Why BIV would totally have slept with with JS. Polyandry Part II

I remember as an undergraduate walking to school with a friend. He was fairly newly married, and I was yet to have found ‘the one.’ Apparently, he was fresh from an argument with his wife. I pointed out that at least he had one. He dismissed my idealistic view of marriage and complained that that was not the way it was. He said that he could not wait to get to heaven where he would have several wives so that when one was being contrary he could find comfort in another. But one thing we could both agree on was that polygamy was the natural state for humans. Some things were clear.

Humans are complex. Are they naturally polygamous or monogamous? Well, let’s take a look at the testicles of other primates for a hint. Gorilla males are really good at beating up their reviles, watching their females (who could wander off, mind you, so it’s still female choice), and are in general smashingly good at making darned sure they are the only ones siring offspring from their harem. This is true polygamy. One man and many wives—to speak in the anthropomorphizing vernacular. Interestingly, male gorillas have a very small testicle to bodysize ratio (TBR). A big silver-backed male is pretty much guaranteed that only his sperm is going into his female’s reproductive system so not much material is needed to get the job done. Now chimps, on the other hand, are as promiscuous as, well, chimps. When a male chimp mates with an estrous female he’s never quite sure who was there a few minutes ago. So evolution has provided him with enough sperm to swamp the last guy’s output. They have a rather impressive TBR. Sperm competition is a major player in chimp reproductive strategies. So where do humans TBRs fit? Right in between. Not as much faithfulness as gorillas but more than in chimps.

In human females there is something else quite curious. They mate and are sexually receptive year round. Their estrous cycle is pretty well hidden from males except in the menstrual phase (hence females trying to get pregnant, or couples using the rhythm method of birth control, are stuck using a thermometer or other medical paraphernalia to tell if she’s ovulating). This is because in humans sex is more than about reproduction. It’s a mechanism for promoting and strengthening the pair-bond. This weighs in as evidence for monogamy being the preferred evolutionary strategy in humans—sex is used to cement pair-bonds. This close bond between husband and wife provides assurance to a male that these are his children. And for males and female humans if you’ve got a fairly good mate better to just play the game straight through and not go after those other genes—unless they are really, really good.

In most social animals like chimps, there are reasons to go after those genes. Sometimes mating with a really powerful male can insure some beneficent for your children. For example, in some monkeys, powerful males (and in these monkeys powerful means bigger, stronger and meaner) are hard on other male’s kids. They sometimes kill them. (And hints of this show up in humans when you look statistically at the incidence of child violence perpetrated by boyfriends and step-fathers (and don’t ream over the coals about this—I know there are wonderful boyfriends and step-fathers, I’m just stating a statistical finding). However, if a female has mated with one of these powerful males on the side, he treats her kids a little better. His not being quite sure they are not his, adds a little tolerance to his otherwise malicious tendencies. (Lions are the worse with this. When a new male takes over the pride, his first act is to King Herod all the kids in the pride).

This is seen all over human history. Royalty, people in power, people with access or control of resources, great chiefs, leaders, those commanding spiritual, material, or economic power, etc. can benefit a woman’s children’s place in the world in amazing ways. A leader’s reproductive success today or a hundred years ago is no more surprising than the disproportionate number of dependents of nobility in Europe compared to the yeoman farmer. When the prince happens by, like in the scene from Into the Woods, when the peasant woman experiences a ‘moment in the woods’, it makes sense to improve your offspring’s situation from a biological point of view. The Prince is a resource rich opportunity. Hence, kings, presidents, movie stars, sports heros, etc. can evolutionarily be recognized as good sources of genes. Keep in mind, that people never (or rarely) think explicitly, ‘Wow, I’ll bet Tom Cruise has some great, IDDM6’s [a particular gene] in that DNA strand of his.’ It just plays out in the sexual desirability exuded by these kinds of kinds of obviously resource-rich people.

Also research is suggesting the philandering male and demure woman knitting at home is largely a cultural myth with rates of straying similar today and presumably in the past. The girls just hid it better and were more selective in their dalliances.

Culture adds some complexity. In 20th century Mormondom for example monogamy should stand in good stead. Because of the teachings of the church, husbands should feel deep down to their biological roots that they are the father of their children. Also our culture provides for a sense that adopted children really are ours for eternity and that adds to the possibility of strong parent-child bonds (OK, strong families is what I mean in non-biological claptrap).

Powerful males can also exert control to maintain polygamy likely in just those cases where the males hold power over desirable resources. Be they material, spiritual or sexual. For example, polygamy is common in desert cultures where powerful males lead families that control scarce water resources. Marrying daughters into such resources could make the difference between watered livestock and ruin (not to mention possibly life and death). Check out the OT for examples.

In short, for us normal everyday humans polygamy is probably not the natural state of things. Monogamy is. At least serial Monogamy. Husbands have a vested interest in being true to their wives and visa-versa so that they share real child rearing costs. Biologically there can be strong motivations to stray. But, biologically there are also strong urges to stick with the pair-bond. Except as BIV noted for females when some really, really irresistible genes come along which wield economic, biologic, and spiritual benefits. Better just to stick with your run of the mill pair-bond.

So where did Nauvoo fit. It doesn’t. It’s not just straight polygamy, polyandry, or monogamy. It is not just a powerful male being attractive to females, this activity was shared among many average members of the church in ways that belie the notion that it was just one of these simple human systems described above. It was formal, shared, and seems to be something new under the sun—the effects of which pulled the church into an organization, that despite great odds and faced with forces that should have destroyed it, broke through into the 20th century. By all rights the LDS church should have ended up looking more like the FLDS church, a bedraggled social misfit—small and marginalized. But it’s not. It’s dynamic changing and wonderfully creative. One question that ought to be being asked is, what role did these Nauvoo marriage practices play in allowing the church to flower and grow like it has?

The Restoration seems to be one of those truly creative acts that imbues it with an inexplicably. Like the God that pulled Abraham out of Ur because they engaged in human sacrifice, then asked him to take a knife to his son and offer him up like a lamb. Or a God that delights in clarity, yet shows Ezechiel a mystifying vision of wheels turning in wheels. Or a Messiah who was suppose to free his people from political oppression but is executed by that very political structure. Slapping the label polyandry on Nauvoo seems an attempt to put the Nauvoo activities in a box into which it won’t go. In fact, I argue, that there is no box into which it will go. It demands that it be dealt with in its complexity. Joesph Smith did more in the restoration than reinstate OT polygamy while women were dallying on the side. He created a dynamic, expansive, social system that slingshot the church into a future where it flourished. A stone cut out of the mountain without hands. We humans should not be troubled that God at time acts inexplicably. He likes to surprise, challenge and make us think. Also, sometimes I suspect that to bring about His ends, strange contradictory things must come into play—think about the Garden of Eden and its contradictory commandments. Why? Maybe God has to act with breathtaking creativity to see His purposes unfold. Maybe bringing about certain ends takes uncompromising daring and artistry. Maybe there is no manual bringing to pass the eternal life of Mankind. Thank goodness God found a the prophet in Joseph Smith willing to do unimaginably creative things. Things which challenged human sociosexual practices so throughly, and yet which allowed the church to come forth out of obscurity in ways it might not have happened otherwise.

Comments

  1. There’s a comment by W. S. Merwin about the “irreducible strangeness” of Dante’s Commedia, and I’ve often thought about it applying to life in general. Sometimes I really think God gave us reason in order to be able to suspend it at the appropriate times–rather like Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical,” we must “teleologically suspend the rational” and embrace the beautiful absurdity of the gospel. Truth, I also suggest, doesn’t fit into the Platonic or Aristotelian notions of forms or archetypes which we have, either–it is probably as difficult for us to understand as a hall of mirrors.

  2. Fascinating post, Steven. There’s a lot here I need to consider before offering any immediate response, but I really like the final paragraph.

  3. That was fascinating, Steven. Very thought-provoking.

  4. This is marvelously thoughtful and interesting. I always feel hopeful when someone is able to embrace the strangeness, the complexity, the amazing richness of our history. Confusing and wrenching, yes, but with aspects of challenge and gloriousness. It will not fit in a box or be explained.

    Let’s continue to wrestle with it!

  5. Steve Evans says:

    TBR.

  6. This is a fascinating post, Steven. I really like your writing (and thinking).

    If I might quibble with one point:

    By all rights the LDS church should have ended up looking more like the FLDS church, a bedraggled social misfit—small and marginalized. But it’s not. It’s dynamic changing and wonderfully creative. One question that ought to be being asked is, what role did these Nauvoo marriage practices play in allowing the church to flower and grow like it has?

    Don’t you think that we would have ended up like the FLDS if we hadn’t given up polygamy? Sorry–I don’t know much Mormon history at all, but didn’t the whole Nauvoo experiment fall by the wayside when the Church moved to Utah? And of course polygamy more generally was given up later. I guess I’m just saying that I don’t really see the connection between what went on in Nauvoo and the later success of the Church.

  7. “So where did Nauvoo fit. It doesn’t. It’s not just straight polygamy, polyandry, or monogamy.”

    Steven, I would like to believe you here, but I think your analysis is too narrow. The early Mormons who engaged in polygamy were not just thinking about posterity in this world (which your analysis seems to take for granted) but were also thinking about connecting families now and in the eternities. The women entered polygamous marriages with salvation in mind, not stable child rearing. In part, being married to a high status Mormon male was one way for a woman to assure exaltation in the next life, or at least that is how it was sometimes portrayed.

  8. I don’t get it. Why doesn’t polygyny as practiced in Nauvoo and Utah in general, without the minor polyandrous twists practiced by JS, generally just fit into the general “simple human” system of certain powerful men holding power over desirable spiritual resources? I’m curious, point me to the literature, ethical, social, biological science or whatever, that argues that polygamy benefitted the church historically and today.

  9. This is interesting and thought provoking. I have certainly been unable to make much of Nauvoo practice “fit” into any box with which I am familiar. But sometimes contradictions, really are absurd, and I don’t really see any beauty in absurdity. I accept that some things that appear absurd to one with limited understanding really are beautiful, but I think I am detecting in the post and in some comments that there is beauty in absurdity, and I don’t get that. Absurdity and contradictions are vexing, and we have to be at least open to the possibility that things which appear absurd, really are, and should be rejected rather than embraced.

  10. Researcher says:

    Akg (comment 8), you could certainly argue over whether any one member of the church is a net benefit to the church, but I certainly wouldn’t be around without a certain polygamous marriage in 1888 in Nephi, Juab, Utah.

    And I imagine there might just possibly be other members of the church (maybe perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands) also descended from 19th century polygamists.

  11. Very good points overall.

    For fun I recently read a book called Parenting for Primates, and — to my surprise — the primatologist had a section analyzing the reproductive/parenting strategies of the FLDS. I wrote post about it here.

    p.s. being a stickler for the newly-forming rules of blog procedure, I think it would have been nice if you’d provided a link to Why BIV would totally have slept with with JS, Part I. ;)

  12. StevenP: Fascinating read. Thanks.

    However, I don’t “get” why you think that existence of the different marriage relations in Nauvoo somehow says anything dispositive about the “eternal order of marriage.” Why discount how marriage relations were practiced in the later Utah period, for example? I just don’t understand how you can get there with what you presented above. (This from a guy who wholly buys into Eugene England’s thesis that plural marriage was limited to a finite period of time in the past, and will not be practiced in the next life.)

  13. #4 – Should I take from your response that the title is correct? :)

  14. Of course, with BiV’s luck, it probably would have been one of those amazing sexless marriages that FAIR and FARMS keep telling us about.

    Officiant: “You may now shake hands with the bride.”
    BiV: “What?!?”

  15. Thanks, Kaimi. I missed that inside joke completely.

  16. who is BIV?

  17. Interesting. I wonder if Nauvoo polygamy was a kind of Garden of Eden situation… here is the apple, but here is your Savior. Polygamy pretty much resulted in the martyrdom of Joseph Smith (arguably, I know, but that is my take on what I’ve read and the events surrounding Carthage), but did it also serve to provide the bonds necessary for the remaining Saints to be able to survive his departure. Hmm. More thoughts to chew on.

  18. Kaimi: Huh? CFR…

  19. The analysis of human polygamy does not address the large body of literature on male versus female reproductive success in humans. I recall research indicating that we (humans) have about twice as many female as male ancestors over our species history. While of course this data doesn’t tell us much about the precise social arrangements that led to it, the data makes the conclusion that monogamy is the normal mode of human reproduction kind of strained.

  20. So my takeaway thought is that you are saying that the complex marriage relationships in Nauvoo played a major role in driving the church out of normal American culture where it could have been assimilated, to isolation in the Great Basin where polygamy flourished at least in some significant percentage of the population. That in turn eventually brought the attention of the rest of the nation which focused on eliminating polygamy and the church’s autonomous power base so that we could enter the 20th Century and be totally assimilated into American culture?

    Actually, I think that makes some sense, somehow. In the interest of full disclosure, I am the descendant of several polygamous marriages, but subscribe to Eugene England’s limited view of polygamy, like Hunter.

  21. #21 – kevinf, your version wasn’t nearly as fun to read as Steven’s.

  22. merrybits says:

    All this would make more sense if JS were a vampire.

  23. anon, #17, BiV is Bored in Vernal. If you follow the link in #14, you’ll find her blog.

  24. It demands that it be dealt with in its complexity.

    I appreciate this comment. I would add that the only way to deal with it is with a willingness to suspend some need for fully ‘dealing with it’ and leaving some room for, “Hmph. I just don’t understand it all.” (Or something like Nephi’s “I know God loveth His children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.”

    I think, also, that we have a huge disadvantage in trying to grapple with it simply because we weren’t there to experience it (some may be heaving a sigh with relief). Incidentally, I am always leery of anyone who wants to declare that he/she has complex (and/or disturbing) parts of our history all figured out. We see what happened with folklore when people tried too hard to give explanations for why blacks didn’t have the priesthood for those many years; we are still paying the price for these attempts (even Elder Holland acknowledged that problem in the PBS special). In that light, I think it behooves us to not think that we are going to be able to figure this all out, and that in being too confident, we could end up creating our own versions of folklore that end up not being helpful, and could possibly be harmful.

    To me, a significant part of the equation for dealing with things like this is simply faith, and a willingness to say “I don’t know for sure.”

    And to not let it get in the way of the wonder of the work of which we are a part.

    (I am one who likes to wonder and ponder about the possible whys of things like this, btw, so I’m not saying “throw it in a box and never think about it again.”)

  25. I’m a little confused by the idea that one implicitly supports or accepts polygamy as good because one descended from a polygamous union.

    I wouldn’t be around if my great grandfather hadn’t regularly beat my grandfather causing him to leave home and run away to the state where he met my grandmother, and where the missionaries found my family. So am I not allowed to condemn child abuse since without it I wouldn’t exist or be a member of the church?

  26. I am always leery of anyone

    Hm. I should have phrased that differently. I am leery of the explanations, not necessarily the people who make them. :)

  27. StillConfused says:

    #23. Who says he wasn’t? Except for the being out in the day thing. But maybe he had special sunscreen or clothing. And maybe the bullet that killed him wasn’t silver. But what do we really know about modern vampires anyway.

  28. StillConfused says:

    Does Mormonism believe that because you were born of polygamist ancestors, if your ancestors had not been polygamist, you would have never been born? I was not under the impression that family structure such as that was created prior to birth. If my parents had stopped having children at 1 child, does that mean I would have never been born? Or would my spirit have been born elsewhere? I tend to think the later. Also, if you are saying that you would not be Mormon if you weren’t born into it, what does that say about your soul and your belief in your church?

