Big Week for LDS Media

This was an amazing week on the LDS websites. The LDS Newsroom published a video in which they showed both temple garments, as well as the temple robes that are worn. The Church emphasized that many religions have religious clothing, and said that it is derogatory to refer to LDS garments as “magic underwear.”

Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical or “magic underwear.” These words are not only inaccurate but also offensive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and Church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of goodwill.

Then later in the week, LDS.org published 3 new essays on polygamy.

  1. Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  2. Plural Marriage and Families in Utah
  3. Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

I’m sure there were some major surprises for most Church members, most notably in the 3rd essay, such as the acknowledgement that Joseph was sealed to a 14-year old.

The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday.

Another surprising acknowledgement was the fact that Joseph practiced polygamy with Fanny Alger before Elijah restored the sealing power to Joseph in 1836.  Historians aren’t sure when the Alger sealing took place, but it was probably 1833-34.  Alger would have been around 16 years old at this time.

Fragmentary evidence suggests that Joseph Smith acted on the angel’s first command by marrying a plural wife, Fanny Alger, in Kirtland, Ohio, in the mid-1830s. Several Latter-day Saints who had lived in Kirtland reported decades later that Joseph Smith had married Alger, who lived and worked in the Smith household, after he had obtained her consent and that of her parents.10 Little is known about this marriage, and nothing is known about the conversations between Joseph and Emma regarding Alger. After the marriage with Alger ended in separation, Joseph seems to have set the subject of plural marriage aside until after the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.

Later in the essay

The sealing of husband and wife for eternity was made possible by the restoration of priesthood keys and ordinances. On April 3, 1836, the Old Testament prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and restored the priesthood keys necessary to perform ordinances for the living and the dead, including sealing families together.13 Marriages performed by priesthood authority could link loved ones to each other for eternity, on condition of righteousness; marriages performed without this authority would end at death.14

The essay doesn’t state how many women Joseph was sealed to; historians generally agree that he was sealed to more than 30.  The article specifically mentions the following women sealed to Joseph (in addition to Emma, as well as Helen Mar Kimball mentioned above):  Fanny Young, Fanny Alger, Louisa Beaman, Lucy Walker, Zina Huntington Jacobs.  But the biggest acknowledgement was that Joseph was sealed to currently married women.

Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.29 Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.30 Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

There are several possible explanations for this practice. These sealings may have provided a way to create an eternal bond or link between Joseph’s family and other families within the Church.31 These ties extended both vertically, from parent to child, and horizontally, from one family to another. Today such eternal bonds are achieved through the temple marriages of individuals who are also sealed to their own birth families, in this way linking families together. Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record.32

These sealings may also be explained by Joseph’s reluctance to enter plural marriage because of the sorrow it would bring to his wife Emma. He may have believed that sealings to married women would comply with the Lord’s command without requiring him to have normal marriage relationships.33 This could explain why, according to Lorenzo Snow, the angel reprimanded Joseph for having “demurred” on plural marriage even after he had entered into the practice.34 After this rebuke, according to this interpretation, Joseph returned primarily to sealings with single women.

Another possibility is that, in an era when life spans were shorter than they are today, faithful women felt an urgency to be sealed by priesthood authority. Several of these women were married either to non-Mormons or former Mormons, and more than one of the women later expressed unhappiness in their present marriages. Living in a time when divorce was difficult to obtain, these women may have believed a sealing to Joseph Smith would give them blessings they might not otherwise receive in the next life.35

The women who united with Joseph Smith in plural marriage risked reputation and self-respect in being associated with a principle so foreign to their culture and so easily misunderstood by others. “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” said Zina Huntington Jacobs, “for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.” Nevertheless, she wrote, “I searched the scripture & by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself.”36 After Joseph’s death, most of the women sealed to him moved to Utah with the Saints, remained faithful Church members, and defended both plural marriage and Joseph.37

I saw a comment on Facebook that referred to this era of openness and an LDS version of Glasnost.  What do you make of these two startling displays of openness concerning garments and polygamy?


10 comments on “Big Week for LDS Media

  1. Interesting that the p.r. machine is tackling this can of worms.
    Polygamy/plural marriage is a false and abominable doctrine absolutely condemned by the Book of Mormon which contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

  2. I would expect no other response from a hard core RLDS believer.

  3. Never been in an RLDS church in my life and didn’t even know there was such a thing until a couple years ago. it is interesting though that the RLDS own the copyright to the entire JST translation of the Bible which the LDS leaders pretend doesn’t even exist.

