Your Friday Firestorm #52

All good things come to an end. Lots of mediocre things, too.

This is the last of them, and it’s a doozy. Considering the date there were other frontrunners, but this is the mother of all firestorms. In the weeks to come I’ll look back and see if there are any conclusions to draw. But for now… enjoy this long but oh-so-fiery post.

Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory….

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God….

Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved. But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham. God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it…. David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed….And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many….

Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God….

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified. But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified….

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law. Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

(D&C 132, excerpted)

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Peter LLC says:

    We are indeed a covenant people.

  2. p.s. this is timely.

  3. The prose here is as clear as mud.

  4. P.S.
    That video is horrible, as are the related videos. Who has the guts to click on “REJUVENECIMIEN TO VAGINAL”?

  5. …that she stay herself and partake not of of that which I commanded you to offer unto her…

    Could someone please enlighten me as to what the offering is? Is this referring to an offer of divorce?

  6. Phouchg says:

    “Traditional Marriage” indeed.

  7. Brad Kramer says:

    But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified

    So, polyandry = adultery?

    And so much for the “it wasn’t about sex” defense. It may not have been about the gratification of licentious, base desires, but plural wives are clearly “give” for the purpose of multiplying and replenishing the earth, no?

  8. And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery

    Doesn’t this clause provide the “out” for polyandry, Brad?

  9. Oh boy. Actually, Ronan, the video is great. It made me smile again after reading the excerpted D&C 132, when I realized how much it sucks to be a woman.

    And being not-sealed-to-my-spouse, I’m totally screwed anyway. Next time you see me I’ll be running around after all of you with a feather duster and offering you a tray of freshly baked morsels while I massage your feet.

  10. Yeah, polyandry is okay if you’ve been appointed to be with the other guy. Let’s just think of this way: women are property.

  11. Sorry. I’m feeling extraordinarily grouchy today.

  12. meems–did you see NO’s post over at FMH about traditional marriage?

    The virginity thing is the part I find most irritating–it’s disheartening to think that once you’ve had sex your value as a person is somehow changed.

  13. sister blah 2 says:

    re the video: The mushroom cloud for those who marry outside the covenant was a nice touch! (go to 3:35) Real subtle guys…

  14. My husband can have second wife when I get one…… make of this comment what you will.

  15. Bro. Jones says:

    Can I reject polygamy as the doctrine of men while still keeping the eternal covenant part of this revelation?

  16. The more I read Genesis, the more convinced I become that the modern equivalent of the “works of Abraham” is not polygamy, but surrogate motherhood.

  17. Steve,
    Man, why couldn’t you have chosen something a little less contentious and blood-letting? Like, say, re-fighting the battle of Gettysburg. I haven’t got the energy for this one!

  18. Steve Evans says:

    one man, one woman.

  19. Apricot K says:

    Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it…. David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

    Might these concubines include David’s homosexual relationship with Jonathan about which Pinsky speculates in The Life of David? Jonathan certainly seems to be given David of the Lord.

  20. Steve (#18) – That is consistent with my copy of the D&C:

    “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”

    Where’s the firestorm?

  21. Peter LLC says:

    Can I reject polygamy as the doctrine of men while still keeping the eternal covenant part of this revelation?

    Sure, assuming the Gospel Principles manual has any weight in the eternal scheme of things.

    When we accept the new and everlasting covenant, we agree to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, receive our endowments, receive the covenant of marriage in the temple, and follow and obey Christ to the end of our lives.

  22. That video was used in Seminary? All I ever got was filmstrips and the occasional Johnny Lingo on VHS.

  23. #8, no, there’s no out. Joseph Smith’s marriages clearly violated the revelation. Note the crucial conditions:

    …if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified…

    Plural wives thus need to be virgins who are vowed to no other man. Polyandry violated this rule, as did plural marriage of widows. The only part of this revelation that was not taken seriously during Joseph Smith’s life and throughout the rest of the 19th century was the part that imposed restrictions on men’s marriage options.

  24. That video is funny. Why are the scripture reading boys lying on their stomachs? is this to cover any, ahem, interest they have in this revelation?

    Also, I love the modesty of the polo kid.

  25. JNS: but what about the other revelation of the angel with the sword that told JS to marry other mens’ wives while they were gone on missions?

  26. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God….

    Someday I’ll have my second annointing and no longer have to worry about sin or transgression.

  27. SteveS, right, that’s not canon, is it? In any case, Smith told Hyrum and others that he’d received the above revelation at least as early as Kirtland. So do we have contradictory commandments, or just one commandment that was violated? Etc.

    Other men followed suit, of course. Without even claiming to see angels with swords.

  28. Even after your second annointing, Kari, you may still want to worry. Being “destroyed in the flesh” and “delivered unto the buffetings of Satan” doesn’t sound very pleasant, despite the promised redemption.

  29. That pesky angel with the sword kept coming back, too, if we are to believe the accounts. But I understand what you mean about the canon vs. non-canon thing. But lets remember that D&C 132 didn’t enter the canon until the 1876 ed.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    #5 zehill, I don’t think we know for sure what the offer was, but my working theory is that Emma had argued that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and that if Joseph could have multiple wives she could have multiple husbands. [Not that she really wanted another husband; she was trying to get him to see the situation from her perspective.] And I think Joseph told her ok, on the assumption that she’d never go through with such a thing. But when it started to look like Emma might call his bluff and actually go through with it (perhaps with William Marks), Joseph realized she might be serious and tried to call off the dogs.

    Very speculative, of course, but that’s my take on it.

  31. This whole section was NOT voted into the D&C when Joseph, Brigham and the rest of the Church created it from the Book of Commandments. It was inserted into the D&C by Brigham in 1876….and was purely a compilation of two letters written ostensibly by Joseph Smith earlier….much earlier….to justify his womanizing.

    The section that was voted upon by the church, including Joseph, was called Section 111, and which still exists in the Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants, and is the statement that Monogamy is the rule of the Church and that anybody who says otherwise is a LIAR. So, if Joseph approved Section 111, and anybody who disputes that monogamy is the Church’s practice is a LIAR….well, what does that say!?!?

    This whole subject is a male fantasy gone crazy, and I would think that Joseph is currently suffering over the harm done to women and the Church of God because of his issues.

  32. Even after your second annointing, Kari, you may still want to worry. Being “destroyed in the flesh” and “delivered unto the buffetings of Satan” doesn’t sound very pleasant, despite the promised redemption

    It will be but a short season compared to the eternities of exaltation. Like eating my asparagus to get to the lemon meringue pie.

  33. John Hamer says:

    Interestingly, the relevant section of The Book of the Law of the Lord, which James Strang claimed to translate from the Plates of Laban, seems to embody more the rhetorical ideals of 19th century Mormon polygamy. It certainly has more concern for the rights of widows, women, and virgins entering into plural marriage than LDS D&C 132.

    The Book of the Law of the Lord XLIV: 5, 10-13, 15

    5. Thou shalt not take unto thee a multitude of wives disproportioned to thy inheritance, and thy substance: nor shalt thou take wives to vex those thou hast; neither shalt thou put away one to take another….

    10. And if thou covenant or promise to marry a woman or virgin, thou shalt not break thy covenant; thou shalt not draw back from thy promise: and if thou lie with one, and she conceive seed of thee, thou shalt take her to wife; thou shalt not bring her shame upon her: if thou dost her brethren shall stone thee and none shall deliver thee; and yet thou shalt be judged for thy faithlessness….

    11. If thy brother have an inheritance, and die leaving a wife, but no seed, thou shalt take her to wife, and raise up seed to thy brother, that his name be not lost among the people: thou shalt possess the inheritance with her, till the seed be grown up to possess it. If he had but a portion, it shall be thine, and the seed also. If she love thee not, or thou wilt not take her, this right goeth to the next kinsmen; but no one shall take the inheritance or portion without her.

    12. Moreover, if thou takest a widow in marriage, and she have been joined to another forever, thou shalt take her for life; and it shall be expressly determined whose the seed is; whether thine, or his whose widow she is.

    13. If thou marry a wife having children, and they have no father in the Kingdom, and she bring them to thee, they are thine: thou shalt receive them, and establish them.

    15. If a woman or a virgin obtain a good report through faith, and is chosen of God a Prince and a Ruler, she shall have an inheritance appointed to her, with her husband or her brethren, that she may possess it, and her children with her, and that she may rule over all her house.

  34. It’s fine if the church doesn’t want to be mistaken with the FLDS church in Texas. We’re certainly not the same organization. But will the church will ever try to reconcille how the doctrinal basis for eternal marriage is not repealed in OD1? OD1 simply says that we’re not going to practice polygamy….and we’ll adhere to the laws of the land. Statements by the brethren say the same thing….that we don’t practice it, we stopped doing it a long time ago, we ex folks who do it.

    I kind of get uncomfortable when the church goes to great lengths like it is to disassociate itself from the practice and those who practice it -because for us, it still seems to be doctrine. OD1 didn’t make the doctrine go away….

  35. #30 Kevin – I read the speculation that it was a reluctant offer of divorce in the not-so-authoritative Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Young who claims this is the view of “Mormon exponents of the Revelation.” I also vaguely remember reading that Joseph and Emma were separated briefly but reconciled (no source).

  36. #32 – Mmmmm, asparagus. If that’s an accurate comparison, maybe I’ll deliver myself over to those delicious buffetings.

  37. Kevin,

    I’m pretty sure that speculation is discussed in _Mormon Enigma_, too.

  38. Cynthia, I recall that Quinn argues that Smith was out of town when Section 111 was voted on. This was, in his view, a deliberate strategy to get the condemnation of polygamy on the record without having to be present and actually vote on it himself.

  39. Matt Thurston says:

    Zehill #5, and Kevin #30,

    William Marks? Wasn’t it William Law who was to be Emma Smith’s intended? Can’t remember where I read it, but probably either Compton, Newell/Avery, or maybe Brodie. It is mentioned in the Wikipedia article for the Nauvoo Expositer, but with no citation. Seem to recall that William Law was considered attractive, and that Emma was impressed with him.

    Of course, to complete the crazy wife-swapping circle, Joseph Smith suppossedly tried to marry William Law’s wife, Jane Law. Law claimed that when he confronted his wife, she told him that Smith had “asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband.” When William and Jane balked, was Emma and a “player to be named later” thrown in to sweeten the offer?

    Of course, all of this would make a wonderful adults-only HBO series.

  40. I particularly liked the latin mass setting used for the film’s soundtrack.

    Oh seminary…

  41. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 9 Hah, I’ll show you totally screwed under this theological regime, meems. Come find me up there and I’ll help you with the Hors D’oeuvres platters. “Crabcake, Steve and Ronan?”

  42. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, I can think of no one better to handle my celestial catering than you and your peeps.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, it may have been William Law I was thinking of. William somebody. And Kaimi, I think I picked up this idea from Newell/Avery, so thanks for mentioning Mormon Enigma.

    Anyway, it’s one of those conversations I would pay a princely sum to have been a fly on the wall for!

  44. sister blah 2 says:

    Verily, I say unto [Joseph]: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith,…

    It’s not to hard see where those nutso BYU guys get the idea that they can receive revelation on behalf of women about being their future spouse.

  45. sister blah 2 says:

    not to hard see -> not hard to see

    See, this passage is making me so upset I can’t even construct sentences!

  46. Righto, Steve. Celestial Beings Who Know choose caterers who can make a non-alcoholic cosmo.

    And a mojito, if possible.

  47. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think our consciousness is so saturated with sex that we can’t imagine anything else at work. A man desires to ‘take another virgin’, well, that must be sex and only sex because what else could motivate such a thing. I think we have _no real idea_, I repeat, _no real idea_, about what interpersonal relations might be like in the worlds to come, except that at their best they will be interpersonal and based on things like love, mutual and perfect understanding and enjoyment – and so my project is to work on those things.

    Just like the polygamists did, we project our own _exact_ structures and sentiments on to the affair. Just like we do to just about everything else. I doubt if we can know or learn anything about it at all while, individaully, this is our project. And, collectively, mum is going to be the word for a long long time.

    I think this section is most like a cipher. The most interesting sentence in it is this “And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present …” You know, the silence is deafening. Taking a look around, though, I get an inkling of why God might be of a disposition to let us squirm.

    ~

  48. I think I’d rather be in the kitchen with Mike and his peeps.

  49. Joseph used polygamy as an Abrahamic test for many people. I think it is interesting that it still functions that way for a lot of people today. An Abrahamic test must, by definition, defy explanation and require something that seems on its face to be evil. Although many people are ready to write it all off to Joseph’s womanizing and overblown libido, I’m not ready to stack my righteousness up against Joseph’s.