  29. Starfoxy,

    My thought is that it’s pretty clear that there is a direct connection between ancestors who practiced polygamy and many of our lives, as in our existence. I also don’t see how anyone could argue that larger posterities from people like that haven’t had an impact on the Church and its growth. You don’t have to like polygamy to acknowledge that reality. (We also have the scripture in Jacob 2 that lets us know that God left room that the rule (monogamy) could be changed in order to “raise up seed.” IMO, that’s hard to argue with as well.)

    I also don’t think it’s clear that polygamy was bad as your example seems to want to paint it as being. In your example, it is clear that the beating was bad. Part of the challenge with addressing polygamy, imo, however, is that it’s too easy to just view it with our own cultural and personal lenses and biases. But the truth is that there is simply no agreed-upon perspective about the relative badness or goodness of polygamy, and I really think it’s detrimental to the process of “exploring the complexities of the issue” to paint it with a broad stroke in either direction.

  30. Also, if you are saying that you would not be Mormon if you weren’t born into it, what does that say about your soul and your belief in your church?

    While I’m still here, I’d say that belief in my church doesn’t mean that I have to believe that I would have been LDS in this life had my ancestors not been in polygamous relationships.

    And just wanted to share a funny descended-from-polygamists story. I went to BYU. In my sophomore year, I lived with five women. Over the course of the year, we discovered that THREE of us were descended from the same person, only four generations back.

    Now, I realize that BYU does make the world smaller, but seriously, what are the odds? This, to me, in a way illustrates the kind of the impact polygamy had.)

    I actually find it really interesting and exciting to meet people I’m connected to, not just by belief, but by blood.

  31. Banned Commenter says:

    Had Researcher’s recent ancestry been arranged differently, so that her parents’ lives and life experiences had been different, her own life would have been different (better? worse? surely different). She wouldn’t be the “she” that she is today, and she’s probably comfortable and happy, on the whole, to be who she is.

    I tend to wonder how or if I would have found the gospel if my ancestry had not been such that I was born into it.

    And on the larger church-wide scale, it seems to me, anecdotally at least, that the great majority of today’s church members who had Mormon ancestors in the mid- to late-nineteenth century descend from polygamists, and that those whose ancestors were entirely monogamous are few. In that sense, the church itself could be very different today sans polygamy, because those who were its chief movers during the 20th century were largely descendants of polygamists.

    In that sense, if in no other (and I do think there are other reasons, but for the sake of a simplified argument I’ll stick to this alone), polygamy was a good thing. It made us what we are.

  32. Thanks for the comments (I’m going have trouble catching up). Thanks Bored in Vernal, for weighing in, you are one of my favorite bloggers so I was hoping you would appreciate this! Thanks to those who fixed my negligence in not providing a link to BIV’s blog.

    Just a couple of comments.

    The genetic evidence that shows more female ancestors does not weigh against monogamy. In strict polygamy systems like elephant seals, the number of male ancestors is just a fraction of the number of female ancestors. It’s just as I point out, there is some slop in the system. For example, it looks like Genghis Kahn weighs heavily as a male ancestor.

    The intertwining complexity polygamy provided a very cohesive group of people. It seems like that is part of the reason that the church survived. I’ll leave this to historians to sort out. I don’t think polygamy in the past though is a reason believe it’s something we’ll ever need again. Of course, that’s not my call.

  33. Mark Brown says:

    I also don’t see how anyone could argue that larger posterities from people like that haven’t had an impact on the Church and its growth.

    m&m,

    It already has been argued, very successfully in my opinion, that polygamy didn’t result in a larger group of descendants that monogamy would have. The number of children per female was about the same in either case, the difference is that many men simply didn’t have wives. So, some men had a large group of descendants, others had none, but on the whole, polygamy didn’t increase the size of Zion.

  34. Researcher says:

    I’m a little confused by the idea that one implicitly supports or accepts polygamy as good because one descended from a polygamous union. (comment 26)

    I would never state that polygamy was a good thing in and of itself. The ick factor is rather high.

    However, it did create a society in which a large number of people are descended from men and women whose ties to the church were great enough that they were willing to go against natural inclination and social mores and enter into a non-standard family structure for the sake of their religion.

    In the case that I mentioned above, the male ancestor grew up near the Lincoln family in Illinois. He attended some of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. He fought for the Union in the Civil War. He trained hundreds of early members of the church in Utah in American business practices. How can you be more American than that?

    I don’t happen to know what his thoughts were regarding polygamy, except that he practiced it, and suffered because of it. I know that I have benefited in one very practical way because of his polygamy, in that I can claim this remarkable man and his remarkable wife as my ancestors.

  35. #34 – Mark, that is true, but it did mean that the leaders of the Church generally had FAR more descendants than they would have under monogamy – and that those descendants joined with FAR more families than they would have under monogamy. It might not have increased the total size of Zion, but it certainly tied it together as an extended family in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

    As I’ve said elsewhere (and probably here at BCC), polygamy created a kind of new ethnic group that probably wouldn’t have existed otherwise – and it’s hard to argue against the idea that being such a tightly knit ethnic group during those years had an impact on helping it survive.

  36. M&M-
    I’m not saying that people have to dismiss the effects of polygamy on their lives and the state of the church. To do so would be foolish.

    The sort of thing I’m talking about is not just the passive “well I came from polygamy so I can’t really say much” in this thread but from times when I’ve expressed doubts or concerns about the nature of polygamy people have responded with “Hey, don’t you dare diss polygamy. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for polygamy.”

    There are all sorts of negative things that can lead to someone’s existence, but that doesn’t make those things off limits somehow. The fact that some good effect came about due to some cause does not necessarily make the cause an unadulterated good.

    And even though it’s a threadjack I just can’t resist

    I also don’t think it’s clear that polygamy was bad as your example seems to want to paint it as being. In your example, it is clear that the beating was bad. Part of the challenge with addressing polygamy, imo, however, is that it’s too easy to just view it with our own cultural and personal lenses and biases.

    My abusive great grandfather would have been better received in most ‘civilized’ society at the time than most polygamous Mormons. Also the bible commands child abuse far more explicitly than it does polygamy. My view of child abuse is just as culturally biased as yours.

  37. “[W]hat role did these Nauvoo marriage practices play in allowing the church to flower and grow like it has?”

    The most noticeable effect was that it built a “royal priesthood” that has had an impact to our very day. Dr. B over at “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” calls it “believing blood.”

    Heber C. Kimball stated in 1856 (Journal of Discourses 5:215-216): “Brother Joseph actually saw [the General Authorities] in a day when we were all together. … [H]e saw the day when we all came out of the one stock… . Yes, we came directly down through the Prophets, and not only us, but lots of others — the whole Smith race… .

    Within a few generations, in fact, the following were all genealogically related to Joseph Smith:

    Oliver Cowdery
    Heber C. Kimball
    Orson and Parley P. Pratt
    Willard Richards
    George A. Smith
    Joseph Sr., Hyrum and William Smith
    John Smith
    Frederick G. Williams
    Wilford Woodruff
    and Brigham Young.

    Now, maybe Yankees of that time period were all inter-related. However, the men above and their male descendants in the leadership (until polygamy was abandoned) received on average more wives and produced more children than other groups in the Church, including other leaders at the same level who were not related to Joseph.

    So, it seems to me that something strange was going on that fits evolutionary theory but CANNOT be entirely explained by it.

  38. #34,

    I think you missed at least part of whey m&m was trying to say. Put they focus less on “larger posterities” and more on “people like that”.

    The idea here is that the larger posterities from these few especially faithful produced a tight-nit faithful core… I think this has had special and effective role in strengthening the church.

  39. “So, it seems to me that something strange was going on that fits evolutionary theory but CANNOT be entirely explained by it.” I’m in total agreement!

    #39 that’s right. The Nauvoo experience wasn’t just about total numbers of offspring it was also about the solidarity and commitment to the Church it produced.

  40. Nitsav,

    If currently-married BiV married Joseph, she’d be a polyandrous wife. And if you’ve read FAIR blog at all (or the FARMS review of Compton), you’ll know that there’s no *proof* that Joseph ever slept with any of his polyandrous wives. I.e., recent FAIR blog statement from Allen Wyatt: “The bottom line is that there is no evidence that Zina made a definitive statement concerning the consummation of her marriage to Joseph Smith.” (rolls eyes).

    So yeah, BiV — I’m sorry, but all you would have gotten was one of those dynastic marriages, with no (proven) actual sex. Just ask the FAIR bloggers. :)

  41. Agreeing with #38 & 39

    There is an early settler of Massachusetts that is the ancestor of all of these men. My family as well. I cannot remember his name off the top of my head.

  42. By the way, this would be a good time to point of Kiskilili’s very good critique of some bad evolutionary psych arguments, and her related discussion of what normative lessons we should and should not take from evolution:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2008/12/14/when-did-chimpanzees-become-our-gods/

  43. Mark Brown says:

    S. Faux/PaulW/SteveP,

    it was also about the solidarity and commitment to the Church it produced.

    This is precisely what I am questioning. I will agree that those who practiced polygamy in Nauvoo were faithful to the church and close to one another, but I don’t think the evidence supports that claim through the next generation or two.

    All my progenitors were polygamists. And the more I learn about the two generations which were born in Deseret before the Manifesto, the clearer it becomes that many of them didn’t remain faithful. The best data suggest that church activity during that period, as measured in attendance at Sunday meetings, was between 10-20%. Maybe it would have been even worse, without polygamy, who knows, but it is certainly not a slam dunk affirmative case.

    In addition, as we celebrate the close-knit families some polygamous unions produced, we mustn’t overlook the divisions and animosity the was pretty much the norm. Some of my ancestors were children of a wife who felt she was slighted (and based on what I have learned, I think she was right), and the touchy feelings among branches of the family persist to this day.

  44. Is there any evidence that the descendants of Nauvoo polygamists, or other polygamists, for that matter, are, in general, more faithful Saints than others? Or are we just making stuff up? Remember to take into consideration that the fundamentalist nutbars also claim impressive polygamist ancestry. You have to take the good with the bad when thinking about these issues.

  45. Mark Brown says:

    gll,

    fundamentalist nutbars

    Would it be possible to simply refer to them as fundamentalists?

    Thanks.

  46. Mark and gll, I don’t know if Polygamy-decedents were more faithful, but the group that left Nauvoo for SL under BY did seem unified in ways that were influenced by the church providing the only game in town for the polygamous-type relationships that had been established. I’m really not in a position to argue this but I suspect it had to have been a factor on who people followed BY to the Great Basin. After that it seems important to have been abandoned so we could move on. This is just speculation of course, and I can’t even imagine how you would test it other than reading the accounts of the people involved. Statements like, “I would have followed JS III, if he would have accepted my three wives.” would be telling, if they existed.

  47. Mark Brown says:

    SteveP, I agree completely with you regarding the Nauvoo group. No question about it.

    And I’m still waiting for you to take that bait about believing blood. ;-)

  48. Mark Brown: Yes, sorry. I did not mean that all fundamentalists are nutbars.

    I did mean that polygamy produced a wide range of descendants and other outcomes, ranging from outstanding individuals to nutbars, only some of whom are fundamentalists. I have a problem with ex post facto rationalizations which seem to be based on anecdotes pointing to the good fruit but ignoring the bad fruit.

    But you are right to correct me.

    SteveP:

    I am out of my league here, but I am skeptical that a desire to live polygamy was much of a factor influencing the early Saints to follow BY out of Nauvoo. The limited anecdotal evidence to which I have access based on my own polygamist ancestors suggests that they followed despite polygamy, and not because of it.

  49. Mark, I think someone is doing the DNA work for believing blood–Didn’t I see a paper Believing Blood Haplotype B: Incidence and Geographic Distribution? :)

  50. I know there is a JS quote that says something to the effect that “a religion that doesn’t require sacrifice will not have the power to save souls”. I know that isn’t the exact phrasing. I think that those who were willing to accept polygamy, regardless of the ick factor, probably did have very strong testimonies and those testimonies were strong enough to take them all the way to SL. As things got easier, testimonies weakened.

  51. Having looked through those, Kaimi, it looks like they’re talking about sexless marriages in two specific cases, not polygyny or polyandry in general. In some cases, due to RLDS accusations, some of JS plural wives made it quite clear that (at least) some of these marriages were consummated.

    The person arguing the most strenuously for non-sexual polyandry AND polygamy is Brian Hales (assisted by Don Bradley), as seen at Sunstone in 2007. I don’t think Hales has any association with either FARMS or FAIR and I would be very surprised if Don Bradley did.

    So, perhaps we should say “So yeah, BiV — I’m sorry, but all you would have gotten was one of those dynastic marriages, with no (proven) actual sex. Just ask the Sunstone presenters.”

  52. Also the bible commands child abuse far more explicitly than it does polygamy.

    I think that is a stretch, but I understand that that is your point of view (I hardly see that verse you linked to as a command, and I still think there is decent scriptural support, for God-directed polygamy.)

    As to your comment about cultural bias, I see your point, but I still don’t agree with the way I think you are framing polygamy in such a negative light. I totally understand why you do (it’s a hard topic for most people, and I have wrestled with it in my own way), but I think it’s important to leave room in discussions for the possibility that maybe it really wasn’t a mistake, and maybe even had an inspired purpose. Or at least that maybe it wasn’t so unimaginably horrid as some people want to make it out to be. To me, pulling out an example like child abuse (which anyone today surely would agree is awful) just puts polygamy in a box. To me, the value of this post is reminding us that it just isn’t that simple — either toward a positive side (and see? I even tried to do that earlier, and missed the boat — thanks, Mark, for sharing countering info with me, although I think Ray’s counterpoint is a good response) or a negative. As hard a topic as it is, I don’t have a problem with the possibility that it was inspired, and for me, that is a lot less problematic than assuming that it was a mistake. But I really don’t think we can explain one way or the other with any authority or certainty.

  53. Nitsav,

    Here’s a link for you:

    http://www.farmsresearch.com/publications/review/?reviewed_author&vol=10&num=2&id=290

    Really, there is an entire cottage industry of apologists dedicated to the idea that there is no proof of sex with the polyandrous wives in particular. This is presumably because the wife-sharing aspect of polyandry is less icky or objectionable if there’s no sex involved.

    “What is left to our imaginations, and Compton’s speculations, is the nature of these “polyandrous” marriages. Were these unions simply dynastic sealings—the practice of sealing women to certain senior priesthood leaders for eternity only, with little or no temporal relationship—or were they relationships including intimacy and offspring? Compton points to about a half-dozen marriages to single women where physical intimacy is documented. But arguing parallels does not establish such relationships.

    . . .

    Reliable evidence indicates that Joseph Smith fathered some children through his plural marriages with single women, but that evidence does not necessarily support intimacy with polyandrous wives.”

    There’s a whole section in the review about sex and polyandry specifically.

  54. SteveP at 47, the huge bulk of people that left Nauvoo for Utah, by and large, did not know about Polygamy. It wasn’t announced publicly until, what? 1852? well after the diaspora. A secretly polygamous family member crossed the plains, pregnant, and to everyone but “those in the know” unwed. It wasn’t until everyone was safely in the middle of nowhere that the principle was announced.

    And as to child abuse in the OT, it seems difficult to misinterpret the following:

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (King James Version)

    18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
    19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
    20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
    21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

    “Stubborn and rebellious son” = “And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die….”

    and

    Exodus 21:15-17 (King James Version)

    “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death….And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.”

  55. Oh, and thanks for the awesome post.

  56. Disclaimer: I’m a novice in this area, I’ve only read Compton and RSR on this topic, but I was surprised at the last two paragraphs of this post.

