Brian Hales and Don Bradley Discuss Polygamy

Brian Hales

Brian Hales

I was pleased to attend a book signing at Pioneer Book in Orem, Utah Saturday night. Brian Hales has put together a new comprehensive set of 3 volumes concerning the theology and history of polygamy in the early church. Initially the book was over 1000 pages, so the editors at Greg Kofford Books asked if he could split up the information into 3 volumes: Volumes 1 and 2 document every known reference to polygamy, and Volume 3 discusses the theology of polygamy. Don Bradley was also on hand to answer questions; Brian hired Don to do research for him at the LDS History library.

Brian said that Volume 3 (the smallest and least expensive volume) might be the best one to read first.  He said that nobody has fully considered the theology, and this is probably the biggest contribution to the study of polygamy.  Volumes 1 and 2 discuss various aspects of polygamy, and it was fun to ask Brian and Don questions.  (Volume 2 also contains an index of volumes 1 and 2 that is very valuable to looking up information.)

The most controversial aspect of early polygamy was the fact that Joseph was sealed to wives of other men.  Hales stated that of the 14 women currently married to other men (known as polyandrous sealings), 11 were “eternity only” sealings.  These women were married to non-Mormons and Hales believes there is no evidence of any sexual relations between these women and Joseph Smith.  Hales believes that there were no sexual relations between the other 3 women who were married to LDS husbands.

Hales has often stated that even though these 14 sealings are strange, none of the men complained about the sealings.  As a follow up question, I asked Brian specifically about the relationship between Joseph Smith and Sarah Pratt, wife of Orson Pratt. It was my understanding that Joseph sent Orson on a mission and then was secretly sealed to Sarah.  Upon Orson’s return, he was upset with Joseph and Sarah; Orson and Sarah later divorced, though Orson did later embrace polygamy.

Hales indicated that he covers that information extensively in his book, and he does not believe that Sarah was sealed to Joseph; rather Hales believes that Sarah had a sexual relationship with John C. Bennett, the former mayor of Nauvoo and member of the First Presidency.  Bennett was later excommunicated for unauthorized polygamy, and became a bitter anti-Mormon.  (Some believe Bennett may have organized the mob that killed Joseph in Carthage.)  Hales does not count Sarah in his list of 14 women married to other men but sealed to Joseph.  As I reviewed Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling (pages 466-468), Bushman states the controversy but does not seem to take a position on the issue.

Concerning the theology, Hales stated that Joseph’s theology only permits a polygyny (one husband, multiple wives), not polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands).  There is a rumor that Joseph offered Emma another husband (William Law) and a veiled reference in D&C 132:51

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 aprove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

Hales said that there is some evidence that Emma was so upset about these sealings that she was threatening a divorce and asked Joseph to divide up the property in anticipation of a separation and divorce.  Hales said that there is no evidence to suggest that William Law was ever offered to her despite the rumors.  (William was strongly against polygamy and became one of the editors of The Expositor, the newspaper that Joseph destroyed just prior to his death.)

Don Bradley

Don Bradley

Don Bradley gave some interesting insights into the Fanny Alger “affair.”  There is a famous quote by Oliver Cowdery that Joseph had engaged in “a filthy, nasty, affair” with Fanny Alger. Bradley examined the letter, and noticed that the word “affair” had been written over another word “scrape”, so the phrase would have originally been “A filthy, nasty scrape.”  Looking up the words affair and scrape in a 19th century dictionary does not give the same meaning that we think of when we think of affair.  According to Bradley, Cowdery may have simply felt that a polygamous marriage was not legitimate, and may not have accepted Joseph’s explanations that it was a legitimate marriage.

Bradley stated that Alger may have been pregnant; when Emma discovered this, she threw Fanny out of  the house. (Fanny had been a domestic servant in the Smith household.)  Many have questioned whether the sealing to Alger was a legitimate polygamous sealing, or Joseph’s clumsy attempt to cover over a sexual affair. In a previous Sunstone presentation, Bradley stated that he thinks Emma discovered Fanny’s pregnancy in 1835 in Kirtland.  Bradley believes that if Fanny was pregnant, the baby did not survive.  Fanny left Kirtland quickly and went on to marry a non-member in Indiana.

The first time Fanny was listed as a wife of Joseph Smith was on a list compiled by early Church Historian Andrew Jensen (he served 1886-1899.)  Because of Bradley’s work as an intern in the LDS History Library, he looked at the list and noted that the handwriting for the list of Joseph’s wives was very similar to Eliza R. Snow’s handwriting.  Snow was also living in the Smith home with Fanny Alger (and Snow was also a plural wife of Joseph.)  Eliza would have been well positioned to know about Fanny and it seems likely that Jensen’s list was actually composed by Snow.

Someone asked if there was any evidence of a child of Joseph to a plural wife.  Hales also said there is evidence of Joseph’s offspring from one of these wives, but I didn’t take notes, so I hope that Hales drops by to add any other information.  I wish I could have had Brian and Don sign my book, but I bought in on Amazon (it’s actually less than wholesale there), and it hasn’t arrived yet.  (I should get it this week.)  I’ll have to get them to sign it at the MHA convention this summer!

