Politics, Polygamy, and King Follett

In 1903, a tectonic shift was taking place in the way Latter-day Saints saw themselves and in the way non-Mormons saw Utah and the Mormons. Since the end of public Mormon polygamy in 1890, the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Wilford Woodruff’s revelation of 1894, and Utah statehood in 1896, Mormons were gradually, scratchingly, slowly, drifting into the mainstream of American culture, a change largely driven by technological forces. Politically, Mormonism had weathered a terrible storm and paid a large price in terms of self-definition, self-understanding, and theological position.

Captured in the center of all this was the Mormons’ conception of the Divine and their relation to it. The hallmark of, in many ways the textual foundation of, the Mormon theology of the nineteenth century was Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse. While it was not often quoted in extenso it was in the back of the minds of folks like Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow, Wilford Woodruff, Emmiline Blanche Wells, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith. It, and Joseph Smith’s revelation of July 12, 1843 (polygamy–section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants) formed a kind of bedrock for a wandering superstructure of things like spiritual adoption, sealing practice, polygamy, the end of the world, Celestial glory, the Heavenly Family, Adam-God, and you name it. I don’t believe all, or even much of the superstructure was justified by logic, but it was justified by culture, by the necessary reimagination of foundational beliefs through disappointment, time, station, changing expectation, personality, and of course, inspiration in liberal doses.

In 1900, LDS church president Lorenzo Snow announced the appointment of a new apostle, Reed Smoot, to take the place of the long-serving and recently deceased (December 1899) Franklin D. Richards. It was a ground-breaking selection. Smoot was not out of the typical apostolic mold. Born in 1862, Smoot didn’t reach maturity until the “raid” was in full flow, and he never seems to have thought highly of polygamy. Smoot married monogamously in 1884.

Smoot was a Republican by politics, and successful businessman by trade, and he enjoyed the approval of fellow Republican Joseph F. Smith in his endeavors. Utah politics was a heated enterprise in the wake of statehood, and many church leaders held strong publicly stated views on the subject. Smoot and Democrats like B. H. Roberts and Charles Penrose were often at odds in public and private. Moreover, important church leaders like Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, George Q. Cannon, and others, continued to approve polygamous marriages among select Mormons. Smoot disliked this, and he saw polygamous living as a cultural anchor chain that had to be severed.

Smoot ran for a seat in the United States Senate in 1902 and was elected, succeeding Democrat (and another Mormon who disliked polygamy) Joseph Rawlins. Smoot’s election created controversy both in the church hierarchy and the Washington political and religious scene.

Smoot’s election was immediately challenged by a Senate investigation over continuing polygamy among the Latter-day Saints. American Protestant figures also took issue and wrote their Senators to the effect that the Mormons were simply not a part of Christian America and that Smoot, as an LDS apostle, by default approved of and perhaps even practiced polygamy himself (it probably didn’t help that Mormon missionaries were still being told to vet converts to be sure they had firm testimonies of polygamy).

Senate hearings were held and witnesses of all sorts, including President Joseph F. Smith, and apostle Francis M. Lyman were called, and uttered some rather embarrassing statements. Church critics had their say as well.

American Protestants in the nineteenth century saw Utah as a fertile field for conversion to Christ and the saving of oppressed Mormon women in particular. Presbyterians were particularly active in the work, and very cleverly saw a way into the hearts of Latter-day Saints: they started schools for Mormon children, taking advantage of a sore spot among many Mormons who saw their own education systems as lacking in many ways. The Protestant schools did some religious teaching alongside the readin’ and writin’ but for the most part they provided a genuine and mostly appreciated service. Naturally, Utah Protestants saw Mormon doctrines of all sorts as heretical, and Smoot’s election didn’t set well with them, being an apostle, etc.