  50. Mike and meems, a rousing game of persecution poker, is it? I fold.

    Thomas, most of the conversation here isn’t about the next life, but rather about the acts and motives of very specific people who are historically knowable. If you want to claim that Joseph Smith was not motivated by sex at all in his practice of polygamy, go ahead. I can’t think of very many historians who would find your argument helpful, and it just doesn’t seem to me to fit the historical record. About the best I can do in this regard is to say that he probably wasn’t motivated only by sex.

  51. I would rather try the ministering angel thing than be picked out of a line up for potential wives and then be sealed by proxy to someone I don’t even know. I am not sure that could happen but the general tone of the scripture makes me think it is possible.

  52. Thomas Parkin says:

    JNS,

    I know that this isn’t about the next life. I’m most interested in why people can’t get past this -why it must remain a firestorm. You’ll understand that I’m never all that interested in what may or may not be helpful to historians. I’ll leave the scholarship to scholars, for the most part. I generally admire, or not, at a distance.

    What I addressed was the emotional assumption that this “must be sex and only sex.” I try to be a little subtle, JNS. I generally don’t include qualifiers unless they are important to what I’m trying to say.

    I don’t see anything wrong with sex being part of the motivation for polygamy. I suspect that it is a major motivation – it would be for me. It isn’t really a problem for me that there is an erotic element in most everything we do. I think that making sex and only sex of it, however, exhibits a lack of imagination, and is unduly reductive and dissmissive of chaps who we know could think their way around religious issues with insight that transcended what happened in their pants.

    ~

  53. Norbert says:

    There sure is a lot of destroying going on there, mostly of the wimmins.

    But it’s interesting to know the history of its inclusion in the D&C.

  54. Thanks for the firestorm, Steve. There was some new information for me in the various comments, for which I’m grateful. Polygamy has been a major stumbling block for me. I cannot define it without including the word ADULTER. Thanks, various bloggers, for the information on the first Section 111, and for the details on when and how section 132 was cannonized.

    So, is anyone on BCC going to remember that today, Friday June 27th, is the anniversary of Joseph Smith’s death?

  55. Margaret, I’m still getting over the shock of having it be my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday – that she is on a date right now. I’m enjoying this thread, but my brain is elsewhere.

  56. Margaret,
    Thanks for the reminder about the anniversary of the martyrdom. For those that might want to read of the event, here’s a link to D&C 135.

  57. Antonio Parr says:

    Can one still be a good Latter-Day Saint is she/he believes that Section 132 is not a revelation from God, but, instead, a rather self-evident attempt on the part of Joseph Smith to rationalize (to both himself and others) his extramarital sexual liaisons?

    Similarly:

    Can one still be a good Latter-Day Saint if she/he teaches his/her children that women are every bit the equals of men (as in 1:1), and that polygamy reduces woman to a status that is unequal and therefore not of God?

    Speaking hypothetically, of course . . .

  58. Matt W. says:

    Antonio Parr:

    For Q1: That’s a tough one. I’d say yes, but it’s a tough one.

    Q2: that’s easy. Yes.

  59. I think there is no way for us to really understand what was going on without having been there when polygamy was in force. I tend to agree with Jacob J., too, that back then when people had to live it and now when people even think about it, it came and comes down to an issue of faith. No historical or intellectual study will be sufficient to produce the fruits of faith or testimony necessary to accept this part of our history.

    It’s made all the harder for us, imo, because 1) we didn’t hear the principle taught (which is one way that the Spirit can confirm truth to us) and 2) we aren’t living the principle. Since one of the best ways to gain a testimony of a gospel principle is to live it (John 7:17), that puts us at a significant disadvantage (while, of course for most, that is at the same time a significant advantage — I don’t know many people who would jump up and down at the prospect of practicing polygamy). :) But still, we can trust that God is and has been leading this work from the beginning through His prophets.

    As much as I can understand that this is a tough issue, and as much as I don’t understand about it all, I don’t think it needs to be the firestorm it often is. The Church is true, and it was then, too. :) If something distracts as this often does from the simple beauty of the gospel, I say put it on the shelf, Sister Hinckley style. :) Sometimes faith means we have to choose to let go of the things that cause us angst and worry and fear and confusion.

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Margaret, the martrydom is what I refer to when I said “Considering the date there were other frontrunners.”

  61. although jacobj at new cool thang declared this the England’s worst.argument.ever., I am partial to Eugene England’s take on this.

  62. “this the England’s” should read “this England’s”

  63. chimera says:

    59.

    Between polyandry, the many first vision versions, DNA, BoA, etc., my shelf is getting awfully heavy.

  64. chimera, Bank of America is a pretty nasty organization, but don’t let them drive you from the Church.

  65. 59
    Hang in there. My heart aches for you, but I know it’s possible to get past this. Reinforce your faith with the things you do know, on the things that bring the Spirit. I love what Elder Oaks reminded us of in this last conference…that a testimony comes from the Spirit, not from intellectual pondering. The intellectual pondering can make the shelf heavy. The Lord through His Spirit can make your burden light. (Not that intellectual pondering in and of itself is bad, but if the fruits of that exercise are not good, then it might be time to find a different approach to searching and seeking.)

    I know this because I have felt it. People may not really believe this of me, but my active brain could easily get bogged down in the understandings of human beings and their attempts to analyze (or sometimes undermine) our faith. It sometimes has! I have sometimes had to work hard for months to allow myself to feel the Spirit rather than let my brain and doubts such as these have sway. (There is nothing on your list of which I am not aware.) The more I trust the simple message as taught in the scriptures and by our prophets, the lighter the shelf becomes, and the easier it is to let it be. I have not found peace by focusing more on the things that bring questions, I have found it by focusing more on the pure and simple truths and teachings of the gospel.

    I hope you can find the peace you ache for. I know it’s possible, but my experience has been that it takes choosing what to nurture in your heart and mind. And sometimes it takes time. And lots of trust in the Lord. In the end, only He can make that shelf lighter, for you know as well as I do that the opinions of people on these topics vary greatly and often only add to the confusion and weight of the shelf.

    Godspeed in your journey.

  66. oops…I pointed to my own comment. I hope it’s obvious that that was directed at chimera.

  67. I came across an interesting example of the tension that still remains over separating the doctrine out of D&C 132 and the teaching of polygamy. While my wife and I were preparing for marriage, we were reading an LDS book that had TONS of questions to ask each other in order to come to a better understanding of our future spouse. One of the questions that I was supposed to ask my wife was something along the lines of the following:

    “If the principles of polygamy as recorded in D&C 132 were restored today by the Prophet, would you be willing to live it?”

    My wife’s answer was a clear no, and so was mine, but I think it does tug on a tension that is still present.

  68. I also wonder about how we treat polygamy as compared to how we treat the priesthood restriction: both are uncomfortable and are practices we try to distance ourselves from. However, many believing members (including myself) don’t want to fully claim humanistic means for polygamy merely because we have a recorded revelation concerning it. Do you think we would be a lot more accepting of calling polygamy a “failed marriage experiment” (to loosely quote Compton) if it wasn’t written down? Does the mere act of recording something a prophet says justifying a practice in biblical verbiage make it more difficult to question?

  69. Matt Thurston says:

    I appreciate comments by Thomas (#47) and Jacob J. (#49) because they are so markedly different from the way I think.

    I think Abrahamic tests of faith, and much of the verses excerpted here from D&C 132 are flat out nutso. (And that is being kind.)

    But Thomas’s and Jacob’s approach is one of humility, of extending the benefit of the doubt, of trying to extract some lesson from thorny problems.

    All good.

    And yet how far do we utilize such an approach before it would be wiser to just chuck the story altogether and move on? How far does Joseph have to go before we might want to “stack our righteousness” up against his and say, “Sorry, I don’t agree with you, not in this case”? Evidently, asking for the hand of one’s wife is not far enough. What about murder? Not far enough either (see Abraham).

    Isn’t the deeper lesson here about the limitations of human prophets, and not the limitations of us weak-minded children who cannot understand God’s ways?

    Maybe the “defeaning silence” from God is because Joseph was nuts, and our resulting “squirming” is is the correct response of our conscience, or God’s “still small voice” or way of telling us that we are right to squirm.

  70. Interesting thoughts both Ben and Matt. Matt, your question: “and yet how far do we utilize such an approach before it would be wiser to just chuck the story altogether and move on?” is tough. Misapplied, it could gut all faith.

  71. I wonder sometimes about the “rockstar” effect of popularity coming into play here. One needs not look very far to find examples of how charismatic people with talents for leadership or artistic ability easily garner devoted followers. The stars themselves often don’t know what to do with fame, but it takes a huge amount of self-control, I’m betting, to not misuse charismatic power to achieve personal ends. JS is reported to have been extremely charismatic, and even if the women he propositioned to enter into polygynous relationships with weren’t necessarily the ones fawning over him, there were probably others who did. This may have served to fan his ego, and it could have been very difficult for JS to resist the urge to entertain. It would be difficult for me. Just a thought.

  72. Guys, I need to say that it would be in poor taste for us to defame the Prophet of the Restoration on this thread, particularly given that today is the anniversary of his martrydom. Let’s try and be circumspect.

  73. Regarding the Abrahamic test, remember that this test was required of the Prophet (meaning Abraham), not for the rank and file. If Joseph was really Testing the flock, seems a little harsh.

    I have a hard time with the whole Abraham – Isaac thing as it is.

    I’m actually a bit surprised at the whole of the comments here – I expected more people to defend Joseph. Instead, I’m feeling like there’s sort of a tacit embarrassment of this section of the D&C.

    (Also, I’m a little sad that this is the last of the Firestorms – it’s something I look forward to on Fridays.)

  74. I’ve shared this elsewhere, but I think it might be pertinent here.

    When I was growing up discussions of Polygamy focused on when we would have to live it again, rather than if. I firmly believed that I had to prepare myself mentally, and emotionally to share my (then, future) husband. No one was even willing to let the issue rest at ‘we just don’t live it now’ they always had to tack on the ‘fact’ that the commandment was not removed, and that once the world was ready we could get on with it. I don’t know if the idea came predominantly from my parents, my primary teachers, seminary teachers, whatever- I got it from someplace though.

    After I got married I spent a lot of time and energy trying to contort myself into being ready to accept a sister wife*, because the next best thing to living the doctrine is being ready to live the doctrine. As a mental exercise it ripped me to shreds. When I finally allowed myself to believe that I might never, ever have to be in a polygamous relationship I was so relieved.

    Anyhow, I think that you can draw a line between those who expect to have to live polygamy, and those who don’t. Those people, who expect it, who are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, there is an urgency in their questions. This cannot be put on the shelf for them. They don’t have the luxury of emotional distance- and it is hell.

    *I feel inclined to mention that my husband had nothing to do with this. Polygamy isn’t even on his radar, let alone something he looked forward to. He couldn’t understand why I was so fixated on it because he literally never even thought about it.

  75. Maybe the “defeaning silence” from God is because Joseph was nuts, and our resulting “squirming” is is the correct response of our conscience, or God’s “still small voice” or way of telling us that we are right to squirm.

    I think there is more to this to consider. We should all be squirmy because we aren’t supposed to want polygamy. It is the exception, not the rule (a la Jacob 2). We should want to be monogamous, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we struggle with it now, or that people struggled with it then.

    I also think our conscience can be offended when we spend too much time focusing on things that are hard to understand, a la Jacob 4.

    I also wonder how one can think this can be dismissed as just Joseph Smith’s craziness when the principle has both OT and BoM support, as well as continued recognition of its reality and revelation base by current leaders. There’s a whole lot there to dismiss than just Joseph Smith, and that to me violates conscience as well.

    I guess I don’t understand why some can’t be both sensitive to the difficulty of polygamy, even squirming at the concept (as we should in our time) and yet accept it as something that had its time, just as has been mentioned and evidenced in scripture (ancient and latter-day)?

  76. “I guess I don’t understand why some can’t be both sensitive to the difficulty of polygamy, even squirming at the concept (as we should in our time) and yet accept it as something that had its time, just as has been mentioned and evidenced in scripture (ancient and latter-day)?”

    Because we believe in eternal truths, and we believe the family is the most important thing in the world, and so anything that would be as seemingly destructive and horrible to family and so at odds with our current doctrine is hard to see as ever being divine.

  77. Anyhow, I think that you can draw a line between those who expect to have to live polygamy, and those who don’t. Those people, who expect it, who are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, there is an urgency in their questions. This cannot be put on the shelf for them. They don’t have the luxury of emotional distance- and it is hell.

