Big Love Comes Out

From MikeInWeHo

HBO kicked off the new season of Big Love with big hopes that it will replace The Sopranos as its primary moneymaker. The series has received excellent reviews, lots of positive buzz, and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. The executives at HBO are good at what they do.

If HBO succeeds and the show is a hit, it may present PR issues on a scale never-before encountered by the contemporary Church. Why?

This season, the gloves are off. These characters are portrayed as Mormons. Big Love was always chock-a-block with Mormon imagery, but there are significant differences this year:

The disclaimer stating that polygamists are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been dropped. On the contrary, the complete name of the Church is actually mentioned in the dialogue. Polygamist sect leader Roman Grant asks an investigative officer of the state if he is a “man of faith.” The officer’s reply: “I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Roman nods approvingly. Roman is a very nasty man.

At another point, the show’s main character is shown reading scripture and praying. The camera zooms in on the book that Bill Henrickson lays down. It’s a hardcover blue missionary edition of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. At another point, “Brother Henrickson” is shown teaching his children something about the BoM and Central American geography. Later, his priesthood is mentioned.

It goes on and on, but you get the picture. This season, it’s out in the open. Big Love is all about Mormons. The Church can issue all the style guides it wants, but if the show obtains a mass audience tens of millions of people around the world will identify “Mormon” with the fictional, polygamous Henricksons.


  1. Mike,

    I can’t help thinking that the gay producers of BL are tasting the delicious irony that their pro-alternative-marriage show rides on the back of the anti-alternative-marriage Mormons. I also think it’s deliberate.

    I thought last season was excellent. When Barb was outed, it was just awful!

    Still, given that BL is shown on network TV in Britain, it makes for a tricky time.

  2. Makes me wonder if real mobsters watched the Sopranos and said, “No! That’s wrong! We’re not like that at all!”

  3. A few other thoughts:

    We’ve lost the “we’re not polygamous” battle, haven’t we? In terms of public perception, I don’t think there’s been a shift in the last 100 years. Given all the efforts we make, this is a sobering realisation.

    Also, given the movement towards the tolerance of alternative, adult marriage arrangements, I think one day we may see a stunning historical quirk where the Mormons are some of the last people to oppose polygamy (of the benign, charming, Henrickson-style).

  4. The strange thing is that we really are not polygamous. I don’t see why the BL producers are doing this. It is simply dishonest. Do you have any insight, Mike, into why they are championing this mischaracterization of modern Latter-day Saints?

  5. John,
    I think technically they’re not making that characterization — having Henrickson read the BoM is something a Mormon polygamist would also do — but I think they don’t mind the blurred edges.

  6. From Mike’s description, it sounds far more egregious than having Henrickson reading an LDS blue-cover BoM. It sounds like the name of the Church is used deliberately in a way meant to convey the message to the viewers that these people are all Latter-day Saints, i.e. members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The disclaimer has been dropped.

    In other words, worse than just ignorantly or negligently conveying the message that Latter-day Saints practice polygamy when they do not, the producers are affirmatively acting to convey this message.

    I am wondering what Mike’s view is of this. The effect on the Church is obvious. What I think is the more interesting aspect of the story is why the BL producers have made this change and are being dishonest?

  7. ed johnson says:

    I don’t know why they dropped the disclaimer, but I don’t think regular viewers will be confused. Indeed, it’s impossible to even understand much of the plot unless you understand that this is a fringe practice that needs to be concealed from the mainstream Mormons. Of course some non-viewers or infrequent viewers could get the wrong idea, but if the show were to get anywhere near as popular as the Sopranos, I think it would actually substantially improve public knowledge about the true place of polygamist practice in contemporary Mormonism.

  8. Ed, that’s a fine comment. I think I agree with it. Still, as I said, I would be interested in Mike’s view on why the BL producers are doing this. The effect on the Church is obvious. But the motivations of the BL producers are not so obvious, although it is easy to impute sinister motivations to them. It would be preferable not to do the latter, so I would be interestered to know what Mike thinks is the reason for this change and obfuscation.

  9. Peter LLC says:

    The effect on the Church is obvious

    Not to me; do you think it will have an unadulterated negative effect? While I’m sure people all over the planet within range of the show will suffer from confirmation bias, I don’t see the program worsening the perception of the Church.

  10. Could we consider that Big Love could be a good thing in at least a few ways? First, it’s subtle. Mass media doesn’t do subtle very often. The characters are complex (some of the time, i have my stylistic quibbles) and there are mormon characters who are very complex but good people, Bill’s oldest daughters friend for example.

    Second, while I’m all for demonizing polygamy of the Colorado City variety, perhaps there is somthing to be said for genuine religious belief in a modern context. Moderates of any stripe appeal to me. And, with enough sex thrown in just to prove it’s HBO, that’s what the show gives, genuine religious belief, coupled with an agressive American captialism.

  11. Peter, I don’t see the program worsening the perception of the Church.

    I agree with you on this. The effect to which I am referring which is obvious is that people will feel informed that Mormons are polygamists. Since that is not the case, I wonder what motivation could be behind the changes to BL that actively promote this confirmation bias.

  12. john f., in context of the show, there’s no ambiguity at all. The show makes extensive plot noise about the distinction between polygamist fundamentalists and members of the LDS Church. In fact, the scene Mike mentions in which the full name of the church is used is a dramatic confrontation in which that church name is shown as being in clear tension with the polygamists.

    As Mike says, the characters in this show are and have been very Mormon. I don’t think we’ve ever seen people this Mormon on a national TV show. It’s our day in the sun, folks; viewers will learn more about us as a culture through Big Love than through the PBS documentary, the Romney campaign, or any number of Larry King appearances by Gordon B. Hinckley.

  13. The effect to which I am referring which is obvious is that people will feel informed that Mormons are polygamists. Since that is not the case, I wonder what motivation could be behind the changes to BL that actively promote this confirmation bias.

    There’s really no possibility of such a bias. The show’s dramatic structure hinges around the conflict between LDS Mormons and polygamist Mormons. What the show will leave many viewers with is the sense that LDS Mormons are bigoted toward polygamist Mormons.

  14. RT, why have the BL producers dropped the disclaimer? Why does Roman nod approvingly that the investigative officer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why is Henrickson reading an LDS BoM?

  15. Roman nods approvingly because Roman is the spider to his fly. Right after nodding approvingly, Roman tries to engage in theological debate with the officer — who refuses to participate. It’s played as a failed religious seduction scene.

    Bill Hendrickson is reading an LDS Book of Mormon for any number of reasons. 1) He only left the LDS church for polygamy 6 years ago. 2) He is, after all, still very much a believer in the Book of Mormon. 3) He lives in Sandy, Utah; what other kind of Book of Mormon is he going to have? Actually the polygamist fundamentalist family that I knew in my high school in Holladay, Utah, used LDS quads. So a touch of realism?

    Regarding the disclaimer, it was redundant to the plot of the show — which is very heavy, indeed centrally reliant, on the distinction between LDS folks and polygamists — the show makes absolutely, painfully clear that the Hendricksons would be shunned in Utah if they were exposed as polygamists. I don’t know exactly why the producers dropped the disclaimer, but I also don’t know why they had it in the first place. Maybe they should also include a disclaimer explaining that women are not men?

  16. Matt W. says:

    As a former non-member, I can say it was not obvious to me that being shunned in Utah was being shunned by Mormons.

  17. Matt W., Big Love takes pains to show that basically all of the anti-polygamist characters are faithful members of the LDS church.

  18. I should reiterate, though. The show does try to communicate one very specific negative message about members of the LDS church: that we’re bigoted and hateful toward polygamists. That’s the concern we should, perhaps, have about the show.

  19. Matt W. says:

    JNS- Do you feel like the message then is that the church is bigotted towards those who do not have the same marital persuasion that they do? I honestly haven’t seen the show (can’t afford cable.) so I probably ought to reserve judgment on it, but I am curious as to your persepective.

  20. Well, Matt, the only alternative marital structure the show has taken seriously is polygamy. Same-sex marriage hasn’t come up at all, other than a throw-away gag in which — as a failed attempt at PR — the crusty, vicious polygamist prophet Roman Grant tells a reporter, “We’re just like the gays.” But the show certainly does have a message that LDS folks are persecuting polygamists, and a lot of the drama revolves around the consequences for the Hendrickson family of that.

  21. Northerner says:

    The disclaimer was there only at the end of the very first episode of the first season. So it’s not like something changed all of a sudden with the second season.

  22. #10 “While I’m all for demonizing polygamy of the Colorado City variety”

    Have you ever been to Colorado City or have you just taken Jon Krakauer’s words as gospel? I’ve actually been there and had a chance to interact with the citizens. This is a group just like any other group of people, the good with the bad. The polygamists I met with were pleasant and gracious to me, very nonjudmental of my beliefs (which obviously differed from theirs since I was wearing a skirt and short sleeves) and their teenagers were without a doubt the most well behaved bunch of teenagers I have ever met (I’ve met a lot, I used to be a secondary ed teacher). I’ve only seen Big Love once, but it sounds as if the Colorado City citizens are at least as “good” if not even better than the Henricksens.

  23. Nick Literski says:

    First, let me say that I’ve just begun watching the first season, on my newly-upgraded digital cable with “on demand.” So far, I’m honestly impressed. Take just the first episode, for example. Surely a large portion of viewers came with preconcieved notions that plural marriage was all about sex (something that a few comments from LDS leaders have encouraged, in fact). Instead of feeding this idea, the writers portrayed Bill in the first episode as having…ahem…”ED.” I thought it was masterful. Rather than “who’s Bill sleeping with tonight,” the audience was led to focus on the family dynamics, including how the wives managed to interact and cooperate (mostly).

    Keeping in mind that the public continually tends to link “Mormon” with “polygamy,” I think the series could be good for the LDS church. The Henricksens are portrayed as a loving family, albeit with very normal family struggles. They are “normal” in most respects. They are contrasted heavily against more destructive polygamist groups. The net effect, in my mind, is to suggest that plural marriage can be lived in a very decent, moral, “normal” family.

    While the LDS church doesn’t practice plural marriage, this positive portrayal of the principle is helpful, in creating a more sympathetic view toward the LDS church’s historical practice. If there is anything in the series that is critical of LDS-ism, it’s the portrayal of the Henricksen family’s need to avoid persecution from LDS members, as noted above. Can anyone argue that this is unrealistic, given the LDS church’s history of assisting, if not actually urging, government action against polygamists? If the portrayal makes LDS uncomfortable, perhaps they should consider their ways on this point?

    john f. raises the question of “motivations” which the writers/producers have in perpetuating this series (aside from making profit, of course). I don’t think for a moment that Tom Hanks and his co-producer sat down one day, and said, “Hey! Let’s create a television series that makes everyone think that Mormons are polygamists!” Contrary to john f., I don’t see dark shadows around every corner, lurking in wait to persecute the LDS church. (Mind you, I understand why john sees things this way. He appears to be an activist by nature. So am I, on other topics, and I understand the tendency that comes with it.)

    It may be that the creators of “Big Love” want to illustrate that love can exist in a non-traditional family structure. It may be that they simply find plural marriage fascinating, and believe the public will feel likewise. Maybe they think it’s unfair that virtually all polygamists are portrayed in the media as Ervil Lebaron types.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Consensus is that this season thus far is dull as dirt, which will be the real downfall of the series. Polygamy is a nice gimmick for a show, nothing more — without an interesting story Big Love is over.