In 1903, the Utah Presbyterian Teachers Association decided to do their part in waking up the citizenry to the un-Christian views of Mormons, supplying some fodder for their Eastern counterparts. Scandalized by Mormon teachings about God (and Man!) the Association chose to publish, of all things, a version of the King Follett Sermon. The sermon was making a comeback among some Mormon exegetes, and the Association wanted the most shocking text available. King Follett had gone through the editorial mill between 1844 (when Joseph Smith died) and 1856, when a sort of finalized version was composed and approved by church leaders for the history of Joseph Smith (somewhat ironically, church leaders of the early 1900s rejected the sermon as having editorially injected false doctrine and blocked its publication in the History of the Church volumes appearing at the time).

There are quite a number of redactive branchings of Follett, and the Association decided on a rather obscure one: a William W. Phelps edit that appeared in print in Nauvoo in 1845. How they got hold of this somewhat rare version (which they felt was especially authentic) is hard to say, but perhaps its early age was a romantic incentive along with its association with future church president, John Taylor who was press editor in 1845 (the Association mistakenly saw the 1845 version as the first publication and mistakenly took the word of the Phelps/Taylor imprint that King Follett was Smith’s last sermon–a claim that drifted along in Mormonism for some time). In any case, the Association produced a faithful copy of the Phelps redaction in 1903 (Phelps, as may be expected, took a few liberties with his copy-text, but that doesn’t soil the Presbyterian version). The Association writing committee wrote as introduction:

“Students of Mormonism find that it has published no ‘Systematic Theology,’ The four so-called church works are voluminous, yet neither of them sets forth The System. The card statement, Articles of Faith, does not uncover essential Mormonism. As a brief answer to the inquiry ‘Wherein does Mormonism essentially differ from Christianity?’ the following sermon is reprinted; it was delivered by Joseph Smith at Conference, Nauvoo, Illinois, April 6, 1844 [sic]. The following points may be noted among others:

As to Godhead:
It asserts polytheism instead of monotheism.
As to Creation:
It asserts it to be limited instead of absolute; matter, and all spirits being represented as eternal.
As to Revelation:
It sets up the speakers’ so-called revelations as the test of Scripture.
As to Men Being Saviors:
It asserts a ferreting out and saving of spirits gone into the eternal world.
As to Men in the Future State:
It asserts progressive deification—men becoming gods by development.

These teachings, astounding though they be to Bible readers, are the heart of Temple-working Mormonism today, as shown by frequent and extended quotation by ministering elders, by writers in church papers, and by the approved work, ‘New Witness for God,’ by Elder B. H. Roberts. Out of at least six issues of the sermon from Mormon presses, in the first seventeen years, the very first is chosen, that issued by John Taylor, Nauvoo, June, 1844, and entitled ‘Joseph Smith’s Last Sermon;’ it is given verbatim. The Committee.”

Smoot kept his seat by the way. Through some careful dealings with Theodore Roosevelt and various Senators and his insistence on the sacrifice of two apostles to prove the end of polygamy (which didn’t end precisely anyway) he survived a negative committee vote and served in both the Senate and the Quorum of the Twelve together for three decades.

There you go, politics, polygamy, and a little preaching on the side.


  1. WVS: I’m sure my assertion is a minority one, but I’ve always felt that Mormonism is first and foremost a very specific cosmology with a unique take on the creation story. There are many elements of that story which remain problematic, but in my opinion it becomes a much more difficult issue when the creation story is used to justify gender roles ( since Eve was created last, then…. ). From my standpoint there is simply no easy way to address one particular issue ( creation, gender roles, polygamy, etc. ) without fixing them all at once.

    Also, part of the King Follett Discourse makes very specific and testable predictions, something quite unique in theology. The assertion that matter (whatever that might be) is eternal is demonstrably false in most cases. I’d be interested to hear your take.

  2. Clark Goble says:

    Jeff, I think when we discuss matter we have to ask what we mean by matter. If we mean something material in the sense of in space/time then the energy issue mostly goes away. (Not entirely given issues of energy conservation across time) However the big bang is then the bigger issue.