Bradley always gives entertaining presentations.  I got a chuckle when he said that the reason why he and Brian had time to research polygamy was because they both practiced “zero-gamy.” (Neither one of them is married.)  It was a real fun night, and if any of you have the chance to hear either of these men speak, I encourage you to take the opportunity.  Both are engaging speakers.

What are your thoughts?

21 comments on “Brian Hales and Don Bradley Discuss Polygamy

  1. My thoughts? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc, then it’s a duck regardless that LDS apologists will respond by saying, “Well, it’s possible that it still actually may not be a duck as we understand what a duck is.”

    My family left the religion of their forefathers (Roman Catholicism) because of the fact they came to the realization that the Catholic church couldn’t possibly be led by God in face of the historical and other problematic (to put it mildly) issues with said church. Well, that was more than a half century ago, and when they dragged me along with them. I came to same conclusions for the same reasons, i.e. it “couldn’t possibly be led by God in face of the historical and other problematic (to put it mildly) issues” about the Mormon church as they did with the Catholic church.

    How intelligent people can remain in the LDS church after knowing the ‘real history’ is a wonder. Social contracts and dynamics are mighty powerful I suppose.

  2. Vikingz, you didn’t really address the post. Shall we just chalk it up that you feel the same as Oliver did with Fanny? Yet Oliver did rejoin the church later. Is that a possibility for you?

    One thing I didn’t talk about was Don Bradley. After his mission, he felt that Joseph was pretty much a scoundrel, and asked to have his name removed from the church. Then 3 years ago, he was rebaptized. (He gave a wonderful talk on his journey back last summer at Sunstone.) When asked if he still thought Joseph was a scoundrel, he responded that he no longer felt that way.

  3. I don’t know what else I can say. Your article was well written and I leaned some things I didn’t know about. As far a ‘rejoining’ the church, I am still on the books, but that is the only extent of my ‘membership’.

    I heard Hugh Nibley say years ago (with regard to church history) something like, “There is far more that we don’t or ever will know than what we do.” Yeah, okay, but what we do know and can piece together poses some relevant questions about the veracity of a lot of claims the LDS church makes. If this were not the case, more ‘intelligent’ people would be joining and/or remaining in the church. I think a lot of it comes down to where you feel you fit in–the company you want to keep regardless of truth claims or indictments. One time I had an opportunity to sit in on a mass in a Catholic chapel of an Italian old age retirement center. I enjoyed it. It felt like ‘the old days’ (I’m Italian). I felt happy being amongst these people because they were like ‘my people’ — my Catholic aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers . But do I ‘believe in’ the Roman Catholic church? Of course not, but I would attend if, say, my wife was an Italian Catholic (my wife is definitely not Catholic OR Italian!). But I don’t *like* the Mormon church any more for a lot of personal and doctrinal reasons, as well as their modus operandi. The Mormon church lies (Note: I didn’t say “*I think* the Mormon church lies.”). And going along with that, I think the Mormon church operates on principles of plausible deniability. Any time an organization tries to hide information about itself, it then casts itself in a suspect light. “Milk before meat” my a$$. It’s really only about the $$! And power and ego, and a lot of things that go absolutely contrary to what Jesus of the New Testament taught and was all about.

    All of this stuff about polygyny and polyandry in tandem with the true ‘restored’ gospel of Jesus Christ? Give me a break!

    If the LDS church works for Brian Hales and Don Bradley and John Delhin and whomever else, well that’s them, but it’s not me. Currently, it’s just a past time — something like following a soap opera, or perhaps a sociological longitudinal study to see what unfolds. I was very vested at one time, but too much dirty water has flowed under my bridge–too much abuse, too much cognitive dissonance, too much a lot of bad things with not enough of the good to balance things out.

    I don’t wish the LDS Church harm. I just wish it would come clean and “let the consequences follow”. To some extent it worked for the RLDS church (now Community of Christ) and it can work for the Salt Lake based LDS church. But the hole they continue to dig for themselves is just getting deeper, and they don’t seem to have the will to construct a ladder high enough to climb out, or they don’t want to. So, they end up getting and keeping the kind of people they have: people who don’t want to know what the truth or the ‘real story’ is (lots of people like that!), people who don’t have any problem with ‘lying for the Lord’ (e.g., the Nazi- like, power-tripping Mormons), people who just want a place to go on Sunday to chit-chat, and socialize with their circle of long-time acquaintances, people who like to try and make a silk purses out of a sows’ ears no matter how improbable, etc, etc.

    I just want the truth — “… the truth shall make you free.” And I have found what seems to be more about sacred truths outside the church than when I was within it.

    End of rant.

  4. Let’s be plain here.

    Whether Cowdery said “affair” or “scrape” is largely irrelevant because it is preceded by the damning adjectives “filthy, nasty”. Unless we are talking about falling into a cow-pie together, I find the language “filthy scrape” naturally open to sexual interpretation when applied jointly to a married, middle-aged man and a young women living in his house. Let’s be honest.