  25. Steve, there’s only one episode of this season so far, so if you’re talking about viewers’ experience, there isn’t that much to go on. (At least some viewers thought last night’s episode was good.) The reviews from professional critics are actually pretty positive overall. Big Love Season 2 has a 67 (generally favorable) rating at metacritic. Here are some of the pull quotes:

    The second season… crackles with high drama, suspenseful twists, unexpected humor and emotion. (TV Guide, Matt Roush)

    “Big Love” does more this year than you might expect, and more richly, more provocatively, more dramatically and amusingly, too. (Newsday, Diane Werts)

    “Big Love” derives suspense, humor and thrills from HBO’s signature insight: that Americans are profoundly anxious about how their families are different from other families… the tension is just as high [as in the Sopranos]. (New York Times, Virginia Heffernan)

    There isn’t a total consensus, of course, that Big Love is a great drama, although from what I can see that seems to be the plurality opinion. But there are a handful of reviews like this:

    “Big Love” is a waste of time, and an excruciating waste of these actors’ talents…. It’s just that sanctimonious people with persecution complexes make for terrible drama. (Chicago Tribune, Maureen Ryan)

  26. re # 23, Nick you have misunderstood me. I am not questioning why the producers are perpetuating the series. I was asking Mike his opinion of why the BL producers have made changes that have the potential of blurring the distinction between Latter-day Saints and polygamists. JNS has assured me that nothing could be further from the truth. So, there’s my answer.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    JNS, 67 a Metacritic is not a ringing endorsement by a long shot. I’ve read those reviews as well (and more). It’s just not that great a show, and if it weren’t on HBO and part of a massive marketing campaign I think it would be long dead.

  28. Steve, I think it’s great — but not of universal appeal. I think the reviews probably reflect that. There are a lot of legitimate reasons for people to have differences of opinion here, even beyond aesthetic issues.

  29. By the way, a 67 in the television section of metacritic is actually pretty strong. For example, it’s exactly the same score Heroes got. A 67 rating would have made Big Love tied for the 9th-best reviewed show of the fall tv season this last year.

  30. Steve Evans says:

    JNS, I agree with you (except for the “great” part). I think that it’s trying to be polemical but it just flops. There are other shows that do a better job of showing familial tension and subverting suburbia (Weeds, for example).

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Heroes is an off-and-on show — I should know!

  32. My wife and I have had 3 neighbors recently ask us about Big Love.

    I actually thought the conversations went well. These Big Love viewers seemed to think that the Poly family was not really LDS but from a splinter group.

    I am wondering if anybody is of the opinion that all the focused attention on us is in the long run good for us? That all publicity in the end is good publicity? Has anybody ever met a convert who first started investigating the church because of the Osmonds back in the 70’s?

  33. I think this is great exposure for polygamous lifestyle. There is already increased awareness and viable acceptance among christianity to some degree as more and more preachers accept it and teach it from the Bible. There is even in our secular culture more push for acceptance of alternative lifestyles and marriages. This might be a good thing if some time soon the laws are changed to allow polygamous relations then maybe the Lord could send the prophet a revelation to reinstate His New & Everlasting Covenant. The Church is officially prohibited from teaching polygamy by the Edmonds Tucker Act and that if the Church did anything to endorse or teach polygamy in any way the Church would lose all it’s assets.
    This is why the Church needs to be portrayed as completely against polygamy until other secular or chirstian forces cause a change in the laws and the Edmonds Tucker act overturned.

    I find it interesting that two professed homosexuals are the producers of BL.

    We may have to face or concede to secular acceptance of homosexual marriage to finally acheive polygamous marriage acceptance.

  34. Nick Literski says:

    Thanks for the clarification, john f.

  35. MikeInWeho says:

    Time will tell, J. and Steve. It seems clear that the reviews are quite good, but nobody can really predict these things. For me Big Love is much more interesting and compelling than Weeds (which I hate, cough cough), but we have some massive observer bias here. I wonder if they’re discussing Weeds over in the Stonernacle?

    As for the motives of the creators, who knows what they’re thinking. I tend to agree with Ronan that it’s all deliberate, though. These guys are a gay couple, and at least one of them is from a Mormon background. How could they not have an agenda? I certainly would.

    We may even be able to discern it. Last night I convinced my partner (“I don’t want to watch your weird Mormon stuff!”) to sit through Big Love with me. He quickly got into it and said “this is just code for gays.” It’s no great stretch to substitute a benign, charming gay family for the Henricksons as they face persecution at the hands of their moralizing neighbors. (For what it’s worth, Pete was also convinced that this show will never become the new Sopranos and he’s much more qualified than me to speculate on that — so don’t get too excited, bbell : )

    From my perspective, it’s a brilliant effort. What better way to neutralize your fierce critics’ cultural influence than by co-opting their portrayal in the popular media? I hope it’s a huge hit.

    re: 33 I’ll accept that deal, Jothan.

  36. …this show will never become the new Sopranos…

    I think that’s probably right. But it might become the new Six Feet Under.

  37. a random John says:

    john f.,

    Have you watched the show?

  38. Ben There says:

    A point needs to be made that the “disclaimer” that was allegedly “dropped” aired only ONE TIME, at the very end of the first episode of the first season, and it was not even a disclaimer in the strictest sense. It was not a lasting feature, just a tiny footnote they added to appease the church, noting that the modern LDS church does not practice polygamy. It was never dropped this season, for it didn’t need to be dropped, as it never existed as a regular disclaimer, certainly not of the variety that we often see, such as “This program may not be suitable for younger viewers” or “Viewer discretion advised”.

  39. Ben There says:

    13 JNS:

    What the show will leave many viewers with is the sense that LDS Mormons are bigoted toward polygamist Mormons.

    They largely are. LDS are among the most bigoted against Mormon polygamists. Most non-LDS just don’t care. It’s the LDS who get most riled up when they learn that there are Mormons who are not LDS and who practice polygamy.

    14 John F:

    RT, why have the BL producers dropped the disclaimer? Why does Roman nod approvingly that the investigative officer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why is Henrickson reading an LDS BoM?

    See comment 38 about the so-called disclaimer. This is being blown way out of proportion.

    Roman nods more in a “ah, I see” way, than “approvingly”. Its as though Roman is nodding that he understands that the deputy’s performance of his official duties might be influenced by his LDS religion, which disapproves of polygamy.

    Bill Henrickson is reading an LDS printing of the BoM because he is an independent fundamentalist, and most independent fundamentalists read copies of the LDS scriptures, as they do not publish their own BoM, as do the larger fundamentalist groups.

  40. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 38 I stand corrected, Ben. Thanks for the clarification. Seems clear that they’re not too concerned about appeasing the church anymore, regardless.

  41. Ben There says:

    17 and 18 JNS:

    Anytime polygamy comes up in any context with LDS members, many said LDS members trip over each other trying to denounce polygamy the loudest. This is something I have seen time and time again.

    Also, I know fundamentalist families whose children go to public school, and said children are taunted by their LDS classmates as being “plygs”.

    Let’s face it: most LDS do not go out of their way to befriend non-LDS people, and in some cases they go out of their way to avoid certain people. Not exactly the friendliest message being sent there, eh?

    If LDS people are not bigoted toward polygamists, then they need to prove it by their behavior.

    And it’s not that I don’t understand WHY LDS people are often bigoted toward polygamists: they resent that non-Mormons confuse fundies with LDS, and this causes some embarrassment. But that doesn’t make it right to call the children names in school.

  42. MikeInWeho says:

    Here’s a related story which just popped up on Yahoo! news:

    Continue to the bottom to see a reference to Big Love.

  43. …that doesn’t make it right to call the children names in school.

    I agree entirely. There’s no excuse for any of us to mistreat anyone else — children or adults.

  44. Ben There says:

    40 Mike: I’d say the producers were awfully nice to include the footnote at the end of episide one, to make the church happy, when really there was no reason they had to do that. As has already been mentioned, much of the drama in this show hinges on the fact that the protagonists are on the receiving end of disapproval from their largely LDS neighbors, coworkers, employees, etc. The whole “LDS don’t approve of polygamy” is a crucial plot element that hardly requires a disclaimer.

    Besides that, why should the producers have to appease the church? The show is not about the church, nor is it about church members. It is about independent Mormon fundamentalists, who have family ties to an FLDS-like Mormon fundamentalist group. This is based on a situation that exists in many families who practice plural marriage.

    The producers have done so much research to get things right in this show. Even down to the whole “Mother of the Year” thing. In 1999 a similar event actually happened in Utah.

    The one thing about the second season that got me, was that they are pulling away from the Juniper Creek/UEP = Short Creek/UEB equation that I thought was pretty solidly defined last season. But by showing the pretend news reports of a fugitive “prophet”, it was established once and for all, that aside from any similarities, Juniper Creek is not Short Creek (now known as Colorado City/Hildale, the base of the FLDS). I wonder where this is going.

  45. Ben There says:

    23 Nick:

    “Applause”. Nice comment!

  46. Steve Evans says:

    “…that doesn’t make it right to call the children names in school.”

    It depends. Do any of the children have really large heads? If so, you could call he or she “Big Head.” If one of the kids had red hair you could refer to him or her as “stupid red head.” And so forth.

  47. Ben There says:

    This may indicate a certain level of popularity: Big Love was the 11th most TiVo’d show for the week ENDING Sunday, 6-10-07. That is, the RERUNS of last season, were the 11th most recorded show among TiVo households. I am sure the TiVo rankings next week will indicate that the season opener was even more popular.

  48. So then, here’s my question.

    In today’s accepting world. What if polygamy was legalized. Would the church then reverse it’s stance? If so what would it do to the membership? I know several people would leave the church if it did. I know it’s just a game of conjecture. But it’s an interesting one.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    …..and I’d also point out that due to an unfortunate mishap, my new office nickname is “Chocolate Pants.” Which just goes to show you that such things happen. And I’m not even a polygamist.

  50. Steve Evans says:


  51. Steve is right. Sometimes it’s so right to call other kids names that it seems wrong. But it’s so right.

  52. Like Chocolate pants.
    What could be wrong about that?

  53. The disclaimer that the show should carry is this one:

    Viewers should be advised that Chloe Sevigny is not as attractive as reputed. In fact, she is unattractive.

  54. Ben There says:

    22 Steph: Now why would anyone want to confuse themselves more by actually learning the facts before spouting off?

    I know former FLDS members, and none of them like Warren Jeffs very much, but they all love their community, and they love what their church was before Warren Jeffs turned it into his own little kingdom.

    I think that any objective observer would note what you noted, not only about Colorado City, but also about Centennial Park, AUB members, and the majority of independent fundamentalists. As a group, these are some very nice people.

    And, when the question of polygamy isn’t being discussed, the LDS as a group are some really nice people, too. But so many LDS lose that when the topic of polygamy comes up, and then their nasty sides come out.

  55. I refuse to watch any show I see advertised on the beach by planes pulling big banners, including this one.

  56. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 44
    “The show is not about the church, nor is it about church members.”

    I’m not so sure. It’s about Mormon culture and society in Utah, at the very least. Many LDS (including the leadership, it seems) feel a need to assert there’s an absolute boundary between themselves and the polygamists, but this appears driven by some psychological or PR need more than fact.

    The Church is hard-pressed to convince the public that it has nothing to do with polygamy when a certain minority of members in good standing clearly sympathize with its practitioners, defend its theological necessity, and expect its return. You can see proof of that in this very string (Comment #33, etc).

  57. Ben There says:

    Steve, amri, and gst…you all are too funny.

    Actually, Chloë Sevigny is not all that unattractive. When she tries to dress all hip, she looks like a freak. But in her modest, prairie garb, she’s kinda hot.

    Margene is my favorite, though. She’s as cute as a button.

  58. Ben There says:

    55: Seriously? They have airplanes advertising Big Love? Cool.

    When I was a child and lived in an area with a much greater population density (that is, in a major city), I used to love watching the airplanes fly by with their banners. I had forgotten all about those until now, since they have not been part of my life in decades.

  59. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 49

    Steve, I certainly hope that your new Nom de Bureau is related to the color of today’s Dockers and not some unfortunate episode of incontinence.

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, it’s a long story.

    Actually it’s a short and humiliating story.

  61. Thomas Parkin says:


    I think there is a better chance of Elvis being called to the Q of 12 than for the church to reverse its position on polygamy.

    For at least the next 40 years.

    Viewed from a purely non-revelatory point of view: look how long it took to reverse the position on polygamy in the first place, how long it took to reverse the Preisthood problem. How long it took to allow missionaries to have conversations rather than recite memorized dialogues. The church is a large, conservative boat, desperately concerned that it is moving in the right direction. You don’t just turn that big boat on a dime.


  62. oh I know. but it’s a fun thing to think about like Elvis being an apostle.

