Book review(ish): Carol Lynn Pearson’s The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy

33bb98d31532c5a93920dabfe0ff91efThe Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson was released earlier this year, but as I do not have a voracious appetite for all books Mormon, I did not get around to reading it until this month. I’d like to blame Christmas for me not posting about it until now, but the fact is that I love reading books and hate writing book reviews. I like reading and writing about stuff that interests me, and polygamy interests me. (Interest being the kindest verb I could use in this context.) So maybe this post will not be so great as book reviews go, but it is a post about a book about polygamy, and maybe that will suffice for enough of you.

What you must bear in mind if or when you read The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is that Carol Lynn Pearson is a poet, not a scholar. This is not to say that Pearson doesn’t know what she’s talking about, that she hasn’t studied the relevant issues. Obviously, she has. But she approaches this project as part memoir, part meditation on what polygamy means to contemporary Mormons and what is required to build what she calls a “partnership Zion,” rather than a patriarchal one.

Possibly Pearson’s greatest strength is her ability to convey her deep love and appreciation for Mormonism, and particularly for Joseph Smith. In the 1970s she was invited to submit a screenplay for a proposed movie about Joseph Smith’s life (a project that never came to fruition). The main criticism her script received was that it was too sympathetic toward Emma Smith and also toward the friends who turned against Joseph at the end—not surprising, given Pearson’s personal feelings about polygamy. But her sympathy toward the victims of Joseph’s revelation on marriage did not preclude her sympathy toward Joseph himself. She views Joseph as a tragic hero—a man of remarkable courage, compassion, and generosity, brought down by his own recklessness. She agrees with Richard Bushman (Rough Stone Rolling) that Joseph “did not lust for women so much as he lusted for kin” (although she believes that Joseph’s “personal desire” certainly played a part).

It’s a charitable take on D&C 132, but she spends the rest of the book showing how destructive polygamy was and continues to be, because while the church has stopped the version of polygamy it’s infamous for—allowing a man to have licit sexual relations with a multiplicity of women recognized by the church (if not the state) as “wives” without having to dissolve a contract with one before engaging another (it is so tedious to say what I mean in a genteel manner)—it has not stopped sealing men to multiple women in the temple. A man may not have more than one lawful wife at one time, but he may have more than one eternal wife. A woman, of course, may have only one eternal husband—presumably because men, as righteous priesthood holders, are not things to be collected. (That’s what I presume, anyway. Your presumption may vary.)

Pearson has also collected thousands of stories from women and men about how the doctrine and practice of polygamy has affected their personal lives and/or the lives of their loved ones. She shares several of these stories at the end of each chapter (in a section called “Other Voices,”) and these stories alone may be worth the price of admission, as they make it clear that polygamy is not just an academic consideration, something to consider from a historical or theoretical standpoint, but that it has real-life consequences for real-life people today. A woman who survives her eternally-sealed spouse may not be eternally sealed to anyone else, which means a man who marries a “temple widow” may not be sealed to her or to any children he has with her.

This obviously sucks for temple-sealed widows who find their marital prospects limited because Mormon men tend to prefer to be sealed to their wives, especially if they expect to have children with them. A Mormon man who hasn’t already been sealed to a wife in the temple may choose to be married “for time” to a temple-sealed widow (or divorcee), but find himself in a sort of spiritual limbo—belonging neither to his wife nor to the biological children he has with her—at least in theory. Such couples are usually told (if it’s too late to counsel them against such a marriage) that “everything will work out” in the eternities, but that’s a hard platitude to swallow when the church places so much emphasis on being sealed in the temple and making sure you get it all right in this life. The uncertainty causes much heartache and spiritual angst.

But it isn’t just the nightmare of navigating a celestial bureaucracy that troubles people. A lot of women just hate the idea that their eternal companions may not be theirs alone. Perhaps they have an overly romantic idea of marriage, but it’s hardly an uncommon one, and it’s certainly not one the church does anything particular to discourage. You can’t sell eternal marriage by appealing to people’s fears of being separated from their soul mates and then turn around and tell them not to take it all so seriously. For better or worse, the people in Pearson’s “Other Voices” sections take eternal marriage very seriously, which is why polygamy bothers them so much. Some of the stories I read—such as the woman who developed a sort of hypochondria because she was terrified she would die before her husband and he’d get sealed to another woman with whom she’d have to share him for eternity—made me think, “Golly. These folks could use some therapy.” But on second thought, that really didn’t seem fair. I mean, who am I to judge? Don’t we all need therapy for something? If these women are neurotic over polygamy, it’s a neurosis they’ve come by honestly and for which the church is largely responsible.

