Follow-Up Thoughts on Nauvoo Polygamy

This began as a lengthy response to some very important questions raised on JNS’s thread earlier this week. A few commenters, understandably confused and even disturbed by some of the revelations regarding the institution of plural marriage and its practice in Nauvoo. Of particular concern is polyandry — Joseph Smith’s marriages (and, ahem, marital relationships) with women who were married to other men. Is there any scriptural precedence for this? Can it be right?

The short answer is that there is no short answer. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And yet God manifestly does new things at times. If we’re looking for Biblical precedence as a barometer for measuring the validity of beliefs and practices instigated by Joseph Smith or embraced by the Church he founded, we’ll have to toss out more than polyandry. In general, something being sanctioned by the Bible is not a particularly good benchmark for its ethical justification by most modern standards — at various times the OT God is found sanctioning, rewarding, or commanding ethnic cleansing, genocide, rape, pillage, prostitution, slavery, torture, etc. And I doubt very much that if Joseph Smith had advocated that women remain silent in all Church services any of us would find biblical precedence to be particularly comforting.

I say this not to invalidate the concerns raised on the thread — they are very valid. There are no simple answers (like “well, God said it’s okay in the Bible…”). Early polygamy is as complicated morally and ethically as it is historiographically. I’m in the process of working through many of these very questions myself, grounding my search for understanding in both the basic belief I have in certain faith claims of Mormonism as well as in good historical scholarship and social theory.

Some preliminary points I would make:

1) George A. Smith’s lurid analogies notwithstanding, people during Joseph Smith’s would have been scandalized by plural marriage for largely different reasons than people are today, because monogamous marriage was a different institution then than it is now. Polygamy challenged Christian marriage as, among other things, the basis for natural, patriarchal law and as the primary site and seedbed of male authority and power. Whatever else you want to say about whether or not Joseph’s own actions constituted abuses of authority, it’s clear — especially in the cases of already-married women — that Joseph pursued the marriages in a manner that undermined the power that the men in potential wives’ lives wielded over them.

Joseph’s own actions make clear that he was not attempting to eliminate the exercise of social power, but to reconfigure it. Fundamentally altering marital relationships — especially in a society where marriage is an institution that, in many ways, perpetuates the treatment of daughters and wives as property — meant reshaping the social relationships and conduits along which social power could be exercised. This process certainly empowered Joseph personally; but it also empowered wives, their families, and all those close to him. This seems to fit squarely (though with radical implications) within Joseph’s larger project and understanding of the human condition and God’s participation in it, where Apostasy is construed as the disavowal of divine, sanctifying power in favor of worldly, corrupting forms of power, and Restoration as a re-establishing of divinely ordained and exalting power relations.

2) Polygamy should be understood not primarily as a marital practice but as a kinship system. Plural marriage was closely connected (though the exact nature of the connection is elusive) with the largely forgotten Mormon practice of Adoptive Sealings. These two converged to create a fundamentally new way of establishing and perpetuating and even defining kin relations. Among other things (like the dramatic intensification of in-group out-group boundaries and the promotion of social cohesion), these practices — which, as GD Smith’s book quite helpfully points out — extended well beyond the person of Joseph Smith, yet were all, on some level, connected to him. They were ways of taking the uniquely binding ties of familial relations and extending them to non-kin. Anthropologists even today (see, for example, the work of Fenella Cannell) argue that the best way of understanding Mormonism is not as a religion but as an extended kinship system, a complex and unique kin network.

3) Joseph’s thought, his understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe, the ontological ground according to which he (re)organized basic categories like God, man, heaven, earth, spirit, matter, mind, body — all this developed and evolved with time. Further, Joseph’s rendering of the map of the cosmos and the grand narrative that accompanied it radicalized with time, moving further and further from the norms of traditional Christianity and republicanism the nearer he got to his own death. Polygamy, whatever else you want to argue about it, was a vital part of this process. Cultural ontologies are always grounded in semiotic practices and social relations, from ideas about the nature of language and its relationship to the describable world to marital institutions and economic practices. By dramatically breaking — not just abstractly but in the realest possible sense — with an institution as fundamentally anchored to the ontological and epistemological ground of Protestantism and early republicanism as monogamous marriage, Joseph literally freed his mind to pursue more speculative and radical renderings of the universe.

Nauvoo was by far the most theologically innovative period of Joseph’s life, and much of what has become the taken-for-granted, defining essence of Mormonism — the ontological unity of God and man, of spirit and matter, of heaven and earth, all the wonderful if challenging materiality and embodiment of Mormonism — resulted from this break. Despite the mountains of timber that have been felled to try to write unity between them, there’s no escaping the fact that the theology of, say, the Lectures on Faith is much closer to traditional Protestantism than to Nauvoo era theology. Breaking with the social conventions of his time gave Joseph the momentum to question things that good Protestants just don’t question. The results are some of the sweetest, most engaging, difficult, but magnificent parts of our religion. It is, I think, no coincidence that these radical, late doctrines (to say nothing of the endowment, the relief society, or temple sealings) emerged alongside the development of as radically alternative a system of social relations as plural marriage. And it is no coincidence that those Mormons who forcefully rejected plural marriage also disavowed what they referred to as Joseph’s radical, unchristian doctrines, as well as all things temple.

None of this is meant to furnish definitive answers or to silence criticism or discourage the airing of concerns. These are just some of the ways that I’ve explored thinking about the relationship between polygamy (which, in no small part due to my upbringing in the Correlation-Era-Church, I find deeply disturbing) and so much of the rest of Mormonism which I value so deeply, which constitutes such a profound part of who I am. I hope others find it helpful as well.

Comments

  1. Latter-day Guy says:

    Thank you for this. It is both fascinating, and––if I understand you correctly––quite helpful.

  2. Of particular concern is polyandry — Joseph Smith’s marriages (and, ahem, marital relationships) with women who were married to other men.

    Brian Hales has actually challenged the assertion that JS had “marital relationships” with his polyandrous wives, and his presentations at Sunstone and JWHA were pretty convincing. He has his first of two volumes on JS & polygamy coming out next year, and from the work he has shared with me it is pretty well-researched.

  3. …and relating specifically to your post, I think your #2 is the key–at least in my mind.

  4. Brad, I believe that creating a new (“restored”) version of an old group (a new House of Israel – a new Chosen People) was one of the driving forces behind much of what Joseph did, and I believe the larger movement you describe in this post (that included polygamy as only one part) was a central part of that effort. I’m not totally comfortable with everything about the way it was practiced over time, but the overall picture you paint is what helps me have no problem with what I believe Joseph was trying to do.

    Thanks for this post. It is an excellent summary, given how difficult it is to write a summary of this topic.

  5. Brad, we’ve talked about this, and you know I largely agree with you, but your #2 above is just a little slippery–however much his thought about plural marriage resembled the ideas JS was developing about kinship and adoption, those theological innovations do not entail having sex with (sometimes very) young women. It won’t do to understand the practice as solely dynastic.

  6. Thanks, Brad. I argue something very similar to your #2 in my chapter on the heaven family (of course it’s all about overcoming the specter of death, but that’s a thread for another time).

    Kristine, I suspect that Smith would have objected that our notions of sexual loyalty and propriety were born of and supported by a very different society from the one he anticipated in heaven. I am NOT proposing that we behave this way; I prefer that we translate core elements into a new system, dealing with and understanding the essential elements as we create something new and vital. Remember that our discussions are primarily now about how to make Nauvoo polygamy fit within our current idea-world, and it’s something drawn from a very different setting. I prefer the metaphor of translation because it recognizes that although we share many commonalities with Smith and the earliest Latter-day Saints, they were different from us in sometimes stunning ways. (Incidentally, this is why I think Work and Glory[1] books are dangerous–they encourage people to see only themselves in early Mormonism, not acknowledging the challenging and crucial labors of translation required).

    PS, it may be worth contextualizing polygamy more firmly in a) antebellum sexual protest (Foster has done the groundwork in his multiply republished dissertation) and b) the controversies over the narrowing vision of family then en route to its Victorian apogee (I have come to see Smith as a strident anti-Victorian rebel and find that polygamy makes a lot more sense when I realize what he was trying to say about the constricted vision of life being preached by early Victorian elements in Anglo-American society).

    ———————–
    [1] Still have only read about 5 pages in one book and half-watched one of those movies. I’m judging on the basis of limited exposures and explanations of them from people who have read them.

  7. Sam, I don’t disagree much, although I think your reading may be just a little too optimistic.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    There’s no excuse for even half-watching one of those movies, Sam.

    Kris, it’s Christmas — come on, get a little optimism.

  9. K,
    I in no way meant to imply that polygamy was primarily dynastic. I’m just saying that, sociologically and anthropologically speaking, polygamy is a kinship system. Kinship systems are manifestly about sex — about the regulation of sex, sexuality, and reproduction and about the management of social and political relations via the regulation of sexual relations. It’s more about power than about libido. The reconfiguration of sexual/marital relations and kinship structures is the reconfiguration of power relations. Sex is definitely a part of that, as power is always mapped on the bodies and bodily relations of social actors.

    Ben,
    I’m very interested in seeing the research you describe. I’ve never seen credible historical arguments that the polyandrous unions did not involve sex. I guess that, based on my familiarity with the relevant sources, there is not a lot of positive evidence for sexual relations with any of the specific known polyandrous wives. I guess it’s mostly assumed that the unions did involve sex, since there is evidence that other plural marriages did. Fascinating…

  10. How much harm would it do to the Church if we just finally admitted that Joseph Smith was as flawed as King David? Could we continue to think of Joseph as THE prophet of the restoration, as the Jews continue to think of David as their greatest King?