  63. Mike,
    that means Steve’s Dockers are not chocolate colored on purpose.

  64. re: bigotry towards polygamists.

    I hear members of the church are also bigotted towards child molesters, convicted murderers, and rapists.

    Those jerks!

  65. #56 last paragraph.


    There may be some but in my experience they are few and far between. Lets not forget one of the questions in the temple interview. Its largely designed to catch polygs.

    The Jothan types are quite rare.

    Ben There: Why do you have so much contact with polygs? I have been in the church my whole life and never spoken with an open practitioner of Polygamy. And yes I have spent some time in Utah and Idaho.

  66. Yes, airplanes. Last weekend at the beach I saw banners for Big Love, a car dealership, and something else, forget now. I can’t stand those things. Like we’re not bombarded with enough billboards and advertising everywhere, we have to have it at the beach, too.

  67. bbell, ah, the word “open.” There’s the rub.

  68. Ben There says:

    56 Mike: I guess that what I said was not entirely accurate. Certainly, some church members play into the drama, but at its core, but the show is not really about them. The family we are watching (and presumably rooting for) are not LDS. If the church has anything about this show to be upset about, it might be that so many of the “bad guys” in the show are presumably LDS.

    But, I don’t see this as being altogether unrealistic, given that so many LDS do behave that way when confronted with polygamy. And we all know that the church has never really seemed concerned that its members might be uncharitable toward polygamists, whom the church generally sees as usurping their name and besmirching their hard-won reputation.

  69. Nick Literski says:

    Oddly enough, your comment illustrates LDS bigotry toward those engaged in consensual plural marriage. Many practitioners of plural marriage are wonderful, kind, devout people, simply trying to live what they believe deity expects from them. To lump them in with “child molesters, convicted murderers and rapists,” is really, really offensive.

    Ted Bundy was baptized LDS, you know. Should someone spout off about LDS being serial killers?

  70. Nick, I ask you this: is it worse to be a serial killer, or to have no sense of irony?

  71. Ben There says:

    64: Except that, like the vast majority of LDS, the vast majority of fundamentalist Mormons are neither child molesters, convicted murderers, and rapists. While some fundies might do some of these bad things, so do some LDS, even LDS from good families.

    You can’t seriously be equating plural marriage with those crimes against persons, can you? Or maybe you are! In which case, my hypothesis of frequently-occuring irrational LDS bigotry toward polygamists might be true.

  72. To lump them in with “child molesters, convicted murderers and rapists,” is really, really offensive.

    Good, that’s what I was going for.

    Anyway, the point is that Latter-day Saints are pretty much like everyone else, and what is considered criminal or immoral by any group is going to be punished in one way or another.

    Whether or not Polygamy should be considered criminal and immoral is another question, but it is obvious that it is, and so it is perfectly reasonable that it is punished.

  73. Ben There says:

    65 bbell:

    There may be some but in my experience they are few and far between. Lets not forget one of the questions in the temple interview. Its largely designed to catch polygs.

    True. And over the last couple years, BYU and all other church colleges have added a specific question to their application asking whether the applicant believes in–not practices, but BELIEVES in plural marriage.

    I wonder what about this issue is SO upsetting to the church that they have to set up all these filters to catch someone who might just BELIEVE in it? To me, that seems awfully paranoid.

    The Jothan types are quite rare.

    As are, I suspect, the Ben There types. :)

    Ben There: Why do you have so much contact with polygs? I have been in the church my whole life and never spoken with an open practitioner of Polygamy. And yes I have spent some time in Utah and Idaho.

    For the same reason I have friends who are Lutheran, friends who are Pentecostal, friends who are Jewish, and friends who are SDA. I don’t restrict myself to being friends only with people in my ward! I get out more than that! And as JNS mentioned earlier, the keyword in your question is “open”. Most practitioners of plural marriage are not “open”, which means that they blend in with the regular LDS folk around them pretty dang well. Oh the Horror!!!!!

    Oh, one more thing: using the word “plyg” is like using the word “nig—“. No one polite does such a thing. I am sure you just didn’t know. But now you do.

  74. Matt, I think your equation of polygamy with violent crimes of various kinds is probably hard to sustain, morally — setting offensiveness aside completely for the moment. Polygamy in itself is a victimless crime; the crimes you discuss are not. Are you equally repulsed by tax fraud as by polygamy?

  75. Ben There says:

    72 Matt,

    If it weren’t for that fact that your and my ancestors fought so hard against people with your very attitude, it might be understandable. But given that the Church’s fight for acceptance–no, not even acceptance, but merely tolerance–is such a HUGE aspect of the Mormon history and mythos, it is incomprehensible how you can be so callous to people today who are just in the same exact spot as our church was, merely a few generations ago.

    What happened to that Mormon zeal to protect the underdog and to fight for their rights? Oh wait, never mind. We gave up that crap when we became the top dog.

  76. Nick Literski says:

    He was classifying plural marriage in the same category as child molestation, murder, and rape. There was no indication in his comment that he was being sarcastic or intentionally ironic. His follow-up at #72 would seem to reinforce the idea that he meant what he said, since he states that plural marriage “obviously” is “criminal and immoral.”

  77. Ben There says:

    72 Matt:

    Whether or not Polygamy should be considered criminal and immoral is another question, but it is obvious that it is, and so it is perfectly reasonable that it is punished.

    Just as it was “perfectly reasonable” that blacks who drank from the whites-only water fountain were appropriately punished!

  78. Ah, Nick. And yet I’m sure Matt knew he was being offensive toward polygamists — he simply believes that such offensiveness is justified. So irony lives on. And so do serial killers.

  79. Ben There says:

    76 Nick, you are right. This fellow clearly does equate three consenting adults marrying one another with killing one another!

    There was a time when being black in this country was a presumption of criminality and immorality.

    I can only hope that we move past the blatant bigotry against polygamists, just as we have moved past our former collective bigotry against skin color.

  80. JNS: Whether Polygamy (or Tax fraud) is a victimless crime or not is debateable, but sure, there is in group punishment that comes with any criminal event which will be meted out by the group which it pertains to. No one is going to call you a bigot for not wanted to go hang out and be chummy with someone who is known to be, say a drug addict (a victimless crime, one might say).

    Ben: I assure you, as a convert, my ancestors where not defending Polygamy. In fact, my ancestors were probably persecuting your ancestors.

  81. Ben There says:

    80 Matt,

    I see. So you defend that persecution? As a convert, have you no empathy for what the saints before you went through?

  82. Nick: Your Bigotry towards members of the church who don’t think like you do is showing, and your attempts to punish me with scathing rhetoric are excellently illustrating my point.


  83. Matt, it’s hard for me to see how consenting polygamy — without coercion, child abuse, welfare fraud, or other secondary crimes — could be anything other than victimless crime. And I’m not asking you to hang out with polygamists. Among other things, I don’t currently know any, so I can’t help you there. But: are perpetrators of tax fraud comparable in your view to murderers? What about those guilty of unlawful cohabitation — living as a family without being married — but not polygamy?

  84. By the way, could I ask for all of us, across the board, to turn down the temperature on this conversation by 40 degrees or so? We have differences of opinion, clearly, but I would hope we can avoid personal attacks even so.

  85. Ben There says:

    Matt, you do know that Joseph Smith, who founded the church you converted to, was a polygamist right? Was Joseph the moral equivalent of a murderer or rapist?

  86. Note: Ben There’s comment #85 was edited to remove unnecessary personal attacks. The same will be done to all others who want to use this thread to hurl epithets at others.

  87. Ben: (81) and (77)

    My flippant answer to 81 would be jokingly “zilch”

    and my serious answer to 77 would be that the real question is whether or not Polygamy is really wrong or not. It was never really wrong to be black. I Guess I would hold that it is normally wrong to practice polygamy, and believing in Modern Revelation, that it is also normally wrong to go against modern revelation. Further, perhaps we are thinking of two different levels of bigotry. I am suggesting that as a faithful Latter-day, I don’t want to go hang out with fundamentalist Mormons nor participate in their reindeer games. The same could be said about several other religious groups. That doesn’t mean I want to deny them their inalienable rights.

    Lastly, something I want to add is that I think it is interesting that one group of people is always complaining that the Church is too tolerant towards polygamy, and another that it is not tolerant enough…

  88. …one group of people is always complaining that the Church is too tolerant towards polygamy, and another that it is not tolerant enough…

    A very interesting point.

  89. Ben There says:

    87 Matt:

    That doesn’t mean I want to deny them their inalienable rights.

    How do you reconcile this statement with equating polygamists with rapists and murderers? The church felt that practicing polygamy was their inalienable right, but they have never argued that murder or rape were inalienable rights.

    How are modern polygamists any different than early church polygamists? Modern revelation has nothing to do with it, since that is neither here nor there when it comes to civil government.

  90. Ben There says:

    86 Admin:

    I don’t recall what I said that was so awful, but I apologize because if I can’t even remember it, I must not have put much care and thought into my remarks. Shame on me. I’m turning down the thermostat as we speak.

  91. Nick Literski says:

    Matt W. #87:
    I understand that you disapprove of plural marriage on the basis that it is against the law, and against the current teachings of the LDS church. I’m curious about your comments regarding who you “hang out with,” however.

    Do you “hang out with” catholics, lutherans, buddhists, or jews? Would it be “bigotted” for you to refuse to do so? How is that different than refusing to “hang out with” people who’s religion happens to be Mormon fundamentalism?

  92. Steve Evans says:

    Ben There, the difference is about 150 years.

    “Oh, one more thing: using the word “plyg” is like using the word “nig—”.”

    That’s patently ridiculous — I cannot believe you’re making that analogy. Look, I appreciate the participation of a real-life fundie on BCC as much as the next guy, but don’t push the bounds of civil discourse and logic any further.

  93. JNS (83)- This is what I get for trying to be funny I guess. Anyway, since I am not really familiar with tax fraud enough to say whether it is a victimless crime (Isn’t tax fraud defrauding the government and thus the government is the victim.) Let’s use the example of wearing a seatbelt. Would that be ok?

    If so, buckle up…

    Let’s say there are three people (or more) who enter into concentrating polygamy and it all works out peachy keen throughout their whole lives and there is no child abuse etc. Who are the victims? Well, if in a religious setting, the people believe that God has authorized their polygamy, when in fact he has not, the victims are the people themselves who entered into the marital relationship.

    Many laws exist to protect us from ourselves, and to protect those whom we love from our choices. Like the seatbelt law.

  94. JNS (84) I would try and behave. Sorry for being inflamatory. I was attempting “reductio ad absurdum”. Somehow this never works for me…

  95. Ben There says:

    88: I think there are two different questions that are being jumbled into one. I don’t think anyone reasonably believes that the church cannot have their own rules that one has to adhere to, in order to belong to their club. However, their clubhouse rules should not color their relationships with the world at large.

    It is historically inconsistent for the church to actively engage in the prosecution of polygamists as they have done on occasion.

    While they don’t have to let polygamists into their treehouse, they shouldn’t deny the rights of polygamists to have their own treehouses.

  96. Ben There (89),
    One non-revelatory difference between current and 19th century polygamy is that, until 1878, when Reynolds was decided, Mormon polygamists had a viable argument that Edmunds-Tucker was an unconstitutional deprivation of their free exercise. The Supreme Court decided in Reynolds that the first free exercise clause meant something different, but it was the first time that clause had been interpreted by the S.Ct. that I’m aware of.

    Which is not to say the persecution of polygamists is right, but the prosecution (by the state) is legal.

  97. Matt, I certainly agree that it’s unwise to have incorrect religious beliefs.

  98. I wonder if those that decry that the church shuns polygamists also decry that the church shun gays.

  99. Ben There says:

    92 Steve: I understand that for you, the word plyg may not be offensive. But for those who are polygamists, it is equally offensive to them as the n-word is to a black. I suspect you have never felt the feeling of being a member of a persecuted minority, but being members of a persecuted minority is something that polygamists have to contend with every day. And to them, epithets such as plyg carry with them the hateful tone and inherent bigotry just as does the n-word.