    I argue, that there is no box into which it will go. It demands that it be dealt with in its complexity.

    How do you dismiss so easily the idea of Joseph Smith’s spiritual resources as a draw for polygamy? At the same time, you also dismiss the complexity of every other polygamous situation you’ve described without really considering they could have greater complexity.
    Other commenters have suggested that the church survived only because it abandoned polygamy, but you see it the other way around, why?

    Anyway, I just felt let down at the end of the post. It seemed a little more like bearing a testimony than explaining the possible connections between biology and polygamy in the Nauvoo period. Which is fine, you’re welcome to bear your testimony any time you want. Just give the reader a head’s up.

  57. So FARMS and FAIR deserve snarky aspersions for actually sticking with what data is available instead of making facile assumptions?

    On what basis can you dismiss their work, other than your assumption there was sexuality in every marriage?

    Mind reading?

    This is *presumably* because the wife-sharing aspect of polyandry is less icky or objectionable if there’s no sex involved.

    Nota bene: I’m not arguing for or against sex in these marriages. I don’t care either way, and LDS history isn’t my thing. It just seemed like a cheap (and selective) shot against people doing actual and careful work with the historical data and journals. Brian Hales, I am told, is generally solid, but he gets a pass, since he presented at Sunstone?

    Sorry, little testy today…

  58. Kaimi #54: “Reliable evidence indicates that Joseph Smith fathered some children through his plural marriages with single women, but that evidence does not necessarily support intimacy with polyandrous wives.

    I do wonder at the words “reliable evidence” considering the DNA testing which is ongoing as we speak. So far, no proven descendants of JS have been found. If you don’t mind following yet another BiV link, I wrote about this in a post “Populating Worlds: Joseph Smith’s Legacy,” at Mormon Matters.

  59. Sorry, I should say, no proven descendants of Joseph Smith through his plural marriages have been found.

  60. BiV,

    That’s not my own view, I’m quoting Anderson and Faulring there.

    Nitsav,

    I think it’s disingenuous to shift the burden of proof for sex in a marriage by starting with a default that there was no sex. Pick a couple you know, any couple, with no kids. Do you assume that, absent some evidence to the contrary, they are not having sex?

    I attribute this kind of argument to FAIR / FARMS because it has been a repeated topic in apologetic publications. Look at the ones cited above; there’s also http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/polyandry.pdf Plus, message board discussions like this:

    http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php?showtopic=36553&mode=threaded&pid=1208457168

    The rationale seems pretty obvious. Polyandry is a really big deal for some people, and sometimes drives them from the church. Apologetic organizations seek to find ways to defuse potentially troubling issues. One tactic for defusing polyandry as a concern is suggesting that these marriages did not involve sex.

    The next step is to put a ridiculously high burden of proof on the question of sex with polyandrous wives in particular.

    Do you really think that “people typically have sex with those who they are married to” is a wrongheaded initial assumption? Let’s be realistic. Sexless marriages are the anomaly, and we all know it. Therefore, the burden of proof should be on the person alleging more unusual facts (in this case, a sexless marriage).

    Where is the positive evidence of sexless marriage? Where are the affidavits from polyandrous wives saying “we never had sex”? Apologists are arguing for an anomaly, and then repeatedly burden-shifting to say “there’s no affirmative proof of sex.”

  61. Antonio Parr says:

    He said that he could not wait to get to heaven where he would have several wives so that when one was being contrary he could find comfort in another.

    I am a convert to the Church who, along with my love for my chosen faith, have preserved (a) a deep and abiding appreciation for the faith of my fathers/faith of my youth; and (b) a deep and abiding appreciation for the good people with whom I once worshipped. I am also a faithful Latter-Day Saint, who acknowledges the hand of God in leading me to the Church.

    All this being said, I absolutely cringe at the sentiment expressed above in italics, and see such a world view as “exhibit A” to why so many good and kind non-Mormons perceive us to be a less than desirable self-professed group of Christians. The sentiment is an extension of the comments often spoken in Priesthood meetings about what we will be like as reigning “gods” and how chosen/highly favored we are with God. When I hear such things, I find myself eyeing the nearest door and longing for a seamless exit.

    Is it just me, or is there an ingrained brutishness to a significant number of our people? And what is it about our religion that causes so many to spend their few reflective spiritual hours contemplating their godhood and future state as a husband of many wives? The faithful people of the Book of Mormon would not recognize us . . .

  62. Antonio Parr says:

    Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

    After I typed the preceding comment, it occurred to me that the above scripture from the Book of Mormon (Alma 26:12) may provide an answer to my question. In short, there is something holy and pure about seeking to glorify God in our words and deeds (it is how the Saviour lived His life), and something far less sublime in focusing ones devotion on the number of daughters of Eve who will be “given” to us in the hereafter. We as members of the Lord’s Church would be far better served perfecting the language and life of praise than spending time wantonly anticipating the physical pleasures and possessions that may await us in the hereafter.

  63. My great-grandfather was a polygamist. He married my great-grandmother when he was in his 40s, already a married man with a family. She was only 13. I doubt very much she married him out of romantic love and her own free will or any thought of salvation at all. You’d have a tough time convincing me otherwise.

  64. StillConfused says:

    Does FARMS stand for Foundation for Apologetics Regarding Mormon Stuff?

  65. StillConfused says:

    Once again, I agree with Antonio

  66. Very interesting discussion. Very provocative, Steve, and good comments all. I think I’m out of my league.

    One little quibble with one of your peripheral details, though–the ‘Rhythm Method’ does not track ovulation. The Rhythm Method is basically a mathematical prediction based on past ovulation, which does not require thermometers, and is not particularly reliable birth control. The Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM, tracks actual fertility signals, including basal body temp. (where you’d need a thermometer) and other signals like the consistency of cervical fluid and cervical position, which you don’t need instruments (other than your finger) to detect. And very reliable as a birth control method.

    Can’t see monkeys practicing it, though.

    I just like to distinguish them because I think there’s still a lot of confusion over which is which and their respective effectiveness.

  67. Thanks Artemis. Monkeys practicing FAM is an image that will linger.

  68. Antonio Parr says:

    I am not a fan of polygamy. I am a harsh critic of polyandry. That being said, I must acknowledge that Steven P’s final, eloquent paragraph is worthy of reflection.

  69. fmhArtemis, Thanks for the clarification!

  70. exless marriages are the anomaly, and we all know it.

    Indeed they are. But polygamous and polyandrous marriages are also anomalous, and we all know it.
    I took a look again, and I don’t see any of the sources you referred to making the argument that *all* p-marriages were sexless, as you imply. (I didn’t even look at the message board, since message boards are generally a free-for-all, and few actual scholars or researchers hang out on message boards.)

    When Stanley Kimball says the marriage with Helen Mar Kimball was not consummated, is he a knee-jerk apologist? Or Compton, when he thinks the issue “ambiguous”? (Both from your link above.)

    Or should they just quit researching it because it’s obvious from common sense and not ambiguous at all that sex was inherently involved in all cases?

    What bugs me about your comment is not that you think there was sex involved, but rather making facile assumptions and casting snide aspersions based on stereotypes.

  71. Shoot, I forgot to add this reference.

    Mother Nature: Maternal instincts and how they shape the human species. Despite its rather daunting title it is very well written, a fabulous read, and packed full of great information about motherhood from a biological perspective. Here are just a few of the Chapters:

    Motherhood as Minefield
    The Milky Way
    Family Planning Primate-Style
    Born to Attach
    Empowering the Embryo
    Why Be Adorable
    How to be an Infant Worth Rearing
    Devising Better Lullabies

  72. exless marriages are the anomaly, and we all know it.

    Indeed they are. But polygamous and polyandrous marriages are also anomalous, and we all know it.

    Wait, because an event is an anomaly in one way, we should assume that it’s an anomaly in other ways as well?

    Black presidents are an anomaly (43 to 1). Space aliens are an anomaly as well. Therefore, we can assume that Barack Obama is a space alien, unless he affirmatively shows otherwise. (The burden is on him.)

    Though, to be fair, the preferred approach is to soft-pedal it: “Feel free to draw your own conclusions, folks, but please remember there is no conclusive evidence that Barack Obama is not a space alien.”

  73. Although, Kaimi, to be fair, I thought it essentially went without saying that (soon-to-be-) President Obama was a space alien. All of the important people are, you know.

  74. I’ll respond to your comment, Sam, right after I check in with the mother ship.

  75. Kaimi, I also think you are doing this issue a grave disservice by treating it with sarcasm.

    The point is that these were not normal marriages, so the normal presumptions which would be present in any normal marriage (like, sex will be a part of it) simply don’t apply. The fact is that many of the women JS married never lived with him and some were very rarely even in the same geographic vicinity. You can’t just apply the general assumption that all married couples have sex to these situations.

    Feel free now to make your next highly amusing sarcastic rejoinder about space aliens.

  76. When Jacob talks about PM in the BOM as a means to raise up seed to the Lord, similar to other posters, I don’t interpret that to mean numbers at all.

    I think of when Christ was trying to teach the people of his day when he said that God could raise up seed to Abraham of “these stones” — I read that to mean that he was trying to drive home the point that lineal numbers in and of themselves meant squat.

    On the other hand, when Christ and various prophets in the scriptures venture to teach us about becoming God’s seed or a son or daughter of Christ, it seems that they are repeatedly pointing us to a significant qualitative change in the individual — a sacrificial abandonment of one’s own will to wholly carry out God’s will forevermore and covenants are always a part of that process.

    Personally, I have come to see the Nauvoo women in particular who entered into the practice, not as being those who raised up seed to the Lord but AS BEING THOSE WHO BECAME HIS SEED in the initial spiritual crucibles many of them went through in entering into PM and in ongoing acts of wholly abandoning their cultural and personal preferences/norms to devote themselves to continuing therein as a matter of following God’s will no matter what it required.

    In other words, IMHO, the righteous Nauvoo men and women who entered into PM — were themselves the seed that were raised up unto the Lord and with that covenant, God now not only had his gospel again on the earth, He truly had a people.

  77. Another thought, the experiences of Joseph’s polyandrous wives remind me somewhat of the precarious situation Mary (the mother of Jesus) was in.

    While engaged to Joseph the carpenter, Mary gets the bomb dropped that she will become pregnant, mother to the Son of God. (this could kinda parallel the shock of already being married but then getting a divinely mandated proposal from JS)

    The true Father of Mary’s baby has to be concealed, her situation is totally unprecedented, unbelievable and therefore damnable. (dido to PM in western culture in particular)

    Unless we accept the record of the angelic visitation explaining the acceptability, morality, rightness, necessity and divinity of Mary’s pregnancy, in most cultures, Mary would be deemed a number cutting and unsavory terms and in her own culture stoned. (Lots of PM parallels there)

    With divine help, Joseph the carpenter learns to cope with and be supportive of Mary in her unique position. It is a burden they share. (Perhaps like the burden of sharing a wife with JS)

  78. Laura, thank you for your #77. I hadn’t thought of this interpretation of Jacob 2:30, and I LIKE it. It goes a long way in explaining the question of why Joseph was called to establish plural marriage, while never himself raising up (literal) seed through his polygamous wives.

  79. Antonio Parr says:

    Seeking to find parallels between Joseph’s apparent excesses with polygamy/polyandry and the birth of our Savior seems to be a position too extravagant to be maintained.

    Many/most of Joseph’s post-Emma marriages were in direct violation of Section 132. Surely we are not suggesting that prophets become laws unto themselves, with the capacity to override commandments and revelations at will. My understanding is that prophets remain humans in desperate need of salvation (like us all), and are capable of deep sin (like us all). We all know of David’s sin. We all know of Moses’ sin. Same for Peter. Same for Joseph Smith, except none of us appears willing to say it out loud.

    I believe that the Brethren are on to something with the Church’s modern-day avoidance of the topic, and am increasingly convinced that speculative defenses about polyandry in such a public way does the Church more harm than good.

  80. Laura, I really like how you worded #77.

  81. Laura, #77-78 Beautiful examples. Thank you, you capture some of the paradoxes that following God sometimes entail. I really like your interpretation of Jacob also. Nice.

    #80 Just because something is inexplicable doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

  82. Antonio Parr says:

    #82 – Perhaps, then, we should also develop a complex theological construct as to why the prophet David’s interactions with Bathsheba were all part of the design of a paradoxical God . . .

    1. God speaks throughs prophets.
    2. Prophets are humans.
    3. Humans make mistakes (i.e., sin).
    4. Recognizing our sinful nature, God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, who died a sacrifice for sin.
    3. Through the atonement, the sins of humans can be forgiven.
    2. Prophets are humans, so, through the atonement of Christ, their sins can be forgiven.
    1. Through the atonement, Christ is able to speak to us through His prophets.

    Not a great chiasmus, but I believe a pretty accurate summary of the inevitability of prophets who sin, and the absence of any need for us to go to great lengths to justify the mistakes of those who God has called to be His prophets.

  83. Does God really not have a manual to bring about the eternal life of Mankind?

  84. In Response to #80

    “Seeking to find parallels between Joseph’s apparent excesses with polygamy/polyandry and the birth of our Savior seems to be a position too extravagant to be maintained.”

    If one believes Joseph’s post Emma marriages are nothing more than Joseph Smith’s misguided “choose your own adventure” from the OT foibles then your statement would not only be correct, I would add that drawing attention to any such parallels as I have in #78 is blasphemous and sick.

    But if you on the other hand believe that both Joseph and the 33 women who married him were all following a divine mandate, then finding parallels in the biblical narrative in the lives of others who were also given divine mandates becomes routine. I for one can’t wait to chat with Zina Huntington and ask her which biblical narratives she found solace in and related to throughout her fascinating life.

    “Many/most of Joseph’s post-Emma marriages were in direct violation of Section 132. Surely we are not suggesting that prophets become laws unto themselves, with the capacity to override commandments and revelations at will.”

    Please expound what you interpret as violations — Joseph should get a fair and open trial on BCC especially, don‘t you think?

    “I believe that the Brethren are on to something with the Church’s modern-day avoidance of the topic, and am increasingly convinced that speculative defenses about polyandry in such a public way does the Church more harm than good.”

    I don’t have time nor words to convey how much I used to be haunted and tortured by the reality and details of PM within the Church’s founding, but I can say that it was President Packers edict in General Conference 2 yrs agoish to be willing to defend the history of the Church that nagged at me in my own spiritual crucible to finally grapple with PM more head on and I can’t say enough about the positive fruits of that endeavor for me and my testimony.

    Also, please note that my comments in #78 are not a defense of polyandry but interesting parallels I find when I ponder the two.

    Best,

    Laura

  85. #80, So as I read your complaint do you think you can identify sin in prophets? This seems like a very black and white reading of complex realities where you can quickly and easily identify these sins. I’m not trying to justify anything. Just trying to understand. It’s complex, I’m not going to suggest I can judge anyone. A quick reading of Abraham and Nephi/Laben seem like they would be candidates for prison in most societies. Are you suggesting they should be labeled sinners and they repented so it’s OK? Sorry I can’t reduce them to saints or sinners. But I do want to understand it, in its complexity, and not reduce it to an either/or.

  86. No. 80, Antonio Parr: How do you get from encouraging people to be willing to accept that Joseph Smith sinned, to the encouraging the Church’s avoidance of Joseph’s polyandry?

    Putting aside the question of whether Joseph sinned in his various marital relations, why is avoiding the issue a good thing for the Church? I just need you to connect the dots for me – you just made a leap that I don’t think was warranted. (I’m not trying to be obtuse.)