    .Additionally, the truth about Smith’s sexual involvement with the polyandrous third of his wives is secondary to the real issue. I find it MORE reprehensible that he would steal other men’s wives for ETERNITY than for time. Did he ask the husbands for their permission to live with their wives for eternity? Certainly not Orson Pratt! Did they even understand the doctrine of celestial marriage? Moreover, since Smith went to his grave having never made public D&C 132, his polyandry has the appearance of taking advantage of the husbands’ ignorance regarding the revelation.

    For my money, I trust the behavior of people contemporaneous to the events in question to tell me what was really going on. Cowdery suffered a brutally public excommunication rather than recant his allegations. Pratt blew a gasket when he found out about Smith’s dealings with his wife behind his back. And Emma threw Fanny out of her house when it came to light that a filthy, nasty “thing” was happening between her husband and her.

  5. This is hilarious when you read without the defense of the church as your goal. And, no, attacking the church needn’t be your goal for the hilarity to jump out at you.

    Consider some of these statements from the article:

    “… Cowdery may have simply felt that a polygamous marriage was not legitimate, and may not have accepted Joseph’s explanations that it was a legitimate marriage.” Gee, ya think? How small-minded of Cowdery.

    “The most controversial aspect of early polygamy was the fact that Joseph was sealed to wives of other men.” No, the most controversial aspect of early polygamy was polygamy itself! Smith’s taking other men’s wives was but icing on the cake.

    “… Hales believes there is no evidence of any sexual relations between these women and Joseph Smith.” Give me a break. They were married. In a marriage, sexual relations is IMPLICIT. Unless there is evidence that they did NOT have sex, Occam’s Razor falls on the side of sex, sex and more sex.

    “Hales has often stated that even though these 14 sealings are strange …” — now THERE’S a concession! — “… none of the men complained about the sealings.” If they didn’t complain, it may merely attest to the power Smith held over them. But just a darned minute. William Law complained, as the same article makes clear. So did Thomas B. Marsh. Oh wait. In classic Orwellian fashion, the church has made that one about Mrs. Marsh and a cow.

    Going to such lengths for apologetics pushes both the funny and the credulity buttons. BTW, a great read about modern polygamy is Joanne Hanks’ book “It’s Not About the Sex My A**.” Easy to find if you google author or title.

  6. I have to agree with you all regarding the word “scrape” versus “affair.” While Hales may be on to something that the word “affair” didn’t have the same sexual connotation it does now, the fact that Fanny may have been pregnant seems to confirm that sex was involved. The fact that Fanny was a teenager in the Smith household does seem to make it even more suspect. Quibbling over the word doesn’t really seem to matter.

    Al, if 11 men were not LDS, I don’t think one can say that Smith held power over them.

  7. MH: How could the mere possibility that Fanny was pregnant establish the meaning of the words “scrape” and “affair”? The fact is that not a single source states that Fanny was pregnant, expecting, large with child or even that it was rumored. Emma was likely upset with her simply because she discovered that Joseph had a ceremony wherein she was sealed to him.

    As for the imputations that somehow folks like Brian Hales and Don Bradley lack intelligence or are just incapable of critical thought, I suggest that the way they have deal critically the evidence, calling into question prior assumptions that are not easily supported and reading into it what it doesn’t say on the assumption that “of course it ius about sex,” tells us more about those who refuse to reassess in light of the more trenchant analysis.

  8. Meek, According to Richard Bushman in Rough Stone Rolling page 324,

    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 [Fanny], when he turned on his heel and insinuated as though he was guilty.” Thomas Marsh, another apostle accorded a similar experience.

    Regardless of whether Fanny was pregnant, Oliver charged Joseph of adultery. I can think of no other connotation than sex was involved.

    Regarding the possible pregnancy, Don has done considerable work researching Fanny Alger. He presented a paper at Sunstone 2 years ago (and Saturday night said he still has not published the paper.) I heard Don’s presentation, and he reiterated it again. Don believes Fanny was pregnant. But even if she wasn’t, there are plenty of documents relating to Oliver’s excommunication in which Oliver charged Joseph with adultery. I think it is not a logical leap to assume that adultery carries the same definition as today. I’m not sure why Don and Brian are making a big deal about “scrape” as it seems to be irrelevant to the adultery charge leveled by Oliver.

    Bushman further states on page 325,

    Cowdery, believed that Joseph had an affair with Fanny Alger…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.

    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.

    While I haven’t read Hales’ book yet, I think it’s really hard to come to a conclusions that Joseph and Fanny did not have a sexual relationship.

  9. MH: I have read both the entire transcript of the Cowdery trial (and the appended letters) and also all of Hales books (at least an early pre-print version). I am also aware of Don’s position about Fanny Alger being pregnant. Don’s view is not supported by any evidence of which I am aware. It is pure conjecture.

    As you know, Cowdery essentially withdrew his claim regarding Joseph’s adultery in a letter written to the council conducting his excommunication proceeding. The charge was Complaint #2 of which Cowdery stated: “So far as relates to the other seven charges, I shall lay them carefully away, and take such a course with regard to them, as I may feel bound by my honor, to answer to my rising posterity.”