    I am not trying to be over the top, but merely making the point that we don’t need to use unkind words to have a discussion.

  100. it’s hard for me to see how consenting polygamy — without coercion, child abuse, welfare fraud, or other secondary crimes — could be anything other than victimless crime

    Isn’t this a quote from last night’s show?

  101. Ben There says:

    98: Has the church ever specifically called for the enforcement of laws against homosexual behavior?

    Again, two different questions. The church need not welcome gays with open arms into their treehouse, but likewise, the church should not be campaigning against the rights of gays to build their own treehouses.

  102. Matt W. says:

    Nick 91 I probably wouldn’t hang out with a catholic who practiced polygamy either, to be honest. seriously, you do raise a very good point regarding “hanging out”, I guess it would depend on whether their religion participated in things I object to and whether they theselves participated in those things, to be perfectly honest.

    Also, to define hanging out, I don’t have a problem speaking with anyone, as I hope my willingness to participate online shows, but I’m frankly probably not going to ask them to baby sit my kids. I’m not going to invite a person who drinks alchohol to babysit my kids either (with the exception of my sister, of course. Maybe if my sister becomes a catholic polygamist, I’ll make an exception there too…)

  103. Ben There says:

    96 Sam,

    Laws against homosexual behavior are now unconstitutional because of the recent Lawrence and Garner v. Texas ruling, a complete reversal of the SCOTUS position of merely 17 years earlier.

    And we all learn in history about the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, or the Dred Scott ruling.

    The Supreme Court seems to reflect the prevailing mores of the public at the time, meaning it is hardly a moral compass I would put much faith in.

  104. Matt W. says:

    Ben 95 I am a citizen of the United States as well as a member of the LDS church, so my citizenship is what is at issue with polygamists in my treehouse(The United Sates).

    Also, I can honestly say I probably would have been unable to have the faith required to be LDS in the days of Polygamy. In fact, I probably would have been unable to have the faith required to be LDS before 1998 (When small temples were begun in earnest.)

  105. Ben There says:

    104 Matt, Obviously I am not going to change your mind, I know that. I am just hoping you might see the value of offering kindness to all of Gods children….even if “post-1998 LDS” is all the faith you can muster up, surely you must have some kindness and tolerance deep within, somewhere….

  106. Matt W. says:

    threadjack: Wow that Elder Christofferson interview was awesome. (to make it less of a threadjack, he does talk very candidly about polygamy.)

    Ben: I am not sure I equate kindness with tolerance.

  107. StillConfused says:

    I have polygamist clients who refer to themselves as “plyg”s and don’t find it offensive to be referred to as such by others. They were actually a nice group, financial successful, community oriented and very mature and sophisticated.

  108. I have never seen Big Love but I really want to. I am out of the U.S. more than not these days — anyone know where I can find these episodes online?


  110. glenn:

    do a google search for “eztv.” you’ll need the proper free software as well.

  111. Ok — thanks.

  112. Uh, so I’ve heard anyway.

    As others have pointed out, anyone that has actually watched more than a few minutes of the show know the points presented in #0 are much ado about nothing.

    The note about Mormons not practicing polygamy was only shown once, after that is was unnecessary because anyone watching the show could tell by the storyline that Mormons didn’t practice.

    The confrontation between the Roman and the LDS dude makes it clear they aren’t going to be close friends, and the Mormon isn’t a polygamist.

    LDS BOM, there are kids in my nieces Salt Lake neighborhood that have 2-4 moms, they all use our pleather triple combination. These same kids are also usually mocked and made fun of for being polygamist kids and dressing funny. The polygamist being treated like dirt by LDS members is totally based on fact. The scumbag father of this same niece thought it was funny to plant signs proclaiming these people ‘Polygamist fornicators’ in their lawns.

    So there you go, as far as I can tell Big Love producers have no anti-LDS agenda, they’re telling a story based on fact.

  113. Ben There (103),
    But you asked for a difference between the practice then and now. There has, until now, been no reversal of Reynolds and, in fact, it undergirds the current understanding of the Free Exercise clause.

    That’s not to say it won’t change, but I’m not interested in complete judicial relativism.

    Again, as I said, that’s no reason to persecute polygamists. But it is a substantive difference between the practice of polygamy pre-1878 and today.

  114. Matt W. says:

    Let me make it clear I wouldn’t post signs in anyone’s yards, nor would I make fun of anyone for dressing funny. I also think it’s a bad idea to make fun of children in any case, even to call them “stupid red heads”

  115. Especially because redheads are known to be unusually charming, handsome, and intelligent.

  116. Ben There says:

    107: I understand, just as my younger sister has black friends of her youthful age who call themselves nig—s. But I would not refer to them like that, and nor would they likely take kindly if I did.

    112: Thank you very much for sharing what you have seen and heard with respect to similar comments I have made. As for the yard signs? Wow, that’s a new level in low…that’s far out, and just plain sick and mean. Does this scumbag father burn crosses, too? Is said scumbag father a “good LDS” churchgoer?

  117. Ben There says:

    Sam B: Good point. However, the Church did not consider matters final in 1878, with Reynolds.

    The first Manifesto didn’t come out till a dozen years later, and plural marriage in the church continued to exist for yet another dozen plus 2 years with a wink and a nod, until the Second Manifesto in 1904.

  118. Ben There,
    I know, I thought about that. I know what I think about that, but can’t put it into a coherent, internally consistent manner. That kind of drops me back to Steve’s response: holding on to an illegal practice for 12 (or 26) years is significantly different than nearly 130 years.

    (And yes, I’ve thought of MLK Jr’s LFBJ, where he advocates disobedience to unjust laws. I’m not claiming complete internal consistency. Frankly, although I have no person interest either in legalizing or maintaining illegal polygamous marriage, I think that, if society is concerned about polygamy because it engenders tax fraud, child abuse, or whatever, we should prosecute the tax fraud, child abuse, or whatever; polygamy itself, with consenting and eyes-wide-open adults seems pretty darn victimless to me. But I don’t see the Church active in the prosecution of polygamists today. That could be, however, that the only polygamists near me are the African polygamists in New York who were featured a couple months ago in the NY Times.)

  119. Nick Literski says:

    risky response to threadjack:
    While the Christofferson interview has some very interesting comments, he was…ahem…”less than forthright” on the subject of evolution:

    CHRISTOFFERSON: I can’t think of a doctrinal statement by the church on evolution.

    While we can argue that it’s not really taken seriously today, the First Presidency certainly did issue a doctrinal statement on evolution in 1909, entitled “The Origin of Man.”

  120. Ben There says:

    119 Sam, It’s not an easy issue, I agree. And I don’t personally have a pony in this show, but I think MLK was spot on, as were others who engage in civil disobedience to unjust laws.

    Thankfully, the current AGs of UT and AZ have based their actions on the very model you offer: prosecute real crimes, but leave otherwise law-abiding polygamists alone. And in reality, at least in Utah, they have little choice: for the same law that outlaws polygamy also outlaws any cohabiting, unmarried couple, and it would be mighty hard to justify prosecuting every “shack-up” couple and anyone who has had an extra-marital affair.

    To my knowledge, the most recent Church-sponsored prosecution of polygamy was when BYU loaned law professor Monte Stewart to the prosecution team that took Tom Green to the cleaners. The Church’s participation in the bungled raid of Short Creek in 1953 is well documented.

    (For the record, I do not sanction Tom Green-variety polygamy, or anyone who marries 14 year old girls.)

  121. Ben,
    I’m substantially in agreement with you, then. The Short Creek raid was the most recent I was aware of, and, given that my parents were both barely toddlers in 1953, I don’t consider that current prosecution. I wasn’t aware that a BYU law prof participated in the prosecution of Tom Green, but that doesn’t bother me–law profs like to have real-world experience occasionally.

    (And, for the record, the idea that an otherwise active member of the Church would put accusatory and mean-spirited yard-signs in other peoples’ lawns is inexcusable. Fortunately, based on my experience, it has to be the vast exception.)

  122. Matt W. says:

    Nick 119 That was one of my favorite parts, because that’s where he and I agree. Maybe NDBTF Gary will do a post on it and call Elder C out on the carpet for it. Anyway, I was grateful for it. closing threadjack.

  123. Ben There says:

    121 Sam, Thanks. No doubt any lawyer who participated in the circus that was the Tom Green affair probably got his fill of “real world experience” and then some :)

    While 1953 seems a world away to me, too, for many modern polygamists it was their parents who were carted off, and is therefore still a very real reminder in their minds of what the state is capable of doing.

  124. 120 – “or anyone who marries 14 year old girls.” –
    like Joseph Smith?

  125. As for the yard signs? Wow, that’s a new level in low…that’s far out, and just plain sick and mean. Does this scumbag father burn crosses, too? Is said scumbag father a “good LDS” churchgoer?

    I don’t know about now, we don’t talk much. At the time he was the EQ President in his ward. There’s a definite uneasiness that sometimes becomes very mean in his area where there are fundamentalists and LDS members living close together.

    Not to threadjack too much, but did I read earlier in the thread that you are a fundamentalist Ben There? If so, how do you get along with LDS member around you?

  126. 120 – “or anyone who marries 14 year old girls.” –
    like Joseph Smith?

    C’mon now, just when people were starting to act civil?

  127. Ben There says:

    124 Troy: This barely deserves a response, and I suppose I will get kicked for feeding the troll…..oh well. I am guessing you know that 14 was a very common age for folks to get married in the 1830s. Heck, my great grandparents (monogamous) were married at 16 (him) and 14 (her), just in the early part of last century. There was a whole different level of maturity that young folks had that is much different now.

  128. Ben There says:

    125 JJohnsen,

    Some might consider me a fundamentalist, but I am actually an active member in my LDS ward, and married to only one woman :) But, like a number of people I know in the Church, I suppose I do have fundy leanings, but I stay within the lines that the Church expects of its members.

  129. Ben There says:

    An article from Reuters today may be of interest to readers here. Note the photographs of the family that looks exactly like your LDS friends and neighbors.

    Fundamental Mormons seek recognition for polygamy:

    (forgive me if the link doesn’t show up right)

  130. It’s amazing how relatively controlled, rational, intelligent people go beserk when certain topics are discussed. If I might add my opinion on the ORIGINAL post:

    I don’t see Big Love having a negative net impact on the Church. Those who adamantly oppose it and couldn’t have their opinions changed if the Lord Himself appeared and demanded it will see whatever they are determined to see anyway; those who equate the Church with polygamy and have half a brain will realize that they are not synonymous; those with less than half a brain – who cares; those who see polygamy as only a Warren Jeffs-like atrocity (and have half a brain) will feel less vitriole toward polygamists – and, by extension, the Church; etc. Overall, net positive, IMO.

    Now to participate in the warfare (hopefully not): I grew up less than 5 miles from a polygamist community – and I grew up in Utah County. They were good, honest, hard-working and faithful people. Most of my friends in college were anarchist, socialist, atheist or homosexual (and I am NOT grouping in ANY way other than the reality of my situation, so don’t go there). If I were to choose with whom I would hang out, in general, I would choose the polygamists and (chose) the homosexuals. Generally, they were much nicer people.

    Finally, I would hope for compassion, at the very least, for a group of people who are marginalized for living the exact same life my ancestors were persecuted terribly for living. Acceptance of abuses? Never. Acceptance of the lifestyle? Can see both conclusions. Compassion for the people? Most definitely.

  131. Ben There, it is my understanding that in the early to mid-19th century, it was not unheard of for 14 year-olds to get married, but it certainly was not common.

  132. John Williams says:

    I’m sure life expectancy was a lot shorter in the 1840s, so people in general probably got married a lot earlier. So don’t leave the church just because of the ages of some of Joseph Smith’s polygamist brides.

  133. Veritas says:

    Meh, forget HBO. Showtime is where its at. If you haven’t seen Dexter or Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia you are missing out on the two best shows on TV. Seriously. :)

  134. Ben There says:

    131 Ann; its all relative. Among rural families it was much more common than among city dwellers. Perhaps rather than saying “very common”, I ought to have said “not uncommon”.

    It is interesting to note that 12, 13, or 14 is still the legal marriageable age in at least four states (including Massachusetts!), but 15 or 16 is far more common.