    We could finally do away with intellectualizations and rationalizations, such as these, that lead only to a final outcome that requires us to accept polygamy on faith in Joseph’s prophethood.

  11. StillConfused says:

    I appreciate your thoughts. I do find the thinking that Joseph’s marrying married women somehow made the women less of a property right quite unsettling. As a woman, I find his practice more in line with treating women like property than not.

    it is very interesting that if this were sanctioned by God, it is a radical departure from many of his basic principles regarding sexual relations. Particularly the commandment against adultery.

  12. Ben, I too would be interested in the research you mention.

    And Brad states, there is not a lot of positive evidence for sexual relations with any of the specific known polyandrous wives.

    It was my understanding that after the Saints were settled in Utah that multiple women who were wives of Joseph testified in affidavits that they were sexually intimate with Joseph. These affidavits were obtained to directly counter the claims of the RLDS that Joseph was never involved with polygamy. Is my understanding incorrect?

  13. Brad and Kari: I wish I had the research to share with you, but hopefully Brian’s work will be published this next year (though it is with Kofford, and he is not known as the speediest publisher). He did have an article in the last Mormon Historical Studies, examining the marriage status of Sylvia Sessions. The responsibility for evidence is definitely on him, however, since the general scholarly consensus is that sex was involved in the polyandry.

    And Kari, you are right about the affidavids; the provide great insights about JS’s involvement. However, they are late reminiscences and were produced in a politically-charged environment with the overall focus to emphasize JS’s polygamous activities. This doesn’t mean that they should be disregarded–they were first-hand witnesses, afterall–but these tensions do need to be remembered. (which was a disappointing part of the book: Smith treated these documents without any hesitation or even explaining the context they came from)

  14. How much harm would it do to the Church if we just finally admitted that Joseph Smith was as flawed as King David?

    Kari, I think most of us admit that freely and openly. That is a totally different thing, however, than rejecting anything he did that doesn’t fit into our current model of propriety. Given everything we have available about polygamy, some of see it as much more complicated than, “Joseph was a horny guy who abused his power” – which is a common conclusion of those who want to paint polygamy as without divine inspiration.

    Frankly, I have less problem with the way Joseph taught and practiced polygamy than with the way Brigham taught and practiced it (and I think it would have developed radically differently if Joseph had lived longer) – but that would be a whole new discussion that really doesn’t fit on this thread.

  15. Oh, and I think it is clear from the totality of the record that Joseph’s own view of everything Brad discusses here changed over time as I his own understanding grew through the years – as Brad says in his #3. Hence, the difference in Kirtland and Nauvoo polygamy. That is a big part of the slack I cut Joseph on the overall issue, as I think his earliest moves into the whole concept of plural marriage were natural manifestations of what later became the much more nuanced move toward communal sealing.

    I know people who chalk up the later change to an attempt to cover his earlier “indiscretions”. I see it the other way – that his earlier marriages were his first attempts to understand what he eventually understood and began to institute in Nauvoo. I don’t think Brigham (and others) understood the difference fully, since Joseph didn’t have much time to develop it fully, so the Church returned to the earliest (more easily understood) version of “simple” polygamy. We still struggle to understand it now, after all these years, so I don’t “fault” Brigham and the others in the slightest – especially since I might be wrong, and they might have been right.

  16. Kristine, how fast you have forgotten my affect. You may be the first person to call me an optimist. It’s not so much optimism as an appreciation that mortality involves seeing through a glass darkly for all of us, not just our capacity to see God’s will but to judge other people correctly, particularly when they inhabit a world radically divorced from ours.

    I’ve spent a lot of time with the documents of early Mormonism and its contexts over the last five years, and this is the direction I have felt them push me. As for the translation bit, that strikes me as a) what JSJ would have done, and b) the only thing that makes sense. I think it’s harder to explain how Focus on the Family ended up on KSL radio (vague memory of someone complaining about that on a blog) than to come to terms with JSJ’s affinal experimentation (I mean that last word in the non-pejorative sense).

  17. How much harm would it do to the Church if we just finally admitted that Joseph Smith was as flawed as King David?

    The problem with this, at least in the sense that you describe it, is that polygamy is impossible to disentangle from the rest of his prophetic life. Polygamy was not just some distraction, separate from the rest of what he was up to in Nauvoo. Plural marriage is profoundly, intimately bound up with the development of the temple, the concept and practice of family sealings, the establishment of the relief society, and the elaboration of many of Mormonism’s most central tenets. Again, there is a good reason why those branches of early Mormonism that rejected polygamy also rejected both the temple and the divine anthropology of Nauvoo Mormonism. I am in no way promoting a kind of all-or-nothing approach to believing in the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith; just trying to point out the inherent difficulty of washing one’s hands of polygamy without also parting in the process with much of what modern LDS consider part and parcel of our heritage and our religious identity. These intellectualizations and rationalizations represent a distillation of my own efforts to navigate these problems.

  18. Steve Evans says:

    Also, there’s the problem that Joseph was not, in fact, as flawed as King David. We have no Mormon Uriahs. That’s a terrible comparison, even if we want to start adopting some sort of modernist “all are fallen” view of the Restoration.

  19. smb, you are certainly more expert than I, and I do recall that we could match each other scowl for scowl :) Almost thou persuadest me…

  20. #18, Henry Jacobs?

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Ann, not even close.

  22. RE: Joseph’s “marital relations” with polyandrous wives:

    I seem to recall that in a Mormon Stories interview, Todd Compton stated his understanding that there is no clear evidence that Joseph slept with any of his know polyandrous wives. But this is just my recollection of the interview — I don’t think it’s available online anymore. Maybe someone who has access to In Sacred Loneliness can see if Compton addressed the topic in that book?

  23. #18 – Actually I think that is a good point. It is not a fair comparison, still is murder the line that a prophet can’t cross? Certainly the line is much closer for the average member. Should leaders follow a higher standard?

  24. #23 – Based on the scriptures, or our modern sensibilities? I don’t mean that to be flippant, but based on the scriptures . . . I’m not sure what the line would be.

  25. Ray:

    I agree with you on the distinction between the two. And yes, if scripture were the determinant than views would be varied with interpretation. Practically speaking I would have to say modern sensibilities, but the Church has significant influence here. I don’t think we can just pass off the disconnect as a dichotomy between scripture and modern western culture. For many of us those sensibilities are defined in the microcosm of modern Mormonism. In other words, the contemporary Church has set the tone for 1) scriptural interpretation; 2) specicific brand of modern morality. I think the inconsistency lies in that what we are willing to forgive Joseph of in the recent past, would never fly with even a GA today. I submit that such a GA would likely be excommunicated, particularly if their offenses became public. What are your thoughts?

  26. “there is not a lot of positive evidence for sexual relations with any of the specific known polyandrous wives.”

    I thought the story of Fanny Alger goes that Joseph was caught fooling around with her by Emma, and his relationship with her was known to Oliver Cowdery, who later condemned it. I can’t recall the source of this story though, and I admit I’m not expert. I just have a hard time believing that Joseph was encouraging people to enter a marriage covenant with implicit charges to “be one flesh” and “multiply and replenish the earth” and not participate in the act the would literally accomplish those covenantal charges. Joseph may not have had sexual relations with every woman he married, but it seems extremely unlikely that he didn’t with some of them, regardless of whether any offspring were ultimately produced (many scholars believe there are no descendants of JS from plural marriages).

    My two cents.

  27. Cowboy, I just think almost everything about the Church has changed so dramatically over the past 180 years that the entire question is unanswerable. I don’t mean that as a dodge, but I am serious when I say it.

    I know the pitfalls of this analogy, but I don’t hold Pres-Elect Obama’s pot smoking against him – since it was done in a time of mass use and when he was much younger. I look at his current tobacco use in a much harsher light, simply because of his age and the influence of the time. Youthful experimentation I can understand and overlook much easier than mature experimentation, and Joseph was still a young prophet when he died.

    The Church in its “infancy” was a wild institution, with very few hard-set rules, lots of experimentation and a whole lot of trying-to-figure-it-all-out stuff. Just as people sitting in the comfort of their ivory towers couldn’t understand the Wild West and, thus, looked down on them as ignorant simpletons, we have a hard time from our easy chairs understanding the free-flowing radicalism of the early Church. We belong to a VERY different church than Joseph founded – and I have no problem with that. Given that view, however, I think it is meaningless (totally and completely meaningless) to wonder if Joseph would have “made it” in the modern Church.

    I doubt it, but I don’t see that as a problem – not at all. I also don’t think Pres. Hinckley would have “made it” in Joseph’s day, and I don’t see that as a problem, either. Joseph can have the early madness and pioneer doctrinal plains; I’ll take the settled Church.

  28. Antonio Parr says:

    Also, there’s the problem that Joseph was not, in fact, as flawed as King David. We have no Mormon Uriahs. That’s a terrible comparison, even if we want to start adopting some sort of modernist “all are fallen” view of the Restoration.

    I believe that a very strong argument can be made that Joseph Smith was more flawed than King David. For all of his faults, David displayed a life-long pining for the presence of God, and a sense of worship and awe when referring to the Almighty.

    Joseph’s much over-rated Nauvoo-period theology (most of which has never been canonized) shows a disturbing attempt to almost strip God of the attributes that make him an object of worship, and, in the end, has Joseph boasting that no man had ever done a work as grand as he, not even Jesus. Admittedly, this scandalous comment was made in the context of holding a church together [which, ironically, was made before the early Church split into several parts, with key Restoration figures (including Joseph's own wife -- well, his first wife) and children going in a direction that disavowed much of Joseph's Nauvoo theology]. But I defy anyone to find a reference to David making a casual reference about God.