But it’s not just the prospect of sharing one’s husband for eternity that disturbs women. Indeed, that may not even be the worst part. The worst part is the host of theological implications for women—that we’re not equal to men, that we’re not valued as individuals, that we’re not valued except as possessions and accessories for men. The sealing ordinance itself has women give themselves to their husbands, but not men to their wives. A woman gives herself to one man; a man receives as many women as he can get. Temple ordinances such as the washing and anointing and the endowment are inextricably tied with polygamy and constant reminders to women of their lower status. Obviously, not all women are equally bothered by polygamy (or by temple ordinances). If they were, there probably wouldn’t be any Mormon women left. (Certainly not in the temples.) But a lot of women are, and not just the uppity feminist ones who reject the gospel. A lot of faithful, conservative Mormon women are also disturbed by both the prospect of polygamy and its eternal implications, even if they choose not to think about it most of the time.

The fact is that women can reconcile the issue of polygamy with their testimony in one of two ways: they can shut off their minds, or they can shut off their hearts.

When I say, “shut off their minds,” I mean that they choose not to think about polygamy, don’t give any consideration to implications it has for the eternal role of woman and her relationship to man and to Deity. This is easy enough for most of us to do, I think. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have a hundred other things to worry our pretty heads about. Who has time to think about polygamy, really? Well, there are some women–women quoted at length in Pearson’s book–who either can’t or won’t shut off their minds, and for them the only answer seems to be to shut off their hearts: to hold some essential part of themselves back from their husbands, to avoid a too-intimate relationship with someone they know is destined never to be theirs exclusively. They also shut themselves off from an intimate relationship with a Heavenly Father who has designed a relationship system that punishes them for not being male.

One of these strategies is significantly less healthy than the other, and it’s tempting to say that the women who spend a significant amount of time worrying about polygamy are being irrational, but actually, they’re not. They’re drawing perfectly logical conclusions. It’s the women who have shut off their minds—ostensibly to save them—who are not engaging rationally with the topic. They are relying on their feelings, their personal convictions that women aren’t inferior to men, that God is not a jerk.

The remaining option is to reject the doctrine of polygamy altogether. This is the option Pearson advocates in her book, that we need another manifesto on polygamy—this time repudiating it altogether—that will be as liberating for us as a people as the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. Not only will people stop agonizing over their celestial paperwork, but “intertwined with every benefit will be the supreme one—the shedding of an old and debilitating distrust in a God that for many faithful LDS women and men has brought untenable spiritual and theological dissonance. A God who has prepared an eternity that will break the hearts of women and render them forever subordinate will be dismissed as preposterous. We will see with more clarity and with deeper appreciation the one in the mirror, the one on the other side of the bed, and the One who thought this all up in the first place. A new buoyancy will render us a stronger people, a people more prepared to gift the Lord with our portion of Zion.”

The real question a book review should answer is whether or not The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is worth reading. Well, it depends. Some will appreciate Pearson’s passion and poetic license more than others. Some will simply be gratified that she’s put into words what they themselves cannot, that she’s made public what we’ve been encouraged to keep secret, and that she’s dared to call for such a drastic change in Mormon imaginations. If you’re expecting a meticulous history or an academic treatise, you will be sorely disappointed. But if there’s another, better book about the impact of polygamy on contemporary Mormons, I’m unaware of it, and that’s actually an important point. More people will read Pearson’s book than a 600-page tome on the history and sociology of polygamy. (I think 600 pages would about cover it, plus endnotes.) A more scholarly book might be more appreciated among certain circles, but I think Pearson’s book is worth taking seriously for what it is–a reasonably accessible and much-needed conversation starter about what polygamy means to Mormons now and in the future.

But I’m also very interested in what the rest of you think.


  1. it's a series of tubes says:

    Well, there are some women–women quoted at length in Pearson’s book–who either can’t or won’t shut off their minds, and for them the only answer seems to be to shut off their hearts: to hold some essential part of themselves back from their husbands, to avoid a too-intimate relationship with someone they know is destined never to be theirs exclusively. They also shut themselves off from an intimate relationship with a Heavenly Father who has designed a relationship system that punishes them for not being male.