  135. Ben There says:

    I finally had a chance to read it just a minute ago, and thought this was interesting, from the aforementioned interview:

    REUTERS: We have one last question and we raise this because it seems obvious that there is going to be a lot more scrutiny of the church. There is historical evidence that suggests Joseph Smith took a 14-year-old bride, Helen Mar Kimball, when he was 38 years old. In today’s terms, that would make him a pedophile. Does this bother you or other LDS church members?

    CHRISTOFFERSON: It would depend on what all the facts were and the context. In those days, of course, was that it was not so uncommon in the society of the time. Today that would be statutory rape. A different standard applies.

    In response to Ann, I share Elder Christofferson’s belief that marriage of 14 year olds in 1830s/1840s America “was not so uncommon.”

  136. and the average age of first pregnancy in many American inner-cities (regardless of race) is MUCH lower than many people realize.

  137. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 130

    I’m intrigued by the idea of comparing/contrasting polygamy and homosexuality in the areas of civil law, the Church, and Christian morality generally. The notion of a budding political alliance between gays and polygamists just cries out for a more in-depth discussion in the bloggernacle.

    Big Love is a fantastic show. Now that it’s broadcast on Mondays, perhaps there is FHE potential (ha!). “Dexter,” on the other hand…..waaaaaay too creepy and bloody for me.

  138. Steve Evans says:

    Interesting…. and frightening that someone keeps track of such things. This is a pretty repulsive subject.

  139. Mike I agree. Though I doubt that the gays and the polygamists will team up. I do find it fascinating that at times the same people who will fight against homosexuality will have a “It’s between consenting adults”/victimless crime attitude towards Polygamy. And some of the people that defend gays in the church revile against polygamists. It’s a very interesting dichotomy.

  140. Ben There says:

    138 Steve: Frightening that people keep track of what things? The legal age of marriage? A five second Google search turned up a page from Cornell Law school with this info. It’s not as though I memorized it and refer to it often! Google is your friend. But…on the other hand, sometimes I do think Google is quite frightening (seriously).

  141. John Williams says:

    Ben There, just don’t commit any serious crimes and you won’t have to worry about people Googling you.

    Or, get a really common name like John Williams. My name is Google-proof.

  142. Thomas Parkin says:

    *mounts high horse*

    re: LDS being unfriendly to neighbors.

    My wife grew up in a family that had no LDS membership on one side and two generations of non-activity on the other, in a small former pioneer colony in central Nevada. They are a rather odd sort, truthfully, and they were not (she was not) well treated by the LDS. Because of that, even though she respects me, thinks many of the things I beleive are interesting and / or right, even something she could embrace, she can’t even stand to look at an LDS church as we drive by. All becasue some good strong LDS youth felt it neccesary to highten the differences between themsevles and others (the world), and create an impossible barrier for inclusion into even the margins of their world.

    Now, I know that all Mormons aren’t like that – but we have a desperate need to reach beyond our boders and be a little more human – and that’s got to quadruply true where we are majority. Maybe a little more all have sinned and therefore fall short – a little equalizer – and a little less internal self-congradulation over supposed righteousness would help.

    Somehow this all makes me feel like an idealistic 15 year old again. The thought that polygamists children are marginalized by their peers in the church is making me feel a little surly.

    *dismounts high horse*


  143. Ben There says:

    141: Good points, all. I will name all of my children John Williams and give them the head start they need in life, by Google-proofing them!

  144. My biggest problem is with the idea that it’s OK to litigate against polygamy and homosexuality (and enforce that litigation) and NOT litigate against heterosexual fornication and adultery. At the core moral level, I want consistency: either ban and punish all extra-marital forms or ban and punish none of them.

    I support political standards that address informed consent – (including age minimums and differences [statutory rape] and incest), and I don’t want the very definition of marriage to be changed, but I can’t support anything that punishes homosexual activity while not punishing its heterosexual equivalent in the same manner. Therefore, given the moral standards of our nation, I fully support a limited concept of civil unions – in monogamous heterosexual AND homosexual relationships AND polygamous ones. If other laws are being broken in ANY sexual relationship / arrangement, then prosecute for those offenses.

  145. Ben There says:

    Ride on, Thomas, ride on. We who claim to follow Christ ought to exhibit true Christ-like charity toward others, instead of the self-righteousness that we often mistake for real righteousness. There is never an excuse to belittle children and make them feel like outsiders. I could only wish that those who so tormented your wife could somehow see the effects of their “upstanding LDS behaviour”.

  146. John Williams says:

    Ray, where do you draw the line at granting civil union rights? I’m sure people can come up with relationships a lot more creative than polygamy.

  147. Ben There says:

    144 Ray: you have well articulated what I feel my position is on this issue, as well. And I do think the time is coming when we will see this, probably within my lifetime.

    Given that Utah’s anti-polygamy statute (actually an anti-cohabitation statute) does in fact forbid all of what you address, it is easy to see why the state of UT has chosen to not enforce it. I imagine not a few judges and politicians would find themselves on the wrong side of that law.

  148. Ben There says:

    146 Genericly-named blogger: ;)

    I know your question was posed to Ray, but please allow me to share my thoughts. I feel that any combination of people who are legally capable of entering into a contract ought to be able to do so for the purpose of forming a civil union. I do not believe children can enter contracts, nor can animals, so that pretty much leaves consenting adults to conduct their marital lives as they see fit.

  149. John Williams says:

    Polygny will never be accepted in the United States since it places women in an inferior position to men.

  150. John Williams says:

    Ben There, (148), that’s a pretty bold statement… there might be some crazy people who start some sort of multiple-person free-love arrangement, or maybe something even more bizarre.

  151. John Williams says:

    My point is that you have to draw the line somewhere (or so I think)… and in the United States that line will be drawn right after gay marriage is accepted. People in the US will accept gay marriage.

    But they will not accept polygamy.

  152. Thomas Parkin says:


    Whenever I write like that I feel a little uncomfortable, because I realize something like a feeling of self-righteousness is rising in me, as well. All kinds of things have to forgivable – even bullying and exclusion. It’s just when I think of those polygamist’s kids … I see my wife and her oddball family. :

  153. Let me bit a bit clearer, although I won’t address specific issues of “limited civil unions” here. That is for a different thread – not a threadjack of this one that would spark another 200 comments.

    1) Consenting adults are not punished in our country for extra-marital, heterosexual, sexual relationships. They are allowed to live together, express their feelings to each other in just about any way imagineable (including some truly abominable ways), and even carry on non-married “polygamous-ish” activities – all without any legal punishment.

    2) A heterosexual citizen can designate just about anyone as a beneficiary – with nary a question being asked.

    3) An umarried heterosexual citizen now can adopt a child.

    I am not saying I agree with all of the examples I could list, but they are real in our society.

    I support civil unions that provide rights to any couple that is willing to live the standards that are not punished for all citizens within a society. This will be an oversimplification (because there are exceptions that can be addressed in a different thread), but, in Mormon terms, if our socitey at large won’t require celestial performance of some in an area, then we need to provide legal equality to all who are willing to live a terrestrial law in that area. If we won’t require terrestrial performance of some in an area (Chastity is a requirement of terrestrial life, BTW.), then we need to provide legal equality to all who are willing to live the telestial application of that area. Whatever the moral level we enforce, I want it enforced equally for all – heterosexual, homosexual, polygamous, whatever.

  154. John Williams says:

    So Ray, you think polygamy should be legal in the United States?

  155. “Should” as a religious ideal in our day and age? I really and sincerely don’t care; I’ll leave that one to the prophets. “Should” as a practical matter? Given our unwillingness to enforce prohibitions on extra-marital sexual relations, yes – unequivocally.

  156. BTW, my answer would be exactly the same if the question had addressed homosexual activity instead of polygamy.

  157. Ben There says:

    150: And precisely what impact would this have on you or I? Why should we be concerned? Especially considering such communes already exist, informally? Why not add a legal status that confers inheritance rights for children, and would help simplify matters of child custody, etc.?

  158. Ben There says:

    151: I seem to recall reading BY somewhere saying that the People of the United States would accept polygamy before the Church would. I am not ready to dismiss this possibility. Surely the public at large right now is more permissive in this respect than are LDS members.

  159. John Williams says:

    Ben There (157), okay, so you’re a libertarian (at least in this regard)… I guess I can respect that. But most Americans would probably find anything more far-fetched than gay marriage to be morally wrong.

    (151) I think Americans on average reject polygamy just as much as non-fundamentalist mainstream Mormons do.

  160. People here are to parinoid. If you look at another discussion/blog thread, there is not a hint of mormonism found throughout the many comments.

    If mormonism is outed, then the gentiles really aren’t talking about it.,,20040769_20040772_20042169,00.html

  161. MikeInWeHo says:

    My sense is the gentiles don’t discuss the Mormonism of Big Love because they assume all the characters are various kinds of Mormon (polygamist, judgmental, “normal,” cultish, etc). They’re more interested in the plot details, not the overall setting.

    As J correctly points out way up in comment #12, we’ve never before seen people this Mormon on national TV.

    Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: we’ve never before seen people this Utah-Mormon on a national TV show.

  162. Kevin Barney says:

    1. On my cable there was no sound for like the first 20 minutes. I almost didn’t watch it at all; I was royally ticked. But eventually the sound returned and I watched the episode.

    2. I like BL. It took me about five episodes in Season 1 to get into the characters, but now that I know them I care about them. Personally I’m much less interested in all the machinations with Roman than I am in the family dynamics of the Henricksens.

    3. I too noticed that there was much more forthright Mormon content in this episode, which I thought was good. I didn’t think there was enough in Season 1. There is a religious context to the actions of these people, and you can’t understand them unless you make it more explicit. I think this is a good move by the producers.

    4. The Church will never, ever, ever, embrace polygamy in mortality again. If the Supreme Court decriminalized, or even legalized, polygamy tomorrow, can anyone imagine GBH doing a backflip and exclaiming, “Oh, goody, we get to practice polygamy again!”? Simply wouldn’t happen.

    5. I would like to see a little more nuance in all the LDS persecution of polygamists. While that is a common enough perspective and thus fair to present, my sense is that there is more sympathy than one can discern from the show. I personally am as far removed from a fundamentalist as it is possible to be, but I am descended from polygamists and have an historical sense, so I certainly admire the religious convictions of those who hold to this practice. Maybe now that Veronica Mars is cancelled they can bring back the LDS friend of the daughter; she helped to keep the show from being too black and white on this issue.

  163. ed johnson says:

    Maybe they should start every show with a serious sounding voiceover that says something like:

    In the intermountain west, the Mormon people are represented by two separate but not equally important groups: the apostates who practice polygamy, and the mainstream LDS who persecute the offenders. These are their stories. (Dun dun sound).

    I think something like that could really work, and it’s not hokey at all.

  164. Ben There says:

    I remember when my 90-something year old great grandmother told me how surprising it was to her that whites and “coloreds” were marrying these days. She thought it was a fine thing, but would have never believed it could happen growing up in the deep south of the 1920s.

    I am sure if she were still alive, she would be surprised to find gay marriage on the horizon, given how in “her day” to be gay was scandalous.

    I don’t think legalized (or at least decriminalized) polygamy sometime in the future is all that far fetched. We’ve come a long way from the Victorian-era morals of our recent past.

  165. jjohnsen says:

    Meh, forget HBO. Showtime is where its at. If you haven’t seen Dexter or Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia you are missing out on the two best shows on TV. Seriously.

    It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is on FX, not Showtime.

  166. oh. Well, its still the funniest show I have ever seen. Like, snort milk out your nose, side-splitting funny.

  167. Ben There says:

    163 Ed: I love it!!!

  168. Ben There says:

    162 Kevin: I’d pay a dollar to see GBH do a backflip, and it doesn’t even have to relate to polygamy.

  169. Mormons can say they disapprove all they want with polygamy, but they still seal the MEN to multiple wives for the afterlife. Brother Brigham and all the church leaders’ ancestors certainly are not going to dump their second -umpteenth wives in the afterlife. Hence, the practice is not a mute issue. The only reason it ended is so that Utah could join the Union. As much as I’ve never heard a latter day saint ever condone polygamy today, we can’t forget that just 110 years ago the term was used interchangeably with “celestial marriage.” A little bit of historical revisionism has gone one here, don’t ya think?