    However on the textual issue when we look at the variants of how the sermon was recorded the whole question of matter is tricker. There are good reasons to think he’s teaching something more subtle than matter being eternal. Consider the Clayton account.

    God had materials to organize from–chaos–chaotic matter. –element had an existence from the time he had. The pure pure principles of element are principles that never can be destroyed–they may be organized and re organized=but not destroyed

    Clayton distinguishes between matter and the principles of matter. It’s not clear what principles mean. The Laub account summarizes it as Chaos being made into element. While I think there are some problems attributing causation of influences on Joseph Smith, Steve Fleming at Juvenile Instructor has made some provocative posts (and his doctrinal thesis) on the Joseph Smith and neoplatonism. He sees a lot of structural and rhetorical parallels between Joseph and texts like the Timaeus. If we’re talking about a more Timaeus like view (and the terms are at minimum very similar) then things get pretty complicated.

    I’m not saying reading the KFD in light of the Timaeus (especially the translations available to Joseph which I’ve simply not read) is correct. Just that I think these sections are a tad more complex than they appear at first glance. (Certainly much more so than how Orson Pratt read them)

    Of course the King Follet Discourse makes other claims, such as about the resurrection of children, that many find problematic. Also since this is a sermon rather than the revelation of the ideas behind the sermon, many see there as being more opportunity for error. Some, like Blake Ostler, find the whole text problematic as a way to ground doctrine.

  3. Jeff, I’d be very interested to hear what physics breakthrough you’ve made that contradicts the law of conservation of mass-energy. Or are you just quibbling with 19th-century semantics?

  4. Clark Goble says:

    To add these sorts of questions are obviously quite different from how the KFD was received during the early Utah period or how readings changed during the transitionary phase of which Smoot’s hearings is often seen as the key pivot along with the Woodruff revelation on polygamy.

  5. Clark Goble says:

    Owen, at a simple level conservation laws arise due to Noether’s Theorem and symmetries. (She was one of the great mathematicians in an era when it was a very hard for women in academics) The simple, albeit not sufficiently correct answer, is that since the laws of physics change over time due to symmetry breaking as the universe cools that there isn’t global energy conservation. The more correct but complex answer involves General Relativity. In GR spacetime can give energy to matter or absorb it from matter so total energy simply isn’t conserved. Part of this is because in GR, unlike most other fields, there’s no density of gravity energy. You just can’t talk about it as definite at every point.

    The point being that matter/energy (since they can be converted between each other) simply isn’t globally conserved. Things get even trickier if you start trying to inject a multiverse into the discussion.

  6. Owen, Clark beat me to it. WVS would be well versed in this history. The great conservation laws of physics (mass, momentum, energy) arise because one has a continuous symmetry (isotropy, homogeneity). Those conservation laws are local. However, globally things are quite different. Mathematically particles can be described by irreducible representations of the Poincare group which in turn relies on the symmetries of Minkowski space. WVS may remember me giving him grief over his flat space D’Alembertian. It has been known since Schrodinger’s studies in the 1950’s in dealing with an expanding universe that it gets more complicated since one doesn’t have those symmetries. Leonard Parker explored this further in the 1960’s and a recent exposition “Quantum Field Theory In Curved Spacetime, Parker and Toms” page 53 discusses this very issue. The definition of a particle is ambiguous and one can’t talk about particle numbers.

  7. It’s probably a mistake to view King Follett as some kind of coherent response to Smith’s reading diet. There are elements of that I suppose, but it’s much more than that. Joseph Smith engaged in sermon cycles, much like, but yet less specific than say early New England Puritans. Whether one can trace ideas to Platonic origins is an abstraction that was largely unimportant on virtually every level (at the time), but especially lived religion. Smith was doing two things in Follett: 1. trying to formulate a theology of suffering and failure, and 2. summing up his own disparate singleton thoughts that pervaded much of his work from the very beginnings of his experience with the Divine. There are themes to be sure, and they, like much of the text science that goes on with the New Testament, can be linked and stirred and passed through the bowels of the interpretative animal, but that was, if present for him, largely subconscious I think.