    But if that exercise is based on a falsehood, wouldn’t it be good to stop the exercise? I know of nothing in our current teachings that would suggest that this is necessary. Quotes from the past when people did need to accept the principle because it was being taught are not binding on us today. I have never heard a leader in my lifetime suggest that I need to be ready to live this principle to be a worthy member. So I think that mental exercise is akin to a kind of spiritual and mental self-torture that is sadly unnecessary.

  78. M&M,

    It’s easy.

    1. The OT is a terrible, misogynist book with thoroughly f*ed up ideas about marriage and relationships that have no place at all in modern society.

    2. Section 132 looks like it may be the result of Joseph Smith’s personal desire to restore polygamy. (With whatever underlying motivations might exist there.)

    Not so hard, is it? Are either one of those wrong?

  79. and so anything that would be as seemingly destructive and horrible to family

    In my family, this was essential to us all being here as part of our family. Is it all destructive?

    I understand the struggle, but I think there is more to it that is often not considered. Think of what family means for many who are descended from the early people who practiced this. I may not have been born into the Church were it not for polygamy. I feel connections with a large number of people because of this principle. There is much here that anything but destructive and horrible, and I have lots of positive stories from my family that would suggest it’s not all horror and pain even for those who participated in it. Of course there were hard things, but it’s not all the negativity that people want it to be, not even for those who lived it.

  80. Cynthia says:

    Just as an aside….

    For those who say we cannot state our feelings on this horrible subject today because Joseph was killed on this day, well, we are actually trying to be respectful. It’s just that individuals create fallout when they allow themselves to think they are infallible….and I think that on this matter, Joseph made a BIG FAT MISTAKE. I have heard he regretted it and expressed that regret toward the time of his murder.

    As for the rest, do we stop reading the Psalms because they were written by a murdering adulterer? No, it is perfectly possible that one can say: Joseph was a prophet on many things–especially when he was the seer of the Book of Mormon. He got into trouble when he stated that EVERYTHING he felt or wrote was God speaking directly to us. Witnesses such as Pratt, Whitmer and others talk about “revelations” that went terribly wrong because Joseph allowed others to force “questions to the Lord”–such as Hyrum’s Canadian publishing funds debacle. We must be very discerning in these matters and not take every word as gospel until the Spirit reveals it to us. And the Spirit has NOT revealed to me anything about polygamy that would say that it’s a true principle.

  81. Kaimi,
    It really isn’t that simple to me at all. To me, your line of reasoning violates my conscience and faith far more than accepting polygamy as true for its time.

  82. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I expected more people to defend Joseph.”

    My posts were an attempt to defend Joseph. I simply think he knew a lot more than we do. Everything in my experience suggests this. Whenever I read him, I learn from him. He can teach me, I rarely find points at which I feel that I can teach him. I find his understanding, especially in the last years of his life, approaching exhaustive. I love the fact that we get to see _such a person_ in all his human frailty – but I think that discarding so much as a matter of saying he couldn’t keep his zipper zipped says a lot more about us than it does about him. When it comes to an issue where the _contemporary_ zeitgeist is blowing rather hard, and emotions are so strained, my overriding tendancy is to side with the prophet and against what seems to me a very subjective and time-bound, if very powerful, personal and meanginful response.

    I think there is some language in the section that is very 1830s, and may suggest to our ears ideas ripe for abuse. As happened with the endowment, I think that language could be modified. I wouldn’t want the whole thing thrown out, though. Lest we become guilty of, you know, LDSism. :)

    ~

  83. m&m, I’m sure you realize there is decidedly more to family than the production of offspring. While producing lots of children is definitely a strong point for polygamist households (as your existence tends to illustrate!), there is every indicator that in every other way, polygamy was utterly destructive for family relationships in the vast majority of cases. In Sacred Loneliness is a testament to this, and I would hope you’ve read it. Yes there are plenty of positive anecdotes from that era, but they are a distinct minority.

    Here’s a question to illustrate the point: do you support polygamy as practiced by the FLDS? If not, why not? If the answer to why not is something like “because polygamy is no longer the revealed law of the Lord for us,” that would tend to suggest that the social benefits you’d like to find in polygamy are illusory, and the reason anyone ever did it was because of commandment and not because it was good for families. Attempts to justify it by saying “it wasn’t all bad” are lame ducks.

  84. Steve,
    I can understand m&m’s feelings. I’ve got polygamist ancestors as well, including my maternal Grandfather who was raised in a home that was watched by federal marshals in Idaho in an effort to find my GGF. I truly appreciate the sacrifices made by those folks, and try to understand them as best as I can.

    Polygamy caused problems, no question. I also believe in a limited time and place for it, and not as the celestial ideal, but as a sometimes necessary corollary. But modern marriage causes problems, kids cause problems, lots of things cause problems in our relationships. I find some of the justifications and defenses of the practice from the 19th century strange and unconvincing, but I am not ready to read it as the horrible disruptive influence that some would make it out to be. Certainly some of it was hard, and some horrible. But I’ve also seen marriages in my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances that would qualify as horrible, but for different reasons.

    Michael Quinn, writing about post-manifesto polygamy, made the final comment somewhere along the lines that his job as a historian was to try and understand these folks, doing the best they could under difficult circumstances, many better saints than he, and his job was not to judge them. If I have the full quote here at work, I’ll post it. It’s pertinent.

  85. Her is the Quinn Quote:

    “Having explored that past for many years as a historian, I maintain even more firmly the position of Faith with which I began: Jesus the Christ restored the church with all it’s authority, exacting doctrines, and ordinances to the earth through living prophets. These prophets, better men than I am, have faced more difficult challenges than I ever will and have struggled more unselfishly to do God’s will than I ever have. Aside from my reverence for them as prophets, and empathy for them as human beings, my perspective as a historian does not place me in a position to judges these prophets, seers, and revelators. It does place me under an obligation to try and understand them in their terms and circumstances, not mine. History is what we are able to discover of the past; historical fantasy is what we wish had occured.”
    D. Michael Quin, Phd, former professor American History, BYU, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904″, Dialogue, Vol 18, No. 1 Spring 85, p 105

  86. Sorry, should be “Here is the Quinn quote:”

  87. Steve Evans says:

    kevin, sure it’s pertinent. And marriage today isn’t perfect. But polygamy was worse, and I think your justification by comparison here is a bit weak, to be honest. Saying polygamy is something terrible doesn’t diminish the sacrifices of pioneer ancestors or demean the existence of many Mormon families. I see no need to defend the practice at all. It was a commandment at the time, and that’s why they did it. It is no longer a commandment, and we should feel no fear to look back at the practice of polygamy and see it as something really, really bad for family relationships. I feel no more need to defend polygamy than I do to defend the priesthood ban. Do I demean those who enforced the ban by saying it was a destructive thing?

    Let’s not let respect for our ancestor’s sacrifices blind us to the reality of something very bad. This sentiment is entirely compatible with the Quinn excerpt.

  88. The social benefits alone are certainly not the reason I think polygamy was not a mistake, although I think they are often overlooked. (Jacob 2 addresses the reason why God sometimes brings this principle back. I realize many people don’t find that a satisfactory reason, but then that just provides another something that must be dismissed in order to call this a mistake. If raising up seed is indeed a legitimate reason God might institute polygamy (and since I believe the BoM, I take that as legitimate), then it makes a lot more sense to have that principle at the beginning of the restoration than at any other time. It also suggests that it’s not something meant to be longstanding.)

    I do ultimately go back to the point that it’s a matter of faith to me. I liked how Thomas phrased it: “When it comes to an issue where the _contemporary_ zeitgeist is blowing rather hard, and emotions are so strained, my overriding tendancy is to side with the prophet and against what seems to me a very subjective and time-bound…response” — even as I understand the emotion involved. Prophets and apostles beyond Joseph Smith lived this principle, too. Prophets today continue to recognize it as something that had its place for divine purposes. On something this significant, I personally can’t believe that they could have had the measure of the Spirit and divine guidance and approbation they did if they had been living in sin.

    But no logic will convince. When we talk of matters of conscience, I simply cannot dismiss prophetic and scriptural position at that level of consistency without violating mine. Clearly others see it differently. That’s the beauty of agency — we get to each figure out where to draw these lines and what brings peace of conscience. And we certainly won’t convince each other otherwise, right?

    p.s. I don’t jump into these conversations to convince people to believe what I believe, but I do like lurkers to know that there are different points of view on these topics. You don’t have to like the idea of polygamy to accept that it had its place. And you can realize it had its problems. I’m certainly not blind to that, either.

  89. Steve, you’re forgetting about the biological benefits of polygamy, though. Please recall that polygamy was “instrumental in producing a more perfect type of manhood mentally and physically, as well as restoring human life to its former longevity [i.e., the lifespans recorded in the Old Testament]” (Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” pg. 17), that it was “a means that God has introduced to check the physical corruption and decline of our race” (Apostle Amasa Lyman, in a speech reported in the 19 April 1866 Deseret News), that it produced “a more vigorous, healthy, and well developed offspring” (Apostle Charles W. Penrose, in a piece published in the 10 Aug. 1867 Millennial Star), and that “plurality of wives, as practiced here, produces a higher condition of physiological existence” (Apostle Albert Carrington in a Deseret News editorial from 29 March 1866).

    In other words, we’re going all wrong in thinking about only the spiritual, moral, sexual, and spousal aspects of polygamy. We ought to be considering the eugenic aspects as well.

  90. Polygamy caused problems, no question. I also believe in a limited time and place for it, and not as the celestial ideal, but as a sometimes necessary corollary. But modern marriage causes problems, kids cause problems, lots of things cause problems in our relationships. I find some of the justifications and defenses of the practice from the 19th century strange and unconvincing, but I am not ready to read it as the horrible disruptive influence that some would make it out to be. Certainly some of it was hard, and some horrible. But I’ve also seen marriages in my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances that would qualify as horrible, but for different reasons.

    Thanks for saying better than I could (or did).

  91. The idea “polygamy was hard, but so is regular marriage” is utterly bewildering to me. Please do not assail my senses with such comparisons again lest the comment be destroyed.

  92. Steve, exercise is hard, so let’s invade Zimbabwe.

  93. But if that exercise is based on a falsehood, wouldn’t it be good to stop the exercise?

    M&M (77)- I have too much faith in how nice you actually are to believe that you are being deliberately obtuse. In my mind the impending return of polygamy was not a falsehood it was the truth and there is still nothing in church literature that directly contradicts that idea.
    You may have never had a leader suggest that you prepare to live polygamy, but I did -local leaders are still ‘leaders’ and mine may have been out of line, but when you’re a kid you take what your teachers say at face value.

  94. Good point, JNS, and often overlooked.

    For instance, I attribute at least 37% of the success of BYU football in the late 80s and early 90s to polygamy. If there’s no Brigham polygamy, there’s no Steve Young. If there’s no Steve Young, is there a Ty Detmer or a Robbie Bosco? I don’t think so.

    These benefits should not be underestimated.

  95. Starfoxy, let me second your experience. I also was raised with the idea that polygamy would be restored and we would all have to live it, presumably while adjusting to United Order economic institutions on our handcart trek to Missouri. And, hey, nothing I was ever told in church ever contradicted any of those ideas. They were a real burden on my faith.

  96. JNS,

    That’s the crap that I was saying I was uncomfortable with. I am glad that I am the husband of one wife, and don’t have to try to live in polygamy. I don’t think I could do it. It was harder, and it is not what I consider the celestial ideal. It certainly caused a lot of problems along the way. In my mind, whatever purpose it served is past, and no longer a requirement. The vestiges of the principle are still out there in the sealings of widowers to new wives. I find it in direct contradiction of Jacob’s teachings in the BoM.

    I just feel uncomfortable with the overt hostility towards it. I get the impression that many are now putting it into the same category as the PH ban, which I am not ready to do.

    I really was trying to stay out of this. If this is where the firestorms have led, perhaps it is best to let them end.

  97. Steve, JNS, I guess what I am trying to say is that I thought I was on the liberal side of this, in not wanting polygamy to return, and not seeing it as morally or spiritually superior to total fidelity to one spouse. With so much room to one side of me, you have amazed me my making me feel like a fundamentalist buffoon.

    Buffoon, perhaps, but I’m still farther your way on this than what I perceive the mainstream member to be.

  98. “the vestiges of the principle are still out there in the sealings of widowers to new wives.”

    kinda-sorta, no? I mean, what conclusions can we really draw from the current policy? Not sure this amounts to The Principle…

  99. Wait a minute here! I’m going to have to lug a handcart to Missouri and have some extra wives in this mess? How come they don’t tell you that in the Discussions?

