A letter to a friend: Joseph Smith polygamy

I received an email from someone close to me last week. This individual has been reading Rough Stone Rolling and had gotten through Joseph Smith’s polygamic episode. This person was unsettled by certain events and activities involved and wondered if I had any helpful thoughts. I probably should have paged Kevin, but I decided to respond strait-up. The following is my somewhat edited reply, the first of several that ensued:

So, polygamy. Yeah. No matter how you slice it, there are some things there that are pretty messed up. As you mentioned in your email, there are also a lot of things going on. Not to go all “meta” on you, but as a matter of theory, we all develop narratives in which we reconstruct the past and the present. Historians do this as a matter of course; individuals often do this naturally, and perhaps subconsciously. We want to make sense out of the world in which we live, and understand where we fit in it. Approaching topics like this for me boils down to two things: the development of a scholarly historical narrative and the development of my personal spiritual narrative.

The historical narrative is obviously controversial. Todd Compton, wrote a wonderful biography of the wives of Joseph Smith called, In Sacred Loneliness. It is fairly hard hitting, but it is wonderful to see the lives of these powerful women in context and to understand their stories. The frequent antagonistic view is that Joseph was basically a sexual miscreant. Anti-Mormons have a heyday with that sort of stuff. However, as historian Kathleen Flake has said [roughly paraphrasing], there are easier ways of getting laid. The historical record demonstrates that the participants – men and women – in Nauvoo polygamy experienced what they believed were supernatural manifestations in connection to it. Joseph Smith had a vision of connecting people in ways that are quite foreign. Polygamy, “adoption” – where people became the spiritual children of the adoptive parents (look for a wonderful new treatment of that coming soon) – and community. Joseph believed that death could be conquered and that a people could be constructed through these tools.

In this process, Joseph made some painfully disturbing choices. His treatment of Emma. Then, as you mention there is Helen Marr Kimball, and Sarah Pratt. A member of our stake leadership here is a friend and as he has been developing a historical interest, I keep loaning books to him. I loaned him a book that treated the Pratt affair, and he was overwhelmed. He spent quite a while fasting and praying to God about it. He had an extra-ordinary experience and personally came to a peace regarding the matter. That is the transition from the historical narrative, to our personal, spiritual narrative.

I have many reasons to believe that Joseph was a prophet. I find many of the doctrinal developments of the last years of his life, in many ways, transcendent and quickening. I also believe that the supernatural experiences that participants believed they had were real in many cases. I then have to minimize the cognitive dissonance between what appear to be God’s inspired Church and actions that are antithetical to such a concept. Part of that process for me has been contextualize what a prophet means and how God works. We modern Mormons tend to adopt an infallibility complex. I recently read an excerpt from the George Q. Cannon diary that I quite liked, though. He was apparently taking notes of a meeting with the First Presidency and recorded President Lorenzo Snow:

I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet do things which I did not approve of; and yet…I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had these imperfections the power and authority which He placed upon him…for I knew I myself had weaknesses and I thought there was a chance for me. These same weaknesses…I knew were in Heber C. Kimball, but my knowing this did not impair them in my estimation. I thanked God I saw these imperfection. (GQC, Dairy, January 7, 1898, in Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian, 4)

I thank God too.

Bushman also held a seminar at BYU this summer on addressing the tough issues. Here is his introductory address, which you might find helpful.

As to the women involved. Zina Young is, in my opinion, one of the greatest heroes of the Restoration. Eliza was a great and powerful woman and they both were ardent feminists. They also suffered significantly. However, unraveling their participation in many aspects of this project is truly amazing.

Anyway, I hope this little bit is helpful. I think I might understand how you are feeling. There was a period when I was starting to get into the scholarly historiography, when I felt rather alone. I felt that there wasn’t anyone that understood the pain I felt. It wasn’t until I sat one evening talking to someone close to me and had a bit of catharsis that I was affirmed, not necessarily by a similar experience in the listener, but by their own and different pain and I really started to change. After that moment, I started to rebuild my spiritual narrative. I feel now, that while my beliefs are somewhat different than they were when I was I child, my belief in the Restoration is actually stronger. I am a bit more flexible, to be sure, but that is the study of history. It gives us compassion for those that went before and more compassion for ourselves. You may not be having a similar experience, so forgive me if I am offering Too Much Information.


  1. what a good friend you are. definitely a post for me to save and refer people back to as needed. i’m, uh, not exactly known for my way with words. thanks for sharing.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    A very thoughtful and sensitive message to your friend, J.

    I personally have been helped in dealing with polygamy by the fact that I was descended from polygamists, and my parents were very proud of their ancestors who made such a sacrifice. So I grew up knowing a little bit about it; it was discussed openly in my home; it was never something brand new that slapped me in the face.

    Some things that I find useful to emphasize are the restorationist context (although this ended up being restorationism on steroids), the context of unusual sealing and posthumous relationships that you mentioned, the fact that Joseph didn’t try to bogart all the wives but went to substantial and difficult lengths to inculcate the practice among others (suggesting religious motivations rather than mere hormonal overdrive), the reality that Joseph (correctly) sensed that polygamy would end up costing him his life but he went forward with it anyway, the testimonies of many of the polygamous wives themselves and their spiritual experiences (as you mention), the unusual feminism the practice bred (division of labor allowing some wives to be caregivers and others to become doctors and such).

    But when someone first reads something like Mormon Enigma, that can be a tough experience. It’s a very good book, but not for the faint of heart.

  3. Excellent points, Kevin. I knew I should have asked you first!

    Thanks makakona.

  4. …btw, “Joseph didn’t try to bogart all the wives” wins for best apologetic quote ever.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    I was just thinking that for me, much of the offense against my sensibilities I can dismiss by having a lack of what I call standing. Even though I don’t understand polygamy and some of it I find offensive, who am I to take offense compared to the people who lived through it, faced these challenges directly and yet loved the Prophet and gave all they had, doubting nothing?

  6. Thanks, J.

  7. Wow–this post is great.

    (I am sure if I thought about it, I could say something a bit more profound, but this will have to do.)

  8. J,
    Thanks for sharing this letter. It gives me a new perspective on you and your experiences.

  9. Plural marriage has some interesting implications. God knew what he was doing.

    The practice of one righteous priesthood holder with many wives results in an increasing downstream flow of active Mormon offspring, just what the restoration needed to help insure it’s survival while sill in its infancy.