    Rebecca, thanks for the review. In the quote above, you articulate a scenario that is all too painful, and all too common. I’m white, male, 7th generation LDS, married in the temple. I have no interest in, and will not, live polygamy now or ever, but my marriage suffers significantly due to the issue you describe here.

  2. Seeing your review, and others like it over the past month or so, has made me extremely interested in reading the book. And while you make a point of highlighting how it’s more of a contemporary social history rather than a work of academic historical non-fiction, I think that makes it even more important that it be read by a broad swath of Mormons. I think academic historical non-fiction is vital and important (and I read a LOT of it) but this kind of book, part memoir, part social history, part contemporary analysis, deals with the real impact that policies of polygamy are having on current, living Latter Day Saints. And that’s something people vitally need to understand.

    The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy is definitely on my “To Read” list. Unfortunately it’s a long list, and I’m a couple years behind, but I can’t wait to read it.

  3. As someone who is personally impacted by this doctrine – I would like to read this book. I would like to see a change in this doctrine. As it stands, a sealing may only be dissolved if, after the divorce, the woman is ready to be sealed to another person. If both parties agreed on the divorce, they are still sealed to each other, and as this book points out, the man can be sealed again. I know that “this will all work out” – but why doesn’t the Church allow sealings to be cancelled. I am being forced into polygamy unwillingly. I would posit that many men do not want to be polygamists.

  4. Good review, and I’m grateful for the additional history of Carol Lynn Pearson’s history with this.

    Polygamy is certainly a topic every Mormon couple should discuss, before and at various times during their marriage, not just for the implications of adding another woman to the marriage but of adding another man. The possibility is there, even if the immediate sealing is not possible at this time (post death everyone may be sealed, regardless of gender).

    The fact is that women can reconcile the issue of polygamy with their testimony in one of two ways: they can shut off their minds, or they can shut off their hearts.

    This is incorrect. There is a third option, used by many women and men (and others) in the Church; trusting the love of their Heavenly Parents that this is not the final state of knowledge on this, that no one will be forced into a relationship they do not want (just like for any couple sealed together), that the ultimate desire of our Heavenly Parents is our growth and happiness. It is possible to find peace with polygamy, difficult and elusive as it may be. It is not a “better” or “more enlightened” option, but it is an option for which you do not leave room.

    Also, pain is not the only option of polygamy, inside or outside of the Church. Their numbers may be few, but many people do find love and hope for a more permanent relationship beyond the simple pairing. They also see relationships without enthusiastic consent to be abhorrent. Again, not calling it better, just another option that should not be dismissed.

    No one should be told that their only options are “shut off their minds, or . . . shut off their hearts.” It adds to the belief that there is something wrong with them if they have done neither.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    “are not things to be collected” FTW.

  6. Great review, RJ. I appreciate your thoughts.

  7. “This is incorrect. There is a third option, used by many women and men (and others) in the Church; trusting the love of their Heavenly Parents that this is not the final state of knowledge on this, that no one will be forced into a relationship they do not want (just like for any couple sealed together), that the ultimate desire of our Heavenly Parents is our growth and happiness.”

    Frank maybe we should call this the “Leaning unto thine own understanding” option. I use it frequently to carry on in Church activity despite troubling aspects in Church practice and doctrine, but this approach comes with its own set of problems, no?

  8. What a marvelous, thorough, and thoughtful review. I will always have a major soft spot fo Carol Lynn Pearson because her four “Notebook” books in the 70’s were the funniest things I had ever read in my life up to that point. They are still in the top ten or so.

  9. I would like to read the book. Unfortunately, my list is already long. Maybe sometime soon. But I have a question. I keep reading in reviews of this book (and other places) that women cannot be sealed to more than one man. Really? I had an aunt, long dead now, who was sequentially married to three men. I looked her up on FamilySearch, and she is “sealed” to all three in the Salt Lake Temple. One was done posthumously, in 1995, but the other two were while she and the husbands were alive. Her first two husbands died young. She was sealed to the first and third while they were alive. Is she an anomaly, or is there polyandry in the hereafter?

    Just wondering.

  10. No, Maybee.

    “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

    “Leaning unto thine own understanding” is decidedly a bad thing, as it’s referenced in scripture. It assumes no personal revelation, which may differ from person to person. Your approach appears to be of the “not thinking about it” variety. These things should be thought about, discussed, prayed over, even wrestled with from time to time.