  100. When I read the journals of my pioneer ancestors who practiced polygamy, I get a pretty good picture of people who were forged in the furnace of affliction in ways I can’t begin to fathom. I read of men who left wives and children for years to preach the Gospel – and wives who blessed and honored them for it. I read of people who gained insights into their relationship with their God that rock my complacency and astound my mind.

    In Sacred Loneliness is a wonderful book, but it doesn’t give the fully balanced picture of all those who didn’t live in sacred loneliness. Polygamy tested people in almost unimaginable ways, and I am deeply grateful to live now rather than then – when I don’t have to face it personally. However, imho, to call it a “big fat mistake” is to simplify it to a caricature – something that the Bloggernacle abhors when dealing with other complicated social and sexual issues. The recent threads on gay marriage are proof of that, since one of the strongest reactions (correctly) was to condemn the oversimplification of such a complicated topic.

    If we are willing to grant that type of complexity to one discussion, I believe we should be willing to do so to this one. After all, labeling it as “big fat mistake” stereotypes everyone who accepted it and followed it and sacrificed so deeply for it as deluded fools – since they paid so dearly for a “big fat mistake”.

    On this one, I have no problem admitting that I see my glass, darkly.

  101. p.s. you’re no buffoon, man! We love you.

  102. Btw, my comment was not pointed at Steve’s comment on how destructive it was for many. I don’t argue with that. It was directed strictly at the idea that it was a mistake.

  103. Steve,

    “The Principle” is your capitalization, not mine. I am not one of those, waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I can pick up the practice again. Let’s all take a deep breath over this.

    I will admit I don’t understand it. It’s definitely a shelf item for me, just more personal because of knowing my Grandfather lived through a portion of those times.

  104. kevinf, I’m right with you in not wanting to put the entire practice of polygamy in the same category with the racial policies. In particular, I don’t want to do this out of respect for the persecuted minority in America that still retains a belief in these ideas. That minority is, of course, correct to say that plural marriage was taught by 19th century prophets as an eternal principle and as a prerequisite for exaltation. That we don’t hold to these ideas is fine with me; I have no interest in practicing polygamy. But I don’t want to condemn those who have or who do.

  105. Starfoxy,
    I’m not trying to be obtuse; perhaps I just wasn’t being clear. I don’t disagree that polygamy is not a falsehood, and I respect the fervor with which people who believe that want to come to grips with it. The falsehood, though, is that somehow we all have to be ready to live it tomorrow. We need not fret about the future, no matter what it might bring. Fear always brings frustration and lack of peace; fear and faith are antitheses of each other.

    I am sorry you were taught something that I believe to be out of line. I understand trusting local leaders. But in the end, we should always check what local leaders teach with what current prophets teach, particularly on matters of general doctrine. Their stewardship is not to teach general doctrine that hasn’t been taught by living prophets. I can’t recall ever hearing a prophet say that I need to like the idea of polygamy to be a good member or a good woman.

    We could all torture ourselves with “what if the prophet were to ask this?” kinds of mental games. While I think we should be ready to follow them with whatever they ask, the best way to assure that is to follow them with what they are teaching and asking now (a la Pres. Eyring’s current message.) We prepare for the future by following in faith in the present. We don’t have to want to live in the past or be able to predict the future to do that. :)

  106. I think there is a big gap with lots of room between saying “it was a mistake” and saying “it was a commandment, thank God it is over.”

  107. Ray, if you want a more balanced treatment, I recommend Hardy’s “Doing the Works of Abraham.” The fact is, stories in which female participants hated polygamy seem to outnumber the other kind in the documentary record — once we exclude public speeches. But there are a variety of perspectives, certainly.

  108. Steve, I took a deep breath, and on second thought, when Elder Wirthlin was talking about piccolos in the great symphony of the Church, I claimed for myself as a bassoon. I was momentarily confused.

  109. Matt Thurston says:

    I echo comments by Kaimi in #78 and Steve in #83 and #87.

  110. I agree, Steve – which is why I added #102.

  111. They don’t call em firestorms for nothing, folks.

  112. In my mind the impending return of polygamy was not a falsehood it was the truth and there is still nothing in church literature that directly contradicts that idea.
    You may have never had a leader suggest that you prepare to live polygamy, but I did -local leaders are still ‘leaders’ and mine may have been out of line, but when you’re a kid you take what your teachers say at face value.

    Starfoxy, I hear you there.

    Polygamy is alive and well in our sealings; in certain respects it’s far more alive in current doctrine and practice than the much more recent priesthood-temple ban. We’ve started to distance ourselves from relatively recent teachings on race by categorizing them as folklore. But as a church we’re not making any similar gestures when it comes to polygamy. We’ve basically suspended it for this life only.

    Particularly in the language used in D&C 132 that Steve cites above, where only men are fully human agents and women are little more than property, it has been one of several agonizing problems have sometimes caused me profound misery and mistrust in God’s justice and mercy. Is God truly no respecter of persons? Is God good? Such questions are so central to religious life on every level that putting them on the shelf isn’t a possibility. The entire structure of religious life demands some central, fundamental faith in or conviction of God’s goodness. Something like polygamy–particularly in the language of D&C 132–can really call that into question.

  113. LOL Eve, tell me how you feel about 132!

  114. bizarro kevin says:

    kevinf told me to say that he thinks it was a commandment, but thank God it’s over.

  115. Latter-day Guy says:

    I may be laboring under a misapprehension, but I have heard that the church is now allowing (at times) a widow to be sealed to a second husband, assuming that these arrangements will all be worked out in the millennium. I think that this adds another layer of complexity to the issue of post-mortal polygamy.

  116. kevinf, don’t worry. I’m the resident buffoon here. (Or am I a buffonnette?)

    Should I mention that I, too, am grateful to be commanded to be monogamous?

    Starfoxy, I realize just now that I misread your comment. You said: “In my mind the impending return of polygamy was not a falsehood it was the truth and there is still nothing in church literature that directly contradicts that idea.”

    Pres. Eyring said that one way we can know we should rivet our attention on prophetic teachings is when they are repeated. Elder Oaks said that we focus on what is consistent and current. I have never heard any kind of prophetic teaching like this in my lifetime. Have you?

  117. And ZD Eve, I don’t disagree with the challenges this can face. I think sometimes people think people like me throw around the idea of faith like it’s a piece of candy that one can just pop into the mouth and feel better. I know it’s not anything like that. Going to faith in the very nature of God is exactly the kind of faith that I’m talking about. I don’t sit back without questions on topics like these. I wrestle with them, too, and, as I have mentioned elsewhere, with other more personal struggles. But the only answer that brings peace takes me on the path of faith — in God and in His prophets. No other source, no other approach, makes it possible for my shelf to handle the questions that do come. And I think they come for most — if not all — of us.

    Just wanted to say that, because I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t understand how hard this can be. I think we all have our heart-stretching things that test our faith and the strength of our shelves. And I empathize with the struggle…even if my specifics sometimes differ.

  118. Steve, God bless and keep D&C 132…far away from the authorized canon of revealed scripture.

    Oops, a little late for that. Well, when we start de-canonizing, I move we start there. Every Sunday school lesson and even every seminary lesson I’ve ever seen on it radically reinterprets the polygamy right out of it anyway and turns it into a generic prenup counseling: pick a good spouse, marry him or her in the temple, and let your marriage be one of patriarchy, equality, fertility, and continuing courtship (incompatible as all those might be!)

  119. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Because we believe in eternal truths, and we believe the family is the most important thing in the world, and so anything that would be as seemingly destructive and horrible to family and so at odds with our current doctrine is hard to see as ever being divine.”

    I think that if we are taking what we currently think and feel as the final measure of things, we’ve pretty much dug ourselves into a subjective historical hole.

    “seemingly destructive and horrible to family ”

    I don’t know anything about modern polygamy, really. But it has been my experience to observe ‘polyamorous’ family situations. I was never in one myself – but had some close friends who attemped it. At times, these have been little more than ‘open relationships’, at other times they have been genuine attempts to establish families. I haven’t seen one work – although I wouldn’t want to say that since I’m out of contact with the people involved, I don’t know the final story in at least one case. Sometimes people claimed to be “hard-wired” in such a way that they couldn’t live in another kind of family. Quite often the people involved would be tough in any relationship, and the damage done is mostly notable for the number of people damaged. The difficulties, I think, were probably compunded just because there were more personal vairables involved in those relationships. Still, I have known some people, genuine, open, truthful as they could be, who, I think, circumstances being correct, could make it work and find the something of the happiness they were seeking.

    When I first encountered this ‘polyamory’, I had some degree of sympathy for it precisely because I had been a Mormon and had absorbed a childhood with polygamy in the distant background. One of the things these folks always insisted on was that their relationships were based on love and not only on sex. Some cases were much more believable in that regard than others. Later, when I saw the emotional aftermath of these failed experiments in the lives of people I was fond of, I became more cynical towrads it – _at least in the forms and with the people who I observed._

    I am open to different forms of family. I think there is a lot of wisdom in keeping families to one maother and father, almost all the time. I mean, it is tough enough, right? But, it doesn’t seem likely that the ‘forever family’ is going to be Mom and Dad and kids.

    I am against thsoe things that _are_ destructive to the family. I love Paul’s description heaven as a place where we know as we are known and see as we are seen – and I would add love as we are loved. That seems me as a more important element of family life than the precise structure the family takes.

    ~

  120. Wait a minute here! I’m going to have to lug a handcart to Missouri and have some extra wives in this mess? How come they don’t tell you that in the Discussions?

    Oh, it’ll be OK, Tracy. The electric light-up seerstones (DD batteries not included) with the flashing neon reformed Egyptian characters inside will make it all worth it. Also, if you balance an amulet on the end of your divining rod, you can levitate your cattle and handcart. (Might work on the extra wives too, come to think of it….)

  121. I heart Eve.

  122. Matt Thurston says:

    SteveS (#29) said, “That pesky angel with the sword kept coming back, too, if we are to believe the accounts.”

    Yeah, that angel seemed to be really busy during the early 1840s. Among other visits:

    “19 year-old Zina remained conflicted until a day in October, apparently, when Joseph sent [her older brother] Dimick to her with a message: an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Smith and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose “his position and his life.” Zina, faced with the responsibility for his position as prophet, and even perhaps his life, finally acquiesced.” (In Sacred Loneliness, page 80-81)

    What is the appropriate response to such a statement? This is probably too much to ask an early 19th Century young woman, but wow I wish Zina would have answered:

    “Really? An Angel with a Flaming Sword, you say? I’ll tell you what… next time, tell the Angel to swing by my house and…”

    (I better stop there… don’t want to get banned.)

    Of all the male spouses who lost (or had to share) their wives with Joseph (and later, Brigham or Heber), I think I felt the worst for poor Henry Jacobs, Zina’s first husband. In fact, Henry Jacobs would have made a great subject for a song or lament by Johnny Cash or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

  123. That is not a marriage proposal, mind you.

    :P

  124. Man, we ARE a peculiar people They weren’t just using clever marketing when they came up with that one.

  125. “subjective historical hole.”

    I know of no other kind, TP.

  126. Whew, Kaimi, you had me scared. I was getting a little nervous picturing Mardell levitating me straight out of my handcart with her amulet-enhanced divining rod. ;)

  127. …amulet-enhanced divining rod? Is that anything like a Genuine Third Reich Swizzle Stick?

  128. Don’t worry, Eve, one of the Three Nephites would certainly have saved you so that you could fulfill your true fate of unearthing the Lamanite gold in the Dream Mine.

  129. Thomas Parkin says:

    additional little thought:

    If we were to list my top ten things from the last half of the 19th century that tended to be destructive in Mormon familes, would polygamy een make that list?

    (In addition, apologies for the embarrasing spelling and grammar mistakes – I’m doing this when I should probably be doing something else. I should just add this as a sig line to everything I post.)

    ~

  130. #129, ABSOLUTELY YES, if the list is of LDS practices taught from the pulpit.

  131. Thomas, please make the list.

  132. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Man, we ARE a peculiar people ”

    *snort*

    ~

  133. Good question, Tracy. I think that a Genuine Third Reich Swizzle Stick would have to have the good-evil polarities reversed before it would be suitable for use as a divining rod. But I’m a little rusty on my magic world view, so I’d consult the instructions on the inside of the authenticated swizzle stick package. (Unfortunately, they’re in Reformed Egyptian, but the helpful diagrams look a lot like the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham.)

    Wow, JNS! I hereby nominate you for Bloggernacle patriarch. Your blessings would be so exciting!

  134. I have never heard any kind of prophetic teaching like this in my lifetime. Have you?

    No, I haven’t- which is part of why I’ve allowed myself to believe that it really might not be coming back. Previously I read their silence on this issue as one of restraint stemming from an unpopular truth. Which is to say that, I believed that they weren’t talking about it, not because it isn’t important for us, but because they’d have to tell us the truth (that polygamy is fantastic, eternal and we’re all gonna do it) and the truth would have gotten us in trouble. Everything they said maintained plausible deniability in both directions, which is maddening to me still.