    But I think it had an even greater up stream role of creating family ties for the dead. What better way to generate interest in temple work for the dead than to make you a relative of one of the main players. Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children? Suddenly you have skin in the game!

    It must have been difficult for Joseph, Emma and the others; it wasn’t an easy law to live. Keeping the natural man separated from that of God’s servant would be a challenge for any of us.

  10. Thanks, this was definitely some good food for thought. I wish our Sunday church discussions could be more regularly like this.

  11. “Joseph didn’t try to bogart all the wives” wins for best apologetic quote ever.

    Very true. And

    there are easier ways of getting laid.

    is a close second.

    I think Kevin and Kathleen should co-author an article for FARMS or FAIR where they expand upon these ideas. Or maybe do a joint presentation at Sunstone.

    This is a really good post, J. Thank you.

  12. Thanks, Stapley.
    We had guests for dinner on Sun, and the wife suddenly just needed to talk about polygamy. I talked about Biblical restorationism and the protest against the narrowing horizons of the Victorian nuclear family. The latter is a little hard with all this “traditional family” rhetoric (Joseph Smith was self-consciously rejecting what we call the “traditional family” now–in his day the traditional family was the patriarchal kindred in rural communities), but I think when you talk about it as a protest against the narrowmindedness of the white picket fence, local financing of public education, competition for limited resources, “keeping up with the Joneses” you open up new vistas–what does it mean to create family relationships with people who aren’t related to you?
    I also think it insults people to say no one enjoyed conjugality in these relationships, although I agree that JSJ wasn’t bogarting the wives as he might have and there were easier ways to have intimate contacts.
    I also emphasized the fact that God draws us up from where we are, that he speaks to us in language that we can understand. Polygamy got the message that our relationships should not be constrained into selfishness and nuclear-family introversion out loud and clear–it’s not a message that God could have sent in a post-sexist society, but it was one he could send in antebellum America.

    Thanks for offering a reminder of how powerful (and complex) our stories of faith can be. Does this mean Kevin is going to adopt you?

  13. Thanks, J (and Kevin and Steve, particularly). Part of why I have not struggled personally to accept polygamy is that I have read journals written by my (and my wife’s) ancestors who practiced it – journals that are full of both struggle to accept it and great manifestations of God to them as they did so. Some of the most powerful things I have read were recored in response to their own “furnace of affliction” that was polygamy. These journals also gave me a concept of what they envisioned by its practice – the embedding of the concept of universal, familial, communal sealing of a people that we have a hard time understanding even in our own modern, monogamous society.

    Having grown up in a small, Utah town where I was related in easily traceable ways to at least 20% of the town, I also got a taste of this communal sealing – and it can be powerful in practical ways. I’m sure I would struggle to accept its practice in my own life, but that over-arching concept of literal, expansive and all-encompassing FAMILY is one of the beauties of Mormon theology to me. I don’t think it could have been engraved in our cosmology without polygamy in quite the same way – just as I will never understand a nicotine addiction quite like someone who has smoked heavily and then quit. I’m glad I can’t, but I’m grateful for those from whom I have learned its power vicariously.

  14. Thanks for sharing, J.

  15. Thank you. I’m still sifting through it all and your experienced perspectives are comforting.

  16. Julie M. Smith says:

    Great post and comments.

    One thought: some of you have said, in effect, “Polygamy doesn’t bother me (in the same way, too much, whatever) because I have ancestors who did it.” As the church expands internationally, that will be less and less true and we will have more work to do explaining polygamy to those who don’t have pioneer ancestors.

  17. Researcher says:

    Although as the church expands internationally, it will move into areas where polygamy is still practiced today, which brings up a whole new set of concerns for the church as an institution.

    Somehow I missed all the angst over polygamy. I just can’t work myself up about it. I don’t particularly like it and wouldn’t care to live under the system, but it’s not a deal breaker to me.

    Still, I appreciate the post and the deep thoughts that went into it.

  18. Jonathan, do you think that Joseph Smith’s proposal to Jane Manning James (delivered through Emma, as Jane claimed) to be sealed to him [them?] as a child was in fact an invitation for her to participate in plural marriage? We know she knew about PM, because she records having conversations with the Lawrence sisters and the Partridge sisters about the issue. And apparently, Walker Lewis proposed polygamous marriage to Jane, likely on the grounds that he held the priesthood. (He was married when he made that proposal, which Jane turned down–though she eventually mentioned it and her desire to be sealed to Walker in one of her petitions for temple blessings.) What is the likely truth? Was Joseph offering Jane the same perceived exaltation he offered to the Partridge and Lawrence sisters? If so, this says quite a lot, don’t you think?

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Julie, I am saying something different than what you summarized, I think. It will become increasingly difficult to rely on polygamous ancestors for a source of comfort.

  20. Thanks for the comments, all.

    smb, you bring up a lot of important points.

    Margaret, I haven’t fully teased out what was going on with Jane. Though if she thought Joseph wanted to marry her, I think that she would have likely brought that up later. On my next trip to the archives, I am going to look into this.

    There are several anachronisms in the accounts I have read that make coming to conclusions difficult; however, it is sensible that Joseph would eventually “adopt” her. In context, this is probably a bigger thing than a marriage in that through the burgeoning adoption theology, such a relationship would designate her as a “legal heir” to the priesthood and temple blessings.

  21. J: I am no historian, and there is much that I don’t understand, but it seems to me that polygamy, as actually practiced in Utah, was quite different from the Nauvoo practice. The notions of dynastic sealings and adoptions seem to have disappeared and Joseph’s broader vision seems never to have been implemented. Instead, polygamy became, well, just good old fashioned polygamy. For some it worked fine, for others it was a disaster. But I have trouble seeing any broader vision of sealing together all mankind through polygamy.

    I know I speak from ignorance, so please educate me some more on this point.

  22. Bruce in Montana says:

    As a fundamentalist, I can’t help but wonder how DO you guys explain the 1886 revelation from John Taylor? This whole silly debate vanishes when one opens their eyes.
    (head shaking side-to-side)

  23. Gary, I recomend checking out Daynes, More Wives than One.

    Bruce, kindly take you fundie head shaking elsewhere. We simply have no background on the purported 1886 revelation. It simply doesn’t fit into the law of the Church, even if valid. Further, it has no bearing on anything that Joseph Smith did or didn’t do with regards to the practice.