  11. I believe CLP does call for your approach in her book, Frank. She advocates changing the policy and allowing women to be sealed to multiple spouses in this life just as men can be sealed to multiple spouses in this life. I think this places a great deal of trust on our Heavenly Parents because it does make things messier- not tidier. It makes the afterlife look like more of a web than a ladder or hierarchy. It allows room to admit institutionally that we don’t know much about what the afterlife looks like but we have a great deal of hope and trust. This is the place I ended up in after reading this book.

    I think that the biggest impact such a policy change would have would be to make widows who do not wish to have their first sealings cancelled more eligible for getting remarried. It would directly help widows and their fatherless children, something pure religion is supposed to do.

  12. Franklin, there are a few anomalous cases like that, most of which occurred, as I understand it, in the decade after WWII.

  13. Wow. Amazing and powerful review. Thank you — I must read this book after reading your review!

    “If these women are neurotic over polygamy, it’s a neurosis they’ve come by honestly and for which the church is largely responsible.”

    Such a true and valuable statement! If only anyone with any voice at all would ever read and seriously contemplate it.

  14. Looking forward to reading the book. It sounds importantly sensitive and thoughtful. I have an inherent distrust, however, of any recommendation to change doctrine. That simply imposes a worldview that is contrary to the Mormon perspective. Truth is revealed, not remade. We don’t need a manifesto that, basically, directs God as to what or what will not be accepted by us as doctrine. What we need is a better explanation of this doctrine and what it means. What we require to address the frustrations you describe is more revelation. This view does not dismiss the importance of this book, however; it emphasizes it. We have to have these conversations that raise and examine our concerns in order to know what questions to ask, what revelations to seek.

  15. I think “more revelation,” i.e. greater understanding, would necessarily mean rejecting polygamy as it is currently taught and practiced, because as it is currently taught and practiced, it leads to nothing but confusion, unless you choose not to think about it, or unless you think women really were created to be men’s possessions rather than individuals in their own right.

    That’s an intemperate statement I will probably be tempted to walk back in a few hours, but at the moment I’m willing to own it completely.

  16. Thanks for your reply Frank. Trusting in my “own understanding” of what I believe is right and what I feel God wants becomes an issue when it’s at odds with Church teachings. I suppose what I really want to do is trust in the Church but I just can’t when it comes to teachings on polygamy. On to more wrestling with God…

  17. So maybe your approach would be called “Trust in your personal witness from God over Church teachings as needed”

  18. Maybee – I’m not sure how I’d call it, just that it works for me. Church teachings are malleable, still being refined and remade, shifting with our understanding as individuals, families, communities, and people. The Church is the framework we have been given, but there is a great deal of leeway, more than many people are willing to take, for individual beliefs and understandings.

  19. Maybee and Frank – I think your viewpoints are similar. Both are in the “God is not a jerk” camp. It’s just one says, “God is not a jerk, therefore he’d never make anyone practice polygamy,” while the other says, “God is not a jerk, therefore if some people are going to be practicing polygamy in the hereafter, there must be a bigger picture I’m not seeing right now.”

  20. FWIW — I know several older couples who had happy first marriages (sealings) that ended by death of a spouse, and they’ve since re-married and are in a happy second marriage. They all hope plural sealings stay intact after this life, though they admit they don’t know what their families will look like. The wives fully expect and anticipate they will be sealed vicariously to their second husbands. (They would like to be sealed a second time in mortality) Never say never until you’ve walked in their shoes. Later second marriages may only affect about 10% of us, but you have to figure if we’re free to re-marry after the death of a spouse, a pre-deceased spouse is free to approach something akin to remarriage in the Spirit World. The next life and Millennium will be interesting.

  21. RockiesGma says:

    I just hope that in the hereafter, everyone gets to be with their one true love. Even if someone has had two or more happy marriages in this life, I hope each of those spouses will be set free to find an even greater one true love–maybe the 2nd or 3rd wife will be the husband’s one true love and he hers. Sharing a spouse absolutely creates imbalances of time and togetherness, intimacy and oneness. Sharing robs someone of the fullest measures of these, and thus the fullest measure of joy. We seal marriages in the temple, but until they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise they aren’t forever, nor are any temple marriages where the spouses don’t live worthy of one another–which could pretty much describe almost all human marriages–at least first ones that are fraught with the mundane, the taking-for-granted, the resistance to abiding compromise and change, and other things often more sincerely addressed the next time around. We may be quite surprised to discover we have a lot to repair someday…and that we may indeed not be married for eternity. Some will be relieved and hopefully go on to find the best fit for them. Some will be quite sad and hopefully be able to make amends and progress to much higher oneness and love. So I ever hope it works out that every child of God will someday have the fullest measure of eternal joy with their one true, true love.

