I think he would welcome a polygamy believer in the church, as well as a homosexual, so long as neither engages in practices or openly advocates these positions the church opposes.
I remember an interview with a congressman a few years ago when gay marriage first became a hot-button issue, and he said something to the effect of “if we approve gay marriage, then it will open up the legality of polygamy too.” It seems to me that advocates of gay marriage and polygamy are strange bedfellows in this attempt to redefine marriage.
“I tend to put my faith in those prophets whose revelations I’ve actually been able to read for myself.”
Now this seems like an odd statement, and brings up my kosher argument as well. Have you actually read Peter’s revelation removing the kosher practice, or have you merely read the narrative of Peter describing the revelation in the Book of Acts?
We could certainly put Peter’s words in competition with Moses’ words and say, “They can’t both be right.” As such, I don’t see any material difference between Peter’s narrative and Pres Woodruff’s. So by that logic, we should go back to kosher, which is pretty well documented in Deuteronomy, yet Peter’s vision isn’t documented except in vague terms.
One other comment I want to make.
“If a revelation applies to me, then shouldn’t I be able to read it?”
I remind you that the polygamy revelation may have been received as early as 1831 (according to the header of D&C 132), yet it wasn’t formally published until 1852. I don’t believe it was written down until about 1844 (I could be off a year or two), yet Joseph told people that they were bound by it without it being written down. It was only after Hyrum’s urging that Joseph wrote it down in order to convince Emma, and then it seems to imply that Emma had been offered to marry another man in addition to Joseph. (See my post at Mormon Matters. Comments #9 and #18 start the discussion of polyandry possibly being acceptable.)
I personally know hundreds of people that have been excommunicated for their belief in plural marriage, so perhaps that taints my perspective. Nearly all my friends have been excommunicated. I know what the Church did to them.
If a homosexual is excommunicated then they are generally removed for immoral behavior, which from what I understand, is also the same charge that most heterosexuals are excommunicated on.
If a polygamist is excommunicated then they are charged with apostasy. This is a special charge that brings about special treatment. I could talk about men loosing their families, businesses being destroyed, harassment from Mormons in law enforcement and CPS, but all those stories are personal, and wouldn’t necessarily reflect the intent of higher leadership in the Church. A stake president telling a wife that if she doesn’t leave her husband then she will loose her salvation and her children for eternity, doesn’t mean that higher leadership is directly involved in that. Although, that argument could be made. Fundamentalist all know Gov. Pyle, and his testimony of involvement by the President of the Church in the Shortcreek raids back in the 50’s.
I think a better example would be that my children, if I was excommunicated for homosexual behavior, could still get into BYU without that even being a factor, as long as they are in good standing in the Church. The child of a fundamentalist, on the other hand, would need to get First Presidency approval, and be subject to a test oath, in order to go to BYU. Just as they would need first presidency approval for baptism.
“Are you affiliated with a church or other religious group that advocates the current practice of plural marriage?” (BYU application)
At one point they had what was required if the applicant answered “yes”, but they’ve since removed that. Maybe I’ll give B.Y.U. a call this week and see if they’d be kind enough to give me what I should have saved when I had the chance. 🙂
I agree with you that polygamist and homosexuals have become strange bedfellows in the marriage debate. As they say, the enemy to my enemy is my friend. Frankly, I’d be happy to have what the homosexuals have today. At least they no longer have to worry about going to prison for their lifestyle. I don’t give a crap if the state recognizes my religious covenants, as they should have no authority in religious institutions like marriage. I just don’t to fear prison time for living my religion. While President Hinckley didn’t seem to have a problem with religious covenants being illegal, I do.
As far as age of consent laws go, my views are in harmony with the laws of most nations in the world. If the parents don’t have a problem with their teen getting married then neither do I. The statistics are clear. The vast majority of teens have sex. I think that they should have the option of doing so while being married, along as they have parental consent. I’m strongly against anyone infringing upon the agency of another. Marriage and sex should never be forced, or coerced in any way.
Ah, if only we had all the records available to the Church in the days of Peter. Thankfully, the Lord can reiterate what was once lost. It’s important that we learn the difference between eternal principles and special works. That’s up to the individual to learn on their own. We also don’t know what was given to people with the practice of plural marriage was still underground. I don’t think that we can say Joseph would have refused to show the revelation if asked by someone that was being taught about plural marriage. I do know that he encouraged others to get the revelation for themselves, and not just take his word for it. I can get you testimony of that fact, but right now, I’m out of time.
Brent, I know that excommunication is an extremely serious matter, and I don’t want to make light of it, but I don’t understand why you make a distinction between “apostasy”, and “immoral behavior.” Would it make you feel any better if polygamists were excommunicated for “immoral behavior”, and homosexuals were exed for “apostasy?” I personally think that’s splitting hairs.
Regarding the current practice of polygamy, Kathryn Daynes quotes James Harmston, a currently practicing polygamist (and founder of the TLC church.) Harmston was asked why he wasn’t prosecuted for polygamy when it is against the state constitution in Utah. “In today’s society…we find that liberal government is far more permissive of non-traditional families.” (See page 2 of “More Wives than One”.)
Brent, I agree with your point that “It’s important that we learn the difference between eternal principles and special works. That’s up to the individual to learn on their own.”
I think this sums up traditional vs fundamentalist perspectives on polygamy, but we disagree as to definitions of eternal principles and special works.
I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on some things. 🙂
While I don’t tend to agree with Harmston very often, he is right about society being more permissive of non-traditional families. Outside of the mountain west people are even more permissive of polygamist, with the possible exception of Texas. In the state I live, plural marriage is legal as long as you don’t apply for multiple marriage licenses. They don’t recognize common law marriage, so they view it like a man with two girlfriends, which is perfectly legal in most places.
One last thing, it’s not me that makes the distinction between being excommunicated for immoral behavior or apostasy. It is the Church that makes that distinction. Apostates are treated differently from all others who leave the Church.
Thank you for being willing to have this conversation, and for allowing me to share a different perspective. I truly respect that. While I normally don’t spend this much time on the internet, I’ve been sick for the last week, I’ve really enjoyed my time here. Now, unfortunately, I must make up for a lost week worth of work. You can always reach me by putting a dot between my first and last name at yahoo dot com.
Brent, I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I hope you’re feeling better, and I hope you continue to stop by my blog as occasion permits. I have a few more ideas for posts on polygamy (among other topics) so I hope you can share your perspective when you can find the time.