    At that time it would have taken the prophet declaring polygamy to be over with a capital O to get me to believe that I didn’t have to worry about it. I am now able to get enough emotional distance to stop torturing myself, but I very vividly remember the heartache it caused me, and how very ineffective ‘just not worrying about it’ or putting it on the shelf was. It’s just like ZD Eve said, you have to have a certain amount of peace with it to be able to set it aside at all because it cuts to the very core of how God relates to women and men.

  135. Can I be the Bloggernacle evangelist instead? More gender-neutral.

  136. Thomas Parkin says:

    JNS,

    Like I said, I’m no historian.

    I would be interested in seeing someone with some real history, and also some objectivity, make the list. Did 19th century Mormon families tend to engender personal happiness? To the degree they did, why? To the degree they didn’t, why? To what extent did monogamous and polygamous relationships differ in this regard?

    I wouldn’t mind being pointed at a book, as long as you felt it was the most objective book available on the subject, rather than one with preferred conclusions.

    ~

  137. Oh, of course, JNS. My bad. How rigidly patriarchal of me.

    [Buries face in shape in peepstone hat.]

  138. Steven P says:

    So according to Joan Roughgarten on the biology of polygyny:

    Monogamy then emerges when (a) building relationships with a female is more advantageous to a male’s reproductive success than building relationships with other males, and (b) building a relationship with a male is more advantageous to a female’s reproductive success than raising young by herself or in conjunction with other females. In general different mating systems emerge from different optimal allocations of social effort to between-sex and within-sex relationships.

    Evolution’s Ranbow.

    So far the discussion seems to center on male advantage. Interestingly, many polygyny animal mating systems are female choice systems with males displaying their prowess in one way or the other.

    Also, Humans are not oftenconsidered monogamous animals. (See http://blog.behavioralecology.net/2007/04/revisiting-human-non-monogamy/ for an interesting blog on this). Monogamy often appears when males can be really really sure that the offspring they are raising are theirs—such as our church provides! No theological insights here, but I don’t think biology is completely irrelevant to this discussion. Who benefits and who looses in these early polygamous relationships in terms of biology’s bottom line: offspring?

  139. factorus says:

    Just wanted to point out a few things before Margaret believes certain things are facts when they are not.

    Section 132 was added to the version of the D&C printed in 1876, but was presented to and voted upon by the body of the Church on August 29, 1852 where it was accepted as revelation and part of the law of the Church.

    Almost all of the revelations in the D&C were recieved between 1829 and 1832. Dates on some of the Sections correlate to when they were written down, not when they were actually revealed by God. Joseph Smith received the revelation in 1831 but was told by God that the time had not come for him to teach it to the Saints, nor for them to practice it. He was told that they would at a later point. The revelation was not written down until July 12, 1843 when Hyrum asked Joseph to dictate the revelation to him word for word.

    On August 17th 1835, when the original Doctrine and Covenants was presented to the submitted to the priesthood quorums for their acceptance, and article on marriage was also submitted by W.W. Phelps for inclusion that was published as Section 111 in the D&C for many years. It was not a revelation and was not submitted as one to the brethren. Joseph Smith was out of town at the time visiting the saints in Michigan.

    Joseph had shared the revelation with a few close friends and it is assumed that whispers of it had spread through Kirtland, but as he had not been instructed to teach the doctrine yet, those present that day included the article specifying their understanding and then current Church doctrine on marriage…that a man is to have one wife. Joseph did not begin to teach the doctrine to the 12 until the summer of 1841 when they had all returned.

    #32-More than just celestial candidates will come forth during the first resurrection of the Lord’s second coming. Nowhere does it equate glory with those who who are subjected to the buffetings of Satan.

  140. Thomas, again, I think the best and most well-rounded starting-place book on the subject is Hardy’s “Doing the Works of Abraham.” The book is a documentary history, which means that it collects primary sources and presents them with a bit of contextual framing, rather than providing an account mainly in the voice of the historian. This means that many more perspectives are represented than is usually the case in a history book. I highly recommend it as a starting point for this complex topic.

    Regarding the question of whether 19th-century Mormon families were happy — well, that’s a gigantic issue. Certainly some of them were. Were polygamous relationships different in this regard? Again, it’s a gigantic question. I think a very solid place to start is looking at poor Henry Jacobs, as Matt Thurston mentioned above. Evidently he and his wife Zina were probably happily married when they were monogamous. When Zina was taken from him by Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young, Jacobs suffered from what seems from the documents he left behind to have been a lifelong emotional crisis. Zina didn’t leave as many sources in this vein, but there are a few suggestions that she felt sorrow as well. Can you imagine going through such a disruption?

    Now imagine Emma Smith.

  141. To repent of my recent light-mindedness and return to the fiery spirit appropriate to these firestorms, I think Starfoxy’s experience nicely illustrates the limitations of the shelf. The shelf’s great for wholly intellectual questions (like when do I get my electric seerstone?) (oops, my repentance is slipping) but as we all know, religion is anything but wholly intellectual.

    m&m, I think where I disagree with you is what seems to be your assumption that the path of faith precludes wrestling with difficult issues, or that putting things on the shelf is the only way to exercise faith. The challenges and crises that come to us all include the intellectual/spiritual difficulties of issues like polygamy, as well as the more personal trials you allude to. I don’t think there’s a shelf for the former category any more than there is for the latter. If your child dies, there is no shelf. Neither is there a shelf if your faith in God and the Church is thrown into a radical crisis because of polygamy.

  142. Steve Evans says:

    FYI, “factorus” = “daproff”, the guy we banned awhile back.

  143. Thomas Parkin says:

    JNS,

    Thanks for the recommendation. Really.

    I like the idea that it is a collection of primary sources – though I’d very early on want to know what percentage of primary sources available he used.

    I think I prefer to start with the general and take my opnions of the individual cases from that, rather than begin with a specific case and let that color my views of the entire enterprise. I know this is the opposite of the way I often go about things. ;)

    ~

  144. I want a matriarchal blessing from Eve. :)

    Seriously, though — didn’t ERS used to give prophesying-ish blessings to others (particularly sisters)? I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere.

    Why no matriarchal blessings now? Does anyone know? (Kevin? J.?)

  145. Thomas, I’d say that Hardy presents maybe 0.5% of available primary sources. What, you want to read 100,000 pages? But the virtue of Hardy’s approach is that he selects sources very broadly and represents most of the major themes I’ve seen in other literature on the subject and in the period primary sources I’ve read.

    Regarding your preference for starting with the general and proceeding to the specific: intellectually laudable. Unfortunately, it’s impossible. We lack systematic data on families’ emotional states from the 19th century. However, in diaries and letters, there is a predominance of discussion on challenges and emotional problems due to polygamy, with comparatively many fewer texts by women pointing to polygamy as a source of happiness.

  146. Kaimi’s description of the OT as a “terrible, misogynist book with thoroughly f*ed up ideas about marriage and relationships” (#78) has received a second (#109), but no objections. I’ll go on the record as saying that I disagree with that characterization of the OT.

  147. I see he’s put up a new post on that topic, which should be fun to watch.

  148. Just another thing about the video, even if you are endowed, sealed, and have the second anointing, I highly doubt you’ll get past the angels and sentries if you wear your robes as shown in the video.

  149. but no objections

    My comment above was a rejection as well, of all that he said, actually. For the record.

  150. Yes, of course m&m, sorry.

  151. If your child dies, there is no shelf.

    Either that, or we define a shelf differently. To me, a shelf can also include waiting until the next life for all the blessings that we hope to receive, and trusting that whatever God has for us will be more than we can imagine, even though the present may be excruciatingly difficult. When I talk of a shelf, it’s about not assuming I know all of what is going on, be it historical or personal. It lets me trust God rather than myself, my understanding, my desires, my fears, or anything else of my limited mortal existence and understanding.

    Each of us will choose to deal with difficult issues differently. The shelf to me is the option to losing faith, not the only way to exercise it. If someone is going to grapple to the point of losing faith, then that’s not faith. :)

  152. Maybe I could put it this way. A shelf doesn’t put things out of sight. But it can help keep something from becoming a centerpiece. :)

  153. Latter-day Guy says:

    144, did they prophesy in the blessings for pregnant women before their, ummm, “confinement”?

  154. Thomas Parkin says:

    “What, you want to read 100,000 pages?”

    Well, I do kinda tend to obsess. The problem is I really can’t tell beforehand whether the obesession is going to take hold, or not. I might gather up all the information I could, and then find that I’m more interested in … you know, whatever comes chugging down the track. But I could see myself reading everything recorded, over a period of time, if it really struck my fancy. :)

    I have become MUCH more interested in reading Mormon history over the last several months. But, so far, no obsessive behaviour. Maybe later.

    When I took books in to sell at the sellin place here recently, my only Mormon history book – the recent lauded book on David O McKay (which I did really enjoy) – got sold. (It was also the only book I got a reasonable sum, for.)

    How is a person in my position to decide how to view a thing. I mean, purely as an intellectual matter. I begin from my own experience, since it is the thing I feel that I can best know, if I have been relentlessly self-honest, with some degree of reliability. And knowing my deep tendancy to stack the deck in my own favor, I have difficulty trusting the objectivity of people who seem to not have put as much effort into it. I do understand the limitations of this. But, at the very least, I feel that I’ve become aware of my own biases, maybe something about their roots, and have an idea of how far I’m going to be able to overcome them. Otherwise I’m always left at the mercy of someone else’s subjectivity. On what grounds do _I_ determine whether the author of the book chose as objectively as possible his .5%. The best I can do is find a person’s opinion who I really trust, who knows a great deal more than I do; or, better, triangulate the opinions of a number of people I more or less trust. I rarely find these situation in ‘consensus’ among ‘experts.’ Its always a question of whose experts. When everyone is speaking in one direction, that is exactly the time I get most suspicious. But, like I said, I do understand the value of moving from the general to the individual, if the general can be assesed reliably.

    As I stated earlier, my own observation from watching ‘polyamorous’ relationships and families is that they end badly. I’m not certain how far that transfers to 19th centure Mormon polygamy. It is easy to believe that more unhappiness than hapiness resulted. I’m also left thinking, however, that those problems might be more to do with the native dispositions and understanding and expectations and the entire previous life experiences of the individuals involved than with the differing family structure itself. One of the problems with our feeling agsint polygamy is the fact that the feeling itself has been so deeply conditioned into us by the way we give the royal robe to exclusivity in love. I think we are prejudiced against approaching it as a spiritual exercise – though I admit that I don’t approach it that way myself, and have no plan to, having no real reason to. Someone else might find that their mileage varies.

    Blah blah blah. Think I’m about done here. :)

    ~

  155. I remember reading a book written by an American woman who spent a couple of years in Northern Iraq in the mid 1950’s–a country that’s been polygynous into the distant past. She spoke Arabic, really got to know the women. Lots of the discussion was about how to keep your husband from marrying a new wife, and how to best respoond if it happened. This, in a country which established rules for polygnous behavior–in Islam the man must give each wife the same amount of money, a rule that certainly did not exist in early Mormonism. So, women hate it. Even when culturally accepted and a certain amount of fairness is required.

  156. This is what comes from actually WORKING all day. Best.Firestorm.Ever and we’re already up to over 150 comments and I have so many replies to make.

    Tracy, regarding things they didn’t teach you in the discussions: I had no idea. None. I’m guessing you are more aware of such things than I was at the same point post-conversion. That’s a good thing for you.

    I don’t believe that God commanded polygamy. It’s possible that Joseph thought he did. Joseph was a complex fellow.

    In spite of all the professed reluctance by Smith’s followers, it wasn’t long until they were enthusiastic participants. The women who thrived under polygamy were those who didn’t love their husbands very much.

    Two living apostles will, according to doctrine, have plural wives in the Celestial Kingdom. Plural marriage is alive and well – it’s just postponed.

  157. “The women who thrived under polygamy were those who didn’t love their husbands very much.”

    I told myself I would stay out after my last comment, but that simply is too broad a brush. It’s like having someone tell me that all women who make less money than their husbands (including my wife explicitly) only pretend to love their husbands (including me explicitly) because they earn less money than their husbands do – which has been said to me by two different people on two different blogs.

    Sorry, Ann, but that’s one sentence I simply can’t accept. Not that I think you care about my acceptance, since I don’t, but I couldn’t let that one pass.

  158. Left Field says:

    That video is horrible, as are the related videos. Who has the guts to click on “REJUVENECIMIEN TO VAGINAL”?