    Apostle David Patten asked Cowdery 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; he then went on and gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. Also said that Joseph told him, he had confessed to Emma.” David Patten, Apostle, see Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, p. 167

    What is it to “insinuate” that he was guilty of adultery? Cowdery’s statement that “no doubt it was true” is fairly clearly a conclusion and not something based on his personal knowledge. Oliver apparently stated that Joseph had “confessed” to Emma Smith — but what? Apparently not that he had committed adultery.

    Thomas Marsh stated in an affidavit: “I heard Oliver Cowdery say to Joseph Smith, Jr., while at George W. Harris’ house, in Far West, that he (Joseph) never confessed to him [adultery]. And O. Cowdery gave me to understand that Joseph Smith Jr. never acknowledged to him, that he [Smith] ever confessed to any one, that he [Smith] was guilty of the above crime [adultery].” Affidavit of Thomas Marsh, Elder’s Journal, v. 1, July 1838, p. 45

    One could read these statements as Bush does that Joseph was merely denying adultery. But that is consistent with both: (1) Joseph married FA but never had sexual relations with her; and (2) Joseph married FA and had sexual relations with her. However, given Cowdery’s withdrawal of the charge of adultery, and given that he did believe a sexual relation even in a polygamous marriage was adultery, it appears that (1) is much better supported by the evidence. I would add that Cowdery learned of celestial marriage in 1847 from Phineous Young and had been fully reconciled to it. If he believed Joseph Smith had committed adultery, I doubt that would have later made the statements he did affirming that Joseph was always a faithful prophet just before and after he rejoined the Church.

  10. Meek,

    To my surprise, I came home today and found a package. I was pleased that it was the Brian Hales books. I did a quick search of the index, and here’s what I found. From Volume 2, page 36 Hales said,

    As I read the evidence, prior to the angel’s third visit…the Prophet had only two, or possibly three plural wives with whom he had sexual relations: Fanny Alger in Kirtland (Chapters 4-5), Louisa Beaman (Chapter 9), and possibly Agnes Moulton Coolbrith Smith, the widow of his brother Don Carlos….

    On page 379-80 of Volume 2, Hales says,

    Evidence supports probable sexual relations with twelve of Joseph Smith’s plural wives: Fanny Alger, Louisa Beaman, …..

    Fanny Alger

    Five documents indicate that Joseph Smith may have experienced conjugal relations with his first plural wife, Fanny Alger. The earliest is from Oliver Cowdery in a private letter written January 21, 1838:

    I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape [“affair” overwritten] of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matter.”1 Letter to Warren Cowdery, January 21, 1838

    The next reference is thirty-four years later from William McLellin:

    One night she [Emma Smith] missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!! She told me this story too was verily true.”Letter to Joseph Smith III, Independence, MO, July 1872

    McLellin report the event again three years afterward in 1875 to J.H. Beadle: [I will leave out quote for brevity as it is similar to above]

    Ten years later, Wilhelm Wyl reportedly quoted Chancy Webb, who said:

    Joseph’s dissolute life began already in the first times of the church, in Kirtland. He was sealed there secretly to Fanny Alger. Emma was furious, and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet, out of her house,4 Wilhelm Wyl quoting “Mr. W.” [Chauncy Webb], Mormon Portraits

    The final document was written in 1903 by Benjamin F. Johnson:

    “I was …told by Warren Parish That He himself & Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fany Alger as a wife for They were Spied upon & found togather.5 Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs</em?, 38.


    Now you’re welcome to believe what you want, but even Brian Hales admits that there were probable sexual relations.

  11. Brian’s statements regarding the words “affair” and “scrape” are building on my analysis, which you can read most of in my chapter “Mormon Polygamy before Nauvoo? The Relationship of Smith and Fanny Alger” in the Persistence of Polygamy, available as an Amazon “First Pages” preview here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Persistence-Polygamy-Joseph-Origins/dp/193490113X

    It may be that the nuance of what I’ve argued gets lost as it’s conveyed from my chapter to his book and then from his book to isolated quotations on a blog wall. So, if you’re curious, perhaps consult this chapter for the details.

    In this chapter, the basic conclusions of which I drew while an ex-Mormon, I attempted to weigh every known piece of evidence on whether the Smith-Alger relationship was a polygamous marriage or an extramarital affair.


  12. Don, I really appreciate you stopping by. I’ll have to get a copy of that book too, and I look forward to reading what this issue of scrape/affair is all about.