  24. Margaret, you just summarized a note I wrote in the margins to Jonathan in our paper on adoption. My personal reading is that adoption was not sufficiently established for the invitation to have been what we think of as daughter adoption.

    However, it is possible that the language of parenthood was a compromise with Emma over the meaning of male-female sealing in the Smith househould.

    I agree with Jonathan (helpful for the paper) that adoption was a general term, encompassing the entire project of what I call the sacerdotal genealogy–after JSJ’s death, adoption became more formally a part of, rather than a shorthand for, the sacerdotal genealogy.

    Gary, Nauvoo polygamy (Daynes calls it “proto-polygamy,” and that’s a reasonable title) was different from Utah polygamy, but the evidence does not support your suggestion that polygamy had lost its connectedness in Utah. if anything, the sophistication of the Utah adoption theology argues strongly against that.

    JS: sounds like we better finish the paper more faster.

    Bruce: Your comment is a bit condescending, although it doesn’t seem malicious. It does require a false religious dichotomization that won’t hold water in many circumstances. For many LDS, the “living church” can be updated by God at any time–despite its apparent conservatism, the Utah LDS church maintains a complex but potent capacity to react, live, and grow. Calling them “silly” fails to engage the richness of the Mormon tradition, either prior or current.

  25. Thanks for this, J. Ever since I read this last night it has been mulling over in my head. (Luckily I didn’t have any nightmares over it.)

    It seems the more I study polygamy the more I am troubled by it, though I often find myself defending JS’s sincerity concerning it to my wife who is even more disgusted with it than myself (understandably). I would whole-heartedly agree with reasons you and others have made above.

    Sorry I don’t have anything to add, but thanks for raising questions that can be important to mull over struggle with, almost a form of catharsis.

  26. As the church expands internationally, that will be less and less true and we will have more work to do explaining polygamy to those who don’t have pioneer ancestors.

    Not necessarily. New members in Central Asia, Australia and Africa, and other parts of the world where the church is just beginning to grow share our polygamous roots, and understand better than Europeans. Not long ago I had a discussion about it with a friend from Tajikistan, she was relieved she could talk about her ancestry, polygamy and all, and for someone to actually get where she was coming from. We shared the same kind of pain on that front.

  27. I don’t believe there were easier ways for Joseph Smith to engage in extramarital affairs. He was too big a figure in the Church/community to have affairs and keep them secret. This doesn’t mean that he instituted polygamy just to get laid, but I do think in some ways it represented an easier route than just trying to have a little on the side here and there. The covenant element surely helped his ability to keep things on the down low.

  28. But what about marrying women who were already married? That’s what I can’t get. Joseph took them away from their husbands, or sent their husbands away. I’ve always heard that polgamy was instituted because of the surplus of women, but this seems to go against that.

  29. Pedro A. Olavarria says:

    I have to admit I was surprised when I read Rough Stone Rolling and Mormon Enigma.
    I have come away with five conclusions:

    1)Our Heavenly Father is not nearly as puritanical as we are. Yes, He is an absolute zealot when it comes to right and wrong;many things are black and white. However, what many people call sin is not sin. Similiarly, what many people consider good isn’t good at all. It seems to me that heaven is alot more lose and free than we are willing or able to realize.

    2)I have no right to judge the Prophet, Emma or anyone else who lived plural marriage. If people are going to hold prophets up to a “higher standard” then they need to be willing to match that expectation in their own lives. I’m not going to worry about his judgement day, I’m going to worry about my own.

    3) Joseph’s greatest contributions come in the way priesthood, ordinances, doctrine and scripture. If Peter,James and John really did ordain him and Moroni really did deliver the plates and sealing really does what we say it will do THEN that is all I care about. This is the Church of Jesus Christ, not the Church of Joseph Smith.

    4)When it comes to plural marriage in general, people need to stop fixating on sex. One “fundamentalist” explained it perfectly when she said “you spend more time in the kitchen and living room than you do in the bedroom.” I believe that when it is all said and done, plural marriage is simply an amplification of the familial experience. Plural marriage is to monogamy, what tithes/fast offerings are to the United Order. It recquires 10X’s more selflessness, love, patience, hard work and sacrifice.

    5) When we don’t understand the eternal principle behind a practice anything can look stupid, useless or cruel. Home teaching, missionary work and animal sacrifices can all be lampooned and brushed off as disturbing. But once we have the principles behind those practices revealed to us then they make all the sense in the world.

    I am satisfied to know that Joseph Smith Jr. is and was everything he said he was. He was a Prophet,Priest,Translator and all around good man. More importantly, God the Father recognizes him as such. That is what is really important. For those who hold him to an impossible standard of perfection, I only hope the Lord doesn’t hold them to the same standard.

  30. Anon, I think you may have some of the details confused. Joseph did marry women that were already married. Patty Sessions, for example, was much older and likely didn’t involve a physical relationship. Zina DH, is often highlighted as an example of how things go wrong, but she remained married to her first husband throughout Joseph’s life.

    That said, the surplus of women thing doesn’t really do a good job of explaining polygamy.

  31. Yeah, surplus has been showed to be incorrect. So has the idea that you get more people with polygamy (fertility per woman decreases). Daynes has argued (can’t remember whether in print) that the ratios of “righteous” men were favorable to polygamy, and that is an argument made by apologists at the time and is a well-recognized feature of American religion (that men are much less committed to religion than women). Whatever else it did, Mormon polygamy probably ensured that a higher proportion of devout Mormon women were married to a devout Mormon man. That said, there is some evidence (anecdotal, mostly) that they did not have enough women to make it work reliably for every male aspirant to eternal glory.

    Polyandry seems to support 1) the attack on Victorian domesticity, and 2) the notion of a hierarchical chain of relatedness, the superimposition of ecclesiastical on domestic relationships.

  32. Bruce (#22)

    Are you referring to the Farmhouse revelation?

  33. One of the things that seems to always go unsaid, is the view of the “Third Party”: “The Children of the Covenant”.
    I have my views on this, but more important, their view should be added to the conversation.

  34. anon (different than previous anon) says:

    Is there a way for me to sustain Joseph’s prophetic calling and still disregard, or even disdain those who practiced polygamy? As someone with no “pioneer” ancestors, I already bristle enough at having to share that “heritage” in anything more than a memorial sense. (I always squirm in my seat when a Church speaker implores me to remember “my” pioneer ancestors and their trek West–I’ve heard that much less over the years, though. But damned if my children will ever participate in a “trek” trip.)