    My only way of dealing with Joseph Smith and the portions of his theology and life that sing a very different song than that found in the Book of Mormon is to view him as severly flawed, the way that David or me or anyone reading this comment is severely flawed.

    Thank God for Christ, who offers us the one sure way.

  29. Antonio Parr says:

    (Still trying to figure out the “block quote” feature. Sorry for the repeat post.)

    Also, there’s the problem that Joseph was not, in fact, as flawed as King David. We have no Mormon Uriahs. That’s a terrible comparison, even if we want to start adopting some sort of modernist “all are fallen” view of the Restoration.

    I believe that a very strong argument can be made that Joseph Smith was more flawed than King David. For all of his faults, David displayed a life-long pining for the presence of God, and a sense of worship and awe when referring to the Almighty.

    Joseph’s much over-rated Nauvoo-period theology (most of which has never been canonized) shows a disturbing attempt to almost strip God of the attributes that make him an object of worship, and, in the end, has Joseph boasting that no man had ever done a work as grand as he, not even Jesus. Admittedly, this scandalous comment was made in the context of holding a church together [which, ironically, was made before the early Church split into several parts, with key Restoration figures (including Joseph's own wife -- well, his first wife) and children going in a direction that disavowed much of Joseph's Nauvoo theology]. But I defy anyone to find a reference to David making a casual reference about God.

    My only way of dealing with Joseph Smith and the portions of his theology and life that sing a very different song than that found in the Book of Mormon is to view him as severly flawed, the way that David or me or anyone reading this comment is severely flawed.

    Thank God for Christ, who offers us the one sure way.

  30. Antonio Parr says:

    My last two posts were an attempt to respond to Steve Evans’ post at Comment 18. The unblocked portion is suppsed to be blocked, and vice versa.

    Sorry.

  31. Brad (and Sam), to push slightly on Kristine’s excellent point, I agree with both of you that polygamy like adoption was in one dimension a way of turning a church into a tribe. The comparison cuts both ways; like polygamy, adoption was also a way of creating dependency and power relations that would not otherwise have existed. Father-son relationships were relationships of hierarchy, power, and deference, and there are some pieces of evidence to indicate that such was the intent (and in limited ways, practice — limited because adoption was never practiced as fully as polygamy) with adoptive father-son relationships, as well.

    But the differences are at least as profound and important as the similarities. Unlike adoption, polygamy was partially justified by the need to reinforce male power and privilege and to increase the disparity between the sexes. Polygamy, unlike adoption, was partially justified on the basis of its ability to satisfy what was incorrectly believed to be the uniquely male desire for promiscuity. While the father-son relationships of adoption did entail some power dynamics, the power relation of husband-wife was more drastic. And, pace Brad’s comment, adoption is an example of a change to the kinship system that didn’t involve changes in sexual practice.

    Also important were the implications for participants’ relations with the broader society. If Mormons who had been adopted wanted to interact with non-Mormons or (at the extreme) leave the community, having been adopted posed no problems. The relationship in question may have been meaningless to the broader society, but it certainly wasn’t offensive or threatening to that society; it could simply be ignored. For polygamous wives, this was just not the case. Especially once a child had been born, these women’s options with respect to the non-Mormon world become drastically curtailed.

    I think the polygamy/adoption analogy is perhaps most apt when considering both practices from the perspective of male participants, although even there the differences are important. But polygamy from the point of view of female participants looks very different from adoption. The analogy is partial and, I think, inadvertently distorting.

  32. The Sylvia Sessions argument seems weak to me. Sessions may have considered herself divorced from her legal husband, but there was no legal divorce. Is marriage a state of mind? There is, at least, evidence that Sessions lived with Mr. Lyon after her marriage to Joseph Smith, and she was routinely described as Mrs. Lyon — even by Joseph Smith’s journal. So she lived the social role of marriage to Mr. Lyon. This, plus the convincing evidence that Sessions was intimate with Joseph Smith, seems to make any argument that sexuality was not a part of polyandry at best an odd redefinition of marriage and at worst a distortion of historical reality. I hope this is not a line of thinking that grows in popularity.

  33. JNS: You’d actually be surprised at who is buying into the “no sexuality in polyandry” debate when presented with the historical evidence. It can be pretty much proved that Mr. Lyon was gone from ’42 – ’44, and that Sylvia was called Mrs. Lyon just because thats what she was known by. Bachman’s thesis makes it pretty clear that the Saint’s did not always consider legal marriages to be valid–especially when dealing with divorces–so there clearly was a “redefinition of marriage.”

    I’m not saying I agree with this approach, because I’m not convinced yet, but I’m just saying that it is not a “distortion of historical reality” like you suggest.

  34. Ben, I think your comment reflects well-known information, but it doesn’t address my earlier points. I agree that the Saints often disregarded legal marriage in Nauvoo. But there wasn’t a wholesale “redefinition,” and Sessions lived with Mr. Lyon after he returned — so if there was a “state of divorce” in place, it wasn’t really permanent even in Sessions’ mind. And it wasn’t legal, and Sessions remained socially recognized as Lyon’s wife. To the extent that marriage is a private mental state, then the argument can go in different directions. But this is just unhelpful — the argument is poor and should be rejected exactly because marriage is a social reality that is more than, and not determined by, participants’ personal feelings and perceptions.

  35. the taken-for-granted, defining essence of Mormonism

    This is a fascinating and important discussion, as was the one which took place on the previous thread, but I want to register a dissent from this particular comment of Brad’s, or at least to dissent from the sweeping, definitive assumptions the comment incorporates. I, for one, don’t feel the statement to be true at all. Which just goes to show that–unless one is defining the parameters under consideration very specifically–it may well be that what one Mormon assumes to be the “defining essence” of the church’s doctrine and historical experience may very well be, from the point of view of another Mormon, utterly irrelevant theological errata.

  36. Russell, nicely said.

  37. JNS, my sense is that the sexism of polygamy should be translated rather than aggressively judged. they inhabited a radically different world from ours. i’d rather be happy that we’ve moved on than critical about how limited their worldview appears to us now.

    as for adoption meaning nothing substantive, if you abandoned an adoptive relationship, you lost your salvation, as you were disconnected from the heaven family (Davies calls it “soteriological lineage”). Having an illegitimate child (that’s how a polygamous child would be seen) was certainly an impediment in civilized evangelical society, but there was plenty of free-wheeling in non-Mormon society, and the early apologists’ claim of evangelical hypocrisy are important comparatively. I also suspect that evangelicals would welcome the former Mormon as a demonstration of how corrupt the religion was.

    And I agree with Russell that in point of fact polygamy is a curious (and vexing) facet of a much bigger topic in Mormonism that is coherent and persuasive even in the absence of polygamy. The sacerdotal genealogy stands intact even without polygamy.

    I personally am not that interested in the endless debates about whether there were any physical intimacy involved. If an “apologist” wins that debate it’s as a demonstration that Smith secretly observed the Victorian norms so familiar to us now but which he viewed as apostate. If a “critic” proves the presence of physical intimacy, s/he is able to claim indignantly that Smith violated Victorian norms, the ones he explicitly rejected as apostate.

    I’m much more interested in people investing energy in the process of translation and modern reform. how do we encompass Joseph Smith’s vision of a human family in our own lives? what are the political, social, humanitarian implications of Smith preaching that we are all a people, that the question of human interconnectedness is so central that new rites are required to formalize our eternal associations so potently that no “misanthrophic” God could violate them.

    Pursuing my analogy, I think of modern fundamentalists as the equivalent of machine translation circa 1985, “out of sight, out of mind”–>”blind insanity” kind of stuff.

    nb: scare quotes are used to recognize that these are perceptions or convenient stereotypes.

  38. Also, there’s the problem that Joseph was not, in fact, as flawed as King David. We have no Mormon Uriahs. That’s a terrible comparison, even if we want to start adopting some sort of modernist “all are fallen” view of the Restoration.

    Then give me a good comparison Steve. Joseph had plenty of Urriahs, they just didn’t refuse to return to their wives company.

  39. I can understand the desire to balance Joseph’s behavior with that of King David’s sin to help neutralize the condemnation of Joseph’s actions. But whereas David spent days on his knees praying onto God to spare the life of his son, Joseph Smith was propagating a new doctrine of “Hear O’ Israel, this practice is the commandment of God.”

    Luther, best known is his depiction of the sinner as incurvatus in se, “curved in on self”: “Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, is so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.

  40. I wonder why this is such a big topic outside of Church headquarters and yet none of the recent prophets have really addressed it.

    I grew up knowing a polygamous family and have read my ancestors journals that were polygamous and with Joseph and Brigham. This was far more about power and sex than kinship. It was not to benefit the women as I was taught in my youth most of them had options. They were often neglected and ignored. Some of the wives were clearly left to their own as single parents. The first wives almost always had to share their husbands with younger women. If this wasn’t about sex and men’s desire for more than why weren’t the extra wives the 60-80 year old widows? A few women did bring their sisters into the family and some were to help the women but I think that was more the exception than the rule. How many of the first wives were in favor of this practice? How many of the marriages were arranged by fathers or church leaders? How many wives were abandoned after the law made it illegal? Are Joseph’s marriages available through family history search? If not why not? There are an awful lot of questions that are hanging out there with little or no comment from any official source we are left to debate it among ourselves and address it when asked.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    My understanding is that Brian Hales and Don Bradley will be presenting their research, to the effect that there was no sexuality in the polyandrous marriages, at Springfield MHA next May. So that will be an opportunity to see the argument in advance of publication of the book.