  170. Antonio Parr says:

    I must confess to being somewhat surprised by the level of sympathy/support on this list for polygamy. Do any of you have daughters? If so, is your hope for them that they will someday be a part of what is in effect a harem? How degrading. I would hope for my daughters (and everyone’s daughters, for that matter) that they could know the joy of being equally bound to their spouse, with the dignity and strength that comes from such a relationship.

    Compare the relationships of David O. McKay and his (one) wife or Spenccer W. Kimball and his (one) wife to Brigham Young and his wives. The contrast is so striking as to require no further elaboration.

  171. Nick Literski says:

    “Ray, where do you draw the line at granting civil union rights? I’m sure people can come up with relationships a lot more creative than polygamy.”

    Must we trot out the tired old “slippery slope” argument again? The Supreme Court did the same thing in regards to plural marriage. “If we let the Mormons practice polygamy on regligious grounds, someone else will say they have the right to practice human sacrifice!” It was poor reasoning against plural marriage then, and it’s poor reasoning aganist civil unions for gays (and others) now.

  172. Nick Literski says:

    “4. The Church will never, ever, ever, embrace polygamy in mortality again. If the Supreme Court decriminalized, or even legalized, polygamy tomorrow, can anyone imagine GBH doing a backflip and exclaiming, “Oh, goody, we get to practice polygamy again!”? Simply wouldn’t happen.”

    HA!! I love the mental picture, Kevin!
    Seriously though, here’s the problem that would arise. If plural marriage became legal, there would likely be non-LDS polygamous families formed. Non-LDS men would have wives and children to support. Suppose they subsequently joined the LDS church. Would the LDS church, in a circumstance where plural marriage was legal in the United States, really want to force this man to divorce/abandon his wives and children? This question alone may be enough to make the issue come under serious consideration.

    I understand that this currently is required by the LDS church in other countries where polygamy is legal, but I think that is a very different situation. The LDS church can’t afford to allow its members *anywhere* to practice plural marriage while it’s illegal in the U.S. It would be a public relations nightmare. Legalization in the U.S. would open the door to allowing plural marriage “wherever permitted by the law of the land.”

  173. MikeInWeHo says:

    Yeah, I agree Nick. The slippery slope argument is very weak in almost any context.

  174. Ben There says:

    170 Antonio:

    Many women voluntarily choose polygamy based on the benefits they see in that type of relationship. What if your daughter, having had a chance to examine each type of relationship in its absolute best incarnation, decided to choose a polygamous lifestyle? Would you not want her to be happy? Would you pressure her to marry monogamously against her wishes, so that you would be happy? How is this much different from you choosing her spouse?

    I think that educated adults can make decisions for themselves and ought to do so. Ultimately, what I want for my children is them to make choices that will make them happy.

  175. Ben There says:

    172: Good points, Nick.

    Of course, the very nature of your question, Nick, belies the Church’s attempts at claiming to be a truly international institution. Instead, they are still very U.S.-centric, and in the end, most policy and doctrine seems to be generated based upon U.S. circumstances.

    So even though the Manifest only specifically says to contract marriages that are in accord with the law of the land, clearly the interpretation (currently) is the law of the U.S. Of course, in the early post-Manifesto days, when polygamists were asked to go continue the practice in Canada and Mexico, they took a more literal interpretation of that phrase “law of the land”.

  176. “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” I decide what constitutes correct principles for myself, teach them to my children (and anyone else who will listen), then THEY decide if they agree enough to see my correct principles as their correct principles. If so, I rejoice; if not, I continue to love and support them in their own self-governance – and continue to teach my own correct principles IF they want to talk about them with me.

    We can find create ways to rationalize not following the Golden Rule quite easily – and to rationalize actions that, in effect, deny personal moral agency to others, as well. I just don’t want to put even a toenail in that camp, given who its captain is.

  177. Ben There says:

    176 Ray: Amen. This guiding principle, taught by our first prophet, really is what it comes down to. The simplicity of the gospel gets lost when we get tied up in being Pharisaical and trying to dictate to one another how to live each other’s lives and walk each other’s walk with the Savior.

    I may not choose to live plural marriage, but I will not say that someone who does is any less of a Christian based solely upon their family structure. That is not my call to make.

  178. Good point Nick,

    No, the Church would never practice polygamy today. Thank goodness! I just have a hard time how they seek to disassociate themselves with it, unless it was blatant as it was with Brigham Young. What I mean by disassociate is for example, pictures are placed in books of leaders next to their first wife only as if they were a monogamous couple… where in actuality they had several other wives and several children with the others. No, the church would not practice polygamy today because the church today is essentially a post W.W.II church run by 1950’s businessmen.

  179. Antonio Parr says:

    Ben There:

    I assume, then, that your “live and let live” approach to marriage extends also to homosexual marriages?

    As to the general principal of polygamy, a quick comparison of the quality of life of Brother Brigham and his wives and/or Heber Kimball and his wives versus the stunningly beautiful union of the David McKay marriage and the Spencer W. Kimball marriage — where, side-by-side, a man and a wife seemed to become one — speaks volumes about what constitutes the ideal marriage and the kind of relationships that we should wish for our daughters.

  180. Just to nit-pick a bit: Can we stop making this exclusively about the women? If I assume polygamy is bad for my daughters, then I hope I also assume it is bad for my sons. If I think it is good for my daughters, then I hope I also think it is good for my sons. If I don’t want polygamy only for my daughters, I imply that I don’t mind it for my sons – and if I don’t want it for my daughters but don’t mind it for my sons, then I am a worse father than if I just neglect my daughters. Either it is ok for a couple/family or it is not. Don’t play on my emotions by focusing on the girls; deal with the issue in its entirety.

  181. pat (178),
    Actually, there are very few pure businessmen in the upper echelons of the Church. There are a couple attorneys, a doctor, some academics, a pilot, a career church employee, some businessmen, and probably some careers that I can’t think of off the top of my head. (That said, I don’t know what the downside would be to a church run by businessmen; there’s no reason they’d be worse leaders than attorneys, doctors, et al., but your generalized accusation is neither relevant nor generally accurate.)

  182. Nick (172),
    It’s my understanding (pure hearsay, of course) that the Church won’t allow a legal polygamist (e.g., from Africa or the Middle East) to be baptized while still a polygamist. (Of course, that may just be rumor.) I’d assume the Church would do essentially the same thing if polygamy were legalized in the U.S.

    I agree with Kevin that the Church won’t reembrace polygamy. I wouldn’t even worry about it from the societal point of view—I think that, theologically, it’s the exception, and its time has passed.

  183. On my mission in South Africa we carefully asked Black African men if they were polygamists in baptismal interviews.

    If they were polygamist they were not baptized. End of story.

    The other Christian churches have no such policies. African Christian denominations from Methodists to Catholics will all have a smattering of polygamist members. I also understand that the RLDS do permit polygamy amongst their members in Africa.

  184. bandanamom says:

    First time poster, long time lurker,

    I am curious how those of you who seem to be so anti-polygamy situate this belief with the fact that we still marry men to multiple wives in our temples on a daily basis? And I am not taking about cases of divorce, which I suspect many think will be worked out by the Lord later, but in cases of Widowed men? This happens so frequently that I can name of 20 such marraiges without blinking an eye or having to think too hard.

    As a life long member of the church I have always been taught by my parents and church leadership in various wards I have attended that we need to reconcile ourselves to our belief in polygamy and part of that reconciliation is accepting that while we do not practice it now, for very important reasons, we could practice it in the future. In theory, we do still practice it in our temples.

    To quote from Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his Reuters interview posted yesterday: “REUTERS. Turning to polygamy. I realize the church banned the practice in 1890, but is it true that LDS temples across the world continue to conduct ceremonies where men are sealed to multiple wives who would only become their spouses in the afterlife? Does that happen?

    CHRISTOFFERSON: Yes, when someone’s spouse has died for example and they remarry; they could be married in a temple for a second time, sealed as we say. How that sorts out in the afterlife we’ll leave in the Savior’s hand, but we permit people to marry again when there’s been a death or a divorce.

    REUTERS: The Woodruff Manifesto, which banned polygamy in 1890, never revoked section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants – Joseph Smith’s 1843 revelation on plural marriage – why?

    CHRISTOFFERSON: It’s consistent with biblical teaching, with Book of Mormon teaching, and that is to say, to use computer language, the default mode is monogamy. That was divinely established at the beginning of time with Adam and Eve and it continues unless God for His own purposes, for whatever reason, permits, or authorizes or directs in this case the practice of plural marriage, and there have been times when He has, if you look at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the old patriarchs of the Old Testament. And this instance here in the early (LDS) church history.

    As I said earlier, we believe in this continuing flow of revelation and it’s His right to authorize or de-authorize – to turn it on or turn it off. But unless God were to specifically reveal to the Prophet this must be done at this time, it’s not, it’s wrong without his direction. That’s where we think that those who have left the church to pursue a polygamous lifestyle have gone terribly wrong. They assume their right to choose that and to authorize it when there is only a divine sanction possible to authorize that. No one has that right to assume Well okay some others have done it in the Bible I’m going to do it now’. No that requires direction through those who possess the authority – the prophets, the apostles – by divine revelation.”

    As members of the church I think it’s really important for us to understand where we stand on this issue now, in the past and that the future is always open to change.

    Making comparisons of Spencer W. Kimball’s marriage and Brigham Young’s seems slightly short sighted.

    (and yes, this is a very long post for a first time).

  185. Antonio- I am very much in favor of the side by side man and one wife relationship. Your two examples are great ones. I am against polygamy– my point is only that I find that the church, probably in the need for PR, has somewhat disassociated itself with its polygamous past. There has been a bit of historical revisionism. Case and point. The other day on the BYU channel I watched an excellent biography on Maeser the first German to convert to Mormonism in Germany. He subsequently emigrated to the U.S. It was at least an hour long and I became very interested in him and his role in the early days as a key educator and principal of BYU. I started reading about him. In my research I found that he took a second wife (much against his desires) when he came to Utah. Not once was the second wife mentioned in an hour long biography. The next time the biography came on I watched it closer, pictures were shown of him and his wife as if he had been in a monogamous marriage. That is the type of dissociation I’m talking about. History is subtly being re-written. I find it incredibly disturbing.

  186. Sam– I meant two things 1) The church is organized like a corporate business and that is one reason for its tremendous success. (Obviously, this is a secular viewpoint.) 2) As I read bios or listen to the mini ones for devotionals, I also see a mix of professions. However, if we got a grid and polled them all, I bet businessmen would emerge as the most frequent Not a “majority” as in over 50% perhaps, but most frequent. For one they have to have the independent wealth to be able to retire and devote that much time to the church. It is the same situation we get with politics and lawyers. There are a huge number of them in politics, but not a 51% majority. I would not say there are “very few” businessmen but perhaps not a 51% majority.

  187. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 183 I believe there is at least one Anglican bishop who is polygamous, bbell. This came to light because he was one of the leading figures pushing to split the Anglican communion over the issue of SSM, et. al., in the Western branches.

  188. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    Steve #46 I shake my fist at you!!

    JNS #115 You are absolutely correct.

  189. Ben There says:

    186 Pat:

    For one they have to have the independent wealth to be able to retire and devote that much time to the church.

    Although many are in fact independently wealthy, the reality is that full-time GAs are paid a living stipend by the Church.

  190. #187,

    This does not surprise me at all that you would find Anglican bishops in Africa who are polygamous and even tolerated. When I get negative polygamy questions from non-LDS I will typically point out that their church tolerates polygamy in Africa right now in 2007

    Its a common thing amongst the wealthy prominent upper class types in Africa.

    It would not surprise me at all to find out that Barack Obama has a polygamous father or Grandfather

  191. Ben There says:

    183 Bbell,

    I think this is part of the reason why other churches are eclipsing us in growth. Those from the Americas and Europe just have no idea how prevalent polygamy is in other places like Africa and Asia.