    I’m not especially interested in also sharing the controversial past of polygamy. To turn the pointed finger the other way–it was “your” ancestors who had to leave the United States territory to practice an illegal and (to put it politely) peculiar practice, whether from divine origin or not. And if you’re going to continue to venerate your ancestors, that’s great!–but then I don’t want to hear a word about how I need to make my own family traditions conform with some particular notion of what a good LDS family culture should be or look like.

  35. anon, I think this is where compassion comes in.

  36. AS a convert with no polygamous ancestors, I agree with Julie. The best I have is that the Lord prompted me to be a member of the Church as it is today, not as it was 200 years ago. I still have had to deal with that history, but I accept on faith that a lot of those things in the past were necassary to get the church to where it is today, and with that, a lot of the things that are troublesome today are part of what will be required to get the church to where it will need to be 200 years from now.

  37. As a convert with no polygamous ancestors, I feel like I have a meaningful connection with many of the early Saints. That, and smb’s vision of Smithian Mormonism alleviates some of the terrible despair that polygamy evokes in me. The “non-bogarting” of wives argument does nothing for me. I don’t think we can generalize on this issue at all.

  38. Steve (5) – Any time you can apply civil procedure to apologetics or a gospel discussion, or really any discussion, is a plus in my book.

  39. I can’t imagine how hard plural marriage must have been in a time 120-150 years after the pilgrims and puritans. Culturally this had to be a HUGE freaking pill to swallow. It had to be by inspiration. –

  40. Great post. I often wonder why JS even asked abt polygamy. Prophets get revelation (answers) based on what questions they ask. Why some OT prophets practiced polygamy would not have been in the top 100 things I would ask. I would have asked about shellfish and eating turtles and flamingos before polygamy. So, maybe he was inspired to ask about it.

    I agree with those who don’t really identify with pioneer ancestors, since I don’t have any, and while my DH does (5th/6th gen), they were not polygamous.

  41. The really hard issue that floats around polygamy is whether some of Joseph’s activities were for him, rather than by commandment.

    Really hard to know.

    Is it conceivable that he was highly attracted to some of the young girls he married? Yes.

    Is it possible that some of the marriages were dynastic rather than real? Yes.

    Is it possible he deceived Emma at times? Yes.

    Is it possible this was a commandment that he struggled with? Yes.

    I could devise a long list of questions like this, some placing him in a better or worse light.

    The fundamental problem is that any speculation is difficult to resolve because of the passage of time and the inadequacy of records.

    So, we are left to struggle. It is a tough one. But, truly, it is probably unresolvable.

  42. Is it conceivable that he was highly attracted to some of the young girls he married? Yes.

    Is it conceivable that he found them highly attractive and that there was nothing wrong with that — i.e. that it was about all aspects of marital bonds and intimacy including the powerful effects of conjugal relations, and that JS was totally okay with this (though totally aware of how not okay others would be)? Yes.

    I’m not trying to argue with your comment, Steve, but to extend the logic. As has been noted many times in this thread, there was an anti-Victorian streak in the Prophet and a deep willingness and even desire to part with any and all of the social, economic, and soteriological conventions that encumbered full and free development and growth of the kingdom as he envisioned it.

  43. I wish I could make plural marriage, as practiced by JS and the early church, fit into anything resembling a wholesome spiritual narrative. I can’t – and I am frankly intrigued by those who know most/all of the available facts and yet can weave Joseph’s practice and deceit concerning the practice into something innocuous.

    All that aside, I think it’s great that it’s being discussed. I wish the church would take your lead and discuss stuff like this openly among the membership. The discussion, at least, is refreshing. My plug for “innoculation” – even though people come to different conclusions about topics like this, it’s always better to find out about “it” from the church….instead of her enemies. At least that way, expectations aren’t shattered.

  44. Token Average Member says:

    We average members would just as soon get on with things and stop worrying about polygamy and other such ancient history. I expect we will find out soon enough whether it is required in heaven and whether we are obedient enough to accept the answer, whatever it may be.

  45. I think that you have little idea what average members feel or think.

  46. Talking about subjects like this is important. The truth and righteousness of where we came from as a church, who we are today and what eternal fate awaits us is all wrapped up around subjects just like this one. I agree that explanations, reasons and justifications are better coming from the “church” as long as we also seek to receive our own personal witness.

  47. better not... says:

    It was mentioned earlier – That when we move into countries that currently practice polygamy we may face some difficult issues….

    This is already a problem for local Stakes and Wards where immigration from certain parts of the world is high. Often, people come to the U.S. with multiple wives. On paper, they have only one, but in practice they have two or more.

    The churches position is very straightforward – Multiple wives = excommunication. Now there could be some exceptions if the member gave up the non-legal wives and claimed ignorance, but the few I have dealt with ended up being excommunicated.

  48. Average Member Laura says:

    I just want to offer a condensed overview of my own experience with this topic:

    IN my senior year of seminary, we were studying the D&C and that was the first time I heard of polygamy. My teacher taught that it was something God commanded from time to time to raise up a seed. I left the class feeling absolutely sick and totally worthless as a female. I didn’t want to think about it period so I didn’t but that summer I went to BYU ED week and when I saw that there was a class that was supposed to explain polygamy I mustered up the courage to go. At 17, I was the youngest in the class and huddled frieghtened out of my mind in the back of the room. The speaker, an Elderly male, spoke quite flippantly about it. All I remember is his emphasis on it not being in response to a surplus of women. It seemed to confirm what my young mind already assumed — that there was no rational explanation. Anyways, the class continued through the week, but I felt so uncomfortable — so aweful, my young self did not return so as to avoid the disconcerting topic altogether. At 21, I took a WS class at BYU. I sincerely think I had a panic attack everytime the topic was raised that I pretended I wasn’t having because no one else seemed to be. The class was good insomuch as it highlighted apects of women in polygamous marriages beyond that role itself ie. suffragists, career woman, restorationists in thier own right. I gained a respect for early Mormon women of whom prior to such I only associated with polygamy.