    A few folks earlier in the thread seemed to conflate polyandrous with polygamous. The Hales/Bradley argument is not that there was no sexuality at all with the polygamous wives, but that there was not specifically with the polyandrous ones.

    The polyandrous wife for whom there is good evidence of sexuality is Sylvia Sessions, and as has been discussed they argue that while there was sexaulity in that marriae, it wasn’t a truly polyandrous one, because Sylvia and her prior husband were “divorced” (by frontier standards). (This is the point JNS is arguing over.)

    I’m interested in the research and look forward to the session. (I personally don’t like to put all of my eggs in the “no sexuality” basket, and it doesn’t bother me if there was sexuality in the polyandrous unions. But if there really wasn’t, I’m sure that would make those marriages more palatable to the vast majority of Mormons who encounter them.)

  42. Antonio Parr says:

    Jerry:

    The questions are unanswered because there are no answers. Modern LDS polygamy was distasteful, and runs afoul of everything that the wonderful modern church advocates with respect to safe and loving homes. Although we do not have a convenient way to theologically disavow the theory of polygamy, we have by practice and modern rhetoric denounced this practice as something that is neither wholesome or praiseworthy. (Read the correspondence between David O. McKay and his wife for a shining example of the beauty of monogamy. This has become the modern model of the ideal relationship between husband and wife, and thank heavens for this.)

    Try as you may, there is no escaping the fact that polygamy was painfully demeaning to/of women, and I can’t believe that there is a single person on this list who would hope that their daughters become part of a polygamous marriage.

  43. I’m much more interested in people investing energy in the process of translation and modern reform. how do we encompass Joseph Smith’s vision of a human family in our own lives? what are the political, social, humanitarian implications of Smith preaching that we are all a people, that the question of human interconnectedness is so central that new rites are required to formalize our eternal associations so potently that no “misanthrophic” God could violate them.

    Why should we be concerned at all with Joseph’s vision of the human family, particularly as it involved polygamy? For all intents and purposes the church in my time has rejected polygamy, and now teaches that monogamy is God’s preferred marriage system. Mankind is only sealed together through monogamous marriages and genealogical lines. Polygamy is no longer doctrinal. Being sealed to others outside of family (which in the past were primarily church leaders) is no longer doctrinal.

    Those two teachings were central to Joseph’s ideas, but they are explicitly denied and rejected today. If the foundation of his vision is denied as non-doctrinal today, why should I worry about encompassing that vision into my life?

  44. smb, a few points. First, you and I read Russell very differently indeed! I would love it if Russell were to offer clarification of what he had in mind. My sense was that he was arguing that the ontological innovations of Nauvoo were not necessarily of the essence for all Mormons.

    The rest of your comment suggests that you read my comment very differently than I do; to me, your remarks seem orthogonal to mine. I agree with the idea that translation and interpretation are better than condemnation. My argument is that close analogies between adoption and polygamy fail as translation because the analogy only captures one of many dimensions of polygamy. I certainly didn’t claim that adoption had no consequences, or that abandoning it imposed no costs within the Mormon theological worldview. My point was that abandoning polygamy entailed the same theological costs but also substantial additional practical costs. This seems hard to deny, although I accept your point that a limited number of former plural wives made a living as professional anti-Mormons.

    On the question of physical intimacy, I think it’s important because of some modern tendency to regard the extended family relationships of Nauvoo in particular as not “real” in some sense. Why are people arguing against the grain of the LDS tradition to minimize the physicality of these marriages? Theologically, it’s hard to understand — even an “eternity-only” sealing would, for many Mormon theological traditions, imply an eternity of sexual practice in the next life. Sex in this life becomes a drop in the bucket in comparison. But I think eliminating sex from these marriages makes it easier to regard them as never having existed and not being real here or in the next life. For that reason, I think it’s important to stick close to the documentary record in understanding that at least several of the marriages were indeed consummated, which implies that Joseph Smith regarded plural marriages as entailing a marital relation just like monogamous marriage. This understanding is an important part of grounding the theology, which is why the debates continue to matter. (Although the details less so; as long as we accept that Smith saw the marriages as real and sometimes entailing sex, it probably doesn’t matter what he and any given wife did or didn’t do in private.)

  45. I guess I should temper my response to Steve. If Hales and Bradley are correct, then Joseph would have no Uriah.

    Thanks for the clarification, Kevin.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Kari, there would still be no Uriah. David had Uriah killed, remember? It’s just an insulting and poor comparison, even if we were to assume sexual relations in these marriages.

  47. Antonio, You have come to the same conclusions as I have. I ask because I am open to data that I am missing. We just went through a round of discussion in the last election that clearly states the churches position on marriage. Since children are the reason to get married there is no point to the polyandrous marriages without sex and children. I think as great as Joseph was he showed us an example of the results of letting our desires control us. His children and family did not remain in the church.

  48. Kari, I have never heard a church leader say that monogamy is preferred over polygamy in an eternal sense. They temper it by saying we only recognize legal marriages. They still teach polygamy as an eternal law. They don’t like talking about polygamy at all and tend to shrug it off as no longer relevant. Any body that spoke out against Joseph was propmtly kicked out so any Uriah would have been discredited. The big problem is the church has a real problem distancing themselves from anything associated with Joseph.

  49. Heber C. Kimball tells of experiencing great anguish when being asked by Joseph to allow Joseph to marry Heber’s wife Vilate.
    Likewise, Bergera’s Conflict in the Quorum and Van Wagoner’s Dialogue article, “Sarah M. Pratt – The Shaping of an Apostate,” tell of Joseph proposing to Sarah Pratt, Orson’s wife, while Orson was out of town on church business. That created significant conflict between Joseph and Orson–and contributed to Sarah’s apostasy.
    These events seem to suggest that contemporary players were concerned that spiritual wifery may have included some traditional marriage practices.

    For those that are confident Joseph’s polyandrous marriages weren’t physical (I don’t see the data as strong either way), what are your thoughts?

  50. I don’t feel anywhere close to being able to make an intelligent comment on this subject yet, but I want to thank those who are as your thoughts are helping me to process this subject. After spending Christmas Day watching “John Adams” and the founding of this country I realize that there are no black and whites and no clear cut answers on the founding of anything– church, country and families.
    I have the deepest love for David and his Psalms have spoken to my soul throughout my life as has the Book of Mormon. Looking at Joseph Smith this way helps me to move forward in my commitment to the gospel.
    Please keep the discussion going!!

  51. Antonio Parr says:

    A happily and faithfully married woman is approached by a man not her husband, who then instructs her to marry him, and ~she~ is the apostate?

    I trust we all see how problematic this must appear to people of good will who are unfamiliar with Mormonism.

  52. Kari, there would still be no Uriah. David had Uriah killed, remember? It’s just an insulting and poor comparison, even if we were to assume sexual relations in these marriages.

    It certainly was not meant to be insulting, I’m sorry you find it so. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the magnitude of their sins were equal.

    The essence of my question was that if the Jews can still consider David their greatest King, despite his flaws, and I would add, despite the magnitude of his sins, is it possible that the Church could identify the flaws of Joseph, particularly as they relate to polygmany, yet still consider him to be the prophet of the restoration?

    As others have pointed out here, that may not be possible, polygamy is too entwined in Josephs’ later theology.

  53. StillConfused says:

    I too appreciate the knowledge, research and discussion that is going on here. I am too sensitive/wimpy to do the in depth research into the intimate details of Joseph Smith’s life and I am grateful for those of you who are able to do this research and able to discuss it with those of us who are less knowledgable. I am glad that I learned about this side of Mormonism on this forum where we are able to express and address our concerns.

    Could it be that the LDS religion is true; that Jospeh Smith started off as a prophet and then lost sight of God?

  54. Stirling Thanks for the link to Sarah pratt article. Not sure just how accurate that series of articles and history are but if true it certainly paints this whole subject differently. I had not seen anything that pointed directly to the secrecy and threats targeted to those that stood up against polyandrous relationships.

  55. Steve Evans says:

    Kari, fair enough. I agree with the essence of your question, and the difficulty in the answers.

  56. I have found that eventually answers come if I just have patience. Both the comments in #52 and #53 have given me more peace than I have felt in weeks.

  57. StillConfused: “Could it be that the LDS religion is true; that Jospeh Smith started off as a prophet and then lost sight of God?”

    This is the general position of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot/Hedrickites), the Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), and the current position of quite a number of the Community of Christ (RLDS).

  58. I hear where you’re coming from, JNS, but I think I’m arguing that the sexism that distinguishes adoption from polygamy is not central to the grander quest for the heaven family, and so for me in translation it tends to drop away as so much cultural baggage.

    Your description of the issues relating to sexuality to me confirm my point–these arguments depend on misreading history from both sides, both in the vehement denials and in the lurid voyeuristic criticism. To my ear, they are an artifact of a much later period and less interesting.

    As for the centrality of the Nauvoo innovations, I’ll let Russell make his sensibilities clearer. Pace Brad, I do not see polygamy per se as central to those innovations, though I do see the broader project of Nauvoo as central to LDS Mormonism.

    As for #43, I think it’s worth trying to be true to Smith’s central, animating vision, even if we are going through a phase of neo-Victorianism. I think somewhere in the middle is a holy place that represents what is best about Mormonism so am eager to strive for it.

    Stirling, polyandry was a mess in its implementation, not just for Sarah Pratt. I’m not sure, other than making it more scandalous, how Sarah or e.g. Jane Law change the central problematics of polyandry.