  87. Steve Evans says:

    “Joseph should get a fair and open trial on BCC especially, don‘t you think?”

    Especially!

  88. Antonio Parr says:

    Not enough time today to respond to #85 (although the good questions deserve a thoughtful response, which I will attempt to offer later). As to #87, polyandry is such a deviation from scripture (i.e., Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price) that it detracts from our efforts to point out the remarkable good accomplished by Joseph Smith. Why shine a spotlight on something that appears to be very, very bad, when there is a substantial risk that the scandal of polyandry will be so glaring that it might blind sincere searchers of truth from the remarkable contributions of Joseph Smith (the most significant being his translation of the beautiful Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion)?

    When we start over-lawyering polyandry, we compromise the strength of our defense of fundamental aspects the Restoration (i.e., it looks like we are willing to defend anything, which often casts doubt on more credible arguments). I believe that we are better off acknowledging (quickly and quietly) mistakes where mistakes exist, and saving our defenses for the issues that matter most.

  89. Antonio Parr, I understand better where you are coming from now. Thanks for that.

  90. There is no doubt that Joseph Smith sinned. He gave pages of BofM to Martin Harris who lost them. But that is the only sin that most mormons will allow Joseph to be accused of. When I read Non-Mormon related history of this time period women were not treated all that well. Buying and selling them was discouraged and looked down upon by most but was still all to common. And even if we Mormons treated them 10 times better than most they were still mistreated by 2009 standards. Jail would be the remedy today for what was common 200 years ago. I mean really could the utah war happen today? They would send in a handful of FBI. Today we may look at women as conpanions but that is a fairly recent view. I look at polygamy as a sin of lust that the lord allowed to prevent more grievous sins from occuring and I am thankful that today we in the church have a higher standard. I know many do not see what we do today as a higher standard but I do. We still treat women as inferior in knowledge and as weaker. So we still sin in our treatment of them if you want to take it there. In GD if a women says something they too often defer to the priesthood for verification or validation. I see way too many men in our church act in a domineering way to their wives(not necessarily abusive).

    The bottom line for me the women who wanted out were allowed to leave without harm as far as I can tell so those that stayed chose to. The same way they stay today in relationships that from the outside may look bad. I do not believe the first wife had much say in additional wives that is folklore but the others most often know the man was married and know what they were doing.

  91. “There is no doubt that Joseph Smith sinned. He gave pages of BofM to Martin Harris who lost them. But that is the only sin that most mormons will allow Joseph to be accused of.”

    Sigh.

  92. Greg Smith says:

    Kaimi wrote (amongst other things):

    The rationale seems pretty obvious. Polyandry is a really big deal for some people, and sometimes drives them from the church. Apologetic organizations seek to find ways to defuse potentially troubling issues. One tactic for defusing polyandry as a concern is suggesting that these marriages did not involve sex.

    Speaking personally, as someone who has written about this issue for both FAIR and (soon to be published) FARMS, my concern about polyandry is a responsible use of the data.

    Why so many early polyandrous marriages?

    We have excellent or good evidence of sexual relations in nine cases (of 33 of Compton’s wives; or 38 of George D. Smith’s Nauvoo Polygamy wives.)

    Evidence
    One is tempted to ask what exactly evidence of “no sexual relations” would look like? These are Victorian women, and not given to lightly speaking about their sexual practices. The affidavits and such that were gathered were generally done so in the context of trying to defend the Church against claims by the RLDS that Joseph Smith hadn’t invented the practice. Thus, it would have been counterproductive to assert one was married with no sex–especially since at the time an agreement to be married followed by consummation was considered adequate under common law to be married. Thus, without sex, enemies might have been able to argue, “you weren’t really married.”

    Interestingly, Lucy Walker was called to testify in the Temple Lot case, and said “…I know that she [Emma] gave her consent to the marriage of at least four women to her husband as plural wives, and that she was well aware that he associated and cohabitated with them as wives.” [1] Given that Lucy also testified that Emma did not know about her marriage to Joseph[2], these four women are likely the Partridge and Lawrence sisters.

    Most intriguing about this, however, is the fact that Lucy said nothing about her own cohabitation with Joseph, which may suggest that her marriage was unconsummated. Despite being called to testify at the Temple Lot case, “[a]bsolutely nothing is known of this marriage after the ceremony.”[3]

    Lucy was also in a situation where she was trying to convince the RLDS, and said

    They [the RLDS] seem surprised that there was no issue from asserted plural marriages with their father. Could they but realize the hazardous life he lived, after that revelation was given, they would comprehend the reason. He was harassed and hounded and lived in constant fear of being betrayed by those who ought to have been true to him.[4]

    Here again would seem to be a prime time to assert “I had relations with Joseph,” and yet she doesn’t.

    In other words, Compton’s decision to treat some marriages as models for all is arbitrary, and things may not be as clear-cut as he thinks. (His treatment of sexuality is somewhat muddled throughout anyway, though he thinks it ‘possible’ that marriages with older wives were not consummated, based on Utah practice. Thus he even there argues from analogy, which is risky.[5])

    What other kind of evidence might we expect to see if the polyandrous marriages were unconsummated? If anyone knows of exceptions to these points, I would be very grateful to learn about them:

    1) No events in which the first husband became angry at Joseph, denounced his wife, etc.

    2) No recorded events of Emma complaining about or being angry with a polyandrous wife (unlike the polygamous single wives). [I haven't found any of these, but would really welcome help if anyone knows of any.]

    3) None of the polyandrous wives (whose loyalties would have been divided, as compared to single plural wives) renounced the idea, spilled the beans, etc.

    4) No children via polyandrous wives.

    5) Later Utah-era marriages in which sexual access in some forms of plural marriage was not a privilege.[6]

    Interestingly, all the purported children of JS were via polyandrous wives (meaning there’s an alternative father in the picture). Yet, all those tested so far have been negative, and I think the evidence for any of the remaining is very weak, save Josephine Lyon.

    Summary of the evidence as I read it

    This argument of Hales’ has recently made me think this hypothesis may be stronger than I had initially thought, since it removes the one anomalous data point of the Sessions marriage:

    Brian C. Hales, “The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?” Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57.

    In short, speaking personally, I think this model may make better sense of the data. It’s all pretty tentative as can be seen here

    Summary
    I don’t know where Kaimi thinks he got his mind-reading powers, but since I’ve written most of what is currently on the FAIR wiki about polygamy, I can say that he is wrong as it applies to FAIR and what I have done, and it is inappropriate for him to ascribe motives to people he hasn’t met and hasn’t spoken with. :-) [I think Sam Kaitch’s article, while useful, is somewhat dated.)

    It will always be easy to paint those who don’t immediately rush to a “sex-based” explanation as naive, ignorant, or trying desperately to shore up some apologetic argument. And, there’s really no way to disprove that, save by how they handle the data. Any easy charge to make, hard to refute, and therefore convenient if not particularly illuminating.

    In what I’ve written for FAIR, I’ve always tried to be frank, complete, and open about my assumptions and biases so readers can begin to grasp the evidence to “judge for themselves” if they’re inclined to put in the leg work.

    Too much of what is written about this, or bandied about on message boards, seems based on nothing more than a “gut” reaction of how marriages “should have” or “must have” been seen by those involved. They also presume, rather than demonstrate, sexual drive as a major component (for the men, at least). Yet, a thorough review of the evidence makes that less tenable in some cases.

    I think this says more about us than it illuminates Nauvoo-era polygamy. It was odd, novel, revolutionary, and sui generis. That ought to temper dogmatic declarations on either side of the issue.

    Endnotes

    [1](Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, affidavit, 17 December 1902, in Vault Folder in LDS Church Archives, cited by Bachman, “Mormon Practice of Polygamy”, 137n165. Also in Journal History (2 May 1843).)

    [2] (Affidavit of Lucy Walker Smith Kimball, Journal History, 2 May 1843; dated 17 December 1902, LDS Archives; cited in Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 139)

    [3] (Compton, ISL, 465).

    [4] Lucy Walker statement, cited in Bachman, 139, footnote 65; citing Rodney W. Walker and Noel W. Stevenson, Ancestry and Descendants of John Walker [1794–1869] of Vermont and Utah, Descendants of Robert Walker, and Emigrant of 1632 from England to Boston, Mass. (Kaysville, Utah: Inland Printing Co., 1953, 35.

    [5] See Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 15, 21.

    [6] See Daynes, ”More Wives Than One”, 75-82)

  93. Endnotes to a comment! Epic.

  94. Greg Smith says:

    Epic Fail perhaps.

  95. Steve Evans says:

    :) Greg, it’s awesome.

  96. Greg, I appreciate this thoughtful reply. I don’t know enough about the history to comment knowledgeably, but I do appreciate the debate. My point in this post was that the complexity needed to be wrestled with and that’s what I see you doing. Keep it up.

  97. Thanks for your comment, Greg. It’s a reasonable and thoughtful response.

    Let me push back a little on a few points.

    First, you’ve suggested that I’m mind reading. I’ll admit, I’m assuming intentions. But am I wrong?

    There is a lot of attention from FARMS and FAIR to this issue. These are volunteer organizations. Y’all do not typically address issues unless those issues are perceived as threats to church belief. Right?

    The number of FARMS / FAIR responses on the issue of sex within polyandry, in particular, seems to strongly suggest that the issue is perceived by apologists as a threat. The FARMS and FAIR responses uniformly downplay the possibility of sex in polyandry.

    I’m not saying this to impugn or suggest that you’re lying or anything like that. But to me, the research and writing does appear to be driven by a particular agenda of defusing the potentially harmful perception of polyandry. Would you disagree with that characterization? What exactly is the reason for the array of writing on the topic, if not to refute writers like Compton?

    Second, I still don’t find the evidence convincing for platonic marriages.

    For instance, why didn’t those women say, “it was all platonic”? You correctly note that the polyandrous wives don’t explicitly claim sex; but then, neither do they deny it. A platonic marriage is unusual. None of them thought this was worth mentioning?

    Especially given the amount of criticism that polygamy drew, it would seem reasonable that they would state this, as a defense or as an elaboration. Polyandry in particular was widely criticized by some anti-Mormons like Bennett and Lee. If polyandrous wives could have said, “Bennett is blowing smoke with his William Law allegations, all polyandrous marriages were platonic anyway, Mormonism Unvailed is garbage” why wouldn’t they? Charges of wife-stealing were among the most inflammatory things being said about the saints. They had a readily available, true defense, and no one bothered to mention it?

    And third, I’m an Occam’s razor kind of guy, and the story of a bunch of consummated plural marriages, but an outlier cluster of unconsummated marriages as well, just has a few too many moving parts for me.

    For instance, it suggests this odd timeline: Joseph enters plural marriage (sexual) with Louisa Beaman, and possibly earlier with Fanny Alger; followed by a new series of plural marriages (non sexual) with several married women (1841-42); followed by a new series of plural marriages (sexual) with single women (1842-43) (with a few non-sexual marriages to married women mixed in in this same period). It’s not clear exactly why Joseph would follow that kind of winding path.

    It doesn’t appear that Joseph had an across-the-board rule against sex with a plural wife who was married (or at least in a questionable marital status) — we know this from statements from Josephine. And Joseph certainly slept with some of his plural wives.

    If he didn’t have any general policy, then the argument seems to be that Joseph fortuitously decided, in some ad hoc or case-by-case basis, not to have sexual marriages with these (young) women; and thus, a cluster of non-sexual marriages exists, which just happens to map perfectly onto the particular cluster of marriages that many people today find particularly troubling (and that church critics most often highlight)

    That combination seems just a little too convoluted, and a little too convenient.

  98. err, History of the Saints, not Mormonism Unvailed. Don’t know why I typed that one; it’s past my bedtime.

  99. Greg Smith says:

    Thanks for your comment, Greg. It’s a reasonable and thoughtful response.

    Let me push back a little on a few points.

    First, you’ve suggested that I’m mind reading. I’ll admit, I’m assuming intentions. But am I wrong?

    I can’t speak for FARMS or others at FAIR, only myself. As I’ve said above, in my case, yes, you are wrong. I came to the issue assuming Compton was right. My review of the evidence persuaded me he was over-reaching. But, I was going to write about it regardless; I began writing about it with the presumption that he was right.

    There is a lot of attention from FARMS and FAIR to this issue. These are volunteer organizations. Y’all do not typically address issues unless those issues are perceived as threats to church belief. Right?

    In my opinion, they are only threats to belief when we assume we know more about them than we actually do, or what we think we know “ain’t so.”

    My modus operendi has been that “sunlight is a good disinfectant,” and that more evidence is always better than less. People’s problem is not (in my experience) that they know too much about Church history. It is that they only go as far as the critics are willing to lead them. They quit, as it were, just when the story is getting good.

    The number of FARMS / FAIR responses on the issue of sex within polyandry, in particular, seems to strongly suggest that the issue is perceived by apologists as a threat. The FARMS and FAIR responses uniformly downplay the possibility of sex in polyandry.

    Again, if you read my analysis, I offer the possibility of non-consummated polyandry as a way of explaining several anomalies that simply don’t make sense. If Brian Hales’ recent work is right, then one of the major obstacles to that hypothesis may be removed. I was trained in the physical sciences, so when I have unknown evidence suddenly confirm a hypothesis from a different direction, that encourages me.

    As I said, I think Kaitch’s response for FAIR is good but a bit dated. The only FARMS stuff I’m aware of is objections to Compton over-reading the data, which I think he does.

    I’m not saying this to impugn or suggest that you’re lying or anything like that. But to me, the research and writing does appear to be driven by a particular agenda of defusing the potentially harmful perception of polyandry.

    All research and writing has an agenda. Anyone who researches and writes about anything presumably finds it valuable.

    My research and writing has been driven by (a) the interest in it; and (b) the fact that no one else seemed to me doing it. :-) Fools rush in where experts fear to tread.

    Would you disagree with that characterization? What exactly is the reason for the array of writing on the topic, if not to refute writers like Compton?

    In my case, the motivation is (as I said) to simply tell the truth–but not to tell more than the truth. To refute Compton, but not because Compton is harmful to the Church, but because Compton is simply overreaching and very possibly wrong on a number of issues. I like accuracy.

    As I said, I presumed he was right. I’ve become persuaded that he isn’t.

    Isn’t the truth a value for its own sake? I think so, and I’m convinced that telling the truth as fully and well as we can will always help the Church and its members. So, I don’t personally feel a need to ‘spin’ things, since I’m convinced (and experience has borne me out) that as more of the full story comes out, the better Joseph and Co. end up looking: eventually. Things I initially thought were going to be ‘bad news’ turn out for the best, in the end.

    (I have professional expertise in some areas that he muffs completely–his treatment of depression, for example, is both amedical and ahistorical.)

    Second, I still don’t find the evidence convincing for platonic marriages.

    For instance, why didn’t those women say, “it was all platonic”? You correctly note that the polyandrous wives don’t explicitly claim sex; but then, neither do they deny it. A platonic marriage is unusual. None of them thought this was worth mentioning?

    1) Some of the polyandrous wives said that there was much about polyandry that they did not feel at liberty to discuss–they regarded it as too sacred. But if they COULD disclose it, their choices would make perfect sense.

    2) As I noted, “admissions” of Joseph’s plural marriages almost exclusively happened in relatively hostile contexts, in which the RLDS were claiming Joseph didn’t practice plural marriage. Thus, there is little to be gained in that setting saying, “I was married but no sex.” If anything, that might play into the RLDS’ hands–remember, they were convinced it was all about sex, and that Brigham and Co. were the ones driving it. Since the Utah-era marriages were generally consummated, reporting ‘spiritual only’ sealings by Joseph would just leave them more open to the charge that Brigham et al had modified things for their own base purposes.