    At 22 after I was married, my hubby a Church History enthusist began reading In Sacred Loneliness. If learning of polygamy as a concept had horrified me, learning actual details of polygamy in its day of practice seemed to confirm all of my fears. My testimony was really weakened for a couple of years — particularly of Joseph Smith. And I broke down hopelessly sobbing about it with my husband and alone by myself more than a few times comtemplating how I would feel if the Lord ever required that of us. I prayed many times throughout those years especially for the Lord to give me some peace about it but it didn’t come so I did what I had always eventually done to cope — I tried not to think about it anymore. I still felt haunted by it though. We moved to London where Big Love had become a hit on basic television there ( the equivalent of abc or nbc) and because the Brits new so little about Mormons beyond polygamy, now any mention of my Mormondom was likely to associate me solely with it and questions following accordingly.
    When we were back in the US, I read a blog in a newspaper completely dominated by anti-Mormons rattling off every gritty and unsightly detail of plural marriage they could to denounce the CHurch particularly in regards to Women. I began to contemplate leaving the Church at that time, entertaining more counciously that they might be right.

    Long story short, I eventually resolved that if God could confirm to me that He appeared to a young Joseph in a grove of trees, he could also confirm to me that it had indeed been Him who commanded Joseph to practice plural marriage and not just something Joseph came up with himself. I also concluded that the God I had come to know deeply loved His children — His daughters and if it had been His will, then there was a dang good reason for it and I hoped that he could help me understand what that really good reason was. I decided to focus on those two questions first and put aside any potential personalizing of the practice until I had them.

    My answers eventually came in a series of illuminating experiences and insights that are deeply sacred, satisfying and uplifting to me. Furthermore, as to the what if the Saints are ever given the command to practice plural marriage in this or the life hereafter speculations, I found a pattern of potential positive coping that I could draw upon particularly in the life of Elizabeth Anne Whitney. I’m not a plural marriage enthusiast by any means, but I’m not afraid of it anymore — I’ve gained an emmense love and grattitude for those who did practice it and altogether it was an extremely important journey for me make.

  49. God bless you, Laura. I wish more of us could follow your example to study it out and ask God for this kind of confirming personal revelation, submitting our hearts and wills to His for whatever it may be at the time.

    I, too, have received personal spiritual experiences confirming to me and clarifiying my questions and studies regarding this important topic.

    I wish more peopole could put aside their own natural man (or woman) and follow the counsel of Moroni 10:5.

  50. Thank you for sharing, Laura. When you said, “I’m not a plural marriage enthusiast by any means, but I’m not afraid of it anymore,” I suppose that is kind of how I feel, but I’m envious of the peace you’ve made with the issue. I think I’m still on that journey myself, but as Token Member suggested, sometimes I just resolve the issue by worrying about the day-to-day routine. (Doesn’t resolve the issue, really, just…postpones it.)

  51. StillConfused says:

    I have always thought of Brigham Young as a pervert and am leaning towards Joseph Smith being one too. But I still consider myself Mormon anyway. I can’t resolve the conflict; I don’t even try. It just is.

  52. StillConfused, I understand that you might have some tough feelings about these folks. But I don’t think your casual assumptions are all that helpful.

  53. Average Member Laura says:

    Thanks Jothan, I share your enthusiasm for others to be able to come to terms with LDS PM. Following my own experiences, I milled over trying to compile a book of essays of modern LDS women’s experiences in grappling with the topic and history and thier personal reconciliations to give others struggling with it a place of support but I have currently abandoned the project. I also worked tirelessly with a college aquaintance who was then an editor with the Church Magazines to submit an article on my experiences grappling with the subject but it was ultimately and I think rightfully rejected by the managing editor of the Ensign. I felt I had watered down my story so much so as to make it Ensign sanitized ( a good thing) that it had lost its potency (a bad thing). I’ve thought a ton about how to best approach it for others in a coherant body of work to help those who are struggling with it but I continue to find myself inadequete to produce something that I think truly does the job well and responsibly.

    I wouldn’t say that I think that it necesarily has to do with overcoming the natural man/woman. Something I took note of in my own grappling with the topic is how the prophet Jacob approached PM in the BOM with his people. He praised the women for thier sensitivities towards the practice — said it was pleasing to God. I took heart at that because before I had felt guilty about my feelings towards PM but there was Jacob validating those “tender feelings” that seem to naturally come to those with a strong commitment to the law of chastity.

  54. I have a hard time believing that polygamy was strictly a contrived loophole licensing rampant promiscuity, though I am troubled by it nonetheless. I have known about polygamy, and even Joseph Smiths participation in some little detail for most of my life. I have never been turned off by the concept in the abstract, but in recent years have learned a more than I knew about the particulars in how it was practiced and introduced. The trouble I have is that it seems to have been very coercive and manipulative.

  55. cowboy- Those who struggle with the way plural marriage was began by Joseph Smith might try to imagine what they would do in his circumstance. If it is assumed or believed he was a true prophet, though imperfect, consider what he must have felt like and how he decided to negotiate the command, if it was a command.

    By the way, I favor some sort of scholarly reference from the Church’s historical department. It wouldn’t need to give all the why’s and how’s, but it could give us an idea of what we DO know. And that would help a lot, in my opinion, coming from the church. See my post on plural marriage as discussed in the church materials today.

  56. BHodges: Thank you for the reply, but with all do respect, like so many other quick answers in this vein, it entirely misses the point.

    “If it is assumed or believed he was a true prophet…”

    This is the point, issues regarding the nature and character of Joseph Smith and his conduct in things like polygamy, call into question his credibility on other issues. If we assumed that he was a prophet regardless of his conduct, then this would not be such a huge issue affecting the faith of thousands of Mormons. For lifelong members like myself, this can be very troubling.

  57. Token Average Member says:

    Sorry if I offended you, J., but I do know a bit about the average members around here. Your average may vary.

  58. cowboy, I think you underscore the problem correctly in noting that our expectations of a prophet often dictate our response to new information.

  59. As an aside, I, too, know a lot of members who are pretty indifferent to the plural marriage issue. It’s not a simple dichotomy of bothered and not bothered, however.

  60. I agree with Cowboy: we will never get a full accounting from the Church on Polygamy, because it brings into play so many more issues. It can not be isolated from which Prophet is right, which Revelation is right, Was JS running two churches in Nauvoo, is there a difference between the Church and Priesthood. The list could go on…

  61. If we assumed that he was a prophet regardless of his conduct, then this would not be such a huge issue affecting the faith of thousands of Mormons.

    I have no problem with JS being both a prophet and a man. I would even go a step further — I feel that I am expected to understand that both aspects coexist in a single person.