    Jeff: I think Joseph Smith lived in the primitive science of the day. Elements eternal and all that, has to be seen in the way that John’s Apocalypse is seen (mostly). It was a document of the times. If you want something more from it, then it has to be interpreted, or more properly, translated. And there is no established (correlated?), encyclicalized if you will, translation. If it needs one, then I say one could see his anti-ex-nihiloism as pointing to a consistent physics of reality, one that is eternal in the sense that there’s always something there, present as energy, baryonic substance, something, beyond that it’s purely speculative. There are a lot of lurking inconsistencies that require an Aquinas to create a surface fitting theology. Nothing in sight there as far as I can tell.

    But you guys are missing all the fun here!

  8. For those who want to read a fascinating account of this period in church history (sans any discussion of the King Follett discussion), I highly recommend Professor Flake’s book, “The Politics of American Religious Identity.” She readily acknowledges that President Smith probably perjured himself when asked by the Senate committee whether the church had stopped performing plural marriages; D. Michael Quinn thinks Joseph F. flat out lied—a point of view that likely contributed to his excommunication.

    One of my favorite episodes in the book was an October session of General Conference where Brother Smoot refused to sustain two of his fellow apostles—Messrs. Taylor and Cowley—who continued to practice polygamy. Smoot’s actions, combined with the attention his Senate confirmation hearing was receiving, compelled the church to excommunicate Taylor and suspend the priesthood privileges of Cowley.

    The most fascinating part of this story, however, was how Joseph F. Smith, facing the very real possibility of schism within the church, managed to abandon the existing millennialism, polygamy, theocracy, and isolationism in favor of aconformist approach more acceptable to American society. He truly was the most transformational president in the history of the church.

  9. Farside: Yes. Kathleen Flake’s book is excellent here. Steve Taysom’s upcoming bio on Joseph F. Smith will be pretty stunning in all this. Heber J. Grant’s diary is important. And you can always tell Kofford to hurry up and publish my books. You’ll get the whole interesting/boring/exciting/strange story KFD-wise then!

  10. WVS, you are correct in asserting that I am missing all the fun. As soon as I can be convinced that polygamy is indeed fun, I’m quite willing to listen :-) I will, however, reiterate my assertion that this particular creation story inevitably leads to problems with gender roles, marriage, and how one might be passing the eternities, all issues that seem to be at the forefront of discussion today. Fix creation first, then fix everything else.

  11. Ok, I’ll bite. Yes, I agree that creation stories are important. I suppose Smith might say that Eden is far less important than Heavenly Councils perhaps, but that doesn’t solve much. The ancient Eden was a death story. It made the endurance of the first commandment most important: multiply, because you’ll die and that’s the end of it. Joseph brings another dimension to Adam and Eve, one that is more consistent with later Jewish thought. People live after death in some way. And Resurrection of course. Polygamy brought a Mother in Heaven narrative in Mormonism, but Smith never discussed that, and I don’t really think he thought about it. It’s a bit like those “what would Jesus do” things. What would Jesus say about Democracy? It’s silly. Jesus never thought about Democracy. It wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t present for him. He was a Jew of the first century who lived in empires and kingdoms. What would Joseph Smith say about Mother in Heaven? Who knows? I don’t, and neither does anyone else. And in Smith’s theology, if he posited a Mother, what is her role in things? Not having spirit babies. Those didn’t exist for him (yes, I know the literature). Solutions are possible, and they involve kingdom building theologies, but they aren’t necessarily comfortable in the present Proclamation on the Family environment without serious work (the key is adoption). There is no sex in Heaven. But I suppose there might be gendered spirits in some way–though not begotten–they just ARE–but not in any sort of DNA sense–not in any sex characteristics sense. Is this misogyny? Misanthropy? Is this first cause territory somehow? And who wants to go there?