    Every other Christian church has a “come as you are” policy, a family-friendly policy. How can we even begin to claim to be Christ-like when we tell a man that in order to join Christ’s One True Church, said man must divorce his wives and send them and all their children out on the street to fend for themselves. Hardly the “Family First” or “Family is Forever” approach! If that were me, I would have to seriously question why one church says I need to tear my family apart to worship God, when all the other churches will allow my entire family to worship with them.

  192. Ben There says:

    179 Antonio:

    Ben There:

    I assume, then, that your “live and let live” approach to marriage extends also to homosexual marriages?

    See my posts above, yes. I don’t think the church needs to sanction something it doesn’t want to sanction, such as polygamy or homosexual unions, but it should not begrudge those outside the church the opportunity to find fulfillment however their personal philosophy or religion tells them they should.

    the stunningly beautiful union of the David McKay marriage and the Spencer W. Kimball marriage … speaks volumes about what constitutes the ideal marriage and the kind of relationships that we should wish for our daughters.

    You assume that polygamyous marriages have no capability of being “stunningly beautiful”. I know several families who would seriously disagree with you on this. The multiplied love, harmony, cooperation, strength, and unity in many polygamous families is quite stunningly beautiful.

    And, we’ve both already addressed what we would wish for our daughters. You wish your daughter to marry how you want her to, and I am guessing you would not really think your daughters should be exposed to the various choices she could make. I wish my daughters to marry with “informed consent”, knowing the options, and choosing how she wants to find happiness in her life and marriage.

  193. Aren’t ANY of you bothered that your history is being subtly rewritten? Aren’t you bothered that you can not purchase anywhere at the BYU bookstore a copy of Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses? (Have you read some of the disturbing statements about blacks in it?) Aren’t any of you bothered about how the church has been re-marketed in a “more” Christian packaging over the last three decades? Do some serious study! Pull out a dozen Ensigns from the 60’s and 50’s. Count how many articles are on the Savior. Now do the same for a dozen Ensigns in the last ten years. You will see the statistics are much higher. Even the logo and letterhead of the Church was re-designed about 15 years ago with different emphasis. Just look how the paintings on your meeting house walls have changed from the 60’s and then now in the 21st century. There are fewer paintings from the Book of Mormon and more of the Savior. I’m not saying the changes are bad, most of them are good. But nobody seems to want us aware that it’s going on. As with the Maeser example above, It’s historical revisionism and nobody seems bothered that their own history is being re-written.

  194. bandanamom #184: Long, yes, but I’m not one to criticize that! If your first post is an example of your thoughtfulness, I’m sure others hope you continue to contribute as much as I hope so.

  195. Ben There says:

    193 Pat:

    I am with you. The revisionism of Mormon history deeply disturbs me. I thought that my feelings were self-evident based on my posts here, but maybe not.

    The church paid a marketing firm to research and come up with that new logo that came out in 1998, the one where the words JESUS CHRIST are three times bigger than the other words. The logo was a direct response to the study that found that so many people thought the LDS church wasn’t Christian. Well, guess what….so many STILL don’t think the LDS church is Christian, and no amount of paintings or redesigned logos are going to change that.

    Okay, fine, so we need to start making our magazines look like they come from Bob Jones Univ. instead of Brigham Young Univ. So, yes, the Ensign has changed significantly. It is very “Protestant” in appearance. And, funny thing….many people STILL think the LDS aren’t Christian.

    To me, this shows that no amount of PR is going to convince people we are another Protestant sect. And that’s good, because we are not. But I suspect we will just see more of the same.

    The BY manual that came out for RS/Ph instruction for 1998-99 was the first real overt attempt at revisionist history, at least it was the first that was so “in your face”. It has all been downhill from there.

    According to the new Church History, JS was a monogamist, BY was either a monogamist, or if the secret gets out, well then he was a reluctant polygamist who only married old widows whose husbands died while trekking to Utah. According to the new Church History, the Manifesto of 1890 outlawed polygamy altogether in the church, even though…ooops! Wilford Woodruff himself married another woman after he issued it! Heber J. Grant, the last polygamist prophet, is now also a monogamist, for we cannot let people think that polygamy persisted after 1890.

    It disappoints me that Church history has become so deceptive. It is almost no wonder the fundamentalist groups don’t proselytize, they have a steady stream of disillusioned LDS coming into their ranks all the time.

  196. Pat, I was shocked once. Now I just view it as status quo. People are aware. It was like being a hermit in a desert, going hoarse from so much shouting about it, but in the end I realized I was in a desert and no one was listening so why go hoarse?

  197. Ben There says:

    184 bandanamom:

    Good thoughts. That “future polygamy” doctrine seems to have heavily fallen by the wayside, even over just the last 10 years. It doesn’t make for good PR. The church seems almost desperate over the last decade to distance itself from any hints of polygamy. I am a youngish man, early 30s, and I have met many church members my age who had no idea (and even argued against me!) that Joseph Smith was a polygamist.

    When polygamy comes up these days in church settings, it is always dismissed as “necessary to build up Utah” or “necessary to take care of widows” or “there were far more women in those days of the Church”. But never is it mentioned that from the 1840s through to the early 1900s, “celestial marriage” had precisely ONE meaning: plural marriage. The thought that a marriage could be celestial without being plural never entered church doctrine until the early 1900s.

    I think that if the Church could come up with a convenient way of disallowing subsequent sealings in the temple, they would. But that would go over like a porkchop at Passover, so I think they mostly leave that alone and hope no one really gives it much thought, and makes the connection.

  198. Ben There: What is the BY manual that came out for RS/Ph instruction in ’98? What is its focus?

  199. I need to go to work now, but thank you so much for your comments. Sometimes I do feel very hoarse and caught in between two worlds.

  200. RE: Revisionist History: Sometimes I am concerned, but let me use an alternate example. I the 13th and 14th centruies, the Catholic Church conducted it’s first crusade against it’s own peoples in Europe, against the Cathars and other “heretics” in the Languedoc area of France, and in Northern Italy. These were bloody, brutal affairs, where in some villages and cities, all the residents were brutalized, tortured, and burned at the stake, regardless of their beliefs. I don’t see the Catholic Church making the crusades the cover of their magazines and a central point of their public images.

    I’m not equating the crusades with our practice of polygamy. But you don’t lead your missionary discussions with your historical artifacts, which polygamy, or the priesthood ban, at least from inside the church, have become.

    But then, the church has been arguing over faithful history vs objective history for some time now (several decades at least). And once you get inside that argument, you realize just how ephemeral “objective” history is. There is a place for apologetics, and a place for truthful inquiry. You don’t have to dig very far to get the big story on polygamy, and to the extent that it affects my own personal quest for exaltation and eternal life, it’s currently irrelevant.

    Where it is an issue, is with outside observers, as we are discussing in this thread. We can’t control what others are saying about us, we can only control our own actions and reactions.

  201. Kevin Barney says:

    Pat, anyone who relies on the Ensign for her Church history deserves what she gets.

  202. Ben There says:

    201 Kevin: Are you saying that the uplifting articles about Church history in the Ensign are suspect?

  203. pat:

    I think you must be a relative newcomer here to be asking those questions. I still feel like a newcomer and even I know that all of those questions have been raised here and discussed ad nauseum. I think you are largely preaching to the choir on the point you are making. I for one wish that the Church would take a more direct and open approach to its history than it has, and most here seem to support that idea, in my short experience.

    The idea, though, of you telling people here to “do some serious study” is a bit like someone telling Beethoven to practice the piano. Very serious study is being done by people who post and comment here, as you would know if you hung around here a while.

    As to whether any of the things you raise should “bother” us, the answer is yes, they do, but truthfully, on the scale of things to freak out over, the redesign of our logo and other public images to emphasize the Savior in defense of the idea that we are, in fact, a Christian church is, to me, not an issue. The de-emphasis or even sweeping under the rug of polygamy in our history is a much bigger deal, but I don’t see it happening to the same extent that you (and Ben) apparently do.

  204. Ben There RE: 197

    Are you suggesting that the only sealings performed in temples between 1840 and the early 1900s were of the polygamous variety? If not, how would you categorize the non-polygamous sealings? At the time the church practiced polygamy, do you believe that when a man married his first wife it was not a “celestial marriage”? You have criticized the notion that plural marriage was somehow related to a surplus of women, yet you seem to imply that the only valid “celestial marriages” were plural. For that to be the case, surely there must have been at least two temple-worthy women for every temple-worthy man. Can you please provide your support for your proposition that “The thought that a marriage could be celestial without being plural never entered church doctrine until the early 1900s.” Your statement seems a bit revisionist itself, but I am curious if you have something to back it up.

  205. John Williams says:

    KL (204), I think Ben There is referring to the term “Celestial Marriage.” It used to mean the same thing as “Plural Marriage,” if I’m not mistaken.

    Ben There (195), not to nitpick, but I think the logo redesign was in 1995.

  206. Ben There says:

    204: I have a bit of “something to back it up”:

    First of all, D&C 132. Look at the first few verses. The whole reason the revelation on celestial marriage was given was because Joseph inquired of the Lord on the topic of Old Testament plural marriage. The only revelation on celestial marriage is the 132nd section, which is the revelation on plural marriage.

    “You will recollect, brethren and sisters, that it was in July, 1843, that he received this revelation concerning celestial marriage. This doctrine was explained and many received it as far as they could understand it. Some apostatized on account of it; but others did not, and received it in their faith” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 16:166).

    Why would anyone apostatize over monogamous eternal marriage?

    On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843; Joseph and Hyrum Smith came into the office in the upper story of the brick store, on the bank of the Mississippi river. They were talking on the subject of plural marriage. Hyrum said to Joseph, ‘If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take it and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.’ Joseph smiled and remarked, ‘You do not know Emma as well as I do.’ Hyrum repeated his opinion, and further remarked, ‘The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity and heavenly origin,’ or words to that effect. Joseph then said, ‘Well, I will write the revelation and we will see.’ He then requested me to get paper and prepare to write.” History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.xxxii

    Why would it take any convincing of Emma is celestial marriage was merely eternal monogamous marriage?

    Eliza R. Snow wrote in an 1879 Deseret News article noting that “polygamy (celestial marriage)” is “a principle…which there is none more important comprised in the Gospel of the Son of God.”

    The Journal of Discourses are full of sermons from GAs of the time, and celestial marriage was always equated with plural marriage.

    The opposers of Celestial Marriage sometimes quote a passage in the seventh chapter of Romans, second and third verses, to show that a plurality of wives is wrong. George A. Smith, JoD 13:37

    Now supposing the members of this Church had undertaken to vary from that law given in 1831, to love their one wife with all their hearts and to cleave to none other, they would have come under the curse and condemnation of God’s holy law. Some twelve years after that time the revelation on Celestial Marriage was revealed. This is just republished at the Deseret News office, in a pamphlet entitled, “Answers to Questions,” by President George A. Smith, and heretofore has been published in pamphlet form and in the Millennial Star, and sent throughout the length and breadth of our country, being included in our works and published in the works of our enemies. Then came the Lord’s time for this holy and ennobling principle to be practised again among His people. Orson Pratt, JoD 13:183

    Here, celestial marriage is contrasted with “lov[ing] their one wife with all their hearts and to cleave to none other”.


    We have heard, during Conference, a great many precious instructions, and in none have I been more interested than in those which have been given to the Saints concerning that much mooted doctrine called Patriarchal or Celestial Marriage. I am interested in this doctrine, because I see salvation, temporal and spiritual, embodied therein. I know, pretty well, what the popular feelings concerning this doctrine are; I am familiar with the opinions of the world, having travelled and mingled with the people sufficiently to be conversant with their ideas in relation to this subject. I am also familiar with the feelings of the Latter-day Saints upon this point. I know the sacrifice of feeling which it has caused for them to adopt this principle in their faith and lives. George Q. Cannon, JoD 13:197

    If celestial marriage were merely eternal marriage, what sort of “feelings” and “sacrifices” and “opinions” could be related to something so benign as eternal marriage?