  4. Apparently you’ve never attended an LDS Church either.

    Let me get this straight. You started a blog last month, didn’t know the RLDS Church existed until a few years ago, didn’t know they owned the copyright to JST, think the LDS Church pretends the JST doesn’t exist, and you’re a self-proclaimed expert that Joseph didn’t practice polygamy.

    I’m not going to waste time arguing with you.

    Do you believe the earth is flat too? Is Elvis still alive? Did NASA fake the moon landings? Have aliens planted a chip in your body? Who killed Kennedy?

  5. I have attended the LDS church all my life and still do. Served a 2 year mission also.
    I confess I hadn’t done a lot of digging into church history and thus had never heard of the RLDS church. I said the church pretends the part of the JST they don’t have a copyright on, doesn’t exist.
    I don’t claim to be an expert on anything and sadly, I believe JS did practice polygamy.
    My faith is in Christ not men though so I can accept and appreciate the good he did and reject the bad.
    You sure make a lot of baseless assumptions.
    I didn’t realize we were arguing.

  6. Well, I have a few suggestions. (1) Copy/paste the previous comment into your About page on your blog, (2) I’m not a fan of polygamy either. (In fact I think we have a lot in common there.) (3) Perhaps rather than simply post a link, you ought to explain your position better when you come to a new blog, (4) instead of charging in like a bull who knows everything. With only 3 posts on your blog, you use a lot of absolutist language “abominable/evil” and sound incredibly hard-core RLDS. You sound like a self-proclaimed expert, not someone just learning about some basics of Mormon history.

  7. Thanks for your suggestions and I will consider them. Didn’t mean to offend you or anyone reading your blog. Just wanted to put my ideas, observations and conclusions out there and see what others might think.
    I will have to correct my previous statement though and say I guess I am an expert on one thing, and that is my opinion, which is what I have posted on my blog. I have been studying Mormon history extensively for at least a year now and have learned a lot of things which have caused me to reassess my positions on LDS incorporated.
    Glad we do share a lot in common regarding the abomination of polygamy(Jacob’s words).

  8. I think you should be more careful about throwing around the term abomination. It reminds me of The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Moses teaches in Leviticus that it is an abomination to eat shrimp. A few verses above and below it says you shouldn’t plant two different seeds in the same hole. You shouldn’t co-mingle your crops because it is an abomination. It is an abomination to eat a rabbit. There are other laws that you shouldn’t wear linen and wool together because they are an abomination.

    Reverend Dr. Laurence C. Keene, Disciples of Christ, said, “When the term ‘abomination’ is used in the Hebrew Bible, it is always used to address a ritual wrong. It never is used to refer to something innately immoral. Eating pork was not innately immoral for a Jew, but it was an abomination because it was a violation of a ritual requirement.”

    So if you’re going to use the word abomination to describe polygamy, then I hope you aren’t eating pork or shrimp, wearing wool and linen, or planting 2 seeds in the same hole because according to the Bible, those are all abominations too. (I love bacon, but I don’t think we consider that an abomination anymore.)

  9. I was citing Jacob’s words. He used that word repeatedly regarding polygamy.
    I accept the 1828 Websters definition:

    1. Extreme hatred; detestation.

    2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.

    The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Prov.xv.

    3. Hence, defilement, pollution, in a physical sense, or evil doctrines and practices, which are moral defilements, idols and idolatry, are called abominations. The Jews were an abomination to the Egyptians; and the sacred animals of the Egyptians were an abomination to the Jews. The Roman army is called the abomination of desolation. Mat. 24:13. In short, whatever is an object of extreme hatred, is called an abomination.

    I eat shrimp, pork(love pork ribs, chops and bacon), and have worn wool and linen and have definitely planted more than 2 seeds in a hole. Somehow I don’t think Jacob would have labeled those abominations.

  10. Once again you’re showing your ignorance. Jacob was Nephi’s brother, right? Nephi believed in the Law of Moses, right? Nephi killed Laban to get the Plates of Brass (containing the words of Moses) right? If Jacob and Nephi were good Jews, they would not have eaten pork, worn wool and linen, or planted 2 seeds in the same hole because they were good Jews, right?

    Christ didn’t do away with the Law of Moses for another 500+ years after Jacob’s time. I think you need to learn your Bible and BoM better, as well as your Mormon history. Jacob would have viewed such acts an abomination under the Law of Moses.

    Did the Book of Mormon originate in 1828, or between 600 BC and 400 AD? Ya got to know your stuff better than this if you’re going to argue a point.

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