    I give this as exhibit A in Why you should NEVER for any reason refer to the Doctrine and Covenants as the “D&C.”

  159. Steve Evans says:

    Jacob J, do you read comments anymore? Did you not see my first and immediate reply to Kaimi on his thread? Come now.

    Besides, there’s every indication that his comment on this thread was a joke.

  160. Ray, I’m just going by what I’ve read. For example, Compton cites an interview Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young gave in 1869 to New York World: The successful polygamous wife

    must regard her husband with indifference, and wits no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy.

    Another example is excerpted in “Women’s Voices.” Martha Cragun Cox entered into the Principle not because she loved her husband, but out of commitment to her faith:

    For I could not say that I had really loved the man as lovers love, though I loved his wives and the spirit of their home. I could not assure my family that my marriage was gotten up solely on the foundation of love for man. The fact was I had asked the Lord to lead me in the right way for my best good and the way to fit me for a place in his kingdom…

    To me it is a joy to know that we laid the foundation of a life to come while we lived in that plural marriage that we three who loved each other more than sisters, children of one mother love, will go hand in hand together down through all eternity.

    She deeply loved her sister-wives; her husband was the means to an end.

    If there were passionately-in-love polygamous wives who happily shared their husbands with their sister-wives, I’ve never read their stories. Forgive me for allowing what I’ve read to color my perceptions.

  161. “Forgive me for allowing what I’ve read to color my perceptions.”

    There is no way to respond to that, Ann, since I have no way of ascertaining the tone it was meant to convey.

    All I can say is that sweeping generalities couched as absolutes are just that – sweeping generalities. Generally, the are not absolutes. They are largely correct and/or largely incorrect – and, as you say, even more largely influenced by the things to which one has been exposed.

    One simple example only:

    Have you read “Doing the Works of Abraham”? If not, read it and see if you can see any commonality in the stories of those who did not hate it and did truly love their husbands. It’s an interesting exercise to try to understand multiple perspectives and how they effect sweeping generalities couched as absolutes. After all, we tend to couch our own strongest beliefs as absolutes. Why accept it at face value when others do the same?

  162. Steve,

    As you can probably tell from #147, I hadn’t seen his new thread when I wrote #146. My bad. I am not getting the impression from his comments on his thread that his comment was a joke. Am I missing it? Is the joke on me?

  163. I’m not quite willing to call polygamy a big huge mistake, or something Joseph made up, though I am very, very glad not to have to live it. I’ve only read a few things on polygamy as practiced by the saints in early Utah and I’d agree even those who were staunch defenders didn’t sound particularly happy with the arrangement. It’s a very, very difficult lifestyle to live. That said, there were some pretty impressive women who came out of polygamy, including Eliza Snow and Emmeline B. Wells. How much of their success resulted from living in the relative freedom of the west and from living in the time they did, and how much of it stemmed from being forced out of a more traditional role by polygamy is certainly debatable, but I personally suspect that polygamy did provide a certain amount of freedom and incentive to pursue their individual aspirations.

    I object to the way this section portrays women as property (the supreme importance of a woman’s intact virginity always irritates me), but I do think polygamy, unpleasant as it was for most of the female participants, did both allow and force them to take on roles that would otherwise have been denied to them. I’m very conflicted on the topic, actually. Sometimes it seems like it would be horrible and other times it sounds like a not so bad arrangement, as long as all are willing participants. Again, I’m glad it’s not really even an option.

  164. Jacob, yeah…. I didn’t say it was a particularly good joke, but Kaimi has an odd sense of things. There’s no question, even in his mind, that the OT has good things for us as well. If you ask me, he’s mostly playing around, while trying to make a point.

  165. Thomas, and Ann,
    My parents lived polygamy (polyamory) as I grew up and I must object to the description you give as “failed,” “destructive,” and “mistake.” Ours was a happy home, as far as I know my parents were fiercely in love and also committed to freedom and sharing in relationships. Their unions had nothing to do with any restoration movements, but I am a witness that these types of relationships are viable and family-centered. Although you might find that all four of us children today have different points of view about how we were raised, I feel sure that none of us would consider our home life a “failed experiment.”

    Because of my early upbringing I feel sure I could live the “Principle” if it ever came back into vogue. As has been mentioned above, in the LDS Church of my early married years, it was understood that we should be ready to live polygamy were it to be reinstated. It is only recently that members have entertained the notion that it might not be lived in the Celestial Kingdom.

  166. Latter-day Guy says:

    howsad, I object to your quoting the temple ceremony in such a vulgar, online forum. Have you no respect for the sacred? I hope you have a suitable explanation for the Lord when He asks why you would cite something so precious in this den of Satan!

  167. molly bennion says:

    I come too late to the discussion so I will ask only one question: Does the math trouble anyone else? Does anyone believe there are many more celestial women than celestial men? It just doesn’t compute for me.

  168. Molly, neither result computes for me – more women than men OR the exact same number of women and men. Since neither option computes, I stick with Language Arts.

  169. Latter-day Guy says:

    howsad, if all the commenters decided to jump off a bridge, would you jump after? And, no, no one has the right to be a questioning Mormon. Remember, “when the prophets have spoken, the thinking has been done.”

  170. LdG, all he’s trying to do now is lash out because we’ve banned all legitimate forms of participation for him. Howsad=daproff=factorus=….

  171. BiV, from what I understand of your parents’ marriage, it was not exactly patriarchal in nature. I would venture to say it bore about as much resemblance to a 19th century plural marriage as my 21st century monogamous one does.

    Ray, I’m tired of you attacking my statements as any more sweeping than any of the other blazing generalities one reads in the bloggernacle. I’m given to hyperbole. I understand nuance. I am the least black and white person I know, but at some point we get to assess the data and make decisions. Polygamy as practiced by the 19th century Saints = bad. Overall. In general. Specific marriages may have been wonderful. Get off my back.

  172. Latter-day Guy says:

    You know that your last line, Steve, could be a commentary on the situation! That is, “How sad that daproff = factorus.”

    I’ll stop feeding the trolls. :)

  173. Ann, you are correct that my parents’ marriage was anything but patriarchal. But I just don’t picture early Mormon polygamy as generally “bad.” I think we have accounts of many of their challenges, but there are also many good defenses (see Exponent mag) which we do not feature as prominently in our discussions of polygamy.

  174. molly bennion says:

    Ray, when I stick with Language Arts, I can’t confirm a justification for polygamy, not even the knitting of the family trees of the covenant people–politically and socially somewhat useful. But of course the numbers game could be used to justify polyandry too. Anybody know of instances of polyandry involving men other than JS and BY?

  175. Ann, fair enough. I also am influenced by what I read, so it is what it is for us.

  176. Thomas Parkin says:

    BiV,

    Thanks for that, very much. Just want to reiterate, the polyamorous relationships I witnessed did fail – and there was a lot of wreckage – with the exception of one that was still going when I lost touch with the participants. Also, as I said, I think those failures were do more to the nature of the parties involved than in the fact that the family structure was not traditional. Monogamous marriage fail for the same reasons. A lot of real nonsense became associated with the word ‘polyamory’ in our circles, too, that didn’t have much to do with those that were genuinely trying to create a family.

    By the way, I’ve always pictured you bored in Vernal. We used to drive through Vernal frequently, and I understood that. That planted a picture in my head – and I apologize for the fact that in my first few months doing this I didn’t listen to you more closely.

    Ann,

    I don’t see why theoretical polygamy must resemble 19th century polygamy, any more than our monogamous relationships resemble 19th century monogamy. I guess that’s my thing.

    I think there is more chance of being snatched by flying monkeys and kidnapped back to Oz then of being asked to by the church to live in a polygamous relationship anytime in the next … ever. Those days have thankfully passed. But, I want to create a space in which we can think of it as something other than a horror that couldn’t possibly have been institued by God, however difficult it was for many involved. I really think we are too narrow in our view of it – and that the reasons are emotional, subjective, time bound, etc. Naturally, I don’t mean to minimize people’s aversions to the thought of sharing their spouse.

    NOW, maybe I’m done here.

    ~

  177. Molly, to be a bit more serious, if we:

    1) hold to “marriage” of some kind as our ultimate goal in the eternities (a thoroughly Mormon word, btw), even if we have no idea what that means in practical terms, and

    2) hold to the idea that no otherwise worthy man or woman will be denied exaltation in its fullest based on the unworthiness of a spouse,

    it is every bit as easy for me to wrap my mind around the concept that there will be an unequal number of men and women who qualify for exaltation as it is to imagine that the number will be absolutely, mathematically equal.

    Obvious personal opinion only, but I think that one of the main reasons for the practice of polygamy was to embed the eternal possibility (the theological concept of communal exaltation) into the hearts and minds of the people so deeply that the eternal concept would survive even during the practice of the mortal norm – monogamy. I think it was meant to reshape and redefine our very perception of Godhood as not individual salvation but rather communal exaltation.

    Do I believe in polygamy in the hereafter? If that is taken to mean a sexual relationship among a man and a woman or group of women (or another man), no. If that is taken to mean some kind of shared “parenthood” of spirit children created in some way of which we know absolutely nothing, yes. I’ll leave it at that.

  178. Thomas, I agree that polygamy need not resemble 19th century polygamy. However, if it’s based on the Doctrine and Covenants, then the text seems to obligate the implementation to mimic that model. And while I agree that in an ideal world even that model need not fail, in the end, it did.

    I also agree with you that we are as likely to see the resumption of plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints as we are to have visitors from another planet land their spaceships on the White House lawn tomorrow. That’s one reason the FLDS and other polygamist breakaway churches think the Brighamite church is apostate.

  179. Ann,

    I think the FLDS calls use Heberites (though I could be wrong). They _like_ Brighamite theology — it’s the Heberite revisions they really disapprove of.

    Now the RLDS called us Brighamites, but that’s because we _were_ practicing polygamy.

    See, it all makes sense, doesn’t it?

  180. One of my great pleasures in life is waking up on a Saturday morning, eating Marmite-on-Ryvita, and catching up with the Firestorm. What will I do next week?

    I’d like to support those who say their Mormon upbringing included talk of impending polygamy and treks to Missouri. Of course, we had to contemplate sailing across the Atlantic first, which sounded very exciting. Also, as hormonal teenage boys, no-one minded the idea of polygamy provided the wives were good-looking.

    There is much (most) in Joseph’s revelations which is lovely and of good report. Compare the soaring prose of D&C 122 with the clunky, tortured style of D&C 132. I’d like to respectfully suggest that they are the work of different “authors”…

    Eve is right: any instruction from God which suggests that women are chattel is enough to cause deep pain and cannot be easily shelved. It is not one I will encourage my daughter to exercise faith in.

    May I also suggest that this Abrahamic test stuff is bunkum? There is a world of difference between Abraham — a man who had seen God and talked with him directly — being told by God that he should kill his son, and a person being told by Joseph Smith (a fallible man) that God wanted Joseph to marry his wife.

    It’s not the act (murder vs. adultery). It’s the degree of revelatory separation which is massive and important.

  181. There is a world of difference between Abraham — a man who had seen God and talked with him directly — being told by God that he should kill his son, and a person being told by Joseph Smith (a fallible man) that God wanted Joseph to marry his wife.

    “President John Taylor, said he heard the Prophet say, “You have all kinds of trials to pass through, and it is quite as necessary for you to be tried even as Abraham, and other men of God,” and said he, “God will feel after you, he will take hold of you and wrench your very heartstrings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Kingdom of God.””

    “Tried even as Abraham” is a descriptive phrase of intensity of a trial and the trust necessary to accept it, not necessarily a description of revelatory procedure for getting to the point of the test of faith. I doubt most of us will get our tests as Abraham did (from a face-to-face commandment from God), but that doesn’t mean that those heart-stretching (almost breaking) tests won’t be there, or can’t be compared to his trial of faith. He gave up what he wanted most — even what was the only way he could see to receive the blessings he had been promised by God Himself – and yet he was willing to let go and trust God.

    The trial of Abraham is that kind of trust, and I think for many, polygamy might have been (or might be?) like that. I think we ought to respect that kind of faith a bit more than we do when polygamy is simply dimissed as a mistake…that thus people’s sacrifice and faith and trust were in vain? Just because Abraham’s sacrifice is uncomfortable — even reprehensible to the mortal mind — doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real commandment of God.

  182. m&m,

    You’ve missed my point. It’s one thing to do a terrible thing if the command comes from a God whose face you know; it’s another to do a terrible thing if the command comes from a mortal man who tells you it comes from God.