  13. Many in this thread have strained at a gnat (Fanny Alger) in efforts of not swallowing the Camel (Sylva Sessions Lyon). With Alger, Hales book offers breaking discovery evidence from persistent Don Bradley research that shows it is very likely before there was any sex, Joseph had a secretive marriage performed with Alger, through keys given to a close ecclesiastical leader (name escapes me) that Joseph could trust during that time of such uncertainty of how to implement the command from the angel with drawn sword. However, Sylvia Sessions relationship with Joseph is stated by Don and Brian’s own admission (see youtube Benchmark books Feb 2013 book signing Q&A) to be the most difficult of plural relationships by Joseph for them to personally understand. Sylvia, married to Brother Lyons for many years with multiple kids is excommunicated for a small civil disagreement with the church, he leaves Navoo for a short time (three weeks) to cool his head and comes back and lives in the apartment attached to his store while he and his wife sort things out as a Married couple (yet probably separated by actual physical space) and he continues to provide for them financially and is most likely in the family home frequently. The historical record shows during that period Joseph was very much concerned over a still born of Sylvias coming to the house to console and eventually Sylvia conceives again and gives birth to “Josephine” (Fisher) whom years later is told by her mother when Josephine is older in very credible documentation that her father is indeed the Prophet. Hales also says in his interview with John Dehlin that female/maternal dna testing (very difficult) is far enough along in now 2013 to determine this parentage in the Fisher line of Joseph is now all but fact. Sylvia and Husband Windsor Lyon reconcile their separation fully not long after Josephine’s birth and have yet another child together and Windsor is re- baptized back into the church shortly after Joseph’s martyrdom. Hales argues this is not Polyandry though because two men (Prophet and Windsor) were not sharing the bed with Sylvia at the same time. Yes, true it appears there was a true separation for a time but I always wondered how close would those time frames have to be to cause serious concern and invalidate true definition of Polyandry? Months apart? Days apart? Or hours? Their always seems, that their are technical definitions that cannot be made sense of and we are still required to walk by faith, but it would seem the term “Married” between Sylvia and Windsor (even though the legal status that we understand today of Marriage with certificates/ Gov recorded and sanctioned are way different today then in 1843, 1844. My point being, this is a much more compelling story line than Fanny Alger that I see unjustifiably much less frequently discussed in historical polygamy chats like this one – just my two cents

  14. “How intelligent people can remain in the LDS church after knowing the ‘real history’ is a wonder. Social contracts and dynamics are mighty powerful I suppose.”

    Hmmm… That’s funny. At the risk of sounding extremely arrogant, but of necessity for the present audience, I’ll state that I believe I’m a very intelligent scientist. I’ll withhold credentials, but not because they don’t exist.
    And, for me, the more I study the gospel and the church the more I arrive at nearly precisely the same conclusion regarding those who *leave* the church, namely, that the action is unreconcilable from an intellectual perspective. So I default to the explanation for apostitizing which I already suspect to be the case: “social dynamics,”as you put it. “I want to live in a self pleasing way without answering to God or believing I might be sinning or accountable for my lifestyle.”
    The supposition that Joseph Smith wrote rather than translated the Book of Mormon is scientifically preposterous. If you believe otherwise, I ask first whether you’ve studied it (really studied it… though I already know the answer) and second whether you’ve any concept, any at all, of the utterly impossible odds you give to his credit. Your presumption to judge others’ intelligence exposes your ignorance, my friend. No, sorry, I lack the faith in the man Joseph Smith or any man, for that matter. You apparently have much more faith in his human abilities than I could ever muster. He was a prophet of God, there is absolutely no other statistical reconciliation, leaving out Satan’s inspiration on grounds of the book itself’s content and persuasion toward righteousness. More than that, I know it in my heart and see it in my life and the lives of all who believe in it. He didn’t create that book. He didn’t convince others they saw an angel to the extend that not one of them, even in their excommunication and desperation to pull Joseph down would deny they saw the angel, no not one. Does it feel blissfully good to ignore the mounds of evidence you need to answer to or are you truly blissfully unaware of them?
    You, my friend, are on the wrong side, you really are. I suggest more study and prayer for you, if you are humble enough to receive it and then, as MH suggests, we will be the very first to gladly and lovingly welcome you back to rejoin us!

  15. @Kent

    Making an appeal to authority is so typical of Mormon apologetic fallacies. Well, your eminence, I’m afraid to break it to you, but you are not the only ‘scientist’ in the world, and many, many others of that same intelligentsia ranking DO NOT find the LDS claims credible for a plethora of reasons — intelligent reasons not subjective ‘burning in the bosom’ ones.

    Listen, dude, I am not out to denigrate your belief in a particular religion. Understand what I just stated, i.e., *your belief*. My comments, as indicting as they appear to be, are directed toward the institution of that religion. Big difference here. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are Roman Catholic of varying degrees of participation, and as much as I don’t believe that the RC church is the true church, I have no problem with my relatives claiming that it may be (some of them), or in fact, is (some others) or isn’t (again, some others still). There are even some that are total atheists and agnostics. I am the only Mormon, former or otherwise. However, when we get together as a group NONE OF US CARES WHAT THE OTHER THINKS about where anyone stands with regard to the RC church, or any religion or non religion! When we get tired of say, politics, and talk about religion (although rarely) it’s totally without any agendas to convert someone to their thinking, or act with any type of disparagement or pity that someone is not of the same religious viewpoint. And yet we can express our views very pointedly, and then it’s live and let live. Why? Because we are all ‘intelligent’ enough to realize that criticizing an institution is not the same thing as criticizing a person, even though that person may have some affinities towards that institution. Criticizing an institution that I belong to is not the same thing as criticizing or making disparaging remarks about my mother or my wife. It’s an institution; it has no feelings. Saying that an institution you belong to is full of crap, isn’t saying that you are. Some people think it is, but then that’s why there is jihad in the world, isn’t it?