  59. I thtink it is interesting that there is no indication of polygamy in the BofM and no mention in the D&C. I also find it curious that so many try to paint that was then and this is now argument. The church attaches so much reverence to everything Joseph that you can not separate then and now. In discusssing the Blacks and the Priesthood it was pointed out that Elder McConkie was charged with finding if Joseph was the source of the ban. When it was discovered that it was first mentioned by Pres Young then Pres Kimball felt free to change it. If that was true will the church ever denounce polygamy? Never. It will always be held as an eternal principle.

    Polyandry has always been dismissed as fiction in all of the Seminary, Religion class, SS, and Priesthood lesson discussions I have heard. Does the church even acknowledge it happened?

  60. Jerry,
    There are mentions of polygamy in the Book of Mormon — Jacob condemns it except under specific, special circumstances where God explicitly commands it, leaving open the possibility from Mormonism’s founding moments that polygamy could, in theory, become a part of being God’s people. It is explicitly treated in the D&C — section 132 is a revelation sanctioning plural marriage, commanding those seeking exaltation to embrace it and practice it, and threatening those who oppose it — including Emma Smith (by name, no less) — with destruction.

    Official, correlated sources to not openly treat polyandry, and treat in only the most fleeting, slipshod manner Joseph’s plural marriages; but I’m not aware of any official source explicitly denying polyandry.

  61. Antonio Parr says:

    I am somewhat surprised by the frequently unqualified support for early LDS polygamy found on this blog. I am curious — do any of the ardent supporters of this now abandoned practice have daughters? If so, are you teaching them that their eternal destiny may include polygamy? Such a fate seems like a cruel motivator to young women trying to live the Gospel . . .

  62. I am somewhat surprised by the frequently unqualified disdain for early LDS polygamy found on this blog. Pissing on history is a cruel motivator for anyone trying to live the Gospel.

  63. StillConfused says:

    #49. Thank you for that link. I have read the entire thing. I appreciate that it is documented rather than opinion. I see how damaging this practice was on so many levels and to so many people. I find comfort that my God would not have approved of such actions as polyandry but I respect that others may have a different viewpoint.

  64. Antonio Parr says:

    re: 62. Steve, when you get past “pissing” and “disdain”, what do you tell your daughters (if you have any) about their eternal destiny? Does it include polygamy? If so, how do you help them see this as a desirable destiny/fate?

    (These are sincere questions, by the way. I am open to the possibility that I may be wrong about the practice of polygamy. However, when I look at my precious daughters, the dignity and equality of a one-to-one marriage — 2 becoming 1 flesh — is my highest hope for each of them.)

    (As for my motivators, I find the song of redeeming love to be more than sufficient to inspire . . .)

  65. StillConfused says:

    #62. I suspect your post was meant in humor, but nonetheless, I have really appreciated all of the viewpoints expressed, particularly those of Mr. Parr, and would like for people to continue to feel they can come to this forum for forthright discussion about a very sensitive topic.

  66. Steve,

    Really? You’re surprised that people find polygamy distasteful? (!)

    As smb has usefully pointed out, some “translation” is necessary in reading this history–it’s far more complicated than either pole of some “disgusting hedonism” or “purely spiritual obedience to God” schema. But some aspects of the practice, at least as far as we understand them, are deeply, deeply troubling, maybe even revolting. Your dismissive one-liners are really no more helpful than the “pissing” you so eloquently denounce.

  67. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, it’s not immensely tricky to see that we can neither dismiss our history wholesale nor embrace it all without reservation. My comment is not surprise that people find polygamy distasteful — I find it personally distasteful, as did many of its practitioners among the early Saints — but rather surprise that Antonio Parr would be so glib in pissing, yea pissing upon our Mormon history in that regard. My dismissive one-liners are only dismissing one end of a spectrum as being spectacularly unhelpful, not endorsing the other end of that spectrum. Though my replies sound simplistic, they need not be read simplistically.

  68. Antonio, I have four daughters. They know of polygamy in our past. They know of sealing to multiple women in the temple. They know I don’t like the idea of polygamy, but they also know of their ancestors who practiced it – and they honor them for their faith in a difficult time. Please don’t imply I am a bad father if I can’t condemn polygamy simply because I have daughters.

    Jerry, please drop the hyperbolic and ridiculous questions. #59 is so over-the-top that it appears to have been written by a non-member who has never read either the Book of Mormon or the D&C – especially the D&C. I’m not making that accusation, but that’s how it appears.

    I don’t like polygamy, and I’m glad it has been discontinued here on earth, but if you can’t accept even the possibility that our relationships in the hereafter won’t be exactly like our own modern ideal . . . I don’t know what I can say except that we have NO revelation telling us that all relationships in the hereafter will be strictly monogamous – and we have NO revelation telling us they will be sexual in nature. We just don’t know enough to be sure of anything in that regard, so blanket rejection of everything but eternal, sexual monogamy is hard to fit within our theology.

    Finally, anyone who has loved and been married to more than one spouse feels VERY different about the core concept of polygamy than those who have not. To even suggest that they are somehow misguided and have no chance to live and love those spouses in the eternities again is hard to defend within our theology.

  69. Though my replies sound simplistic, they need not be read simplistically

    .

    Well, should you ever choose to post a hermeneutic guide for those of us too simple to discern the nuance of your comments, I’m sure many will join me in thanksgiving.

  70. pffft! It ain’t that hard, Haglund! Any true Liahona Saint gets it!

  71. Please don’t imply I am a bad father if I can’t condemn polygamy simply because I have daughters.

    Ray, I’m not sure that’s the point Antonio is driving towards. He’s not asking whether as a father-of-daughters you condemn 19th century Mormon polygamy.

  72. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve:

    I pissith not on Mormon history. Indeed, I am fascinated(eth) by Mormon history. I revere our ancestors, in particular those of the last wagon. But, believe me, I pissith not our history.

    Some say that I stinketh not, too, although others disagree (apparently you may falleth into that camp . . .)

  73. Ronan, it wouldn’t be Boxing Day without some pugilistic misunderstandings.

  74. Antonio, what I am missing then from your comments is an ability to keep the baby with all the bathwater you’re discarding. I don’t think we need to become fundamentalists to appreciate our ancestors, but you’re cutting them off a little short for my taste.

    Not sure if you stinketh. Behold it is relative.

  75. Steve,
    Boxing Day is for eating turkey sarnies, playing video games, and seeing family you didn’t see yesterday. Plus this. Seeya.

  76. Just this before I head for Orkney:

    to appreciate our ancestors

    This may be the crux of the matter — Antonio has no polygamous Mormon ancestors IIRC. Nor do I. Perhaps this explains things a bit. I feel very little need to honour Grandpa Bill and his wives.

  77. smb (#58): [P]polyandry was a mess in its implementation, not just for Sarah Pratt. I’m not sure, other than making it more scandalous, how Sarah or e.g. Jane Law change the central problematics of polyandry.

    I agree with your point. And I see I didn’t make the purpose of my post clear. Ben had suggested that Joseph’s polyandry didn’t involve intimacy. I was interested in his (and your) thoughts on why a polyandrous offer to Sara would have been so traumatic for Sara and Orson if intimacy was not intimated.

    As to variables that could have a significant aspect on the “the central problematics of polyandry,” some that come to mind are:
    o whether or not the practice involved physical intimacy
    o whether or not the marriage was kept secret from the other spouse(s)
    o how the participants construed the marriage as affecting their this-life and next-life relations to the original spouse(s).
    o whether or not any of the participants were pressured into the marriage
    o whether or not any of the participants lied about the marriage or an offer for marriage

  78. Bruce in Montana says:

    Personally, I would rather have my daughter be the 5th wife of a rightous man than the 1st of most men in the world (the Church included).
    If I may risk another cliche…A Stream is Always Purest at it’s Source. If early mormon history scares/bothers someone or if the knowledge that celestial marriage (the new and everlasting covenant) IS plural marriage upsets them, I would guess that the individual has officially become a cultural mormon. I.E. one who is following the church’s undignified path of trying to fit into the world by selling out on any gospel principle that the world gives them a hard time about. (plural marriage, blacks in the priesthood, etc.)
    Folks, with respect, if the church continues down this path there could be black sodomites in the temple in a few years. I know it’s tough but we were never promised anything different. —-my 2 cents

  79. “if the church continues down this path there could be black sodomites in the temple in a few years”

    WTF! Bye-bye, bruce.

  80. Sorry I haven’t been around to respond sooner; Boxing Day around here is our day to take down the Christmas lights and pick up 50%-off Christmas cards and other assorted junk for next year.

    [Y]ou and I read Russell very differently indeed! I would love it if Russell were to offer clarification of what he had in mind. My sense was that he was arguing that the ontological innovations of Nauvoo were not necessarily of the essence for all Mormons.

    This is exactly the point of my comment. With the sole exception of the Relief Society (and even that is not, I think, so uniquely a post-Missouri ideological construction as some treatments of church history and theological development make it out to be), I’d be willing to argue that there was nothing truly essential added to the essence of Smith’s restoration movement, as it is actually lived by baptised and covenanted members, during the Nauvoo period. Much that people connect with salvation was added, and to some people, depending on how the Spirit moves them, those connections and additions–exaltation, signs and tokens, etc.–may be more relevant to their faith life and their ability to serve others than was the stuff which had emerged by the Kirtland period. But the “defining essence” or Mormonism? Get back to me when one of the versions of the King Follet sermon gets canonized.

  81. I enjoy this site and I read it frequently. I particularly enjoy the references to missing hymns, bandalos, life before correlation, quirks and endearments.