    Having said that, if God told me to kill my son, I’d call the mental hospital pronto. If the prophet asked to marry my wife, I’d tell him to get lost. I know that in your paradigm I should have greater faith than this, but I don’t, and I hope that if I made the wrong choice (by not agreeing to murder my son or dishonour my marriage vows), God would forgive me. It’s all I’ve got. Meanwhile, I shall continue to try to seek after the many good fruits of the Gospel. The sacred loneliness of polygamy is not one of them.

    In all this I am not cheapening the sacrifice and trials of the early Mormons. My grandparents lived through the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, and in some strange ways it was probably a meaningful experience for them. That doesn’t mean that the Blitz was good, however.

  183. Norbert says:

    Ronan — can I suggest this is a sign from God that you should stop eating Marmite?

  184. No. Marmite is the nectar of God.

  185. Actually, Ronan, you kinda missed my point. To call something similar to an Abrhamic sacrifice doesn’t mean that it map exactly the revelatory process. To call it such simply can imply a test of faith of gargantuan proportions, however that test may come (e.g., via revelation, or via the stuff of mortality). I probably should have kept my comment simpler to get that across, though.

  186. I also do think it is cheapening the sacrifice and choices of those who went before by deciding for them that they were duped. I would rather trust that they actually did what they felt they should do. This isn’t just about whether Joseph Smith was right, but about whether many others were right, too, including other prophets and apostles.

  187. I would rather trust that they actually did what they felt they should do.

    Who on earth is arguing otherwise?

  188. Nat Whilk says:

    @182: “In all this I am not cheapening the sacrifice and trials of the early Mormons. My grandparents lived through the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, and in some strange ways it was probably a meaningful experience for them. That doesn’t mean that the Blitz was good, however.

    A subtle confirmation of Godwin’s Law?

  189. No.

  190. THANK YOU RONAN! (182)

  191. Peter LLC says:

    A subtle confirmation of Godwin’s Law?

    From Teh Source of All Knowledge:

    “Godwin’s Law itself can be abused, as a distraction or diversion, that fallaciously miscasts an opponent’s argument as hyperbole, especially if the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.”

  192. Congratulations, Steve. Very flammable.

  193. Nat Whilk says:

    Can accusations of abuse of Godwin’s Law in turn be abused? Inquiring minds want to know.

  194. Lester Dent says:

    #182, Ronan, you speak for many, including me. I’m a lurker, but this one draws me out.

    I’ve tried, Lord knows I’ve tried, to figure this one out, to give Brother Joseph the benefit of any doubt, to leave it on a shelf, to ignore, avoid and dodge it. To cognitive dissonant it in peace. But there is a test, so acid of a test, that it must pass for me, and it does not. And that test is, can I explain this to my daughter? And, no, I cannot. I could come to terms with it, but I can’t defend it to her. Ever. And I’m no longer sorry that I can’t do this–it is what it is, God help me I can’t change it.

  195. I am fairly sure, if the the numbers were available, that Polygamy or Arranged marriage models, would be shown as more used and more successful in world history, than a Romantic Love model, of our modern times.
    Ann, #178.”We are as likely to see the resumption of plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints as we are to have visitors from another planet….I agree. But how does that square with those who have said it was used as an Abrahamic test? Are members now beyond the need for such a test?

  196. I find comparisons between Abraham’s test and polygamy troubling. God didn’t actually command Abraham to kill his son, he just made Abraham think that that was what was happening. But when the time for the immoral act arrived, God pulled him back. Abraham trusted, and God delivered. When Joseph decided to violate his marital vows, he never pulled back. So there’s a difference.

  197. Bob,
    While that is almost certainly the case, do we really want to return to the sort of societies where polygamy and arranged marriage models flourished? Do we want to cast aside our Romantic marriages? Is it all that possible in today’s society?

  198. sister blah 2 says:

    Bob, what is your definition of “successful”? Not getting divorced? Not fighting? Loving each other? Productive household (kids, farm crops, etc)? There are big problems with each of these. Also, the average age when someone gets a divorce today is probably close to the average life expectancy for most of world history. Based on that alone, I’m not really sure how you can make any meaningful comparisons.

  199. sister blah 2 says:

    PS: Steve, congratulations on a very successful final firestorm. It was indeed a doozy. (My definition of successful in this case is based on number of comments and contentiousness.) Pushing 200…

  200. Allow me… Let’s make it a nice even number.

  201. For any who desire further evidence of how far off the path I am from heeding the scriptural interpretations of the modern prophets: I think Abraham failed his test. Passing the test is when God asks you to do something senseless and wicked, you say “No.” (I mean, duh.)

    I don’t consider plural marriage like an Abrahamic test, because it’s actually NOT senseless and wicked. Given the model they were working with (women used to secure vast numbers of progeny for the patriarch’s eternal kingdom) it makes sense.

    Kaimi, I didn’t know what the FLDS called the Utah church; I was just using a Hamerism. Incorrectly! Ah well, it’s not the first time.

  202. I totally see polygyny and polyandry (not as Joseph practiced it, but as a mirror image to polygyny, in other words one woman who has multiple husbands each of whom only has the one wife) as two sides of the same coin, and in celestial terms, if one is true so is the other. 19th century America only allowed practice of one type, but heaven is fair and must needs be balanced and all that, right? So I don’t see it as a women’s issue in the sense that we’ll all have to get used to the idea of sharing our husbands. Not at all. I think it’s equally likely that our celestial husbands will have to get used to the idea of sharing us.

    The idea doesn’t bother me. I can’t imagine any form of coercion going on in the CK. We’ll only practice it if we all really want to.

    Guys, would you be willing to share your wives in the CK?

  203. Anonymous 4 says:

    Tatiana (202): I would “share” my wife with another woman in a polygamous relationship. But share is a problematic term because my wife isn’t a piece of property that I can do as I please with. She’s a person with feelings and a stake in the relationship as well. I suspect she wouldn’t really want to “share” me, in which case, all “sharing” would be off. The only way I see polygamous relationships working is when all three (or more?) parties are on board, and not from a “god told me to submit to the will of my husband” stance, either. IMO, most polygamous marriages have historically objectified and demeaned the women in the relationship whether the husband intended to or not. Theoretically, however, a mutually-sought polygamous relationship could have benefits in family earning potential through greater specialization of adult roles (one wife earns an income outside the home while the other wife raises the children from both women).

  204. Mark D. says:

    Once upon a time (1930 or so) the Church published an abridged version of the D&C called Latter-day Revelation that notably did not include Section 132. However, the forerunners of the FLDS complained so loudly that President Grant abandoned it.

  205. rondell says:

    I have serious concerns about polygamy and how section 132 came about, but if we get rid of that don’t we lose the foundation of our doctrine on eternal families?

    btw, I heard the same types of things as Starfoxy and others while growing. When I was talking to dh about this thread he reminded me that before we were married I told him that there was no way I would consent to polygamy. (Still feel that way.)

  206. Mark D. says:

    The leaders of the Church might consider keeping Section 132 with the last two thirds removed. Sometimes I think we should throw out most of the book of Revelations as well. That is a little less practical, though.

  207. #196:John, trick question (maybe). If you send your son or daughter to BYU, to be sure they marry a ‘Good Mormon’, is that not an arranged marriage? Or, would you be open for them to marry a non-member?
    That’s the Rub: Most Mormon marriages of the 19th C., were not based on romantic love, but done for a practical reasons, or in obeisance to a Church calling.

  208. #197: “average life expectancy..”..that has more to do with the death of those 2 year old than 32 year old.
    My definition of a successful marriage is that it worked out as a good partnership.

  209. Ann, I don’t think your reading of the Abraham story is particularly unusual…

  210. Years ago, Gene England gave me not only his thoughtful essay on polygamy, but the essay of a student who was proposing the “Abrahamic test” idea. I find that these years later, it all feels like a Procrustian bed.

    My sister worked with a guy in the Provo mental hospital who thought God had told him to kill his son as a test, and promised that the son would be resurrected immediately after. The man killed his baby. There was no resurrection.

    I too have polygamist ancestors, and I have read their “inspirational” stories. But I have also read journal entries indicting polygamy for every sorrow the woman was enduring.

  211. Matt W. says:

    I believe God will yet send Theseus.

  212. I’m much more comfortable with Ann’s version of the Abraham story… never thought of it that way.

  213. Aaron Cox says:

    Many are called but few are chosen. It is true that men are naturally inclined to love many women. And this is a reflection of God’s character and reflects the order of heaven. And Joseph introduced this but the world could not bear it. And because the world hath rejected this holy practice which would have renovated and purified the entire world, we see instead the results in the perversities of pornography and spilling seed… Not to mention other rising tides of immorality and lasiviousness.

    And so it is a great trial now for righteous men to withold unnaturally. To live contrary to the divine nature. And yes most cannot do it. But it is a test of faith and purity to see who will be entrusted with these great powers in eternity. How many priesthood holders fail … And as with all things the answer is in the word of the Lord. Who in D&C 132 told Joseph that he would receive an hundredfold of wives. And told that fallen David’s wives were given to another. By which together we are given to understand, that the wives of those who fail in purity shall be given to those who are worthy, and that this ratio is one hundred to one. And thus we see, that many are called but few are chosen.

  214. Amen Aaron! Obey Aaron!

  215. Who on earth is arguing otherwise?

    Ronan, my point was this — people want to make this about Joseph Smith, but it’s not. If he was wrong, so were many others, other prophets and apostles included. So is the OT and BoM on this point. Obviously, some people aren’t at all hesitant to dismiss all of this. I find it a bit befuddling for many reasons. Again, I understand the struggle and have dealt with it myself. But I think rejecting it outright causes more problems than it solves…unnecessarily so, imo. I don’t expect everything God will ask to be neat and easy, so in the end, I can accept that He may have asked them to do this for a time.

    And I think it’s inappropriate to too confidently impose our 21st century view on something we will never fully understand, or which we haven’t been asked to grapple with in ‘real life’ by being asked to live it.

    But in the end, no opining or opinionizing will change what is or what was. It’ll be interesting someday when we have a bigger picture and understand what really went on.

    In the meantime, what matters most to me is that the Church is still true. That we can know now without question. :)

  216. NOT SPILLING SEED!!! NOOOOOOO!

  217. #213 If wives are a hundred times more worthy than husbands, let’s just let them run the whole thing. Or, is less expected of them?

  218. 1. Regarding Abraham and Isaac–this Wikipedia entry compiles summaries of a number of alternative Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and modern interpretations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_of_Isaac

    For what it is worth, since I was a child, I have understood the central message of the Abraham and Isaac story to be that (unlike other deities worshipped at that time) God does not require and will not accept human sacrifice, that is why He put a stop to it when Abraham got that far.

    2. Elsewhere in the Bloggernacle, we have debated whether the Proclamation might one day be canonized. I have mixed feelings about that. However, in 1876, the Utah Church replaced the old D&C section on marriage with a new, “more current” one (132). In that spirit perhaps now is the time to remove section 132 and replace it by the “more current” guidance of the Proclamation, which makes no references to polygamy. (I would note that while the Proclamation does not sanction same sex marriage, it makes no explicit statement about whether a government should or should not permit civil same sex marriages or civil unions.)

  219. Latter-day Guy says:

    Wow, 113 was pretty intense. Good luck with your, um, unnatural withholding.

    And 216 is the best thing ever.

  220. Latter-day Guy says:

    Oh dear, I meant that the comment 216 is the best thing ever, not that “spillage” is the best thing ever. :-o

  221. Ronan,

    As the person who first brought up the “abrahamic test” on this thread I feel to respond to #180. After a good round of you and m&m missing one another’s points, I shall just suggest that you may have been missing my point if you were responding to #49 (my fault, not yours). My point is that it is easy to sit here and take pot shots at Joseph Smith by writing it all off to uncontrollable libido etc., but I’m personally confident that if it were possible to stack up all the obstacles and trials and tempatations and hardships faced by Joseph Smith and give him a rating on how well he did, he would come out smelling like roses compared to me on that same scale.

    I personally don’t think there is a compelling argument to be made that Joseph Smith was an inspired prophet and all of that, but he happened to be an absolute lecher who not only womanized and had repeated affairs over about half his years as a prophet, but also framed his vision of heaven around his sexual abominations and wouldn’t perform the highest ordinances of salvation for his closest followers unless they joined him in his sexual aberations. If the whole thing really is Joseph’s idea and God had nothing to do with it, that is a deal breaker for me. Sometimes people seem to somewhat casually (in my view, maybe for them it is not casual) suggest such a scenario as though “he’s only a prophet when acting as a prophet” covers such things.

    But, I want to wholeheartedly agree with you that if the prophet asked for my wife I would tell him to jump in a lake, and I never intended to convey otherwise.