  22. My own thought on eternal relationships is that they must be very different in the afterlife than here. They’d have to be. Obviously, people have happy second marriages in addition to happy first marriages. I’m not interested in making people “choose,” at least not in making them choose *right now*, when we don’t have the eternal perspective necessary to understand how it’s all going to work. I don’t have a problem with sealing men and women to multiple spouses and letting it all sort itself out later. It’s not the prospect of “sharing” that bothers me but the one-sidedness of the sealing arrangement because it assumes that men enter marriages as gods who may acquire infinite female accessories rather than as individuals in relationships with equal partners. If the excuse for maintaining the status quo is that we don’t know everything yet, and we shouldn’t worry about anything because the sealing is what’s important and God will work it out anyway, why don’t we just seal everybody to everybody and trust that God will work it out? We talk about the doctrine of eternal families as though that’s what sets us apart from other religions, when what really sets us apart is our belief in a celestial bureaucracy that must be pre-navigated, blindly.

  23. Rebecca J – Indeed, the Patriarchal, one-sidedness needs to be fixed, the sooner the better.

  24. Those who are interested in a doctrinal dive and discussion of the history surrounding plural marriage that may lead to more peaceable (and I think more sound) conclusions than those of the author may choose to check out Brian Hales’ review as well.
    While likely a good description of how some contemporary Mormons feel about their understanding of plural marriage, Pearson doesn’t consider whether or not the full set of doctrines taught by Joseph Smith warrant the full set of concerns and anxiety she describes.

  25. Until we don’t have modern (right now, sitting in the red chairs) apostles who are sealed to multiple women, this is never going to change.

    RJ, marvelous review.

  26. what really sets us apart is our belief in a celestial bureaucracy that must be pre-navigated, blindly.

    Saving for later.

  27. Reject the doctrine altogether and hope for a 1978-type revelation denunciation?

    Anyone taking this approach and still putting all of their time and ten percent into the church founded by Joseph Smith and institutionalized by Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodroof (all die-hard, pious polygamists) is far too comfortable with contradiction, in my opinion.

  28. “I have an inherent distrust, however, of any recommendation to change doctrine. That simply imposes a worldview that is contrary to the Mormon perspective. Truth is revealed, not remade. We don’t need a manifesto that, basically, directs God as to what or what will not be accepted by us as doctrine. What we need is a better explanation of this doctrine and what it means.”

    I understand taking a conservative approach to changing doctrine, but I disagree with the suggestion that hoping for a change in doctrine is contrary to the Mormon perspective. Truth is revealed, yes, but revealed truth often remakes our old “truths.” I agree that seeking a better explanation of the doctrine and what it means is important, but if we are truly seeking with open hearts, then we must be open to be possibility that God may just have something altogether better in mind. With a belief in continuing revelation and eternal progression there is no need to remake our doctrine in the image of the law of the Medes and the Persians which does not change.

  29. Suzanne Wright says:

    This has pretty much captured and explained all my fears. Very good. The thoughts of polygamy make my skin crawl. What’s the point of marriage? i’d rather be single in heaven, and date a lot of men, than be stuck with one who has several women. And all of the standard ‘it’ll work out” answers suck even worse. I’m a fiercely independent and capable woman, so this has always been a big turn off when I jouned the church in 1986. Now even more so, since my first husband has remarried in the temple. So would I still be married to him even though I hate him? I was marrieds to him in the temple. My second husband was married to his first wife and their five kids in the temple. So where does this leave me? Can I pick a new man who doesn’t have extra wives tagging along? And don’t tell me there is no jealousy in heaven! The whole subject is offensive and tiring

  30. Rebecca,

    I don’t think your statement is that intemoderate at all. It is simply consistent with the theological framing of polygamy built by BY and enshrined by him in our temple ceremonies. In other words, it is a pretty good reflection (recast with modern eyes) of framer’s intent. BY did teach that men grew their kindoms by collecting progeny and the women that produce them. He did set it up as a yard stick by which men were eternally measured. He put it all down in his Lecture at the Veil before his death which was his last gambit to win the theological war raging with the Pratts over his Adam God doctrine. A masterful stroke by him because even though the church has formally rejected at least parts of this doctrine, by enshrining it inside the rituals of the temple his theology continues to exist and in a medium that our leaders do not seem inclined to change.