    Anyway, this is just the results of 10 minutes of searching. I don’t want to overwhelm the blog with the many more quotes I could find if I gave this a few more minutes.

  207. Ben There says:

    205 John:

    I think Ben There is referring to the term “Celestial Marriage.” It used to mean the same thing as “Plural Marriage,” if I’m not mistaken.

    Indeed. As I stated:

    …“celestial marriage” had precisely ONE meaning: plural marriage.

    Moving on:

    Ben There (195), not to nitpick, but I think the logo redesign was in 1995.

    You are correct. Thank you, and my apologies.

  208. RE 203:

    I agree with MCQ. I wish the Church leadership would take a more direct approach to Church history and that the average member of the Church was better informed regarding some of the historical controversies (some of which are not that far removed in time). In recent months, I believe that there have been some genuine attempts to do just that, such as Elder Oaks’ discussion of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in the PBS special and Elder Christofferson’s interview regarding polygamy, evolution, priesthood, etc. I take issue with the claim that the Church is “so deceptive.” (195) Contrary to the claim of post 195, I do not believe that the Priesthood/Relief Society manuals purport that either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were monogamists. I do not disagree that they do not discuss either prophet’s marital history, but I do not believe the manuals were designed to teach the history of plural marriage. Instead, I suggest they are to facilitate the teaching of gospel principles such as faith, prayer, forgiveness, etc. The majority of my family members and friends are not members of the Church and I can attest that there is nothing the Church could possibly do to “sweep under the rug” its previous practice of polygamy. If people only know one thing about the Church, that is almost always the known tidbit. The fact that the Church chooses to focus on the Savior’s example and atonement and other gospel principles demonstrates, I believe, the belief that these matters are of greater import than the historical practice of polygamy.

  209. Ben There says:

    KL 208: If the manuals completely didn’t discuss marital history at all, I’d be fine with it. But why paint the picture that these guys were monogamists, by including only selective marital history? When the Brigham Young manual explicitly records his first marriage, when he was widowed, and his second marriage, what kind of picture do you get from this?

    I agree, these are not historical manuals. But if they are going to include SOME history, at least don’t mold it and shape it in a way that paints an incorrect picture in the reader’s mind.

  210. Not threadjacking, but even though I feel that the current manuals, especially for the YM/YW are a huge disappointment, I think it is fair to cast them in the light that they are about doctrines, and not history. Another black eye for correlation for those of us who want deeper discussions, or more meaningful history, but if you look at the evolution of the PH/RS manuals over the last couple of decades, they have evolved into a unified series of lessons about current doctrines, viewed from the background of what these past presidents of the church have to say about them. Therefore, if the church does not practice polygamy, and if polygamy is a limited practice for specific times only, as Jacob in the BOM asserts, then lessons on marriage will focus on the current doctrine, ie monogamous eternal marriage.

    Likewise, lessons on repentance using the writings of Pres. Kimball will focus on the atonement of Jesus Christ, and won’t mention the historical artifact and disavowed principle of blood atonement.

    Yes, I wish they were better, but given what correlation has to deal with in an ever more multicultural and international church, they are adequate. Barely adequate, but useful, nonetheless.

    However, IMO the YM/YW manuals are just about useless, referring to GA’s that most of the youth have never heard of, situations that are dated, and remarkably full of embarrassing anachronisms. I have had correspondence from correlation that rewrites are under way, but by then I suspect that most of the updated GAs and prophets quoted in the new versions will be dead and gone.

  211. Ben There says:

    204 KL:

    I glossed over one of your questions accidentally.

    At the time the church practiced polygamy, do you believe that when a man married his first wife it was not a “celestial marriage”?

    When does a temple marriage become an eternal marriage? Is it at the moment the sealer pronounces the couple married? No, it is when the couple lives up to their covenants to obey all the commandments associated with living the Lord’s law of marriage, that their union becomes eternal. I am sure you would agree that many people have been sealed in the temple who are not living celestial marriages, such as people who have committed adultery, been excommunicated, left the church, etc. Simply being sealed in the temple did not prevent them from sinning and losing the approbation of the Holy Spirit in that covenant.

    When you consider that under former LDS doctrine (and current fundamentalist Mormon doctrine) being sealed to more than one wife was part of the Law of Celestial Marriage, then obeying that particular law was just one more step toward making that sealing eternal. If a man did not step up to the plate and only got sealed to one spouse, that sealing was not ratified later by the Holy Spirit of Promise, because he had not lived up to his covenant to obey all of the laws associated with it.

    I hope this clarifies this a little bit.

  212. Ben There says:

    210 Kevin F:

    I agree with you about the YM manuals. They are a wreck and are barely relevant.

    The Church curriculum committees move at a truly glacial pace. And even after they get something approved, it takes years before it sees the light of day. I don’t think it is inaccurrate to state that from start to actually being in a member’s hands, each manual probably takes at least eight years to get through the process.

    Other churches can tailor their materials to be relevant to local populations, one would think that so could we. I do not think that just because we are such a large organization that it has to mean that curriculum materials should take an eternity to write, correlate, print, and get into circulation.

    Of course current manuals will teach current doctrine. But sometimes current manuals attempt to teach history. Remember the little paperback book every member got a few years ago, in conjunction with D&C, called “Our History” or something to that effect? When history is expressed, it should be truthful, not trying to cover things up. And in my mind, giving specific information about Brigham Young’s first marriages and painting him as a perfect monogamist seems a bit silly. If his marriages were so unimportant, why even bring up the first ones?

  213. When you consider that under former LDS doctrine (and current fundamentalist Mormon doctrine) being sealed to more than one wife was part of the Law of Celestial Marriage, then obeying that particular law was just one more step toward making that sealing eternal. If a man did not step up to the plate and only got sealed to one spouse, that sealing was not ratified later by the Holy Spirit of Promise, because he had not lived up to his covenant to obey all of the laws associated with it.

    I think you’re dead wrong about this Ben. KL’s question went to the nature of the sealing ceremony performed in the temple. She points out a valid objection to your interpretation of the celestial marriage doctrine. If there is no such thing as celestial marriage without plural marriage, then what of all the members of the church who were sealed to only one wife,even during the time of plural marriage. There was never a time that a majority of members were practicing polygamy, nor were they commanded or expected to. Your answer does nothing to answer that objection and in fact muddies the waters considerably.

  214. MCQ, thank you for adding clarity to my point. To my knowledge, the majority of members never practiced polygamy. My question for Ben There is whether he believes that non-plural sealings performed during the relevant time period were basically for time only, given the doctrine that eternal marriage is reserved for celestial beings. I do not think that the majority of early Church members, who did not practice plural marriage but nonetheless sacrificed tremendously to be counted among the Saints and receive the blessings of the temple, believed that their temple marriages to their one and only spouse were other than potential eternal unions.

  215. I have held off on joining this conversation, since it so obviously is influenced by personal attempts to convince people that polygamy really is the ideal and that it should not have been ended. I only am joining in now, because KL and MCQ have said what I have wanted to say for a while.

    Ben There, I apologize for being this blunt, but your argument for celestial/eternal marriage being confined to polygamy is one of the most absurd arguments I have read on this blog. The quotes you provided don’t make the argument, and neither does the historical evidence of how the early Saints perceived it. This might be my opinion only, but this horse is about 30 feet under ground by now – and further discussion would constitute abuse of a corpse. You aren’t going to gain any converts here, so can we move on and get back to the original focus of the post?

  216. Ben There says:

    215 Ray: I suppose if people did not directly ask me questions, I wouldn’t answer questions that aren’t asked. Conversely, I’d think it pretty rude if someone asked me a question and I ignored them.

    That said, I do agree that this has gone way off topic….but that always seems to happen anytime polygamy, homosexuals, or the priesthood ban comes up. It’d be a shame to break tradition!

  217. For whatever it’s worth, Ben There is absolutely correct about what 19th-century Mormons taught about plural marriage. Brigham Young famously used the parable of the talents to teach what he felt would happen to those sealed in the temple to only one wife. Only the individuals who turned their one talent into multiple would get to keep the first.

  218. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 217 So the notion was that a man with only one wife would end up losing her in the afterlife to a polygamous celestial marriage elsewhere, even if they were sealed in the temple?

  219. Ben There says:

    Thank you kindly, J N-S.

    I was feeling a bit attacked. We all know what current doctrine is, but is seems like people get genuinely defensive when you explain that doctrine has changed over the years. For better or for worse, 19th century Mormon doctrine was what it was. Brigham Young taught what he taught; and his people looked at him just as we look at Gordon B. Hinckley: as the prophet and mouthpiece of God on earth in his day.

    While we often seem embarrassed by what Brigham taught from time to time, it doesn’t negate that his words carried a lot of weight when they were preached, and his general conference sermons were accepted pretty much as church doctrine. Just because everyone didn’t follow his counsel doesn’t make it any less important.

    Just because most church members in the mid-late 19th century didn’t practice polygamy does not mean it was not a commandment, just as today’s members not tithing and holding temple recommends doesn’t mean those aren’t commandments. One can be a member of the church their entire life and never tithe or go to the temple, just as one could be a 19th century monogamous Mormon: you get whatever benefits you get out of whatever you do, but certain blessings of the gospel are without your reach when you only go so far.

    Consider how many members of the church today are active temple-recommend holders. In any ward I’ve belonged to, the percentage of full tithe-payers hovers around 20% of the ward membership. Maybe 3/4 of those have temple recommends. Clearly, actual practice of the important principles we are taught today is not as widespread as we might hope or think.

    So when we can’t even pay tithing or go to the temple, how we can think it so strange that polygamy was a commandment yet not practiced by the majority. We do the very same thing today: for whatever reason, we don’t all tread the strait and narrow path, and a whole lot of members pretty much put in the minimum amount of commitment they can to the Church.

  220. Kimberly says:

    Re: 217

    If that were the case, why did they bother with temple sealings? Why make it an ordinance if they believed it was basically a temporal social contract?

  221. Ben There says:

    218 Mike: Yes, this is what Brigham Young taught, and his contemporaries. Just like today, making the covenants we make in the temple is just the first step toward those covenants being sealed up for eternity.

    Making a monogamous marriage covenant was the first step. If you didn’t follow it up with another along the way, it would be like if you were sealed in the temple today and then disregarded all the things you need to do to make those covenants eternal. There mere mechanics of being sealed in the temple don’t make the marriage eternal; your obedience to your covenants is what seals the deal.

  222. Wow…things certainly have been happening here.

    First my thanks to bbell for her compliment of me being “rare”. I hope it was a compliment.

    I would like to add my support to Ben There. I am a faithful LDS sealed in the Temple. I think Ben There comment is more accurate than not. God has taught the His New & Evalsting Covenant(polygamy, plural marriage) is a Celestial & Eternal Law. If you are studious LDS then you know that all blessings including exaltation and salvation are predicated on obedience to their prescribed laws.

    The Church currently is a Terrestrial church at best because we are not living all the Celestial laws predicated for the Celestial Kingdom or the presence of God.

    Not only are we not living the law of plural marriage but we not not fully living the law of consecration.

    Our temple sealings are not final and absolute. The current temple ordinances are preliminary ordinces to greater fulfilling ordinances. Ther are very few that I know that even know about 2nd Anointing temple ordinaces. These don’t seem to be practised much in the curent church.

    I believe it was Joseph Smith that first taught the parable of the talents as associated with the law of the New & Everlasting Covenant of plural marriage.

    Our current temple sealings and marriages are not celestial or eternal until we have abided and obeyed the full laws predicated thereto and made sure by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

    Let’s reread the first few verses of D&C Sec 132 which give greater understanding to this.

    1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many awives and bconcubines—
    2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.
    3 Therefore, aprepare thy heart to receive and bobey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
    4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting acovenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye bdamned; for no one can creject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
    5 For all who will have a ablessing at my hands shall abide the blaw which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.
    6 And as pertaining to the new and aeverlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my bglory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

    I pray always that we might be permitted in this society and life to live, abide and obey God’s laws that we might enter into His glory of the Celestial Kingdom.

    I hope this happens soon or we may have to wait until Christ’s mellinial reign.

    Thanks and God Bless

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