  62. Laura #53, have your thought about trying to publish your article in Dialogue or Sunstone? Or maybe even posting it as a blog.

    I would be interested in reading it unwatered down with all it’s potentcy.

  63. #61 – Tony: I think you are still missing the point of my comment. To many who struggle with the historical aspects of polygamy in the Church the personal credibility of Joseph Smith is challenged, therefore all of his claims are suspect. It is not an matter of accepting his imperfections, it is a matter of accepting his integrity.

    I am also a bit confused with the recycled arguments that we have to accept that Joseph was both a Prophet and a man. In the abstract that statement sounds kosher, for no man who has ever lived was perfect except the Savior. That is a basic tenet in all Christian forms of which I am aware. But to put a fine point on it, even a black or white one, polygamy was either very right or very wrong. If it was from God then it is/was in some way, which clearly the general membership of the Church does not understand, the law of Heaven. If it was wrong, then it was just as I said in my comment earlier (#54) coercive and manipulative. I would not personally feel comfortable excusing that as, “hey, he’s only human”. After all, according to that logic so is Hughe Heffner. If it was wrong, it obviously opens a whole can of worms, hence many a Latter Day Saint has and will continue to reconcile this one for years to come. Bob, I totally agree.

  64. the last statement should read:

    “If it was wrong, it obviously opens a whole can of worms, hence many a Latter Day Saint has and will continue to struggle to reconcile this one for years to come”.

  65. cowboy, I think that you are mistaken in your assessment.

  66. I wish more of us could follow your example to study it out and ask God for this kind of confirming personal revelation, submitting our hearts and wills to His for whatever it may be at the time.

    I wish more peopole could put aside their own natural man (or woman) and follow the counsel of Moroni 10:5.

    Jothan, I do not doubt your peace you have made with God regarding this issue, and I am frankly jealous of the peace Laura has made. But to assume that those who still have a problem with plural marriage as practiced by Joseph Smith are putting their own pride ahead of the will of God, or just haven’t bothered to ask for an answer is insulting.

    Is God being truthful with me about the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, etc but lying to me about plural marriage (and don’t think I haven’t asked the same questions as Laura – with real intent)? I don’t think so. Does my answer mean plural marriage was wrong? Not any more than your answer means plural marriage was right.

    Only when we realize we don’t really have all the answers even when we think we do are we able to deal with the nuance. I do not find you apologetic or blind because of your answers, but ask that you do not assume I am stiff-necked or prideful because I have reached a different conclusion.

    Laura, I too would love to read your story in it’s full-fledged potency.

    And thanks J for the link to Bushman’s intro address, it was very helpful.

  67. J. Stapely:

    Am I mistaken regarding my assessment of those whose struggle with Joseph Smith is in regards to his integrity as opposed to his humanity? Or am I mistaken that polygamy was either very right or very wrong?

  68. comboy, Yes. But more so the latter.

  69. the personal credibility of Joseph Smith is challenged, therefore all of his claims are suspect.

    cowboy: do you believe the Book of Mormon ought to be judged by the light of plural marriage? If so, how and why?

  70. polygamy was either very right or very wrong

    I guess I don’t really see things that way. To put it another way, since Joseph Smith is a man I view all his claims as suspect and I definitely question his integrity. Since he is a prophet, I must seriously consider that any of his actions may or may not reflect the will of God. I don’t see any inconsistency there.

    I can no more explain polygamy than I can explain murder, rape, evil, or hate. Yet, I am convinced that there are reasons for these things beyond their simple categorization as “evil”. What’s more, I believe that it is primarily through direct revelation that I come closer to understanding these things. (Sorry to Apologists)

    I am not saying that you should view things the way that I do, or that I’m right and you’re wrong. And please don’t take this as anything that invalidates or denies your perspective.

  71. #68- Okay,….I guess that settles it then.

    #69- My comments had less to do with what ought to be, but more of what is. I realize that this is a bit of generalization, but the reality is that there are plenty of members who after years of faith in The Book of Mormon, even bearing witness to that fact, will lose confidence in Joseph Smith because of polygamy, and by appendage anything related to his role as a Prophet. So I would argue, yes many people have judged The Book of Mormon by polygamy in that regard. You might argue that is unfair and that The Book of Mormon should stand on it’s own, but in my experience most people who begin to doubt the Prophet for any reason will immediately begin to rethink their positions on all relevant matters. In other words, if you believe Joseph was a fraud by the way he practiced polygamy, believing one variation of the many explanations for the BoM, other than divine origin, is not that difficult to do. As many people have discussed in the past, one of the primary roles of the BoM is to bear witness to Joseph Smith, isn’t the opposite true as well?

  72. Cowboy, you are talking DAMUese. I don’t doubt that a lot of people might question many aspects of Joseph Smith’s role as a prophet if they lose confidence in any one particular facet of previously held beliefs. You, however, are casting the issue in metaphysical requirements. Just because someone might question every aspect of their faith doesn’t mean that they have to land in one of your two polarities of belief. That is just crappy thinking.

  73. So hypothetically speaking lets assume that Joseph Smith contrived polygamy (I am not saying he did). After doing so he used his position of trust to solicit a large number of the members into this practice by saying that God commanded it. Promises of salvation or damnation are given in the name of God to those whom he solicits and their families for their respective compliance to this law. And everything else that you already know happens too. That would not be very wrong to you?

    As I said earlier if God did infact command this, then so be it, and it is very right. I will concede this is a matter of personal perspective, and I realize there are others on this sensitive and complex issue. People may land where they wish, this is just my crappy view.

  74. Steve Evans says:

    Cowboy, for a “sensitive and complex issue” you are sure approaching things in an overdramatic and simplistic manner. Why are you inventing hypothetical tests based on odd spiritual standards that you know nothing about? Are you trying to justify a belief that polygamy was a mistake and that Joseph was a fallen prophet? If so your a priori suggestions are just the ticket. If, however, you want to approach things from a position of faith, you are decidedly not on the right starting ground. In other words, your assumption in no. 73 is quite obviously your held belief, your parenthetical notwithstanding.

  75. Average Member Laura says:

    Jothan and Mel S., thanks for your interest but alas that version does not yet exist in writting. Perhaps in the future — your curiousity is encouraging to retake up a once fervently sought after quest.