    You state: “More than that, I know it in my heart and see it in my life and the lives of all who believe in it.” Well, good for you!Hold onto that for all it is worth *to you* because a lot of people of other faith traditions make exactly the same claim. But at the same time don’t insinuate that you *have to be right* while all of those others *have to be wrong*. If you truly are a scientist, as you claim, you should know that scientists (or science) rarely claim to have ‘proven’ something. There are only indicators that lend to probabilities and degrees of significance. It is apparent that your indicators differ markedly from mine. Let’s take issue with the Book of Mormon.

    A few LDS prophets have stated in binary fashion:

    – “Each of us has to face the matter–either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God or it is nothing.” Gordon B. Hinckley, April General Conference, 2003.

    – “ Let me quote a very powerful comment from President Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church…” J.R. Holland, 1994

    – “Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol 1, p. 188.

    This is FACT: There are far more evidences, or issues, or ‘red flags’ on many fronts that support the *claim* that the BofM is not what the LDS church purports it to be, i.e., an ancient record written by ancient North and/or South American ‘prophets’. Perhaps you will one day have the courage to be able to set aside the fear that has been bred into your bones since childhood of ‘loosing your salvation’ if you question and examine ALL of the evidences and end up concurring with those, or some of them that runs contrary to the grain of Mormon beliefs; that you will be capable of, not to necessarily adopt or accept everything, but at the very least acknowledge with non-dogmatic honesty, those plausibly valid and germane conclusions. B.H. Roberts did, and he still retained his membership. The record is clear that he did NOT believe the BofM was an historical record.

    I trust you won’t feel that I am hitting below the belt, but if you want to believe that a fellow who puts a rock (“seer stone”) that he found one day while digging a well, into a hat and then starts dictating through the medium of that rock to a scribe what some ancient prophet in the Americas wrote on metal plates which became the Book of Mormon, then who am I to even attempt to denigrate your belief in that? This is not the issue. The issue is one of good, readily available scholarship that paints a different picture than the one the official LDS church paints (and continually repaints).

    It doesn’t take a rocket ‘scientist’ or a scientist of any other discipline to come to the accurate and even obvious conclusions that a LOT of stuff doesn’t add up to the claims that the LDS church makes with regard to the BofM. The Mormon church has an amazing knack of constantly re-inventing itself and ‘line upon a line, here a little and there a little’ to change and distance itself when ‘good science’ and scholarship becomes a fait accompli in refutation of their old, out-dated, doctrines and claims. A more recent example of this is the change in the BofM title page about the peoples in that book being watered down from ‘principal ancestors’ to ‘among the ancestors’ of the modern day Native Americans. You don’t hear about Native Americans becoming ‘white and delightsome’ any more; about Native Americans being of Hebrew decent, but growing up I sure did! But I digress. The sound, well researched literature in support of the *significant plausibility* that the BofM is a twentieth century work of fiction is out there to peruse. If you want some references, I can direct you to them. Enough said.

    “The glory of God is intelligence” and “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    By using my God-given gift of reason and intuition — limited as they are — I choose to be free from dogmatic ignorance and ecclesiastical threats of damnation. This is my “pearl of great price”.

  16. @Vikingz

    You realize that your statement which I quoted was very much critizing Mormons, not the institution, as you claim to exclusively criticize, by implying that anyone remaining in the church after studying its history isn’t really that intelligent after all.

    I had to defend us against this, you understand.

    And it also struck me because it is precisely the conclusion I’ve drawn of those who leave the church. I believe most such either haven’t really done their homework or, more so, wish to justify their rationale that frees them from potentionally being accountable for how they act during this life, or both. You have stated that for you, it is the latter (at least in part), to remain free from the “ecclesiastical threats of damnation.”

    Of course none of you cares what each other believes: none of you really believe you have found God’s one and only true religion. Mormons (most) do, and so their behavior is clearly understandable: they want to share that truth.

    Still, I didn’t mean to offend you so, quite honestly, as much as to awaken a sense of awareness that not only are there tons of really smart people in the Church, but that there are really smart reasons that they are. So, I apologize for the offense to you personally (and for my arrogance), truly it was more a defense.

    Have a nice day of service, we will still welcome you back when you are ready. 😉

  17. “ecclesiastical threats”, i.e., threats from men, not God. I didn’t say ‘God’s threats’ or ‘God’s judgements’. You misunderstood. I follow Christ, not a man calling himself a prophet. Even Moses said, “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them”. No man has jurisdiction over my salvation or anyone else’s for that matter. I (we) am accountable to Christ only. I (all of us) am ultimately saved by His grace not the grace of a recommendation for one’s second washing and anointing through the whims of a ‘good ol’ boys club’ based upon ‘ I say, pay and obey’.