    Then, there are the discussions, like this one, in which obviously intelligent folks skip over the major premise of the argument and go immediately to the vexation of Victorian morals for Joseph Smith. Contributors with genuinely fine minds and great reasoning ability debate whether King David (likely and imaginary figure) is worse than Joseph. [The better analogy, in my view is David and Brigham, but that’s not the point is it?]

    Is it really only the wiles of the Adversary that prevent honest, objective theologians or even grad students from making a careful reading of the Book of Mormon that passes the most fragile test? Forgetting for the moment that a general authority wrote the definitive work on the issue and the conclusions were just not happy. Whatever else the sliding argument may be, you have to begin with whether this work is real. If not, there is no need to argue about Joseph’s need to have “chaste” wives. Or, about the Church’s need to hide his righteous needs for 150 years.

    The grand admission of Prop 8 was that the Church is fully aware that a legal definition of “marriage” that gives it non-discrimination element essentially ends the Church. Eventually, maybe in the next 5-10 years, marriage will be open to all arrangements. If American citizens can choose the nature of their domesticity, polygamy will be legal. When polygamy is legal, the 132nd Section applies and–well–you can see the problem.

    But it is only a theoretical problem for those who begin without careful examination of the underlying premise.

  82. and=an

  83. RAB,
    KFS canonization aside, are you really suggesting that temple covenants are not “truly essential” to salvation but merely a “connection” to it that may or may not be relevant to a person’s faith, depending on his/her spiritual disposition? That’s fine if you are, but I think I’m on pretty firm ground characterizing temple rites as “essential” to normative Mormonism and your position as somewhat closer to the margin. I’m not arguing that your position is in any way invalid. Really, what I’m arguing is that it is much more historically tenable for you — given your willingness to part with not just with the ontological innovations of Nauvoo Mormonism but with the endowment, temple sealings, etc. — to dismiss plural marriage as an aberrant (or abhorrent) practice. And I don’t think you’ve even indicated that you do.

    Antonio Parr,
    Your all-or-nothing attitude smacks of a logic not at all distant from that which appears to animate the comments of Bruce in Montana. You’ve seen the extent to which I am willing to defend early polygamy, and I have no expectation whatsoever that plural marriage will be the celestial norm, nor do I consider it to be a prerequisite for exaltation. I have a daughter, and I’m still not convinced that JSJ was not acting with God’s approval when he did things that outraged the world around him or even shock my own correlated eyes.

  84. That was a lovely and profound drive-by enlightenment, MarkO. I’ll get back to you once I’ve completed, thanks to your wise and not-at-all-sanctimonious admonitions here, my first honest, careful reading of the Book of Mormon.

  85. Well, Brad, if you thought that I was simply skimming and that I wanted to suggest some personal virtue you would be missing my not-nearly-vague-enough point. I don’t for a minute think a single contributor here has failed adequately to gauge the Book of Mormon. Especially you. Nor, do I intend to demean an interesting and informative statement about the practice of polygamy.

    I do mean to ask only how you can come to feel it matters. That you can dismiss me so elegantly (by following a salient of your own imagining) only reinforces my awe. You are well equipped to umpire serious issues. And, again without gratuitous irony, your efforts about polygamy are among the best things I’ve read on Mormon blogs anywhere. That is, in part, why I thought I could inject something here I could never raise among my neighbors, in church or even among most of my friends.

    But, I return to something once said to me in Priesthood meeting: “When I say I know the Church is true, what I really mean is I like coming over to this ward with all of you.”

    I feel certain you are investigating an important issue, however. It is my understanding that the three things that concern the Church the most are:

    1. Joseph Smith’s many wives, including those who were teenagers and those married to others;

    2. The continued viability of polygamy (in the Temple and, one supposes, in Heaven); and,

    3. Giving women the priesthood (which I think should and will happen).

    Now you have heard me exclaim as I drove out of sight.

  86. I think those that would ignore reality and try to white wash history are the ones pissing on it. My questions come from discussions with nonmembers and watching what is asked when the prophet is interviewed. We practiced polygamy in secret and have continually tried to shrug it off. It never goes away. I admit that the D&C does have a few references but the bible is the only real source we have of the practice. There are few instances where it did not lead to a problem for the participants. The whole Arab Isreali conflict started with jealousy of a polygamous relationship. My big concern is what was taught in high school seminary and at Ricks College in church history can not be verified in the real recorded history. Why teach the myth? I do not believe it is of any great importance in defining Joseph Smith and his overall work. I do think that the early church practiced it not because of commandment from God but allowed by God due to the inability of many of the early leaders to control themselves just like David in the old testament. I can’t tell you how many times I was told it was to help take care of widows and women that had no other options other than poverty. Joseph approaching married women and the young teens that were married clearly is not taking care of widows. Unless of course you call wives left behind when men were called on missions widows. In corporate america today we call this something else.

  87. With respect Jerry…do you not agree that “corporate america” is would be an abomination to the original leaders of the restoration?
    Indeed the original leaders could/would be excommunicated for preaching the truths revealed to them.
    I recall being taught the same thing about the “widows and poor women”…those watered-down teachings have come back to bite many in the spiritual patoot.
    If I had my many years in the Church to live over again, I would be an advocate for the truth…let the world’s opinion be damned. This whole “new and everlasting covenant” really means “new and temporary until the world makes things hard on us covenant” is really past silly.
    Thanks for listening to other views.

  88. Looks like Ardis had Bruce pegged right after all.

  89. Not sure a) why Steve is worried about micturition, and b) why it would be bad to urinate. (Trust me, not urinating is a serious problem.)

    I see that I was misreading Russell. I apologize. (We tend to see in others what we think they should be saying.) I think I’m with Brad on this point. Historically and perhaps now the split between the LDS and the CoC centers on the question of whether the Nauvoo innovations were valid. Baptism for the dead is a Nauvoo innovation, as is the liturgy we now call “endowment” and the ritual and theological language we use to describe the eternal family. “KFD” doctrines are implications of the Nauvoo system; they do not exhaust it. and I’ve found in my work on ritual and the death conquest that the Nauvoo innovations are actually a fairly predictable outgrowth of the mid-to-late 1830s rather than a stunning sea change in Smith’s belief system.

    Stirling, I see your question now. I don’t think that the response of the Pratts or the Laws give us any additional information about physical intimacy in polyandrous unions. Even the offer of taking a spouse as a spiritual wife would be deeply offensive to most people. The other thing to remember is that JCB’s famous defection stamped all similar endeavors with the stigma of sexual promiscuity. (That said, I still assume on basic principles that these marriages allowed physical intimacy; I am of course happy to be persuaded by reliable evidence.)

  90. Bruce, the equation of “new and everlasting covenant” with polygamy solely or even centrally is largely a post-Smithian construct. Polygamy was added to it and it can be taken away.

  91. Brad,

    [W]hat I’m arguing is that it is much more historically tenable for you — given your willingness to part with not just with the ontological innovations of Nauvoo Mormonism but with the endowment, temple sealings, etc. — to dismiss plural marriage as an aberrant (or abhorrent) practice. And I don’t think you’ve even indicated that you do.

    I guess I would claim 1) that I believe what’s truly valuable about our temple teachings, insofar our understanding of salvation and the family are concerned, can be maintained without many, or perhaps even any, of the “ontological innovations” (and their attendant ritual embodiments) which characterized Nauvoo Mormonism, and 2) that, yeah, actually, I do kind of think that plural marriage as a whole was an aberrant practice. Not abhorrent, necessarily; just one of those odd, unpredictable things that sometimes happens when Deity breaks in upon mortal consciousness and talks to fallen mortals.

  92. One point that often gets lost in the shuffle is that polyandry happened at a particular time in church history. Other than a very few exceptions, _all_ of the earlier polygamous marriages, and almost _none_ of the later ones, were polyandrous. It’s really quite striking. With very few exceptions, it divides neatly into stages.

    Stage 1 (pre-Nauvoo):

    Fanny Alger (not polyandrous)
    Maybe Lucinda Harris (polyandrous) (dates really unclear on her).

    Stage 2: (early 1841 to mid 1842):

    Louisa Beaman (not polyandrous)
    Agnes Coolbirth (not polyandrous)
    and 8 (!) polyandrous wives.

    Stage 3: (mid 1842 to end of 1843):

    at most, two polyandrous marriages
    around 20 (!) non-polyandrous marriages.

    In short, polyandry appears to almost have been an early stage in the growth of polygamy overall. It may be an intermediate stage of sorts.

  93. If so, are you teaching them that their eternal destiny may include polygamy? Such a fate seems like a cruel motivator to young women trying to live the Gospel . . .

    Antonio, yes, since one of them might fall in love with and marry a widower who has been sealed previously to another woman. Are you teaching your daughters that if that happens to them they will have no chance to share eternity with the man they love and with whom they become one? How are you going to explain that to them – or are you rejecting the entire concept of eternal marriage?

    Based on your comments, I don’t believe the latter, so what will you tell your daughter is she marries the love of her life – and he happens to have been sealed to someone else previously? Any other explanation than the possibility of some kind of polygamous relationship seems like much more of a “cruel motivator” to me than polygamy – especially since we have NO canonized description of our eternal relationships being sexual in nature.

    Summary: If we can love and become one with more than one spouse in this life, I simply find it fascinating that we can’t imagine that same thing being true in the afterlife. Again, I don’t like the idea of polygamy for myself, and I hope I am with just my wife eternally, but the denial of any possible “good” or “correctness” in non-monogamous relationships in Heaven baffles me when we have such a clear example of how it can work on Earth. If power and jealously and other issues disappear at that level, exactly why would non-monogamous relationships not work then and there?

  94. Kaimi – I have only seen a list of about 24 (including those that were sealed after he died) you list many more is there a list somewhere?