    This is my interpretaton of why such confusion exists and why it is virtually impossible for individuals themselves to clean it up with any logical integrity. Carolyn’s call for the institution to finish the job of excising BY’s polygamy-related Adam God doctrine is a fine one. I would love to see the church administration have the humility, vision and strength to do so. It wouod require revisting the temple ceremony along with a pretty big reinterpretation of history and the dominate narrative of how revelatiin works. However, I see few signs that we are in a place to do any of that.

  31. “everything will work out” in the eternities, but that’s a hard platitude to swallow when the church places so much emphasis on being sealed in the temple and making sure you get it all right in this life.

    Yep. Which is why I am racked over this- clearly no one in the CoB sees this as an issue worthy of concern. We tell our kids the importance of temple marriage, we teach the importance of being a house of order, we keep meticulous records, but when it comes to very real concerns women have about their standing before God, we’re apparently cool with “It will all work out.”

    No. NO. This is not the message of a loving God. This is the message of men who are comfortable with what they have, and haven’t stopped to think about what this says to the daughters of God.

    I can be and am critical of this current position, and I can be and am a member in good standing. One doesn’t cancel the other out. There is no way a God who loves all of his children would offer an answer such as this, and I am weary beyond weary of people uttering it.

    After the death of my first husband, my children and I were sealed to my second husband/their step-father. But despite his requests, his cancelation to his first wife was denied. Flat denied. His agency was denied him. If we wanted to be sealed, if I wanted my children sealed to me (I was never sealed to my first husband, nor were the kids) I had to agree to be in a polygamous sealing. Women are put in this position every day- and so are the men who love them. My husband and I hate it, and we hate that we were required to agree to something we both despise, if we wanted our family sealed. We both hold onto the believe that God is not a jerk… but man, people sure are.

  32. So here we have another book proclaiming a need for a change in doctrine because they don’t like it. Someone else who has let go of the Iron rod and tried to make their own path. How many more books are there going to be like this? The great and spacious building claims another victim. The river of filthy water and forbidden paths snare someone else because of a lack of faith. Why have any doctrine at all? Let’s just throw it all out. Every single principle of the gospel is being ridiculed in one way shape or form and for what reason?

    In this case, it’s to sell a book.

    Wake up people! Yes it will, “all work out in the end,” because God is fair and loving. No one will be unhappy in heaven. He is also a God of justice and this type of continued belittling of principles shows a lack of faith.

    Please go back to reading that which builds faith and strengthens our testimony instead of the endless options and broad paths that lead somewhere else.

  33. so you’re fine with polygamy — we get it

  34. “Reject the doctrine altogether and hope for a 1978-type revelation denunciation?

    Anyone taking this approach and still putting all of their time and ten percent into the church founded by Joseph Smith and institutionalized by Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodroof (all die-hard, pious polygamists) is far too comfortable with contradiction, in my opinion.”

    Oh, I certainly disagree. Anyone who cannot handle contradiction cannot handle religion. Cognitive dissonance is a sacrifice I am willing to pay to stay in a church that benefits my life, my soul, and my family. Even if I don’t believe in polygamy and do not believe I will ever, ever practice it. For that matter, I have no problem drinking tea, no problem with families who do not believe in a flat 10% tithing, I think women should have the priesthood, and I completely disavow that stupid November policy kicking out gay families and their kids.

    I stay because 1) I could be wrong about all of that, 2) because if I am right about any of that I think it is important to stay and represent that point of view, and 3) because the church is my home and the place I have found God.

  35. Sometimes it is worth heedling this advice: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  36. Marian, if you’re willing to sacrifice cognitive dissonance, then by all means. Kudos for being up front about it. Serious.

  37. My wife I married in the Salt Lake temple does not believe many of the doctrines and practices of the LDS faith. To the point that she attends another evangelical church. I think polygamy might make her top 10 list but probably not her top 5 list of problems.

    At one point ward leaders told me to threaten to divorce her, that would snap her testimony back into shape. I could not make it to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom without a faithful, valiant and obedient wife by my side and if she didn’t prove worthy in all things then we were toast. (Oddly, like Tracy M they would probably not have unsealed us.) Later, they clarified their advice, that it was permissible for me to not divorce her, that was not what they meant. (Like, I will ever take anything taught by those ward leaders serious.)