  12. WVS, thanks for the books recommendations. And if these various publishers can get their act together in the next couple of months, I’ll make sure Santa puts them in my stocking.

  13. WVS, I appreciate the apple bite, I really do. Certainly one of the difficulties in being human is that our capacity to ask seemingly simple but yet very deep questions far exceeds are capabilities to answer them. It is for that reason I always get nervous when anything of a spiritual nature would require someone to be at the level of Aquinas in order to reconcile inconsistencies. To me, it misses the point about Christ’s intended audience when he spoke. It wasn’t to the educated, the elite, the powerful, the healthy, or even those eeking out a meager existence. His audience was clearly those on the margins, and it was and should continue to be understandable in their terms.

    Most people seem to be uncomfortable with the statements “I don’t know”, “we don’t know”, “no one knows” or even “such a thing appears to be unknowable for anyone”. Yet Mormon theology (despite many sincere claims that there isn’t such a thing) continues to posit very specific answers which in some cases leads to rampant speculation which in turn can clearly be damaging for some people.

    To me, not knowing is the point of our existence. We must sit with the discomfort, pain, and isolation of not knowing. However, as long as King Follett, creation stories, temple ceremonies, polygamy, etc etc remain ambiguous, contradictory, or flat out wring there will always be this tension.

  14. Clark Goble says:

    WVS, how do we distinguish mother in heaven coming in via polygamy versus it simply being an extension of the significance of embodiment?

    Regarding KFD, I don’t think Steve is saying KFD or other sermons are responses to his reading diet. However I think he argues that his reading diet informs such things. While I’m pretty skeptical of ever being able to show causality on these sorts of things, it’s true that at least among the educated classes studying Plato was ubiquitous. A lot of these ideas were in the air as we know from Emerson at minimum. Of course Emerson’s background and Smith’s background were extremely different. Yet certainly by Nauvoo Joseph was attempting to become educated, albeit likely in a less systematic way than a true academic education would provide. If he’s getting educated though an encounter with Plato is pretty likely. The fact that even the KFD shows evidence of these things seems significant and, as Steve suggests, may even affect how Joseph deals with the question of monotheism in a kind of pluralism of gods theology.

    I think it’s fairly well established that the Pratt brothers start out very platonic until the revelation that spirits are matter. They then shift from what seems a platonic emanation model (human spirits are made out of God’s spirit) into something resembling what becomes Orson Pratt’s atom model. While the Pratts clearly can’t tell us what Joseph was thinking, I think it does show some of the ideas that were being discussed in Nauvoo.

  15. Clark Goble says:

    Just to be explicit since I kind of danced around the fundamental issue, in the Timaeus elements are created from intelligible forms and the khora where the forms are a father and the khora (space, receptical) is the mother. I don’t recall if Steve mentioned it but there’s a very sexual aspect to the creation of elements in the Timaeus even if done in terms of pretty abstract geometry. While as I said I find the causation problematic in terms of establishing influence, it seems a significant context for Nauvoo theology of sex, souls, and matter.

  16. “gender roles, marriage, and how one might be passing the eternities”

    I’m consistently given the impression the among many intellectuals there is a discomfort with the idea of eternal father and motherhood. It’s strange on many levels because it denies all of reality, including evolution,which pretty must consists of an eternal pattern of creation.

    So with regard to “how one might pass the eternities” what do the intellectual members her seriously suppose?

    – Eternal home and visiting teaching? (church program staffing)
    – Eternal blackhole wave surfing (amusement)
    – Eternal capitalist business management (jobs)
    – Eternal increase through fatherhood and motherhood (replicating a Godlike pattern)

    When I consider the Lord’s work and the nature of exaltation, and the purpose of priesthood, I can’t help but regard so many confused with what really matters. Especially, when one considers the fact that it’s not hocus pocus religious fiction. You exist exactly because of the “roles” you deny — mother and father. None of us exist without mothers and fathers, and in the eternities, the work we are called to do would not be entirely divorced from what we are doing now.