    I agree Bruce the leaders of the church would never understand corporate America of today. Very few of us look at our corporations as virtuous they certainly would not have.

  95. Ray you are making light of Antonio’s objections I see nothing in his comments that suggest anything like the scenario you are describing. My wife said she would rather leave me and the church than be required to share. She is fine with the idea that if I remarried after her death that she would share in eternity. She has told me to make sure I find someone she will like. But the idea of watching me walk off to have sex with another wife she will not accept. I have heard this from many women. This strong emotion and the fact that it was illegal in Missouri not to mention Emma is probably why it was kept so secretive. It would certainly be easier to understand if it was more open.

  96. I think Kaimi’s point is really important to the discussion. I was at a private setting with Bushman a few months ago where he delivered a paper on JS’s polygamous wives and argued that polyandry was a way JS felt he could fulfill what he saw as a command to restore polygamy without the added problems that would come with the non-polyandrous wives (providing for them, expectations for children, etc.). He also held that he has come to think that JS didn’t have sexual relations with his polyandrous wives.

  97. Russell,
    Finding meaning in temple rites sans divine anthropology — which I agree is a perfectly valid position — has nothing really to do with polygamy. The larger point I’m trying to make here is that, historically, it is simply not possible to disentangle plural marriage from everything that was happening in Nauvoo. The rise of Nauvoo masonry, the development of the endowment, the creation of the Anointed Quorum and the Council of 50, the Relief Society, the elaboration of the eternal family and the sealing liturgy — all of it is intimately tied to efforts to implement, theologically rationalize, and keep secret the emerging doctrine of celestial plural marriage.

  98. Emerson – We don’t have the revelation on polygamy being restored so we have no way of knowing but most of the revelations where something was restored like the priesthood, babtism, and many more were all a result of Joseph asking the lord directly about it why would this be handled so differently? Your theory that he needed this to resore polygamy sounds like a stretch. It is just as likely he was experimenting with what would work and when he was rebuffed and it was held up to public ridicule he abandoned it as too dangerous. This seems more likely and fits all the evidence we have.

  99. We don’t have the revelation on polygamy being restored

    Um, D&C section 132?

  100. I’m not completely with you, Jerry. From what I can see, most of JS’s theological, liturgical, and anything-else-ical developments went through a period of him having an idea (whether inspired or no) and then trying different ways to achieve it.

    Actually, re-reading your comment makes me think we agree more than I thought. I think JS had an idea and then was “experimenting”–as you put it–to see how it works. Maybe I just ain’t good at explaining myself.

  101. Um, D&C section 132?

    Good point, but polygamy had been around for a while before that, so while I reveals a lot of the thought behind it, it wasn’t the “directing” revelation to tell them how to practice it.

  102. Wasn’t 1843 a bit after he started the practice? Sarah Pratt’s history at the link above indicates she was approached in 1840. He either had a prior revelation that we don’t have recorded or when he went to the lord and received section 132 he was asking for permission to continue what he was already doing. I assumed he had prior revelation perhaps not meant for the church as a whole.

  103. 132 is primarily meant to persuade Emma and seems to have been occasioned by Hyrum’s conversion to the principle and his optimism that he could sway Emma. Smith had been practicing polygamy for quite a while before this came to be.

    Brad, I hear where you’re coming from, but I think that the fact of operational intersections does not mandate the necessity of interdependence. Polygamy was a major issue in Nauvoo, but it wasn’t the only major issue, and it’s hard to know whether liturgical and ecclesiastical developments would have been radically different without polygamy. There was plenty of secrecy from the Missouri war, the secrets of the temple represented divine mysteries independent of marriages, the perfectionism of Nauvoo can be independent of polygamy, and the great Chain of be[long]ing could still function via Adoption without Polygamy (though polygamy is a dramatic flourish).

  104. Jerry, I’m not “making light of” anything Antonio wrote. I’m responding to a direct quote with my own answer. He asked if I would teach my daughters that they “may” be in a polygamous relationship in the hereafter and called that “cruel motivation”. I gave a specific (and very real) example of why I would teach them exactly that – and why I don’t consider it “cruel motivation” at all. That’s not making light of; it’s acknowledging a concern and addressing it, which is the exact opposite of “making light of”.

    Frankly, your comment doesn’t address anything about my comment – other than to dismiss it as irrelevant, which it was not. If Antonio has further questions about my response, I would be happy to continue to discuss it with him.

  105. I know this is really, really wicked of me, but I have a confession. I’m sort of enjoying all of this discomfort with polygamy, after having (stupidly, on my part, I realize) endured reading so many, almost astonishing comments during the past season (on several of the LDS/Mormon blogs) in relation to another form of romantic union which made a lot of commenters uncomfortable.

    My family was tied to Joseph by plural marriage by 1842. And, I have lots of fun naming another ancestor’s extra wives Happylonia, Sophronia, etc. But in the end, I find some of the intellectual maneuvering here (and the rather big words) less than satisfying or at all convincing.

  106. smb, just quickly, I want to note that you’re reading criticism and condemnation in my comments where it doesn’t exist. I think it’s historiographically unhelpful to “translate” polygamy in ways that completely lose its gendered aspects. This does not equal a screed against polygamy.

  107. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 105

    I share your wicked schadenfreude, Rick. There is something strangely enjoyable about watching bloggers twist themselves into knots over events in Nauvoo and their sequelae which endure to this day.

  108. StillConfused says:

    The irony of the Church’s current very strict rules about intimacy compared with the Nauvoo period is not lost on me either. I am assuming that the Nauvoo period dealt only with heterosexual intimacy, but perhaps there is suggestion to the contrary??

  109. A couple of additional thoughts:

    1) All the sanctimonious hand-wringing about marrying teenagers is both anachronistic and tedious. There was nothing particularly unusual about Joseph’s younger brides, aside from the fact of their being polygamous unions. I’ll add to that the fact that my mother married my father at age 16, so while I technically lack polygamous heritage, my teenage bride heritage is, uh, rather fresh. Henceforth, comments deriding early nineteenth-century frontiersmen for marrying underage girls, wearing old-fashioned clothes, not using antibiotics, or refusing to purchase fuel-efficient cars will be summarily ridiculed.

    2) Whence all the scandal over, not polygamy per se, but polyandry in particular? Joseph was married to Marinda Hyde, who was also married to Orson. And Marinda was married to Orson, who was also married to other women. Why is the former so much more disturbing than the latter? Come to think of it, Marinda married Joseph who was himself already married to, among others, Emma.

    Thought experiment: would polyandry be as scandalous if it didn’t involve Joseph? What if, for example, it could be demonstrated that a prominent woman in Nauvoo married two men, neither one of which was Joseph, before marrying Joseph? What if she was plurally sealed — and engaging in matrimonial relations — with two of Joseph’s apostles and then subsequently married Joseph as well? Would that make polyandry more palatable? Would the fact that she was already involved in a polyandrous union make her polyandrous marriage to Joseph more palatable? I only ask because there is some circumstantial evidence that, in at least one instance, this might have been in fact the case.

  110. Rick,
    For the record I’m personally far more comfortable with same-sex monogamous marriages than I am with polygamous unions, but I’ll happily try to use smaller words in future intellectual maneuverings.

  111. Ray, I think an acid test is to ask a man how he would feel about the following scenario:

    (1) he dies before his wife does, (2) she remarries, (3) after everyone dies, she is sealed to both husbands, and (4) he is one of her two husbands for the eternities

    I suspect, based on your post, that this would not bother you, and I hope it would not bother me.

    But I suspect for many believing Latter-day Saint men, the possibility of his wife’s being sealed/married in the eternities to him and one or more other husbands is deeply distressing or completely inconceivable. Thus, most often, when I hear discussed the current practice of sealing posthumously a woman to all her husbands, I hear a prompt “clarification” that she of course will have to choose only one (even though, to my knowledge, that “clarification” is not in the official manuals).

  112. #106, fair enough. When I propose translating polygamy, I am not proposing history but devotion. I agree that if you’re doing academic history you would not extract the sexism from polygamy. But if you’re engaging as a modern LDS in devotion, I think it’s appropriate to perform this translation. I tend to assume that when sexism is described it is critical. That is sometimes incorrect–I did not mean to imply any malice on your part.

  113. Precisely, David. I think that’s also a large part of the answer to why “we” find polyandry so much more troublesome than polygamy–it’s because the “we” in question in this discussion and many others is dominated by one gender. And because, in the church, we have somehow made ourselves comfortable with the idea that one sex is entitled to privileges that are denied the other.

    In that context, it’s not so shocking that same-sex marriage should be viewed as even more of a threat than polygamy–it threatens not only the Victorian marital norms which Mormons have now zealously embraced, but also the contemporary gendered balance of power in the Church and in families where, according to the PotF, fathers are to preside.

  114. David, Nice thought Given your scenario would Joseph polyandrous wives be shared or choose? It could almost be considered theft if the legal husband was left with out his bride.

  115. It seems important to distinguish between serial temporal polygamy (Ray’s example) and contemporaneous eternal or historical Mormon polygamy. Fidelity (I remember an article by Eugene England on the subject) seems to suggest to my limited mind only monogamy and I have never read a convincing argument of how such did or could work in polygamy.

  116. #111 – DavidH, you are jumping to conlcusions not warranted by my comments. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose, so I would appreciate only having to answer to things I actually write.