    Recall that Joseph Smith III near the end of his life went so far as to admit that Joseph Jr. might have had some type of platonic or spiritual sealing to people. Thus, admitting a ‘platonic polyandry’ would play into this.

    Especially given the amount of criticism that polygamy drew, it would seem reasonable that they would state this, as a defense or as an elaboration.

    That’s ahistorical, I’m afraid. The problem for the 19th century LDS was not ‘explaining away’ Joseph’s polygamy–it was defending their own current practices. Thus there was zero PR value in reporting a type of marriage (polyandry) with no real later analogue in Utah (or even later in Nauvoo, interestingly) if it had no sex.

    Polyandry in particular was widely criticized by some anti-Mormons like Bennett and Lee. If polyandrous wives could have said, “Bennett is blowing smoke with his William Law allegations, all polyandrous marriages were platonic anyway, Mormonism Unvailed is garbage” why wouldn’t they?

    Because (I would think)at the time, Joseph wasn’t saying anything public about plural marriage. If you explain the polyandrous ones, then the very next question is, “Well, what about Miss Louisa Beaman?” (also reported by Bennett). And, there’s no question that some/many/most of those _were_ consummated.

    Charges of wife-stealing were among the most inflammatory things being said about the saints. They had a readily available, true defense, and no one bothered to mention it?

    See above.

    And third, I’m an Occam’s razor kind of guy, and the story of a bunch of consummated plural marriages, but an outlier cluster of unconsummated marriages as well, just has a few too many moving parts for me.

    I like Occam too, that’s why I think the non-sexual polyandry may solve some problems. You have to remember, these marriages are outliers in many ways. Aside from Fanny Alger and Louisa Beaman (and a ‘levirate’ type sealing to Don Carlos’ widow) all the early marriages were polyandrous. Yet, those are the most risky in many contexts. Emma didn’t complain about them, to my knowledge. No husband got up in Joseph’s face about it. And, that form didn’t persist into Utah. If it was more about sealing/dynasty (I dislike the last term, but Compton’s popularization makes it useful) then an alteration and evolution of how such things were done makes sense.

    For instance, it suggests this odd timeline: Joseph enters plural marriage (sexual) with Louisa Beaman, and possibly earlier with Fanny Alger; followed by a new series of plural marriages (non sexual) with several married women (1841-42); followed by a new series of plural marriages (sexual) with single women (1842-43) (with a few non-sexual marriages to married women mixed in in this same period). It’s not clear exactly why Joseph would follow that kind of winding path.

    I think it makes perfect sense, actually, and dovetails quite nicely with reports from a variety of people that probably were not aware of all the facts, and so would not have colluded to create the story. Consider (I’ve omitted footnotes, since this is too long already!):

    * In 1905, Joseph Smith’s last surviving plural wife recounted how Joseph Smith told her that “[t]he angel came to me three times between the year 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me.”

    * If the Fanny Alger marriage is dated to 1834–1835, this would explain why Joseph married her when he did—presuming that the 1905 recollection is accurate.

    * No further plural marriages occurred until 1838 at the earliest, when Joseph probably married Luncinda Pendleton Morgan Harris. Historians have debated whether this marriage took place at all. (I think it did, and disagree with Anderson and Faulring on this in favor of Compton. The dating is much less certain; George D. Smith is probably right to simply date it ‘before 1842′ and leave it at that. 1838 is the earliest point, not a certain point.)

    * In my proposed reconstruction, Joseph responded to the angel’s command in 1834/5 and 1838 by marrying Fanny Alger and Lucinda Harris, respectively. Clearly reluctant, he did not proceed until urged on in each case, and would not enter another plural marriage until commanded to do so a third time.

    * This model is complemented by the testimony of Joseph B. Noble, who reported that in the fall of 1840 Joseph told him “that the angel of the Lord had commanded him to move forward in the said order.” Soon after this, Joseph would begin marrying in earnest. Approximately thirty-one women were sealed to him between 5 April 1841 and 2 November 1843, beginning with Noble’s sister-in-law, Louisa Beaman.

    So, to summarize:

    * Angel #1 commands
    * Joseph marries Fanny Alger; huge fall-out from Emma and other church leaders. Joseph is understandably gun shy thereafter. :-)
    * Angel #2 commands
    * Joseph marries Hansen or Beaman (depends when you date the Hansen marriage)
    * Joseph marries Beaman, and then proceeds on a long course of polyandrous marriages. (Or polyandrous marriages after #3 if Beaman was the second marriage–that has the neat advantage of lumping Harris in with the rest of the polyandrous wives.)
    * Angel #3 commands (this by 1842ish): now onto the “hard stuff”–the other non-polyandrous marriages.

    If there was no sex, then the polyandrous marriages were EASIEST for Emma to accept (and the other participants).

    It explains too why the wife dated the third angel appearance to 1842, when Joseph had already had many sealings by then.

    (There are parallels to Heber C. Kimball’s decision to eventually be sealed to two old women, and Joseph Smith told him that the Lord forbid this angle–Heber wasn’t allowed to go ‘half way,’ so to speak. Polyandry may have been Joseph’s way of trying that, which was eventually countermanded by the third angel.)

    It doesn’t appear that Joseph had an across-the-board rule against sex with a plural wife who was married (or at least in a questionable marital status) — we know this from statements from Josephine. And Joseph certainly slept with some of his plural wives.

    Again, if Hales is right, then Josephine is not the anomaly she may appear. This would also match with what she told her daughter about her husband being out of fellowship.

    Have you read Hales’ paper? Do you agree or disagree?

    If he didn’t have any general policy, then the argument seems to be that Joseph fortuitously decided, in some ad hoc or case-by-case basis, not to have sexual marriages with these (young) women; and thus, a cluster of non-sexual marriages exists, which just happens to map perfectly onto the particular cluster of marriages that many people today find particularly troubling (and that church critics most often highlight)That combination seems just a little too convoluted, and a little too convenient.

    Alternatively, as I hope I have shown, they map well because the polyandrous marriages are unique as a group, both in nature and in time (esp if the Harris marriage is later than Compton presumes).

    Best,

    Greg

  100. “And if you’ve read FAIR blog at all (or the FARMS review of Compton), you’ll know that there’s no *proof* that Joseph ever slept with any of his polyandrous wives. I.e., recent FAIR blog statement from Allen Wyatt: “The bottom line is that there is no evidence that Zina made a definitive statement concerning the consummation of her marriage to Joseph Smith.” (rolls eyes).”

    From what I can determine, the purpose of the blog entry was to demonstrate that *one* document did not say what it was purported to say. I see no basis whatsoever for this less than charitable characterization. Our first responsibility should be to make sure we are responsible in our use of sources. I see three positions that can be taken. There was polyandrous sex. There wasn’t polyandrous sex. There is no proof either way. I think the latter is the more responsible position regardless of what we think should or could have happened. As far as I am aware, this would be the position that the majority of those affiliated with FAIR would take. However, to the best of my knowledge no one would claim that Joseph did not consummate any marriages at all. It would be helpful if critics would inform FAIR of problems (there may be some in older articles and there are always modifications to be made on the wiki) instead of taking swipes. We have the advantage of being able to pull or edit articles when new information is presented and we do it. Meanwhile, I very much appreciate the thought being put into the topic.

  101. Allen Wyatt says:

    And if you’ve read FAIR blog at all (or the FARMS review of Compton), you’ll know that there’s no *proof* that Joseph ever slept with any of his polyandrous wives. I.e., recent FAIR blog statement from Allen Wyatt: “The bottom line is that there is no evidence that Zina made a definitive statement concerning the consummation of her marriage to Joseph Smith.” (rolls eyes).

    Kaimi, you forgot to include my statement at the beginning of the blog post: “Critics and historians over the years have come to differing opinions, all of which have been considered in my studies, and some of those considerations are found in the FAIR presentation.”

    The paper that I refer to in the blog post is my presentation on the topic at a FAIR Conference. The full paper (70 pages, not counting bibliography) was too long for the FAIR Conference and is currently unpublished. In that full paper I spent a little over 6 full pages on the specific topic of whether Joseph and Zina consummated their marriage. I searched out, examined, and presented every primary source and every secondary source on the issue. I did this not because I am bothered by the possibility of sexuality in this one instance, nor because anyone else was bothered. I did it because it is impossible to do a full analysis of Zina and her relationships without considering the issue.

    After all the study; after all the thought; after reviewing all the sources and all the analysis of those sources, I still come to the conclusion that there isn’t enough data to make a determination that Joseph and Zina consummated their union.

    Did they? I don’t know; the primary data isn’t there. Can I conclude they did? Not without the data to support the conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. Would it bother me if they had? Not in the least.

    And just so you don’t need to read minds, you can count me as one who is not bothered by the possibility of sexuality in any of Joseph’s marriages. I, like Greg, just don’t like to see “overreaching” when it comes to the extant data. We can presume all we want, but presumptions reflect more on the person making the presumption than they do on the individuals about whom the presumptions are made.

    Please don’t make blanket statements about FAIR or FARMS based on presumptions.

    My best.

    -Allen

  102. Allen, the last bit of your comment made me think of a good motto for FAIR:

    “FAIR: Our presumptions reveal more about us than they do on the individuals about whom the presumptions are made.”

    Seriously. Quit calling the kettle black, pot.

  103. Antonio Parr says:

    #85 – I fully intended to respond to your post (which was a response to an earlier post of mine). To do so, I spent time last night dissecting Section 132. Candidly, I had to stop, as I found the chapter to be downright painful to read, and vastly more painful to contemplate.

    I apologize for discontinuing our dialogue.

    Regards.

  104. Allen Wyatt says:

    Patrick,

    To a degree we may all be pots calling kettles black (including you). The best of scholarly discourse recognizes our presumptions, analyzes the data, and presents conclusions based only (as much as possible) on that data.

    If you feel that my presumptions in the matter at hand are coloring my interpretations of the data, I invite you to provide your evidence.

    -Allen

  105. “It already has been argued, very successfully in my opinion, that polygamy didn’t result in a larger group of descendants that monogamy would have.”

    I think it can be successfully argued that while plural wives average less children than monogamous wives do in a mixed society, the presence of both marriage options produce more net children than in the ambient society that only has the monogamous option. Let me humbly throw out the following points for everyone’s consideration.

    1) The mixed society will marry much more efficiently than the ambient society. Off the cuff, in the US at the time 8% of females never married compared to 1% of Manti females (recalling Daynes’ reseach). A greater disparity exists on remarriage rates for widows and divorcees. The presence of polygamy makes serial polygamy (multiple spouses, but only 1 at a time) more acceptable and common.

    2) Plural marriage lowered marital ages (for both arrangements) by 2-4 years years lower than the US average. (The lower average for frontier women only partially explains the difference). This effectively reduces the the generational cycle time on average for the mixed society. So even with less children per woman you can have faster population growth.

    3) For each family arrangement considering how many children to have, the trade-off is this: having more children was desirable as a status symbol but that had to be weighed against increasing economic difficulties. Monogamous families tried to keep up with plurally married Joneses by having more children. It very clear that monogamous Mormon women easily had more children than the ambient society. Even though it remains the case that even now Mormons have more children than the ambient society (though not as dramatic) some of that should be attributed to ancestor (holy) envy or the pro-(large) family values instilled in us by our ancestors that survived the transition back to monogamy.

    4)There is another dramatic difference seen in convert emigrants to Utah. Without the exact numbers in front of me (I seem to recall my source as Migration and fertility: behavioral change on the American frontier. Mineau GP, Bean LL, Anderton DL.):

    Woman who had all their children before migrating averaged about 2 less than the Utah average. Women who emigrated in their child-bearing years had 1 more child than the Utah average. That is about a 3 child swing incidental to coming into contact with the Utah’s mixed society. Some of that can be explained because migrants are trying to compensate for the loss of their original ethnic social network by reproducing their own. The study I recall argues that idea and downplays the significance of a mixed marriage society, but their reviewers were not convinced that their findings (in general) would be representative of all emigrants because of the polygamy factor. The third data point is that the emigrant woman that began having a family in Utah had children at the same average rate as all Utahns, which demonstrates how quickly assimilation took place.

  106. Greg Smith says:

    Quoth Patrick:

    Allen, the last bit of your comment made me think of a good motto for FAIR:

    “FAIR: Our presumptions reveal more about us than they do on the individuals about whom the presumptions are made.”

    Seriously. Quit calling the kettle black, pot.

    My goodness, this thread is fast becoming a text-book example of logical or rhetorical fallacies. Someone teaching freshman logic or philosophy could have a field day. Count ‘em! :-)

    * Ad hominem
    * Poisoning the well
    * Tu quoque
    * Association fallacy
    * Appeal to motive
    * Argumentum ad odium
    * Appeal to ridicule
    * Nirvana fallacy
    * Negative proof fallacy
    * Correlation vs. causation
    * Perfection solution fallacy
    There’s also a lot of Post hoc ergo promptor hoc going on:

    A) FAIR wants to defend the Church
    B) Greg’s presentation of the evidence defends the Church.

    Conclusion: Therefore, Greg reads and searches out evidence and to warps it (even if only unconsciously) to support the church.

    But, isn’t it at least as possible that the sequence goes:

    A) Greg and Allen read evidence and conclude that about issue X, the evidence is more friendly to the Church than not, and believe that enemies unfairly distort it.
    B) THEREFORE, they join or write for FAIR because this provides a venue for dissemination their research to those interested?

    But, maybe I don’t know my own mind. :-)

    Its the same old story: “You only believe that stuff about the Book of Mormon because you’re a Mormon.” No one can ever seem to grant that one actually might be (or remain) a member of the Church because they have considered the evidence and conclude that the Book of Mormon is true.”

    Why is it so hard to believe that honest people might actually read fragmentary evidence differently, even with all the intellectual integrity they have?

    I find it ironic that Allen’s rigorous and exhaustive review of the data is that which gets criticized as having a pre-determined outcome, when other(s) come up with their opinion without having done half the leg-work he has.

    The only pity is that his paper is not yet published. I’ve read it, and nothing else comes close on the topic in terms of thoroughness. He corrects errors that have crept into the published lit–and not debatable errors either (see his post for one such example).

    Why is more or better data bad?

  107. As a side note, I appreciate these well reasoned comments.

  108. #107 – Very well said, Greg.

  109. So, what’s the Latin term for throwing around the names of a lot of logical fallacies without any actual demonstration that they exist in another’s argument?

    Implying (without demonstration) that one’s interlocutors — presumably me, since it’s not likely that Greg is saying this about his own colleagues — would have failed a freshman logic class . . . nice!

    I’ll agree that there have been some fallacious arguments in this thread.

    For instance, when I pointed out that sexless marriages are an anomaly, Nitsav replied that polygamous marriages themselves were also an anomaly. This indicated an argument along the lines of:

    Sexless marriages are an anomaly.
    But, polygamous marriages are also an anomaly.
    Therefore, we should not be surprised if polygamous marriages were sexless. (Or perhaps, we should expect polygamous marriages to be sexless.)

    When I pointed out that fallacy, in 73, I was told I was treating the subject too lightly.

    **

    Anyway, you all clearly care a whole lot more about this than I do. Let’s review what’s happened here:

    I made a short joke, way back in comment 15. BiV thought it was funny, and she told me so.

    Nitsav jumped on me for it, and asked for some evidence that FAIR and FARMS writers have argued that polyandrous marriages were sexless. I provided links, and then more links, to sustain this assertion. Nitsav then made several assertions, including that FAIR or FARMS writers were not actually talking about polyandrous marriages in general , just about a few specific cases. (This seems to be incorrect; at least some writers, including Greg, do appear to be talking about polyandrous marriages in general.)