    As for the statement I made with reference to how is it possible that “intelligent people” remain Mormons, this needs more qualification. But basically it’s in reference to the institution not specifically individuals. I hesitate to take up your time to explain further except to say that ‘intelligence’ becomes blinded by loyalty (and even ‘catch 22’s’ in certain instances). It’s like: “My country right or wrong, like my mother drunk or sober.” Your loyalty to the LDS church is blinding you. I was once like that. But when you take those blinder off, then the blinders of dogmatic arrogance come off as well; you will begin to distinguish between what is false and what is true. To use a tired cliche from the East: “Your cup is already full and can’t receive anything more.” Hence, you need to empty your cup. But alas, it seems that although you have eyes to see, you refuse to open them or direct them toward other vistas because of your misplaced loyalty (and perhaps arrogance, which is often fostered by that loyalty). You most certainly have a mind that suggests intellect, but you refuse to expand that mind to increase your intelligence, which has greatly diminished your powers of reason. If a ‘prophet’ tells you that 1 + 1 = 11, you will say, “Looks right to me. Put a one right beside another one and you get eleven!”

    In summation, I have to say that I don’t totally feel sorry for you because eventually you will come to know the truth anyway, although I don’t have a clue what effect that will have. I am referring more so to when you exit this world for the next one. You will then know that your misplaced loyalty to an organization was not vital to your salvation and perhaps was even a waste of your God-given resourses, or perhaps was even a detriment. Well, maybe that’s just plain is sad — a ‘sorry’ state. Like the old TV ad used to say advertising the American Negro Education Fund (I think it was called), “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Well, so is a life subjugated to an institution that is only primarily interested in your financial support. “You want to know the truth?” says Monson, “Well, all you need to do is pay your tithing and obey (us).” Yep, that sounds like the ‘intelligent’ way to find truth.

    READ THE LITERATURE! SEARCH ALL THINGS OUT! You don’t have to be afraid of loosing your salvation. I am dating myself, but I well remember the words of Mormon authorities such as Hugh B. Brown and J. Reuben Clark; the kind of words you don’t hear anymore ever since, it would seem, the ubiquitous prevalence of the Internet and its effect of revealing what has been hidden (like the printing press was with regard to past eras and ‘institutions’ such as the RC church): “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” – Apostle J. Reuben Clark, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.

    Now there’s a Cracker Jack directive!

    But if you are in such a comfort zone that strokes your ego (your ‘testimony’??) beguiling you with promises of becoming a god, a ruler over principalities with wives innumerable, or people idolizing you because of a particular ‘lofty’ church position that you hold, in a marriage and/or social circle that supports and encourages that state of mind, then indeed, why should I feel sorry for you? Hey, you got it made! You and Joseph Smith who crowned himself the ‘King of the whole world’ and the ‘God of this generation’; the same guy who “boasted” that he accomplished even more than what Jesus did!

    Here’s another take on the subject, and something I will share with you: Maybe ‘intelligent’ Mormons stay in the church because it’s the only ‘intelligent’ thing to do. If they especially live in a predominantly LDS area and leave the church, they are at great risk of loosing their businesses (support and patronage) or employment. They would loose their standing in the community. Their marriage would be at risk. Their kids would be shunned at school having a parent(s) who was, of all the terrible things, an apostate! But is this really a reflection of intelligence? I think it’s more about abject fear. Do you have any idea how many men (particularly men, I would say) that stay loyal to the church for these and other reasons? Well, I hesitate to share this because it’s a painful memory, but I knew of one — personally. A patriarch! A man of this holy, special ‘spiritual’ office who, shorty before his death, confided in me that he doubted the church is true. Although I won’t divulge the reasons why he came to this conclusions, I will state that he felt he was trapped. He felt that there was no viable way out of the church because it would affect the lives of many, many, people because of all the patriarchal blessings given. So, he ‘played the role’ as best he could until his death. God rest his soul.

    Well, I’ll find my solace in Him who said, “All of you, take up My yoke (not an institution’s) and learn from Me, (not the purveyors of an institution to actualize their agendas) because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.”

    I’ll place my trust in Him who said, “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”, not “You are hereby summoned to appear before a church disciplinary council to try your membership.” Or, “We withdraw fellowship from them.”

    I’ll follow Him who said, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world (not Paul, not Moses, and certainly not T.S. Monson): he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

    Joseph Smith or the Mormon church and all that it ‘commands’ and requires of individuals is not needed to get into ‘heaven’, or what you think of as the ‘highest degree of glory’ (exaltation). Having most emphatically stated this, I am of the opinion, though, that whatever brings you closest to God is the ‘true’ religion, although for me, my primary conviction is of the Christ.

    In any event, during your journey through life as in mine, I would hope that you have the same principal goal, and that is the search for capital ‘T’ Truth, and to realize that ***the goal is not to make the church seem true at all costs, but rather to seek out the truth at all costs***. For many, though, it is a lot more convenient, comfortable and far less costly to just go along with the status quo. That may be fine for them; they are entitled to believe “how or what they may”, but “as for me and my house, I will serve the Lord” in Light, Truth and Love.  Truth and Love are my religion, not some EXclusive ‘ism’. In other words, as well as trying to be a follower of Christ, I also want to be a man of integrity and true to *my* convictions, and not someone else’s for the prupose of serving their interests. 

    I once told someone in conversation, “Yes, a degree is good if pursued correctly, but an education is better.” This can also be an analogue to the notion that many profess to hold a ‘degree’ (membership or calling) in the Mormon church (or any church, for that matter), and that’s fine “if pursued correctly”. However, to have an “education” as for being able to discern between what is true and what isn’t, is far better; how to perhaps live *in* the church but not totally *of* the church is far more “useful”. At least it has been for me.