    My wife has an interesting perspective.She says the LDS church is among those rare churches who preach most of us won’t be together as families in the next life. Except for a few who make it to the temple. And pay tithing and do a few other things (a few hundred other things). Other churches teach that we will all be together with our families at the feet of Jesus if we are saved.They don’t need no temple ceremony to be together in the next life. In spite of our emphasis on eternal marriage for a shrinking portion of ourselves and death-do-you-part for every one else, that is not the way most other Christians in other churches see it.

    Would those who accept cognitive dissonance in the teachings of this church because it otherwise benefits their life, soul, and family; would they be willing to quietly accept cognitive dissonance if it damaged their family and threatened their marital relationship to the very core?

    And how are missionaries ever going to convert anyone if investigators ignored a little cognitive dissonance? And how do prophets go to groves to pray for visions if they ignore it? Cognitive dissonance is the fertile ground of change, subversion, reformation and progress. Not the iron bedrock of enduring to the end, back-to-basics, sugar-coating or retrenchment. That which builds faith and strengthens testimonies in some, at the same time destroys other’s faith and shakes testimonies. Do What Is Right is better than avoiding the shaking of faith and testimony.

  38. mike, most people I know inside or outside our church believe that they will be together with their families, including their spouses, in the hereafter. However, most if not all other Christian churches I know of formally teach that marriage does not exist in the hereafter, based on Mark 12:25. Believing that marriage does not continue into the hereafter solves the problem of deciding which marriages or sealing(s) should continue in the hereafter–none of them do. But if one believes, as most LDS do, that marriage can continue after death, one must address (or leave unaddressed) what happens to those of us who may marry more than once during our lifetime.

    “As it stands, a sealing may only be dissolved if, after the divorce, the woman is ready to be sealed to another person.” The handbook no longer requires this, and I know of many whose requests for sealing cancellation have quickly been granted even though they were not ready to be married or sealed to anyone else.

  39. Damn if we don’t understand what a sealing actually is and is not. In the highest order of heaven, there are no possessions or possessiveness. All things are in common. Of course everyone will be with their family in the next life to at least some degree. The question of sealing is whether our family branches are complete, linked together, and linked back to the tree of life (God). There has to be a welding link of humanity back to God; it is his purpose and glory. That is why we cannot be saved without our dead and they cannot be saved without us. This is very literally true. He does not want incomplete branches. The work of salvation will continue in great force in the next realm and will consume much of our time. It is the most important thing.

    There will not be romantic pairings in some Disneyfied notion of marital life in the the next world. We will not be a bunch of couples in permanent wedded states appearing roughly the age of 33 in perpetuity. How reductive and restrictive and boring. The next life, like this life, is about progression and perfection. Successfully mastering the kind of love necessary for the celestial union of two souls is a requisite step to enter into the felicity and progression of the highest order, but that in now way means a stagnant pairing of two people is the permanent condition of the soul for eternity. Of course none of us knows what exactly marriage in the next life entails, but I am certain it does not entail couple or polygamous groupings in the manner that we can currently comprehend and live in this fallen state.

    All of that said, the gender inequity in the multiple sealings (i.e., men being allowed to be sealed to more than one woman while living and women only being allowed to be sealed to more than one man after death) is a cultural relic that needs to be done away with forthwith. If it were a doctrinal issue, women would not be allowed to be sealed to multiple men after their deaths. Clearly they can and are, so the inequitable approach is a cultural policy that needs corrected.

  40. I’m continually surprised how many women, particularly older women, in the church assume that polygamy will exist in the eternities and then contort their minds and hearts to make peace with it. I realize that’s what we are taught, but I just can’t and don’t believe it. It’s not that I have shut off my brain or my heart; it’s that the idea is both ridiculous in how transparently misogynist it is and morally repugnant. I acknowledge that the church hasn’t disavowed it and would be in a real quagmire to do so. It’s vile. And it does cause hurt to marriages. Women feel pressured to marry or fear being stuck as part of a harem. And for me, I am hurt by the idea that men in the church are nowhere near outraged enough about it, even men who wouldn’t want to practice it.

    kellywsmith: Your comment is gross. Jesus doesn’t like bullies.