  222. I personally don’t think there is a compelling argument to be made that Joseph Smith was an inspired prophet and all of that, but he happened to be an absolute lecher who not only womanized and had repeated affairs over about half his years as a prophet, but also framed his vision of heaven around his sexual abominations and wouldn’t perform the highest ordinances of salvation for his closest followers unless they joined him in his sexual aberations. If the whole thing really is Joseph’s idea and God had nothing to do with it, that is a deal breaker for me. Sometimes people seem to somewhat casually (in my view, maybe for them it is not casual) suggest such a scenario as though “he’s only a prophet when acting as a prophet” covers such things.

    Thank you for this.

  223. Antonio Parr says:

    It is a difficult thing to persuade “the world” that we are qualitatively different from the peculiar FLDS church when it comes to polygamy when both LDS’s and FLDS’s accept as scripture the precise teachings of Joseph Smith upon which the FLDS’s rely to support their current practice of plural marriage.

    Our public relations efforts with respect to the negative fallout from the FLDS scandal seems to be failing, in large part because of

    1. The presence of Section 132 in every current version of the Doctrine & Covenants owned by every current LDS, which continues to proclaim that God is very much supportive of polygamy;

    2. The fact that some of our current and most important leaders are sealed to more than one wife, and, by a combination of these sealings and the Church’s teachings on polygamy, believe presently that they will live together forever in a polygamous union;

    3. The fact that prophets, seers and revelators of the Church — who LDS’s believe (generally speaking) to be infallible when it comes to formal pronouncement of doctrine — taught formally that polygamy is not only allowed, but actually required by those who wish to enjoy the highest possible relationship with God;

    4. The fact that the Church once submitted briefs to the Supreme Court fighting with all of our might for the “right” to practice polygamy.

    We as a Church appear to be taking the highly problematic historical position that polygamy is of God and should be authorized by the U.S. government when we wish to practice polygamy, but is something that should be outlawed and viewed as evil and perverse when others wish to practice polygamy (even when the “others” seeking to live a polygamous lifestyle do so in reliance upon the identical Section 132 upon which we relied when we were practicing polygamy). This appears to be a position too extravagant to be maintained.

    The historical baggage of polygamy is a sad irony, since the modern LDS Church is the ultimate haven for believers in monogamy. Everything about the current Church (other than Section 132) celebrates and protects the dignity of a union between a man and a woman, equally yoked, and we seem to be as good as (if not better than) any group when it comes to promoting successful monogamous unions.

    Surely there must be a better way for the Church to convey our firm belief that the equality and dignity of a monogamous relationship is the highest mortal and eternal ideal. Surely we can acknowledge monogamy as something qualitatively superior to the painful and often demeaning polygamous relationships embraced by our ancestors and by current adherents to Section 132.

    And who cannot sympathize with those who feel compelled to teach their daughters that both the earthly and eternal life that await them as valiant Latter-Day Saints is something more promising than polygamy?

  224. Antonio Parr says:

    My prior post was not meant to be in any way dismissive of the Church that I love. Rather, it is a lament that our ability to reach out to a world is being hindered by our complex positions with respect to polygamy, and my longing for us to find a way past this practice/teaching to be a brighter light to the world.

  225. Jacob and m&m,

    I very much respect your intentions and wish you the best as you work out your own faith. Who knows, maybe you are right? Fine and good.

    I would like, however, to suggest that some of us are simply not impressed by this near-fundamentalist requirement to believe all of it or reject all of it. You seem to imply that we must believe that either Joseph was right about polygamy or he is simply not to be trusted in everything else. I reject this choice. Is there another approach? (See second paragraph below.)

    m&m — your motivation in the bloggernacle seems to be to counter the “unbelief” that evidently bothers you greatly. This is a noble intention, but you might want to consider whether there are unintended consequences to it. If you force people into a corner — “you must believe that the entirety of Joseph’s revelations came directly from God” (the paraphrased implication of a constant refrain we hear from you, intended or not) — don’t be surprised when they reject the whole thing. This black-and-white thinking is a house of cards waiting to collapse. Be careful that you don’t blow it over.

    I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I sympathise greatly with one of the impulses behind plural marriage — to unite humanity beyond the selfish confines of the nuclear family. Some fruits take time to grow, and the belief in eternal relationships which sprang from the plural marriage doctrine was worth waiting for, even if the road there was rocky for some. There is much more to this than libido or “lechery” (and I’m not sure who here has suggested otherwise); certainly God’s inspiration is evident, even if it was initially seen through a glass, darkly, and spoiled by human imperfection. There is plenty of room between the black and the white. Why do you insist on making it one or the other?

    So, let us all believe what we are able to believe and live the Gospel as best we can. Just do not make it a requirement of my religion to accept that my daughter is chattel to be “given” to a man to ensure her exaltation (this is exactly what D&C 132 is saying). If you insist that it is, then do not be surprised if people reject the whole. I know you think we are dangerous heathens here at BCC, but perhaps you should consider your effect on faith and testimony.

  226. chimera says:

    223. Beautiful post. What the heck is modern revelation for, if not for moving forward – why do we feel so compelled to hold onto every precept of the past? I suspect it is because we think if we say prophets of the past have been in error, more people will start to think independently. I think this is why the church is having such a hard time apologizing for past doctrinal errors such as blacks and the PH – I suspect this is why they won’t remove any portion of the D&C. It seems the bigger an organization gets, the more inflexible it becomes (I am simply comparing the apparent fluidity of doctrinal beliefs for the first 50 years or so, with our more rigid stances the last 50 years). Still, an organization that can’t adapt really doesn’t believe in ongoing revelation.

  227. But ongoing revelation has to be received in order to be acted upon. It seems we have not had any new revelation which would supercede Section 132. I know this church is where God wants me to be. If I can’t understand all things, I will just wait until they are made clear to me.

  228. Left Field says:

    Antonio (223), I’m not sure that I’d agree that the points you mention play much of a role in the public confusion of LDS and FLDS. I would imagine that if we did a survey, we would find that people who confuse us with the FLDS are also equally oblivious to the contents (and even the existence of) the Doctrine and Covenants, the details of church history, and the nuances of church beliefs regarding the afterlife of widowers who remarry.

    By the way, one of the videos on lds.org showed a young woman going on and on about how the church teaches her to dress modestly. Did anyone else think that video was remarkably ill conceived as an attempt to distance us from the FLDS?

  229. I think romantic love and selfishness are the things that give monogamy the edge over polygamy.
    I don’t see romantic love as the center in 19th C. marriages(?). I do see an efforts (maybe) in the early Church, to limit selfishness(?).
    I hear this “selfishness” ( I am not passing a judgment on it), in statements like: “I am not sharing MY wife or MY husband, “I am not letting MY daughter..”

  230. Ronan- thank you. Your words are a balm to my heart. Thank you.

  231. Antonio Parr says:

    Left Field:

    While it is possible that the general public is not attuned to the each of the nuances cited in my post (No. 223), I do not believe that the average observor is unaware of the following:

    We as a Church appear to be taking the highly problematic historical position that polygamy is of God and should be authorized by the U.S. government when we wish to practice polygamy, but is something that should be outlawed and viewed as evil and perverse when others wish to practice polygamy (even when the “others” seeking to live a polygamous lifestyle do so in reliance upon the identical Section 132 upon which we relied when we were practicing polygamy). This appears to be a position too extravagant to be maintained.

    Moreover, in the spirit of Ronan’s eloquent and powerful post (No. 225), I believe that most of us recoil at the notion of our daughters being relegated to the status of a kind of spiritual chattel, and believe further that a definition of exaltation that entails our daughters being polygamous wives is a poor motivator, indeed, for their faithful obedience in this life.

    All this being said, I love the Church, and recognize the hand of God upon it.

  232. Ronan, your words are not a balm to my heart. :) Really, though, I don’t see anything out of line with Jacob’s and m&m’s comments, and I am glad they are posting to provide a different viewpoint. I’m not sure they deserved an all-of-your-comments-suck post.

  233. Julie M. Smith says:

    Re #225,

    Amen. Thank you for articulating so well what has really concerned me about m&m’s approach to many issues for a long time.

    M & M, I hope you will give serious thought to what Ronan has written. I’ve been in an Institute classroom (as a student) where one student turned to another who was questioning something and said, “Look. You either believe that he was a prophet, or you don’t.” Do you really want to be accountable for forcing someone to make that choice on your terms?

  234. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 225. Wow. Thanks for that, Ronan.

  235. Ronan: Perhaps you could point out where D&C 132 uses the word or concept of chattel?

    I am really stunned that those who regard themselves as faithful and believing Latter-day Saints reject that Joseph Smith’s revelations are inspired and from God. Surely Mormons have some notion that a prophet must speak the truth or at least be close to it when claiming revelation?

  236. And thus Yipes tells Tracy, a convert who struggles with the concept of polygamy, that she is a faithless heathen.

    (Yipes, your tone is more likely to drive people away from the church than anything that gets said ’round here. Well done, mate.)

    As for chattel, read again.

  237. “I suspect this is why they won’t remove any portion of the D&C.”

    But the old section on monogamous marriage was removed in 1876 from the LDS D&C, and the Lectures on Faith were removed around 1921. I do not think there is a requirement that material consitute a traditional “revelation” to be included in the D&C. Section 134 is a declaration of belief adopted by a conference (similar to the former declaration regarding monogamous marriage).

    Perhaps section 132 could be put into an appendix at the end of the D&C like an historical footnote and replaced by the Proclamation.

  238. Left Field says:

    Of course, deleting section 132 would elicit howls of protest from those who would claim that we’re trying to whitewash our history. Just look at what happened when we published a manual of Brigham Young’s teachings that omitted mention of polygamy. Of course, if the manual had included Brigham’s teachings on polygamy, the same people would have protested that the manual is evidence that we still fundamentally support polygamy. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Not that we should worry about trying to appease our critics, but I don’t know that deleting section 132 would necessary accomplish anything.

    While there’s historical precedent for decanonoization, there’s also precedent for the canon retaining historical material that has been superseded by later revelation and understanding. Huge chunks of the Old Testament and quite a few passages of the Doctrine and Covenants come to mind as examples.

    The US constitution still has passages mandating that only 60% of slaves be counted in the population, that senators be elected by state legislatures, that the presidential runner-up becomes vice president, and a whole variety of other provisions that have been superseded by subsequent amendments. Yet the original text still remains in the constitution. Don’t we already do something similar with section 132 and OD1? Jesus didn’t delete anything from the Old Testament. He simply proclaimed new understandings of the existing text.

  239. Ronan,

    It is strange. I agree with nearly everything I read from you (even on non-Indy IV topics) and spend so much of my time in life as a heretic liberal. Getting accused of fundamentalism just takes some getting used to for me.

    I never made any statement that it was an all-or-nothing kind of deal. I said that if God played no part in it then that really puts Joseph in a nearly unredeemable position, in my opinion. That leaves considerable room for various middle-ground views, like the one you’ve suggested. If you have not seen people on this thread suggest that the whole thing is attributable to womanizing and the justification thereof by means of unrighteous dominion, then I would suggest you have not been reading closely enough.

    I’m glad that so many people were encouraged by my fundamentalist view getting the smackdown, though. Certainly I am not looking to discourage anyone from negotiating their own faith through the brier patch of reality.

  240. JNS, thanks for your comment 23—your observation that the only part of the revelation that was disregarded was the one which imposed restrictions on men is fascinating.

    I’m thinking about experiences like Starfoxy’s (#74), of growing up with the idea that polygamy will ultimately be required, and I think this is more than an issue of local leaders teaching false ideas (as suggested in #105). Early Church leaders clearly taught that polygamy was required for exaltation. As far as I know, those teachings haven’t been repudiated; even OD1, as others have pointed out, doesn’t challenge polygamy on a doctrinal level. Polygamy causes so much angst, I think, not because there are misguided people who are still teaching that we’ll have to practice it again someday, but because it currently occupies such an ambiguous place in LDS doctrine. (If Brother X teaches in Gospel Doctrine that we’ll be resurrected as grasshoppers, that might raise some eyebrows, but I don’t think many would lose sleep over the possibility that he’s right. If Sister Y, on the other hand, teaches that polygamy is a requirement for the Celestial Kingdom, she’s got a lot of tradition to back her up.)

    As unsettling as I find the practice of polygamy itself, what I find most disturbing about this section is the language used to describe women. I don’t find the possibility that God in fact commanded polygamy nearly as disturbing as the possibility that God sees women as prizes to be awarded to righteous men. And what makes this particular text even more painful than, say, the writings of Paul advocating female submission, is that it purports to be in God’s own voice. Ouch.

  241. Jscob,
    It’s all cool, friend. Shalom.

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