    (At this point, note that I’m the one who has been asked to provide links to very simple and readily accessible sources like the FARMS review.)

    At this point, in response to repeated challenges from an interlocutor who seemed to be unfamiliar with the basic FARMS/FAIR writings (and who seems to have mischaracterized at least some of them), I pointed out that the articles I’ve read seem to take as an initial starting point that sex should not be assumed unless proven; and that that burden-shifting move seems questionable to me.

    Then MCQ told me that I was being flippant, and then the FAIR folk showed up en masse, and now Greg seems to be implying that I wouldn’t pass freshman logic. Yay!

    I really don’t care all that much about this topic. I don’t intend to write on it. I’ve read all the usual secondary polygamy sources — Hardy and Daynes and Van Waggoner and Compton and several articles and as much of Smith as I could stomach — but I’m not a primary source expert. (And I’m not an axe-grinding church critic, either; I’m already on the record, not a month ago, as extremely critical of the Smith’s new book as being overly sensational.)

    **

    It’s correct that FARMS and FAIR writers have talked an awful lot about sex in polyandry; that FARMS and FAIR writers have attacked other writers who have stated that there was sex in those marriages and have asserted that those writers are overreaching and there is no evidence of sex in those marriages (and some, such as Greg, have made positive assertions that those marriages may have been sexless); and that the FARMS and FAIR articles have tended to argue by shifting the burden of proof regarding sex in polyandrous marriages, in a way that can could be (and has been) defended, but which is largely counterintuitive.

    Based on that evidence, I feel comfortable making the joke that I made in comment 15. If anyone other than Nitsav thinks that that joke really overstates the evidence in any significant way, please let me know.

    I agree with Greg that “honest people might actually read fragmentary evidence differently, even with all the intellectual integrity they have.” I appreciate his and Allen’s explanations for why they have come to the conclusions that they have; but I have not yet seen analysis (including theirs) that persuades me that it makes sense to shift the burden as to sexuality in the way that they do. But I understand that reasonable minds might differ on that subject.

    Thanks for your comments, folks. It’s been interesting.

  110. Allen Wyatt says:

    Kaimi,

    I believe that Greg was referring to Patrick as not passing freshman logic courses, not you. (At least, that’s how I read it.)

    As to shifting the burden as to sexuality in polyandrous relationships, I’d be interested in understanding more how you think that either Greg or I have done that. The fact of the matter is, there isn’t enough evidence (at least in the case of Zina, which is the one case I’ve researched in-depth) to reach a conclusion *either* way. Thus, those who say there was sex have just as much of a burden as those who say there was no sex. Neither side, honestly has enough evidence to claim victory.

    But, like I said, I’m untroubled by the issue. (I know that is not the case with everyone.) There may have been sex; they may not have been sex. The presence or absence of copulation doesn’t affect the validity of the Zina’s marriage to Joseph in any way. Joseph married her, with Henry’s knowledge and with witnesses, she considered herself married to Joseph, and that seems good enough for me.

    -Allen

  111. I’m out of my depth here but here’s an abstract from a relevant paper I’d not seen before:

    “Polygyny can increase, decrease, or have no effect on fertility. Understanding how this can occur requires consideration of both the proximate determinants of fertility and the ultimate effects of polygyny as a female reproductive strategy. Several factors reduced the fertility of polygynous women in 19th century Utah, including marrying at an older age, marrying older men, and conflict between co-wives. Sterility did not explain the reduced number of children in polygynous women, nor is there evidence of a dilution effect from sharing a husband. If women could anticipate a reduction in their own fertility, why would they still choose polygyny? Evidence suggests that they chose it because the children of polygynous men had increased fertility, high enough to offset the low fertility of polygynous women themselves. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 14:222–232, 2002″

  112. “FARMS and FAIR articles have tended to argue by shifting the burden of proof regarding sex in polyandrous marriages, in a way that can could be (and has been) defended, but which is largely counterintuitive.”

    I am puzzled by this. I looked at the linked article on FAIR’s website and I saw a very clear contradiction of that characterization:

    “Whichever interpretation plays out to be correct, the outcome is irrelevant. While it may seem more understandable, if not palatable, for some to comprehend these marriages without this dimension, the fact remains that such marriages did not prohibit its occurrence. Indeed, one important aspect of plural marriage was to bring forth and raise up those noble spirits. . .”

    Where is the denial of sex…? The emphasis remains on the lack of evidence. I don’t think it requires “analysis” to come to that conclusion when there IS primary documentation of dynastic marriages. I think that creates a problem for automatically assuming all other sealings involved sex and by default must place the matter into the realm of the uncertain with a willingness to entertain either possibility.

    I have a question. Has anyone insisted that Joseph was consummating relationships with a “wife” who was approaching 60 years old? That brings me to what really bothers me with these impossible discussions. They always start and end with the male perspective. It is never the women who are enjoying mulitple sex partners, it is the man. That is what I think is “counterintuitive” and that is part of the reason why I think there will never be a satisfactory resolution to this puzzle. Meanwhile, I am again deeply disappointed by comments like “then the FAIR folk showed up en masse”. I regularly read but rarely post because I truly do not understand the open hostility. I suspect it scares off a lot of other potential posters as well…if that matters.

  113. StillConfused says:

    Do people believe that angels came to Joseph and told him to have plural wives?

  114. Greg Smith says:

    So, what’s the Latin term for throwing around the names of a lot of logical fallacies without any actual demonstration that they exist in another’s argument?

    Alas, like many technical subject, logic has its own vocabulary. And, it tends to be in Latin sometimes. As any biology student can tell you, medicine is rife with Greek and Latin, and one must use it because that’s what used. :-)

    I could demonstrate each of them from the thread if you like.

    Implying (without demonstration) that one’s interlocutors — presumably me, since it’s not likely that Greg is saying this about his own colleagues — would have failed a freshman logic class . . . nice!

    Again, that’s what you get when you “presume.” I was, actually, referring mostly to Patrick‘s remarks. (His brief post managed to qualify for Ad hominem, Poisoning the well, Tu quoque, Argumentum ad odium, and Appeal to ridicule all on its own).

    Then MCQ told me that I was being flippant, and then the FAIR folk showed up en masse,

    Weighing in at 125 lbs, that’s the first time my arrival has been described as “en masse.” Apparently Allen and me together constitute a mob. Who else is here from FAIR? Julianne I guess. But, I was here first. :-)

    and now Greg seems to be implying that I wouldn’t pass freshman logic. Yay!

    I think a case can be made that these particular posts wouldn’t fare too well under a logician’s scalpel. I trust it isn’t your best work. :-) I have no opinion about how you’d fare in a class.

    But, since you mentioned it, I took a look back, and you even managed to give a two-fer on some of Patrick’s lapses. For example:

    amazing sexless marriages (#15)…rolls eyes (#40)…an entire cottage industry of apologists (#54)

    Sounds a lot like Argumentum ad odium, Appeal to ridicule, and Poisoning the well, to me.

    You did, actually, sneak a few in there.

    And, there were a few that you soloed on. After all, your whole initial argument seemed to me to be a classic example of the “appeal to motive.” There was also a potential dash of “associative fallacy” in there (ha! since FARMS and FAIR (“cottage industry of apologists”) use this argument, it must be bogus–after all, it was even made on a message board!)

    And now look! FAIR is showing up “en masse!” :-)

    [Careful, now you're throwing around French words without defining them. :-) :-) My Latin has been touché-ed. Oh no, now I've done it too.....;-)]

    You also indulged in the Nirvana and Perfection solution fallacies, since my proposed solution doesn’t solve each and every issue with the data perfectly (while neglecting that no solution does that) and not even acknowledging the other problems which your rather flip conclusion didn’t address.

    Your insistence that because no one ever said “we never had sex” we must presume sexual relations could actually be a pretty good example of “Negative proof fallacy.” You argue that

    FARMS and FAIR articles have tended to argue by shifting the burden of proof regarding sex in polyandrous marriages, in a way that can could be (and has been) defended, but which is largely counterintuitive.”

    It’s counterintuitive on first blush, but since you “really don’t care all that much about this topic…[and are] not a primary source expert” intuition may well lead you astray. And, different people’s intuition has led them to opposite conclusions anyway.

    Problem is, we know for a fact that Mormons labeled various relationships without sex and without right of sexual access as “marriages.” This would seem to vitiate the claim that anything Mormons label as a marriage must be sexual. (This was FAR more common, wouldn’t you say, for Mormons than for anyone else in the USA at the time–or not, for that matter?)

    And, where would Utah Mormons be more likely to get such an idea than Joseph Smith? (See Daynes, 75-82.) They need not, of course, but it bears thinking about.

    But, given the unique nature of polyandry through the whole history of Mormon plural marriage, drawing parallels with anything is probably fraught with risk.

    But I understand that reasonable minds might differ on that subject.

    Thank you. It was this that your repeated posts of ridicule seemed to undercut.

    I really don’t care all that much about this topic. I don’t intend to write on it.

    And yet, you did write about it. :-)

    Best,

    Greg

  115. Steve and Keller, fascinating stuff and an important addition to the mix. What I find missing in almost all academic treatments of 19th century plural marriage is context. As unthinkable as polygamy was, life for working class women of that era was also horrifying.

  116. Do people believe that angels came to Joseph and told him to have plural wives?

    Stillconfused, that is indeed a hard one to visualize. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about it.

  117. Thomas Parkin says:

    #114 Yes. Why not? Maybe or maybe not like a Moroni visit. But angels do come and give people information.

    My only little contribution to this thread follows.

    I personally feel little moral objection to sex within any marital relationship. So, it isn’t all that important, to me, whether or not Joseph had conjugal relations with some, all or none of his wives.

    I do note, however, that the assumption that these marriages not only included sex but were primarily about sex shows a lack of imagination on our part. It says much more about us than it does about Joseph. It demonstrates how fully we are the children of Darwin, and even more importantly, the children of Freud. We believe, as one of my friends in high school put it, “I do everything I do in order to get laid.” Well, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it about myself, and I sure don’t believe it about Joseph.

    Also …

    I read large parts of Compton’s book a few weeks back. I agree that he overreaches. Several times – many times – I read his conclusions and his evidences and though ‘is that all you’ve got? Cause that seems like reading quite a bit into very little.’ I do think that his tracing the lives of these women is, of itself, very valuable, interesting and entertaining. ~

  118. I believe that Greg was referring to Patrick as not passing freshman logic courses, not you. (At least, that’s how I read it.)

    I was, actually, referring mostly to Patrick’s remarks. (His brief post managed to qualify for Ad hominem, Poisoning the well, Tu quoque, Argumentum ad odium, and Appeal to ridicule all on its own).

    Thank you for the clarification. The initial comment was unspecific in its condemnation.

    (And, I should note, a statement that another’s argument is “a text-book example of logical or rhetorical fallacies,” without explanation, is probably fallacious itself. Would you call that appeal to ridicule, ad hominem, or both? Possibly well-poisoning, too?)

    Argumentum ad odium

    I’m not seeing an ad odium in there, though perhaps different readers may disagree.

    en masse

    Hmm. How about,

    “About 100 comments into a thread that had been running for two days, three FAIR writers who rarely comment at BCC suddenly entered the discussion with several related comments in quick succession.”

    My French is a little rusty, but I think that may fall within the scope of en masse. :)

    cottage industry of apologists

    It’s not the kindest phrasing, I’ll admit.

    On the other hand, there is an awfully high level of interest in Joseph’s sex life with his plural wives, and a lot of that discussion appears on FARMS and FAIR websites. And it’s a strange subject to draw that much attention. How many articles are there about whether Wilford Woodruff slept with any of his wives?

    it was even made on a message board!

    Now who’s using fallacies? (Don’t make me point out which one you’re using here.) :)

    Your insistence that because no one ever said “we never had sex” we must presume sexual relations

    Except that I’ve never said that we must presume sexual relations.

    I’ve maintained all along that (a) the most natural initial assumption is that marriages (especially marriages of someone known to be sexually active with some wives) include sex, and (b) the evidence given by various writers — you, Allen, and others — is not sufficiently strong to rebut that assumption.

    You’ve made an argument from silence (wives never confirmed sex) and I’ve pointed out that the same argument exists on the other side (wives never confirmed non-sex, either).

    And yet, you did write about it.

    I refer you to the chronology in comment # 110 above: Made a joke. Was asked to explain joke. Was asked to explain it more. Was argued with about joke’s premises. Finally, was accosted by regiment of 125 pound Frenchmen. :)

    The fact of the matter is, there isn’t enough evidence (at least in the case of Zina, which is the one case I’ve researched in-depth) to reach a conclusion *either* way. Thus, those who say there was sex have just as much of a burden as those who say there was no sex. Neither side, honestly has enough evidence to claim victory.

    That is exactly right.

    (And because there’s not enough evidence to form a positive conclusion either way, initial assumptions are particularly important.)

    As unthinkable as polygamy was, life for working class women of that era was also horrifying.

    Too true, Juliann.

    Do people believe that angels . . .

    Given the Victorian attitudes of the time, SC, it’s not likely that the angels would have left any record of this. Also, Andrew Jensen carelessly forgot to get affidavits from angels when he was putting together the Historical Record. Thus, we can only speculate.

    Of course, it’s most natural to assume that they did (based on records from angels elsewhere), but that silly fellow Greg will probably tell you otherwise. :)

  119. I appear to have botched a blockquote tag right at the end of my comment. I think it’s still readable.

  120. Zina Huntington Young, found in a book written by one of her descendents and Martha Smith Bradley, wrote, about her marriage to Joseph Smith, when married to someone else (I’m guessing in a diary or private letter, I don’t have the book right here) “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life,” and that she “never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman.”

    If this isn’t admitting to sex, then what is?

  121. Sorry I forgot the author information on the paper I mentioned in #112. It was: STEVEN C. JOSEPHSON
    Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

  122. Greg Smith says:

    Quoth Thomas:

    I personally feel little moral objection to sex within any marital relationship. So, it isn’t all that important, to me, whether or not Joseph had conjugal relations with some, all or none of his wives.

    I do note, however, that the assumption that these marriages not only included sex but were primarily about sex shows a lack of imagination on our part. It says much more about us than it does about Joseph.

    Yup, exactly, on both counts.

    Kaimi:

    And it’s a strange subject to draw that much attention. How many articles are there about whether Wilford Woodruff slept with any of his wives?

    Wilford Woodruff did not practice polyandry. This is a potential significant difference, don’t you think?

    (Again, we see the tendency to regard these all as analogous and interchangeable.)

    Also, the presence of children by Woodruff’s wives rather makes the point clear. We try to follow the evidence, remember?

    Thank you for the clarification. The initial comment was unspecific in its condemnation. (And, I should note, a statement that another’s argument is “a text-book example of logical or rhetorical fallacies,” without explanation, is probably fallacious itself. Would you call that appeal to ridicule, ad hominem, or both? Possibly well-poisoning, too?)

    I thought it was transparently obvious that Patrick did so. Especially since I posted right after Patrick. But, I trust I’ve clarified adequately?

    And no, it is not ad hominem or poisoning the well, or an appeal to ridicule to say that someone has committed a logical or rhetorical fallacy. It may be false, of course. Again, I trust I’ve clarified, and the point not in dispute?

    Besides, noticing that he did so wasn’t rocket science. (I had hyperlinks for the curious, but the board software doesn’t like more than three links. :))

    I wrote:

    it was even made on a message board!