  76. Nice approach Steve, really. It is a sensitive and complex issue because it affects so many of us so strongly, and means something different to each of us. I have already mentioned that I find polygamy troubling, and have made no pretenses here or elsewhere. My point was that it is very difficult to reconcile that Joseph Smith was legitimate, while polygamy and its practice were not. I will not comment on this post further.

  77. #73: Cowboy: I think Cowboy asks a good question. It is especially good since it reflects the attitude of many non-Mormons that I’ve met. That alone makes it a worthy question.

    My answer to his question is that he is correct: Joseph Smith as described would be a “wrong” person.

    I also believe that such questions are essential to the process of moving us closer to God. It is in answering such question that we define ourselves.

    So where do you go from there? It depends on how you’ve answered the question. Can you only see “right” and “wrong”? Are you able to handle contentious perspectives? Are you someone who looks for faith? How do you act towards those who disagree?

    So the answer describes a beginning, not an end.

  78. Yes it is a sensitive and complex issue but so is the first vision, the BoM, polygamy and the priesthood ban. They can all can be framed like Cowboy’s question; was it of God or man?

    All of us eventually struggle with these kinds of questions.

  79. Average Member Laura says:

    After re-reading some of the posts, I just want to throw some more random thoughts out there that may or may not be useful to others. I share these things because I know it is exhausting and extremely disheartening not to get answers and maybe this will help somebody else.

    When I originally approached my church magazine editor friend to look over my potential essay book proposal, I came to find out that she too had just undergone her own trying experience in grappling with PM over the summer following her reading of Mormon Enigma. As we compared our experiences and explored what had finally resulted in an actual confirmation/afirmative answer on the subject etc. there was some very interesting overlap. I’ll share some of her experience as I think it illustrates those overlapping components very well.

    She had been given the assignment to cover the dedication of the Nauvoo temple just after her readings of Mormon Enigma had opened up all of the messiness and confusion we’ve been discussing here. Of course she’d been praying about it a lot but hadn’t gotten any answers or peace. In Nauvoo she continued to ruminate in her doubts about Joseph making for a very difficult work week to say the least. In the end, the day before she went home still without any answers, she stood in front of Joseph’s and Emma’s grave stones and essentially said within herself who am I to judge and I don’t have the full details — moving forward, I’m going to choose to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    On the plane ride home, she sat next to a guy who as they got to talking came to find out she was a Mormon. He was excited — he had hoped to meet a Mormon on his trip to Salt Lake and began asking questions. He eventually began asking her what she thought about polygamy — essentially the very same questions she’d been asking herself. In a nonconfrontational way, he genuinely asked so do you think Joseph Smith was a pretty good guy but just got this one thing (polygamy) wrong? A variant of that theory had certainly been on her mind that week and the entire conversation seemed to bring everything she’d been thinking about to a head. In that momment she felt a very strong NO from the Spirit in answer to this guy’s (and really her) important question. She responded and began testifying of Joseph’s prophetic call — the revelation on polygamy to the early saints included! She felt the Spirit very powerfully as she testified to him confirming to her the things that she was saying were true. In the weeks that followed after her experience, her rational self was able to follow the lead of her now spiritually informed self and gain more insight on how to reconcile what she had read.

    My own experience paralleled hers in finally taking the same “who am I to judge and I don’t have the full details — moving forward, I’m going to choose to give him the benefit of the doubt.” approach. In doing this, I woke up the next morning and typed a response to the anti-mormons I’d been dealing with online essentially explaining that polygamy had been one way in which Latter-day Saints have lived the law of consecration and done the will of God. It was just after submitting that simple but public “testimony”, that I had my own very powerful and informative spiritual experience. That experience reverberated in me for days and days and like my friend, I was then finally able to reconcile things better with my head and began to more easily adopt some of other people’s proposed reconciliations that seemed to square well with the things the Spirit had taught me.

  80. Beautiful story AML. It’s interesting how messiness and confusion seems to precede inspiration, peace and testimony.

  81. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks AML.

  82. there are plenty of members who after years of faith in The Book of Mormon, even bearing witness to that fact, will lose confidence in Joseph Smith because of polygamy, and by appendage anything related to his role as a Prophet.

    I think, actually, that this is right. But it’s not right in a good way.

    There _are_ members — lots of them, I think — who on a personal level have a sort of hyper-perfect mental picture of Joseph Smith. I think that this is in part the natural product of admiration; and there are parts of church culture that sometimes tend to encourage it. And for those folks, the idea that Joseph Smith was anything less than perfect can indeed be a testimony-breaker. And if that’s the direction that people want to go, after consideration — I wish them well. But I think it makes sense to analyze their assumptions. Why is it, exactly, that JS polygamy is a testimony breaker?

    It does not simply follow logically, from “JS practiced polygamy” to “JS cannot be a prophet.”

    There are chains of reasoning that do connect the dots. For instance,

    1. JS lied about polygamy.
    2. Prophets never lie.
    3. Therefore, JS could not be a prophet.

    But that raises questions itself. Is it really true that prophets never lie? Why? Where does that assumption come from?


    1. JS lied about polygamy
    2. Therefore, JS lied about some things
    3. Therefore, maybe he lied about the Book of Mormon, too.

    Yes. He lied about some things.

    On the other hand, he clearly told the truth about other things. Simply saying “he lied sometimes” doesn’t itself end the query, does it? What evidence is there for the truth or untruth of specific statements?

    And so on.

    I can understand that for some people, it’s ultimately unanswerable. But I think that sometimes, the shock over polygamy and the need to vent (and the forums where like-minded souls commiserate) can encourage or allow sloppy and hasty thinking and too-quick conclusions.

    So I’d say — explain. Why _is_ it a deal breaker?

    Really, folks. If you’re orthodox Mormon, you believe that Abraham was a polygamist who lied about his wife to the authorities — and who for good measure let one wife get beaten, cast out one wife and child into the desert, and tried to kill the other child. And you still think _he’s_ still a prophet. Is JS really doing anything Abraham isn’t? Why would one be a deal-breaker, and the other not?

  83. For me, polygamy – dealt with in isolation and as a mistake – is NOT a deal breaker. I am fine accepting the fact that JS was human. I recognize that he was fallible (as are all of us), but I also recognize the incredible things he did – in some ways he was an extraordinary human being. To be sure, people are not either all “good” or all “bad.”

    But part of the problem, for me, is that we still, after 160 years (with prophet’s seers and revelators mind you), hold this practice as revelation – and justify his lying about it as God’s will. From LDS.org – “at certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890.”