    Our bodies are literally designed to procreate. The fact that the process and work of eternities is mirrored right down into mortality with the fall of Adam and Eve should inspire us, not cause us to shudder at our divine potential.

    A new world here…patterned after the old one… The work will continue for those who are obedient and desire it. It’s saddening to see so many sift themselves right out of God’s blessings by seeking after who knows whatever worldly pursuits and lucre which can never compare with the reality of eternal increase.

  17. Very interesting post, WVS, thanks. One way or another, JS could shock all of us, it seems.

    No doubt the KFD can take discussions in a million directions, but I’d simply argue that the ideas that JS engaged with were an important part of his lived religious experience.

    Clark, I’ll talk more about some of that stuff in future posts (like the mixing bowl/crater).

  18. Steve, I wasn’t discounting your work at all. I’ve read it with interest and continue to follow.

  19. Thanks, WVS. Just curious.

  20. Clark, I think the Pratt’s were already on another path before King Follett. They, like Lorenzo Snow and others found Smith’s no first cause of human existence uncomfortable. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how things started? (grin)

  21. GY, a fair question. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the eternities entail. As an addendum, and a highly unpopular one at that, I don’t think anyone else does either. At all. Also, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the intellectual party. Just an average person trying to sort out existence which appears to be the bulk of this life’s work. A long conversation indeed, one which I’m more than happy to continue in the telestial kingdom should you decide to stop by for a visit.

  22. J. Stapley says:

    WVS, this is great. I was unaware of the Presbyterian publication. I’m curious how they would have gotten the version they did. That seems like a pretty big pushup, unless it was floating in anti-Mormon circles over the decades. Any idea about that?

  23. I don’t know J. Perhaps they were not that uncommon. There were quite a few in print initially (I can’t recall numbers now).

  24. I, personally, think it’s mistake to ascribe too much importance to many of Joseph’s musings. He was a visionary who could wander across the Midwest, stumble upon a Native American artifact, and then tell you the name of the Book of Mormon contemporary who it belonged to. Does anyone seriously doubt that, if had he lived longer, he would have preached sermons even more fantastic than the KFD?

    I don’t mean this as a criticism; indeed, Joseph’s limitless imagination is one of his most endearing qualities. But the effort to find hidden meanings in the words of a talk for which there is no original surviving text and that purports to address such amorphous and metaphysical topics as the character of God and fundamental nature of reality will invariably prove, at best, speculative, and, at worst, confusing.

    Joseph, I believe, revealed many inspired teachings, but he was also prone to flights of fancy, as were many other visionaries in the 19th Century. This shouldn’t diminish his legacy, though it should inform how we construe his words. After all, he warned us about this: “A prophet is only a prophet when acting as such.”

  25. WVS, your posts and comments make my head swim . . . in a wonderful way. I love reading your stuff! I bet your lectures are exciting adventures.

    Quick clarification: I read Kathleen Flake’s book, but don’t remember anything about Smoot’s “insistence on the sacrifice of two apostles to prove the end of polygamy.” I really love this idea, by the way, I just thought all the pressure to can the two apostles came directly via JF Smith, not Smoot.

  26. This post (and thinking about early Mormon history generally) “makes my head swim…in a wondeful way” as well. Reading this account that links Smith to Smoot makes me think of the overall arc of that history. So much drama there! I have this dream that someday, a really great novelist will write a sort of Mormon Trilogy that capitalizes on what I’ve long thought of as the three greatest stories afforded by Mormon history:

    First, the Joseph Smith story, about a man whose charisma, theological boldness, and growing hubris lead inexorably into the conflict that culminates at the Carthage jail. This is sort of a Huey Long-type story, only with better action scenes. A sad ending, but what a ride!