    If you wish to retain faith and/or belief in the Mormon church and it’s working for you and your family, then my sincere advice is perhaps you should stick with it — at least for the time being while it is “working for you”. Notwithstanding, I would most emphatically state that by maintaining a cheerful countenance combined with humble, non-judgemental, moral/ethical behavior, along with the resolve to not only live by what you know to be true, but to have the courage to seek out was is true and accept that truth at any cost, can ultimately and more effectively bring people and families together in Light, Truth, and Love in this world than dogmatic, mind numbing posturing, and/or by obfuscating and ‘sanitizing’ the ‘real story’.

    Yours in Christ.

    P.S. I thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts and ideas. It helps to keep this old fellow’s mind from atrophying any more than it has to!

  18. Vikingz and Kent. I have let this conversation play out now, and it must end. This post is about polygamy, not whether intelligent people can choose to believe or not. This line of whether intelligent people can/should believe is not only off topic, but is bordering on disrespectful. I strive for respect. I don’t care whether you believe or not; you are both welcome here if you are respectful. Phrases like “mind numbing posturing, and/or by obfuscating and ‘sanitizing’ the ‘real story’” is not exactly respectful to believers. Kent, I know you felt the need to defend believers, but I don’t think it did the good you intended as evidenced by Vikingz overly lengthy reply. (And Vikingz, I’d appreciate it if you’d be a LOT more concise in your comments. It makes you sound needlessly defensive and attacking, and you’re bringing up all of your complaints in a post this is specifically about polygamy. You’re just WAYYYYYY off topic at this point.)

    But I would like to return this back to Don Bradley, Brian Hales, and polygamy. We’ve wandered off the reservation.

  19. @MH: Well stated, and agree. Let’s move on!

  20. Same here, agreed. Vikingz, virtually everything you said I would reflect back to you, so clearly there’s an impass of sorts here. I was pleased to learn of your faith in Jesus Christ!

  21. I always find it interesting, when certain people have to denigrate the belief system of others, especially, when they, themselves are former members of that same sect. I try to respect those beliefs, we may be all hard-wired from our childhood anyway and truly enjoy the association of a good parish or ward and most, could care less about the Inquisition, or a human failing of a past prophet or pontiff.

    At times like these, (the former bantering between Kent & vikingz2000), that I miss my childhood, in England, when I had in-depth to overview discussions of world religions, without insulting the faith or non-faith of anyone, present. At least, even members of the Church of England, can be sarcastic and have humor about their belief system, since a true Englishman believes in Godly platitudes but secretly, is a tongue-in-cheek atheist.

    Whether we like it or not, we’re emotional about religion, in America, since our puritanical roots and culture just bubble with almost, righteous indignation. (Quite the opposite of the ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love one another’ teachings by Jesus that we base our ‘Onward Christian Soldier’ crusades, on.)

    I can understand it, I’m also an American, who travelled a lot, lived 15 years away from Utah, as a radio personality, nighclub spinner and model in New York, Denver and Connecticut. I was inactive in my LDS religion for 15 years, being bohemian and investigating other religions. I’ve even been an ‘alter-boy’ in a modern Catholic parish. I was dating a San Diego Charger from Denver and we were invited to hold the Eucharist and I was married to a Catholic for seven years. That still didn’t make me attack the good men and women of the Catholic faith.

    I would consult with many priests, trying to find a replacement for my former religion. One Irish-Catholic Priest in Greenwich, CT, that I had been meeting with for two months, discussing our core belief systems: like how we viewed the Godhead, the nature of Christ and the Priesthood, etc., became very exasperated with me. He finally said: “Helen, where Ye know it or Not! Yer a Marmon!”

    I came back, years ago, studying Nibley, the Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Book of Mormon, Jewish Mysticism, Gnosticism and realizing that what I was studying only enhanced my new-age-fervor vision of Mormonism, (which includes parallel universes and Kolob, guiding all through a string theory.) I also retain my belief that all people are beloved by God and His Son, no matter their belief system and we are all on different agendas, and maybe, even, different frequencies, hence, it’s illogical, to criticize another’s belief systems, since I personally believe many things about the LDS Church cannot be understood in a mere, physical 3-dimensional earthly setting,since the ordinances that Joseph Smith received the keys to introduce to an earthly plane were from (a higher frequency) God’s dimension? and scientists have already discovered there are at least 12 dimensions, higher than ours.

    The introduction of the ordinance of polygamy is a perfect example of: yes, it’s totally illogical and difficult to understand from an earthly setting! One of my relatives was sealed to Joseph Smith, Rachel Ivins Grant. I also have many journals of Smith and Grant ancestors who were called to live polygamy and had concerns but after praying about the ordinance, all of these people were lifted to a higher, spiritual understanding of it. (different frequency/ dimension?)

    So, I say, it’s their business, if it bothers certain people so much, Dude and Dudettes, get a hobby. I don’t care what your lifestyle is, I have many friends of alternative lifestyles. Life and let live, Dude!


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