    To which Kaimi replied:

    Now who’s using fallacies? (Don’t make me point out which one you’re using here.) :)

    Umm…you may need to.

    See your comment #61. You made the argument that FAIR and FARMS used this ‘no sex’ argument with polyandry, and then cited a MADB message board thread. MADB is not FAIR. The only FAIR members I see there are Julianne and Allen, and Allen says he voted “other” (he doesn’t make the argument you attribute to FAIR or apologists) and Julianne asks (cogently) why we worry just because the shoe may be on the other foot.

    Thus, the fact that some message board poster made this argument says relatively little to zero about what FAIR or FARMS say about it, wouldn’t you say?

    Except that I’ve never said that we must presume sexual relations.

    Actually what you said was:

    #61 – The next step is to put a ridiculously high burden of proof on the question of sex with polyandrous wives in particular. (emphasis added)

    Apparently asking for some proof other than “it was called marriage,” is “ridiculously high.”

    Also:

    three FAIR writers who rarely comment at BCC suddenly entered the discussion with several related comments in quick succession

    I don’t comment much because (as your posts demonstrate) it’s my impression that there’s a lot of rather overt ridicule and/or hostility to FAIR/FARMS on many LDS blogs, as Julianne pointed out.

    While relatively thick-skinned, I get attacked, ridiculed, or maligned quite enough by anti-Mormons; my martyr complex is not sufficiently advanced that I crave it from fellow Saints. The amusement I derive therefrom isn’t THAT high. :)

    Usually I just roll my eyes, but in this case I actually knew something about what was being claimed. As Nitsav wrote, “What bugs me about your comment is not that you think there was sex involved, but rather making facile assumptions and casting snide aspersions based on stereotypes.”

    Best,

    Greg

  123. StillConfused says:

    #121 – That poor woman. She did that thinking it was called of God. If it wasn’t, I hope that God sees the dedication in her heart and does not condemn her for the actions. It is clear that she did not want this event but accepted it as the will of God.

    119 Kaimi, I am not sure if your response to my question was meant to be funny or serious. I can see that you and Greg have some kind of a personal dialgoue going on here. My question is serious. I for one do not believe that such angelic visitations occurred with respect to this specific matter. I am however will to accept that angelic visitations may have occurred with respect to other matters. I am not all or nothing when it comes to religion. Hopefully that does not cause offense to others who have a different philosophy.

  124. I for one do not believe that such angelic visitations occurred with respect to this specific matter. I am however will to accept that angelic visitations may have occurred with respect to other matters.

    Why the difference? If angelic visitations occurred on one matter, why not this one? Is it somehow impossible, just because of the subject matter? If these visitations did not occur, it means that a lot of people who claimed to have them are either deluded or lying. It seems inconsistent to assume that they are telling the truth about some angelic visitations, but not others. I’m genuinely curious about your point of view.

  125. #121 & #124 – Still Confused,

    This is a perfect example of the need to include sources and be VERY careful to post quotes in context. It also shows how quotes can be manipulated by dropping only a few words here and there. The way djinn quoted the statement changes the meaning significantly – and they are nearly exact quotes within the quotation marks, with only the meaning changing words left out, so it’s hard to chalk it up to faulty memory. This is a questions of whether or not there was sex in Zina’s marriage, and the quote djinn posted wasn’t about sex at all. A quick, simple Google search gave me three sources. They all confirm the context. From an Exponent post:

    (Not All Men Loved Polygamy)

    Zina records she obtained a testimony for herself that God had required plural marriage to be reestablished. She then states, “I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life for I never anticipated to be looked upon as an honorable women by those I dearly loved” (p. 114). Her testimony of polygamy seemed to be largely based in her belief in the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith and her sense of the importance of obeying prophetic counsel. She remained an ardent supporter of plural marriage throughout her life.

    Zina’s statement is about accepting the marriage, NOT having sex within it. The other sources reinforce that.

  126. I should have used a block quote for the paragraph following the link. The last paragraph is mine.

  127. Ray, I don’t see how your somewhat fuller comment changes things. The problem is that, as noted by Kaimi, accepting the marriage and sleeping with her husband are clearly seen as going hand in hand to all and sundry, otherwise the issue of her being an “honorable woman” would be immaterial.

  128. StillConfused says:

    #125 MCQ, I can understand that my statment may seem odd. I personally do not believe that angels told Joseph Smith to enter into these spiritual marriages. That is my personal belief. However, I am not willing to take that and assume that all claims of angelic visits were false. When I express my disbelief of a certain aspect of the culture/history/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-so-you-don’t-get-bent-out-of-shape-on-the-word, many folks will assume that means I am questioning everything. I find that line of reasoning strange, personally, but I respect that that is how some people roll. I apologize if there are those who find my personal beliefs on the matter offensive to their religious beliefs. I am simply stating my personal beliefs on the matter.

    #128 I concur. My sympathies for this woman remain.

  129. SC, no offense taken. I’m not sure why anyone would be offended by an expression of personal belief anyway. My question was simply: why? How is it that you have arrived at that belief? Is it because you reject the possibility of any divine source to polygamy because you find it so repellent, or is it because you find the particular accounts of these angelic visitations to be somehow not credible to you. I’m just interested in the process that led you to your conclusion. If you are comfortable sharing it, of course.

  130. Stillconfused, this makes me wince:

    That poor woman. She did that thinking it was called of God.

    When I try to understand plural marriage I go to the women. When it gets to the point where we demean them we have lost any hope of understanding them. I will not throw away their own words. They were not liars. They were not stupid. They were not deluded fools. When they say to the end of their lives that they only did this because of spiritual witness I feel bound to accept that if I am going to accept anything else about Mormonism. It is, in fact, the only thing that convinces me God had a hand in this for some reason.

    But back to the $60 question, what is so reprehensible about *Zina* having a choice of sex partners like the men did? The Mormon woman as dumb dupe or sex slave only works if they didn’t open their mouths and too many did. That we ignore them might say more about what we think about women in general than it does about polygamy.

  131. otherwise the issue of her being an “honorable woman” would be immaterial.

    Most likely but again there is no historical context in this judgment. What was an “honorable” woman in that era?

    Protestant evangelicals had circulated their conversion efforts around the globe by the early nineteenth century. They began to ply listeners at home with firsthand descriptions of “heathen” society in places such as India, china, or Hawaii, as a contrast to their own, blessed with Christian values. “Heathen” women were routinely portrayed as ignorant, degraded, beasts of burden, overworked slaves to men, servicers of male lust. They stood in stark contrast to women in the United States, who enjoyed respect from men, monogamous domesticity, and the dignity of being credited with immortal souls, all thanks to the reign of Christianity.

    Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of marriage and the Nation, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), 115-116.

    Later decades were no kinder:

    Women might work like galley slaves for their own relatives, receiving only their board and clothes, and hold their social position in the community; but the moment they stepped outside of home and became wage-earners, thus securing pecuniary independence, they lost caste and were rigidly barred from the quilting bees, the apple-parings, and all the society functions of the neighborhood.
    Susan B. Anthony, “The Status of Woman, Past, Present, and Future,: The Arena (May 1897): 903, quoted in Kathleen Barry, Susan B. Anthony: A Biography of a Singular Feminist ( New York: Ballantine Books, 1988), 58.

    My personal favorite is this view of women from a book in my home as I was growing up:

    Sometimes the masculine aims are sublimated into intellectual pursuits but the woman pays for this by losing her sense of feminine values. Intellectuality in a woman may be paid for by some loss of her feminine qualities. True feminine wisdom—a much more valuable asset than pure intellectuality—arises from her inner intuition, which the woman possesses far more than does the man, and not from the intellectual processes of exploration, cognition and objectivity, which tend to be more masculine traits.
    Gerald H. J. Pearson, M.D. “Woman’s Emotional Life,” in Every Womans Standard Medical Guide, By Forty Specialists (Indianapolis:American Publishers’ Alliance Corp., 1949), 38.

  132. djinn and StillConfused, my point is that, whether or not there was sex in her marriage to Joseph (and I also don’t care in the slightest), the quote you provided makes no such claim – and it can only be read that way IF the reader already assumes it. Reading it that way is a classic case of imbuing words with meaning they don’t have in and of themselves. It would be much like me taking your comments here and claiming that you hate men and sex – that secretly you are Victorian in moral outlook and only project your acceptance of sex because of the culture in which you currently live.

    Such a statement by me would be inappropriate as a researcher (as anything more than a biased opinion) – regardless of its accuracy or inaccuracy, simply because your words themselves don’t warrant that conclusion.

    For example, although it deals with a totally different topic, there is an excellent example of what happens when things are extrapolated from words based solely on assumptions and stereotypes over on Keepapitchinin right now. All I’m saying is that you are doing with the Zina Young quote what Salon did with the legislation critiqued in that article – back-pasting modern assumptions onto an historical document that simply aren’t there in the words themselves.

    Zina never stated there was sex in her marriage to Joseph, and she never even hinted at it. To interpret the statement you quoted as proof that there was sex simply is a stretch that a researcher can’t make and retain credibility – whether it is true or not.

    I am a dedicated parser specifically because I know how easy it is to take what I write and reach conclusions I never intend. For example, if I had not included a parenthetical statement that I don’t care about the issue one way or another, it would be easy for someone reading this comment to make the case that I am insisting there was no sex. I’m not doing that, but if that parenthetical is removed by someone in the future and the rest of the comment (minus this paragraph) is quoted in some future discussion, I come out looking like a passionate defender of sexless polyandry.

    That’s the main reason I care – plus the fact that, like Juliann, I find it incredibly painful to read feminists treating strong women with such disdain and condescension. Zina Young was a strong, courageous, faithful, intensely intelligent woman – and “that poor, poor, oppressed woman” comments really rub me the wrong way – as do statements that say her faith and divine assurances were deluded. I simply am not going to make that judgment about someone else, just as I’m not going to make that judgment about your convictions.

  133. StillConfused,

    It’s clear that Joseph told some of his plural wives that he was commanded by an angel — in some instances, on pain of death — to take them as plural wives.

    It seems pretty clear that many people at the time believed that multiple angels commanded Joseph to start plural marriage.

    And, as evidenced in Greg’s comment above, there seem to be at least some people who hold that view today. (As evidenced by Juliann’s, I don’t think there is a consensus on it.)

    Obviously, there is no direct physical evidence of angelic visitation.

    So really, there’s no way to know for sure.

    I’m skeptical. The angelic visitation stories become more difficult when compared to the later history of polygamy. In effect, the time line becomes that Joseph absolutely had to restore polygamy (on pain of death) and marry some women (and set in motion a chain of events that resulted in his own death and the expulsion of the Saints within a few years); but those marriages were vanishingly short in their earthly duration and produced very few if any offspring; and the whole system did not in fact endure and was forcibly shut down a few decades later; and nowadays, the church continues to function quite well, but distances itself from polygamy as much as it possibly can.

    The angelic visitation stories make some sense in the context of a restoration of all things. (This dovetails with the many statements made by prophets and apostles in the 1800s about the great importance of polygamy as an important and eternal principle.)

    But in the context of the not-really restoration of all things that ended up happening, which relegated polygamy to a quirky historical footnote, it becomes much less clear why Joseph absolutely *had* to establish polygamy in the 1840s, much less under threat of death from an angelic messenger.

    I’ve sometimes heard the story cast by modern analysts as a sort of Abrahamic test narrative, where God decided to really test Joseph’s obedience through polygamy. This is unsatisfying, first because Joseph clearly seems to have seen polygamy not as being a mere obedience test — he saw it as being a true restoration of the Abramahic family principles. And second, wow, what a whacked-out test — that would make God into a seriously twisted sadist. (And it does not mesh _at all_ with modern discussion of the importance of families: Families are foundational and important, until God gets bored and decides to test people by completely turning upside-down their family relationships.)

    One theory discussed by Daynes and others is polygamy to raise righteous posterity. This isn’t a bad explanation overall, but I’m not sure that it elevates polygamy to a you-must-do-it-or-an-angel-will-kill-you status.

  134. Allen Wyatt says:

    Ray, I don’t see how your somewhat fuller comment changes things. The problem is that, as noted by Kaimi, accepting the marriage and sleeping with her husband are clearly seen as going hand in hand to all and sundry, otherwise the issue of her being an “honorable woman” would be immaterial.

    You don’t think that engaging in polygamy–with or without sex–would be looked on as “dishonorable” by Zina’s non-LDS peers in Victorian America?

    Interesting.

    Actually, I believe that the quote was very late-life for Zina. (I’m doing this from memory in a hotel room in Las Vegas; I could be remembering incorrectly.) It was made at a time when she was showing the resolve she had to be obedient and enter into the Principle, even though she would be viewed as dishonorable by the world. (And, it should be mentioned, by her grandparents and extended relations, none of whom ever joined the Church.)

    Again, seeing an indication of sexual relations in a statement which has other reasonable explanations tells more about us, as analysts, than it does of Zina.

    -Allen

  135. Allen Wyatt says:

    Kaimi,

    Some people also view the whole polygamy thing as a “bonding agent” for the Church. I’m not talking about something that builds dynastic families; I’m familiar with that argument. What I’m talking about is something that would make the Church “peculiar” and set it apart from the world.

    Practicing polygamy caused the Church to be cast out from and castigated by the society in which the Church found itself. It prevented the Church from being assimilated by society too early in its history, before it could become self-identified as a distinct people. Polygamy, in essence, created a “bond” among Church members that the world could not break, then or now.

    I find this essay by Elden Watson along these lines to be rather interesting.

    (I’m not advocating this “reason” for polygamy; just noting it in case you had not seen it yet.)

    -Allen

  136. OK, what am I missing? Wouldn’t an obvious reason for Zina saying she wouldn’t be looked upon as honorable be precisely because polygamy and sex went together? Outsiders wouldn’t make a distinction regardless of the true nature of the relationship. How does this prove anything other than how outsiders perceived it? What I find most interesting about the quote is that there is no hint that Zina considers whatever she is doing dishonorable. What polyandry indicates to me is that there was a brief window when Mormon women had unbelievable freedom. It is a tantalizing possibility as far as I am concerned. But it does seem hard evidence should be required.

  137. (I’m not advocating this “reason” for polygamy; just noting it in case you had not seen it yet.)

    Hopefully we won’t see it again. ;-)

  138. StillConfused says:

    #130 I listen to what has been said in the light most favorable to Joseph Smith (some folks are really straining here) and it just doesn’t pass the smell test. Not buying it. Angel tells a married man to go sleep with other women or he will die? As it turns out, looks like he misheard the angel after all. This reminds me of when that one preacher on TV said that people had to send in a million dollars or he would die. I didn’t buy that either. If other people do, that is perfectly fine. I don’t care what other people think. But as for me, I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe that my God operates that way. Others will point to Abraham and the like to say that my God does operate in strange ways. They are welcome to that opinion but I do not share it.

    So my choices are (1) pretend I believe something that I don’t; (2) go all anti-Mormon because I don’t believe this part; or (3) decide that this part is whack but the rest may be okay. My personality type puts me in choice 3. Does that freak people out? Sure.

    #131 It is clear that Zina did not do this of her own free will but rather as what she viewed as a religious requirement. That is what is sad. I know that if a man, even a prophet, came to me and told me that an angel told him to marry me… well I would run the other way. If God really wants me to marry someone, he will initiate that conversation with me directly. And even then, I would probably require multiple board certified psychiatrists to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker.

  139. Antonio Parr says:

    What polyandry indicates to me is that there was a brief window when Mormon women had unbelievable freedom. It is a tantalizing possibility as far as I am concerned.