    Second, the Brigham Young story, in which the conflict is basically between church and state, as a prophet-cum-territorial governor tries to reconcile the two in the pressure cooker leading up to Mountain Meadows and the Utah War. I see this as forcing upon Young a great moral test which he sadly but quite humanly flunks. And even though, unlike Smith, he makes it out of his story alive, this ending is the sadder one.

    In the third story, which I think of as “Mr. Smith’s Church Goes to Washington,” the Church itself is the protagonist, and the basic conflict is the one that has been lurking behind the first two — the conflict between a separatist religious utopia and an increasingly powerful, secular, pragmatic, and bourgeois American culture. With God on its side, the Church thinks itself unsinkable, until the drive for statehood brings it into contact with the unstoppable iceberg of the mainstream culture. The climax in this one is the Smoot hearings, played like a courtroom drama. The ending is ambiguous. The Church wins, in the sense that Smoot winds up being seated in the Senate. But the Church loses in the sense that it will never again be the same church. Never again will it see prophets anywhere near as wildly inventive and radical as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The cost of integration into the mainstream, of ending the long-running conflict that will propel these as-yet-unwritten Great Mormon Novels, is WVS’s “tectonic shift.”

  27. Dr., sounds like you already have it half-written. Let’s ask Mikey, (Austin), he’ll write anything.

  28. WVS. So is your book done and we’re waiting on Greg, or is he waiting on you?

  29. Clark Goble says:

    WVS could you clarify what you mean by the Pratt’s path? From what I can see the only significant difference between the early position and the later position is a shift to materialism with Priestly’s atoms and the earlier more platonic scheme made a bit more Leibnizean/Spinozist. I’d have to check the dates (sorry not tonight) but I suspect this shift takes place after his exposure to various ideas on his mission to Europe. However I’d lay good odds that the key shift is D&C 131 which is published after his return as I recall although it’s possible the ideas were around before.

    (I don’t have his bio here at home so I can’t look up which of his missions he was exposed to the Scottish realists – so I’m assuming the first one)

  30. Hunter, it was certainly not all on JFS. But Smoot’s diary and telegrams back and forth show that it was Smoot that pulled the trigger, in response to the political pressure he was under. In addition to Flake’s book, if you have access to something like ProQuest, Jonathan Moyer’s dissertation, “Dancing with the Devil: The making of the Mormon-Republican Pact” (Univ. of Utah, 2009) has much of this.

  31. Clark, I don’t have docs in front of me here, but I think Orson had clearly written by January 1844 that the human spirit was begotten by God. The sex aspect comes later and it’s quite explicit by 1847. It’s still a surprise to hear this for people like Woodruff. Snow was thinking God creating spirits by 1842. Prior to JS’s death Mormons were sometimes accused of saying there could be sex in heaven. The response was shocked fury. No one really thought of that before 1845-ish and it’s not really clear then.

  32. J. Stapley says:

    Orson Pratt’s Almanac if I remember right. What is the status on the Sermons book, WVS?

  33. Well, I’ve more or less finished my edits of chapter 9, one more to go, then Loyd can tell me the bad news (I sent him a draft of the KFD chapter–I think he was stunned into silence or something).

  34. Clark Goble says:

    Ah. I was more talking about his shift away from neoplatonism. (Admittedly at that point more his brother than Orson) I wasn’t really talking about sex, although with the emphasis of the “same society” that makes sense. But 1844 is pretty late for that. D&C 131 is May of 1843 and I think he gets off his first British mission in March of 1841 although I’m not sure when he gets back to Joseph Smith. Certainly over the next 5 months is when he discovers all the new Nauvoo doctrines and then the polyandry issue leads to his excommunication. I’m not sure when his evolution on creation ontologically arises.