    One more time:

    I have no idea whatsoever about our relationships in the hereafter, and I believe we jump to all kinds of conclusions based purely on our own current situations and mortal morals. Personally , I doubt HIGHLY that there will be sex as we know it in the next life, so much of the angst over the exact nature of our relationships doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

    So, DavidH, the answer is, “I really don’t give a large rodent’s hindquarters when it comes right down to it.” I trust that if it’s all real (in some way), and if we will be godlike (whatever that means), then I won’t be upset in the end.”

  117. Ray, I think I said that this scenario would not bother you (see fifth line of my comment 111)–which is another way of saying that you “really [would not] give a large rodent’s hindquarters when it comes right down to it.” That is, I think we are in agreement.

    Or do you mean something else?

  118. Going clear back to comment #81 because I have been thinking about it all morning–

    The grand admission of Prop 8 was that the Church is fully aware that a legal definition of “marriage” that gives it non-discrimination element essentially ends the Church. Eventually, maybe in the next 5-10 years, marriage will be open to all arrangements. If American citizens can choose the nature of their domesticity, polygamy will be legal. When polygamy is legal, the 132nd Section applies and–well–you can see the problem.

    It seems that while there is, as Brad says, “no short answers”, as church members we must have some answers because I don’t think this discussion is going away. I also believe in the next 5-10 years we will all be defending what constitutes marriage not only in California and not only regarding a union between a man and a woman but over any number of relationships. The greater our understanding now of this issue and our history, the more prepared we will be to deal with it in the future.

  119. DavidH, I am in the middle of a work crisis and took a few minutes to try to unwind by reading this thread. I totally mis-read your comment. I’m sorry.

    Thanks for responding so civilly. I appreciate it.

  120. Antonio Parr says:

    My mother always told me that if I can’t say anything nice about someone, I shouldn’t say anything at all. Applying that rule to polygamy (and, in particular, polyandry) . . .




    (etc.)

  121. Again, why “in particular” polyandry?

  122. StillConfused says:

    I believe that the problem that Antonio has with polyandry is the same that I have. This was not about Joseph Smith taking an unmarried woman as a multiple wife. But rather he was taking someone else’s wife to wife. He was invading another man’s home. That to me is the basis of adultery… having one spouse look away from the marital union.

  123. StillConfused, again, how is polyandry any different than standard polygyny in that respect?

  124. I’m with Brad. It’s in some ways curiously anti-feminist to see polyandry as more of a big deal than polygyny. After all, standard polygyny also involved invading a person’s home and forcing one person to look away. That person was Emma Smith.

    For some weird reason, we’re okay with this as long as it’s just Joseph and unmarried women. But when you talk about Joseph invading Henry Jacobs or Orson Hyde’s turf, so to speak, suddenly it’s a much bigger issue. Why?

    Why exactly do Orson’s potentially offended sensibilities about marital exclusivity matter more than Emma’s?

  125. StillConfused says:

    It is interesting that I find Joseph’s actions towards married women so much more offensive than “standard” polygamy. As I understand polygamy, the primary wife allegedly has some say in the obtaining of subsequent wives. I am assuming that this is a lifestyle that they chose.

    But when you throw married women into the mix, you are not only creating your own “world” but you are tearing down someone else’s in the process. You aren’t just buying fruit from the store but are stealing it from your neighbor’s yard as well. Does that make sense? I guess either way, Emma is affected. But with the married women, you are affecting a whole new set of people… husband, children, families. Weren’t there enough single women available for Joseph?

  126. StillConfused, since polyandry is basically a story about Joseph Smith, it’s important to be clear that Emma was not involved in choosing polygamy and that she at most selected a handful of Joseph’s many wives. So the idea that first wives may have chosen polygamy works for some polygamous families but doesn’t really fit well with polyandry.

    With single women, of course, whole sets of people are also affected: parents, siblings, potential romantic rivals. And, well, Emma and the Smith children were certainly also affected by polygamy.

    When you say, “You aren’t just buying fruit from the store but are stealing it from your neighbor’s yard as well,” this really worries me. Wives aren’t property, or at least not in any way that husbands aren’t as well. I know you didn’t mean that, but I find that this kind of thinking often lies at the root of people’s special problems with polyandry. Of course, to the extent that you object to polygamy more generally, I understand that you’ll also object to polyandry — but the special objection often revolves around a more or less explicit understanding of women as their husband’s property.

    I do, of course, see your point that polyandry may to some extent break up, or at least dramatically change the contours of, an existing relationship that involves the new wife. This seems to me to be fundamentally similar to the effects of polygyny on the husband’s first wife and children. If your point is that polyandry disrupts two families, rather than just one, I’d say that it needn’t necessarily. If a marriage had been polyandrous but not polygynous, then only one family would be disrupted, as with polygyny. The two-family aspect is a result of the conjunction of polygyny and polyandry, and it isn’t really accurate to attribute it more to one than to the other.

  127. I’m with Brad. It’s in some ways curiously anti-feminist to see polyandry as more of a big deal than polygyny.

    Um, no kidding. And not anti-feminist, so much as plain old sexist.

  128. StillConfused says:

    Just to be clear, it isn’t the gender that is upsetting, it is the act of invading a marital bond that is upsetting. If it were Emma who were out having spiritual marriages with other women’s husbands, I would find that equally as revolting. Once a marital bond has been set, I do not think it right for outsiders to try to interrupt that. Now the participants in that marital bond may decide between themselves to invite someone else in, odd, but a decision that they make.

    For instance, in today’s society, if a husband and wife wanted to add an extra participant to their intimate activities, I would think “odd, but that is their choice”. On the other hand, if someone knocks on the door of a couple’s house and just asks to come in and particpate in their marital activities, I would find that offensive. The couple didn’t invite that dynamic into their home.

    Now you may say that Emma did not invite that dynamic into her home. Probably true. But Joseph did. He desired multiple wives and went out to obtain them. Was that belittling of Emma? Personally, I think so. But that is not the point. The point is that it is one thing to invite an activity into your presence and quite another to have someone attempt to force that activity upon you.

    A husband and wife were minding their own business, living their lives, when Joseph comes up to the woman and says that he desires to be spiritually married to her. Neither she nor her husband asked for that interjection into their lives.

  129. Antonio Parr says:

    Stillconfused’s prior post is powerful. I concur.

  130. I agree a woman having multiple husbands is the same as a man having multiple wives. The thing this thread has brought out to me is that Joseph approached the women in secret and often when their husbands were away. As the prophet and leader of the church he had considerable influence over many of these women. It would have been completely different if he had talked to the husband first. After reading much of this discussion I think he was experimenting and approached the women he found the most attractive. Hiding it from their husband’s leads me to believe it was a sexual union that was being pursued. If he was just after a kinship why wouldn’t he show respect and include the husbands the way he approached the fathers when he wed single girls.

  131. why wouldn’t he show respect and include the husbands the way he approached the fathers when he wed single girls

    Show respect to who? Do you mean like the used car salesman that will only speak to the husband even though it is the wife that is buying the car?

  132. I am not sure I understand stillconfused’s post, but let me try.

    It would not be offensive if Emma (with Joseph’s consent) had invited a single man to be her second husband, while still married to Joseph, because that would not disrupt a pre-existing marriage of the second husband.

    However, her inviting a married man to be her second husband (or Joseph’s inviting a married womn to be his second wife) would be quite offensive because it would disrupt the marriage relationship of the other party.

    Along the lines of my previous hypothetical, I suppose a related question is whether it is offensive for a man (husband A) to be sealed to a woman (wife A) who is also sealed to another man (husband B) who is also sealed to another woman (wife B).

  133. C Jones – Perhaps I should explain myself a little more. Hiding and approaching one member of a family to betray a trust of another is disrespectful at least. It has nothing to do with gender. My point is if he was not looking for something that no spouse would likely give up without a fight why would he be so secretive? If he was looking for a platonic relationship there would be no reason to hide it. Why not ask the couple if they want to be joined spiritually if that was all it was? Clearly that question answers itself. If he did have sex with any of these women does that invalidate his good works?

  134. Steve Evans says:

    #130 Jerry, don’t be ridiculous.

    ALL – this might not be popular, but I’m going to police this thread now. People who continue to talk about Joseph Smith as a sexual predator will be edited.

  135. Jerry:

    Clearly that question answers itself.

    Clearly?? Everything you have said is nothing but speculation, and all of it assumes the worst.

  136. What took you so long Steve? It’s like trollapalooza on this thread at this point.

  137. Not sure I called anyone a predator. And I am assuming the story from the link on #49 had some partial truth. If joseph intending to have sex with wives he felt were his is assuming the worst then so be it. Too bad we don’t have any official records all we have is speculation which is this whole thread.

  138. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve: Will you also edit those who talk about King David as a sexual predator?

    These prophets were/are men, in desperate need of a Savior. Christ didn’t bleed at any poor because we were almost perfect, or just a wee bit naughty. He bled because the collective and individual weight of our sin was/is so great that it caused God, the greatest of all, to suffer for us all so that we could be at one with His Father, as He is as one with Our Father.

    We have no problem speaking candidly of the sin of Moses or the sin of David, or the sin of a significant number of the early LDS apostles and first presidency. And yet we are so quick to glorify brother Joseph — who I recognize to be a Prophet of God — by speaking of him as if his sins were not really the kind that were in need of any real intervention by Christ.

    Joseph’s interactions with married women were contrary to his own published revelations on plural marriage. In that sense, the D&C is the strongest possible indictment against Joseph’s actions.

    I believe that we draw closer to God when we learn how He interacts with sinful men.

  139. Christ didn’t bleed at any poor

    Let’s leave the poor out of it. They have enough problems, surely.

  140. Antonio Parr says:

    Bled at every pore. (I am a victim of my time zone. I’ll let you west coast Mormons take it from here.)

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