    You have got to be kidding.

  140. Antonio Parr says:

    What polyandry indicates to me is that there was a brief window when Mormon women had unbelievable freedom. It is a tantalizing possibility as far as I am concerned.

    And if you are not kidding, then you are mistaking “freedom” for being free.

    I thank God for the loving and faithful and wholesome and equal family model espoused by the modern day LDS Church, and pray for the day when this model will become a standard throughout the world. I thank God also that polygamy and, in particular, polyandry, is (for the most part) relegated to an increasingly distant past.

  141. #139 – SC, I’m not talking about polygamy in general here – nor and I talking about angelic visitations. Those are very different discussions than the nature of Zina’s marriage to Joseph. I’m responding only to the idea that Zina said her marriage to Joseph included sex. She never did, including in the quote djinn provided. It simply isn’t there.

    That’s all I’m addressing.

  142. Btw, Antonio, I agree with your final paragraph in #141. I’ve always believed that monogamy is the ideal.

  143. I thank God for the loving and faithful and wholesome and equal family model espoused by the modern day LDS Church.

    What? You mean the nuclear family model of mom, dad, two kids, a dog and a TV while ignoring the neighbors and aged parents?

    Yeah, that’s a real nice ideal to shoot for. Institutionalized isolation and lack of caring for anyone who doesn’t sit on the couch with you watching your favorite sitcom. Where do I sign up?

    The nuclear family is a historical freak, and will likely be short-lived. It’s an artificial family arrangement that is only made possible by an almost Alice-in-Wonderland modern culture and it has plenty of its own sick pathologies.

    I don’t see polygamy as inherently inferior to the nuclear family in the slightest.

  144. #104 – No apologies necessary. I read section 132 again last night as well and can empathize.

    Regards,

    Laura

  145. “#131 It is clear that Zina did not do this of her own free will but rather as what she viewed as a religious requirement. That is what is sad. I know that if a man, even a prophet, came to me and told me that an angel told him to marry me… well I would run the other way. If God really wants me to marry someone, he will initiate that conversation with me directly. And even then, I would probably require multiple board certified psychiatrists to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker.”

    StillConfused,

    You might appreciate the story of how Mary Elizabeth Rollins became Joseph’s polyandrous wife — my apologies if you‘ve already heard it. I wish I had the first hand account but I’ll try to summarize what Compton wrote.

    She reports that she started having dreams that she was Joseph’s wife and felt absolutely horrible about them.

    Later in 1842, Joseph proposes to her saying God instructed him to do so back in 1834 and that angels had visited him 3 times since telling him to obey the principle or else — POW!!!

    Mary, also already married herself, is compltetely reluctant (an understatement) and questions if Joseph has been visited by an angel of the devil and why God wouldn’t send an angel to inform her.

    She tells him she would never marry him unless she has her own witness.

    Joseph tells her to pray.

    She does and eventually gets her very own angelic visitation.

    Sounds like she’s your kinda gal, minus the psychiatrists — no access I imagine;)

  146. Coming on a bit strong, aren’t you, Seth? All the non-sequiturs of that comment make my head hurt. Seriously, a “historical freak”? Any evidence to this point? For the record, we downgraded our TV population and hate watching sitcoms.

  147. Allen Wyatt says:

    It is clear that Zina did not do this of her own free will but rather as what she viewed as a religious requirement. That is what is sad. I know that if a man, even a prophet, came to me and told me that an angel told him to marry me… well I would run the other way. If God really wants me to marry someone, he will initiate that conversation with me directly. And even then, I would probably require multiple board certified psychiatrists to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker.

    I understand what you are saying, but you seem to be applying a double standard. You say that Zina didn’t enter into the Principle of her own free will, yet you allow that you, in your own case, might enter into it if you are convinced that God commanded it.

    All of the first-hand evidence I have been able to locate indicates that Zina did exactly as you would have done. Left to her own devices, she said no. (Actually, she said no 3 times.) Only after she was convinced by God did she say yes. She was being obedient to God, which (in my book) is never an abandonment of free will but the purest and most holy exercise of free will.

    The idea that Zina received her own testimony relative to the Principle is borne out by her own words in an undated autobiography:

    when I heard that God had revealed the law of Celestial marriage that we would have the privilege of associating in family relationships in the worlds to come, I searched the scriptures and by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself that God had required that order to be established in his Church.

    In fact, Zina apparently had an experience very similar to the one that Laura recounts from Mary Elizabeth Rollins. Again, in Zina’s words taken in affidavit by a hostile questioner. When asked what year she married Joseph, Zina refused to give a year, then said:

    It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years. I will tell you the facts. I had dreams—I am no dreamer but I had dreams that I could not account for. I know this is the work of the Lord; it was revealed to me, even when young. Things were presented to my mind that I could not account for. When Joseph Smith revealed this order [Celestial marriage] I knew what it meant; the Lord was preparing my mind to receive it.

    Either we accept Zina at her word as to why she did what she did, or we engage in mind reading and say we know her motivations and intentions better than she does. The latter attitude, however, does violence to the first-hand evidence and treats her decisions with contempt.

    I continue to be amazed by the “true grit” possessed by Zina and all these women. The first-hand record repeatedly demonstrates that they were not manipulated dupes, and anything other than victims. They were strong, independent women who determined what God wanted and then boldly did it, despite the consequences.

    -Allen

  148. Still Confused and Antonio, I am totally with you on this one. Thanks for having the courage to continue to speak your minds. Thank you also for this post I am waiting for the book “Mother Nature” to arrive from Amazon. I think that, like this post, it will offer me some more enlightenment on these women’s motivation.
    Everything else aside, doesn’t the tragic lives that everyone of these women lived after Nauvoo make one wonder? I know “tragic” is subjective but they sure seemed to put their personal happiness on the altar. This doesn’t seem to reflect the “good news” that is my gospel.

  149. I have no idea if we will be asked to live this principle in the CK, and I may not make it there to find out anyway. I am not sure I feel pity for the plural wives. I actually think I envy them for living at a time when angelic visits were more frequent and faith was strong enough to overcome personal preferences.

  150. The problem I have with this whole discussion is that it ignores that the lives of MONOGAMOUS women are equally as “tragic.” There is a ton of crap going on in the American married population. Lots of abuse, dehumanizing, betrayal, lack of respect, violence even.

    And yet all this garbage is somehow supposed to be polygamy’s burden?

    Please, American monogamy hasn’t exactly been a bright and shining star either.

    Fact is, all relationships are seriously messed up, once you get to know them well enough. I’m sure plenty of people here would find my (monogamous) marriage “disgusting” or “creepy” or just “wrong” if they really knew all the details about it. I suppose I would find the same thing about your marriages.

    The only “normal” people are the ones you don’t know.

    I just fed up with polygamy taking on all the societal burden for crap people do to each other when married – in any marital relationship. It’s hardly an exclusively “polygamous thing” you know.

  151. Antonio Parr says:

    My non-member parents have been married for over 50 years, each of which has been highlighted by harmony and unity unfeigned. While no marriage is perfect, my parents came very close to showing me a perfect vision of the potential of two people — one man and one woman — becoming one. They have walked step-by-step and side-by-side throughout their marriage, sharing their deepest dreams; their fondest hopes; their common sorrows. The thought of this almost perfect unity and oneness of purpose being compromised by the presence of another (i.e., some nights my mother gets to be with her husband but other nights she, alone, looks wistfully out of a distant window as the flesh of her flesh closes the curtains of another house to be with another woman) is too jarring and painful to be holy.

    I say again, thank God for the Church’s current valiant emphasis on unity and equality and fidelity in the family and in a marriage between one husband and one wife. May it always be so.

  152. This discussion continues bring to mind experiences while living in London a few years ago which requires a ridiculously long post. This is just my experience I throw out here but please scroll down or ignore if you simply can’t stand to read a ridiculously long post :)

    It was in London that I found that the shame I had long felt from time to time surrounding PM in our history, was suddenly and seemingly inescapably intertwined with others perceptions of my Mormonism generally — a status that previously I had almost always been so proud of.

    By in large, my experience there was that the word Mormon was/is still synonymous with polygamy. Big Love was/is on basic television there — the equivalent of abc or nbc and I suppose there just aren’t enough Mormons there to dispel the myth.

    In this environment, I found myself totally relating to Zina’s sentiments of believing she would never again be looked upon as an honorable woman — thinking that any mention of my Mormonism would immediately conjure up for others their assumptions of PM and that I was a polygamous wife — uggggggggghhhhhhhh — I abhorred and felt utterly worthless just anticipating this hypothetical assumption being made about me and found myself consistently hiding my Mormonism.

    You can bet that when I pondered accounts of how Joseph’s plural wives or Emma sorrowed and felt tortured over the practice even to the point of becoming ill, I always believed and related to them. And in looking back now, I can see distinctly that for about a year and half, my testimony of the Church was gradually being gnawed away by feelings of shame and worthlessness as an LDS Woman associated with this history of LDS PM and a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty about it’s future.

    It is striking to me now how during that time, though the antagonists in the accounts of these women always resonated with me, the climaxes of their stories never did. I always believed them when they bore witness of their sorrows, but never when they bore witness of their peace, their testimonies, their divine communications that lead them to enter into the practice. I could never go there with them. It was unconscious, nevertheless I ignored and screened out what they were saying because really, I used to see them as a type of woman who was very different from me. Sweet and good sure whatever — but stupid, foolish, non-thinking women.

    There finally came a point where I began wondering if I could stay in the Church as I was more honest with myself about how I was feeling. I loved the Church as I knew it now, but looking at its founding history with PM for me was like gazing upon Sodom and Gomorrah and it seemed irreconcilable.

    I’m hesitant to share the rest of my “story” for a number of reasons but really I think it’s one that everyone here already knows if they have gained a testimony of anything in the Church.

    I came to the point where I finally decided that if God could reveal to me that He’d visited Joseph personally in a grove of trees, He could reveal to me if indeed it had been He who had given the commandment to Joseph to initiate all of this aweful PM business.

    I think this was the scariest thing I had ever asked God in my life — if it was true, I worried about all of the possible theological and personal implications — such as PM in the CK for me = irreconcilable misery and loneliness for eternity. On the other hand, if it wasn’t true, what else wasn’t,? would I end up leaving the Church? I felt like I was stepping into a black hole but still I was tired of being afraid of all of the various possibilities and I just wanted to finally deal with whatever was true.

    My story ends with a rare online confrontation with some ex-mormons where I find myself choosing to defend the saints early practice of PM as an act of consecration. I leave my computer. The house is quiet. I’m sitting down to relax for the first time in days, maybe months, maybe a couple of years. The Spirit brings old questions back into my mind but this time with an answer. The Spirit impresses upon my mind that PM had been crucial/necessary/pivotal to the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    I’m in awe and stunned. My races in a paradigm shift and I begin to experience a complete turning of my heart to those early LDS women who had entered into the practice and immeadiately begin to weep. I weep for misjudging their character and I weep for having been so ashamed of them and their sacrifice all while having long been such a beneficiary of it in the innumerable blessings I’ve received in connection with my membership in the Restored gospel all of my life. The irony in making this connection for me is so thick and humbling and enmeshed with my testimony’s strengths and weaknesses. My heart also turns back to Joseph Smith with similar penitent and humbled sentiments. I weep for a long time that afternoon and on and off for days as I ponder their sacrifices to live PM then in connection to my personal blessings I experience today.

    I continue to wish I could replicate something of that experience for others.

  153. Antonio Parr says:

    Laura:

    You are being true to such a remarkable personal experience. I, on the other hand, am trying to be true (as best as I am able) to the light that I have been given. Let’s all look forward to the day when there shall be a unity of faith! Until then, thanks for sharing.

  154. This is the best discussion/analysis of polyandry in D & C 132 that I’ve ever encountered. To wit:

    http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/the-many-definitions-of-adultery/

  155. Antonio, I respect your #152 greatly, as it describes my own LDS parents perfectly, but I also have known men who have been widowed and remarried for whom choosing between the women they have loved equally with all their hearts would be the truest definition of Hell.

    Again, that’s the main reason I am open to the idea that we just don’t understand these things fully and need to cut others some slack in how we view and judge them. I can’t condemn as creepy one man’s true and abiding and deeply profound love of more than one woman, just as I can’t condemn the same sentiments within one woman for more than one man.

    I don’t understand the eternities well enough to be confident about any of this, so I hold to the faith that God will straighten everything out in the end in a way that finally will make sense and bring happiness to all involved.

  156. Afraid I just don’t feel the same way about it Antonio.

    And I don’t think your personal scruples and feelings are to be taken as a guide for anyone’s relationship but your own.

    If you don’t like the practice, fine. But don’t go around telling the rest of us how we are obligated to spend our eternities. If a women loses a husband to death and remarries, who are you to force her to choose between the two just to meet up with your preconceptions of a happy family?

    This is a denial of love and the human heart at the most basic level.

    I do not believe that polygamy will be forced upon the unwilling in the hereafter. But I also believe it will exist. And I believe it should exist.

    If you do not wish to embrace the idea, then you need not do so. But nobody gave you the right to dictate eternal terms for the rest of us.

    I don’t advocate the mortal practice of polygamy because of the obvious potential for problems. But I don’t find the mere concept abhorrent in the slightest. If you don’t want your heaven like that, fine, but keep us out of it.

  157. http://www.righteouswarriors.com/controversial/article9.html

    The above is an excellent article on the subject of polygyny.

    “Feelings” are one thing, and Holy Writ are another. To wit:

    Isaiah 55:9
    9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

  158. The Spirit impresses upon my mind that PM had been crucial/necessary/pivotal to the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Thank you very much for that story, Laura. I think this is an excellent summation.

  159. Antonio, I forgot to add, “Thank you for your response to Laura’s story.” I mean that sincerely. In its own right, it was as powerful as the story itself.

  160. StillConfused says:

    I like Laura’s story. I like Antonio’s story. I am glad that we have a location where we can all share our experiences and thoughts, even though they may greatly differ from each other. It is this ability to view certain aspects from completely different viewpoints and still feel bound by a common faith that gives me hope in my travels.

  161. Antonio Parr says:

    If you do not wish to embrace the idea, then you need not do so. But nobody gave you the right to dictate eternal terms for the rest of us.

    I wouldn’t try (and wasn’t trying) to dictate eternal terms for anyone, Seth. I was merely voicing my opinion, as are you.

    If you feel good about polygamy, or if you even desire such an arrangement in the hereafter, that is your right. I much prefer the beautiful monogamy celebrated so exquisitely by the modern LDS Church.

  162. Well said, StillConfused.

  163. Antonio Parr says:

    Sorry, Seth, I know that I should let this slide, but I am tired and can’t resist . . .

    You wrote

    I don’t advocate the mortal practice of polygamy because of the obvious potential for problems. But I don’t find the mere concept abhorrent in the slightest. If you don’t want your heaven like that, fine, but keep us out of it.

    Who is the “us” to which you refer? This rather engaging blog would be less so if all of the posts read “me, too”; “me, too”; “me, too”; etc. I find the exchange of sincere and thoughtful ideas to be a wonderful thing (even when people of good will disagree), and believe such a dialogue to be an essential element of the quest for wisdom that is one of the callings of mortality.

  164. Antonio Parr says:

    Last thought of the night:

    #62: I don’t understand the eternities well enough to be confident about any of this, so I hold to the faith that God will straighten everything out in the end in a way that finally will make sense and bring happiness to all involved.

    Amen, Ray.

  165. Use of the word “us” was never meant to convey the meaning that anyone else here agrees with my position.

    I don’t think that my sentence does convey that meaning really.

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