  35. I think there’s a difference between saying matter can’t be created and that saying matter isn’t created/generated. I’m currently of the tentative belief that the universe as a whole generates spontaneously (via natural means or basically independently of God) and that God merely manipulates what arises. In other words, the universe (or universes) are just there, has stuff in it, and God cultivates it like one might develop a property.

    I’m also of the pet theory that the event horizons of the supermassive black holes at the center of each galaxy constitute the “veil”, that the celestial kingdoms are what are inside the black holes, and that the Milky Way galaxy is where all the exalted beings that live with God on their celestialized planet place all their creations.

    But ya know… that’s probably wrong. But dark matter is definitely spirit matter.

  36. RockiesGma says:

    I’m curious about the comments that there will be no sex in the hereafter. Can someone cite a reference to this from where they get this notion? I’m wondering why Jesus taught that in the resurrection not one hair of our heads would be lost, and that every jot and tittle would be restored. Doesn’t this mean our reproductive organs are included in the resurrection? Our libidos? Our “seeds” which I would assume means sperm and eggs? If sex binds us as a couple, renews our feelings of love and tenderness, helps us find oneness, why would it be removed from us for all eternity? What does every jot and tittle refer to then? Glory, those sweet days have been dried up for me for such a long time now. But I clearly remember the beauty of that holy fire….. And if I’m never to have that restored again, well, that would be a terrible sorrow.

  37. your food allergy is fake says:

    No sex in heaven? then what’s a heaven for? Next you’ll say there will be no cedar-plank grilled salmon served with sauteed asparagus either.

  38. Asparagus is a weed, and unworthy of a Celestial state.

  39. it's a series of tubes says:

    If grilled lemon pepper salmon and roasted asparagus is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  40. Clark Goble says:

    FarSide, the question ends up being the epistemological one. I agree that at least some things Joseph said were speculations or inferences made from more grounded views. That was even more true of Brigham Young. So how do we ground our beliefs?

    WVS, while Joseph doesn’t speak about sex I think the significant of sex in the hereafter almost certainly arises from him. Not speaking explicitly about sex is part and parcel of the propriety of the time. Not just because of the importance he places on polygamy/eternal marriage but because of how he describes deification. When you get lines like “glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” it’s hard to not see sex in that. Especially when coupled with “that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory.” It’s not explicit but when glory is seed and then he emphasizes same social type structure it’s hard not to see this all based around a certain social view. Again while Brigham almost certainly expanded speculatively on Joseph’s ideas it’s not like Brigham’s ideas arose in a vacuum.

    I’ll admit the sex issue is to me the least interesting aspect of the theology. Although clearly what point there is to sex for a being that’s not biological in a normal evolutionary way is a big question. But Joseph’s line of inquiry seems to be tied to “like to like only with glory” and “restoring what was in the Bible.”

    RockiesGma, I think WVS is more talking about how the ideas evolved. The standard protestant view of the time is that we lose gender in the hereafter. Or it at least becomes non-operative in any significant way. Mormonism shifts this significantly. They aren’t the only ones. Swedenborg a century earlier has some similar views. It’s been a while since I studied Swedenborg but as I recall his conception of heavenly marriage was much more tied to Jewish Kabbalistic ideas of the return of Adam and Eve to an unified state as one soul prior to their creation in the garden. So the ideas were in the air, albeit fairly esoteric compared to protestantism. However typically the way it was conceived wasn’t materialistic. So while sexual metaphors and imagery was used (and this goes back to the mystic use of the Song of Solomon at least at the time of Christ) it was almost always conceived of in terms of ideas and not materially. So for the millennia prior to Joseph it was thought human sex was a distant counterfeit of true intellectual or mystical union. (This actually goes back to Plato – especially the Republic) With Joseph at least by the time of D&C 131 we have a radical shift towards a strong materialism.

  41. There’s food in heaven so there’s sex too. And what someone missed out on in this life will be made up to them at some point if they are righteous in mortality so that means sex too. I doubt that it’s how spirit children’s bodies are begotton, but I believe sex is still important.