    The church’s insistance that the JS’s practice was God’s will is problematic for me. I can’t really allow (in my simple, perhaps puritanical mind) that God would command, ahem, essentially sanctioned adultary and deception, in the way it was practiced by JS. I could heartily accept a stance more along the lines of prophetic imperfection and still hold JS as a propeht, but it doesn’t appear that we are able to simply write it off to imperfection and mistake.

    So that’s the trouble for me….can’t call it a mistake + can’t accept it as God’s directive = deciding the church is wrong on this one? I don’t know….but that train of thought starts people (like me) looking at other things the church holds as “revelation from god” in a different light. Each issue (the BOA, the BOM, the witnesses testimonies, etc., etc.) are examined and treated with a touch more skepticism because of conclusions reached (or not reached)on the polygamy question….and folks are on their way to kicking a can down the street of non-mormonism. It’s not a simple dichotomy, I think, that JS practiced polygamy…therefore he was a fraud. It’s that confidence in other things begins to fall as they are examined with a tinge more skepticism as a result of the insights gained in the mess of the polygamy question.

    Hope that makes sense…..

  84. I can no more explain polygamy than I can explain murder, rape, evil, or hate. Yet, I am convinced that there are reasons for these things beyond their simple categorization as “evil”.

    TonyD, placing polygamy in the same category as murder, rape, evil and hate is instructive.

    There are ways to look at polygamy as having been a good thing for the Church as a whole, even while seeing it as having been a severe trials for the vast majority of members who practiced it. One of the most interesting reasons to me is a take on the “raise up seed unto me” phrase of Jacob 2:30 – that the Lord needed to recreate a modern-day House of Israel (a separate ethnic group, if you will), and polygamy was the best way to tie everyone together into such a group and spread that ethnic peculiarity even among converts who don’t share the actual polygamous lineage.

    I really like that perspective, since it is solidly supported by all of our canon, but I mention it simply to show that their are legitimate ways to view polygamy from a faithful standpoint that don’t require it to be like unto murder, rape, evil or hate – or to require Joseph to have been a fallen prophet. In this, as in most things, if you are looking for ways to fell the man, you will find them; if you are looking for ways to sustain the Prophet, you will find them.

  85. “Sensitive and complex” is code for potentially emotionally volatile.

    Since these issues are not clear-cut they are largely faith-based and the uncertainty of others can easily propagate cracks in our own beliefs and egos provoking defensiveness.

    I’m thankful that the bloggernacle exists to allow us to work through these issues, but I worry about those in a crisis of faith.

    Shouldn’t we be treating them with the same charity we extend to investigators?

  86. “Shouldn’t we be treating them with the same charity we extend to investigators?”

    I agree, Howard – completely and without reservation. However, I think that the problem in a forum like this is that it’s hard to tell who’s having a crisis of faith and who’s just being a jerk or pounding their opposing and/or fundamentalist beliefs. At some point, we all need to back away and let go if all we are doing is beating a dead horse.

    I think this is a great place for those having a crisis of faith – but not for those who insists on being obnoxious or over-bearing about it.

  87. In an effort to offer some alternative perspective to stimulate thought, meditation and personnal research and study and not to debate or argue I offer the following thoughts to consider.

    Might the issue or concerns of Polygny being right or wrong boil down to it being adultery or not, a violation of the law of chastity or not?

    Might we ponder what our own personal beliefs or definitions of what adultery and the law of chastity are?

    How does God define and apply adultery or the law of chastity? How were they defined and applied anciently? How do these ancient definitions compare to our modern and puritanical ideal and cultural definitions?

    What is the difference between plural marriage and polygny? Is plural marriage essentially covenant based under the authority of God and polygny not necessarily so?

    What are the pro’s and con’s of monogyny vs the pro’s and con’s of polygny?

    Happy researching and follow the spirit. Be open to all available resources to wherever the spirit may guide.

  88. Ray,
    Yes in a public forum it is very difficult to tell who you are dealing with.

    But, Cowboy’s comments seemed pretty clear and consistent to me. I completely agree with Kaimi’s point with regard to chains of reasoning, but not everyone has been trained in logic.

    Maybe our default position should be to extend the benefit of doubt.

  89. Yes, it’s possible polygamy was needed to ‘raise up seed’, but you gotta admit, there were surely other – perhaps less eyebrow raising – ways to raise a core group of saints.

  90. #85: “These issues are not clear-cut they are largely faith-based”. This is a fair statement to me, and I don’t challenge it. The only ‘problem’ I have is EVERYONE, Mormon or non-Mormon, agrees that Polygamy DID occur in reality, and therefore goes beyond just a ‘faith based issue’.

  91. Bob,
    Sure Polygamy occurred but the faith-based issue is; was it of God or man?

  92. Perhaps, adcama, but what other alternatives would have made everybody a truly unique ethnic group in a very real, genealogical way? It seems to me, in reading the materials of the time, that Joseph was almost obsessed with the idea of the universal sealing of his people into a distinct community and people of God. The dynastic sealings and adoptions are particularly fascinating in this regard. Also, it’s hard to imagine anything else that would have gotten the early saints driven into their own Promised Land and allowed them to solidify into their own “ethnic group” for so long.

    The following is an over-simplification, but it appears to me that the more heavenly visionary Joseph (the seer) was fixated on the eternal teaching of a universally sealed family of God (the community of Christ), while the more earthly visionary Brigham (the organizer) was fixated on building a new House of Israel (the kingdom of God) through obvious blood connections. Polygamy fits well into both of those visions, and by the end of the 19th Century I think it had solidified both visions in a very real way.

    Assuming from the start that polygamy in and of itself is a terrible thing makes it hard to justify in any way; removing that assumption makes it much easier – even if it still is easy to criticize certain aspects or results. I choose not to make that assumption.

    So, I simply don’t classify it as a mistake. I don’t think the implementation was handled very well, and I certainly don’t think Joseph understood it perfectly until the last few years of his life (if then), but I don’t see it as a mistake. I also realize I am working from the soapbox of hindsight, so I try to keep 1 Corin. 13 in mind and take as charitable a view as possible.

  93. Average Member Laura says:

    #80 Yeah Howard. But what still amazes me is how we sometimes gain testimonies by baring them. It’s really bizarre!

  94. OK folks, I think this thread has wound down.

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