  41. I wish it were surprising that these discussions seem to bring out very little new in the way of understandings and arguments.

    I think I disagree with the free love, zen, you’ll “grow” out of possessive love, the most. The Christian God is both very possessive and tends to be jealous to the point of wiping out whole peoples. Besides, marriage isn’t (shouldn’t be) about possessing, but about giving.

  42. Frank Pellett: I’d hate the argument against possessive love less if it didn’t sound so much like a seduction line a sleazeball would use to get his way.

  43. @Frank Pellet and Angela C — But the notion that God spiritually copulated with a mortal virgin daughter to produce a god-human offspring is kosher? Grow up. Of course God is a jealous god when dealing with this terrestrial sphere. Not so in his kingdom. There is no need to be jealous and possessive there. And please don’t project your insecurities and interpretations on me. Non-possessive love does not equal free love. Non-possessive love equals selfless, subservient, and submissive love. For God so loved us that he gave his only begotten son to us that we might have everlasting life. We in turn submit our will and selves to him out of love. Sealings are about connecting lineages back to God, not about who we will have sex with in the afterlife.

  44. “Sealings are about connecting lineages back to God, not about who we will have sex with in the afterlife.”

    Don’t forget that if you’re a polygamist (whose doctrine is the subject of this post), sealings are most certainly also about who you will have sex with in *this* life. Historical exceptions exist, but let’s not pretend Joseph, Brigham, and others were only focused on forming asexual connections.

  45. David H:

    I go to LDS sacrament meeting and then to a conservative Protestant church with my wife every week now, going on more than a decade. I have never heard anyone teach that marriage does not exist in the next life. My wife is doing graduate work in theology at a Protestant seminary and this teaching is, in the unforgettable words of President Hinckley, “not emphasized” there. Protestantism is huge and highly variable and our limited experiences might both be accurate.

    I think the Protestant interpretation of the passage in Mark 12 refers to no additional marriages consistent with the Protestant idea that this life is the only time to prepare to met God. There will be no conversions or sacraments or repenting after death. They throw it at us to impeach our temple work. How can you go from being married for 50 years to being celestial roommates or siblings or fellow choir members? Unless one believes the experiences of this life have very little influence on the next life. When you meet your spouse in the hereafter, he or she will still be your spouse not someone or something else. I think we would all agree.

    Angels, from a pre-modern perspective were another species of heavenly beings not found in nature and to compare us to them is similar to comparing us to sheep or goats but in a different direction.The analogy can be easily taken too far. All of these heavenly species are now less clearly defined and not of as much importance. It is a Joseph Smith/Mormon idea that God, the various angels, the devil and his minions, etc., are all of the same species; in fact the same pre-mortal family.( A few obscure forgotten heretics might also teach something akin to it.) The Christian cosmic zoo is emptied out in Mormonism. “Like the angels” takes on a new unintended meaning for us. Or perhaps a “restored” meaning, but only for us. This is them twisting our own doctrine back against us.

    The next step, the details of marriage, divorce, second and third marriages, half and step siblings, etc,, is where things get messy. The wise course is to forego speculation and appeal in a general way to the benevolence and wisdom of God and then leave it alone. After a few more revelations and clarifications in the handbook, we Mormons might be close to one of the more common Christian positions.

    Another aspect is a literal resurrection for us, and how it relates to the resurrection of Christ who is also a member of the Trinity which is without a physical body. Don’t ask me to explain these mental gymnastics, I don’t get it. Many Christians believe in a physical resurrection. But we Mormons take it a step further and actually consider the possibility of celestial sexual activity. Other Christian churches find this revolting. Mention this topic and the conversation ends abruptly. Mention that God has a physical male body, presumably with all organs mentionable and unmentionable in working order and they will want to call the Inquisitors back into action. This is fertile ground for conflict between us and it won’t be good for our missionary work.


    As for God and the Virgin Mary having kosher sex and “growing up”, I think Big Bruce McKonkie* among other prophets and apostles from the mid 20th century and back had something to say about it. Try telling that to all 80+ inches of Big Bruce in person, I would like to see how that might have gone down. But it was nothing binding. Because nothing is ever binding and besides, that all went down the memory hole. I wish the pipe under my kitchen sink drained as well, need to get that fixed.

    *(Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 547)

  46. I was going to point out that there’s nothing particularly “kosher” about the idea of God spiritually copulating (whatever that means) with Mary to beget Jesus, but Mike beat me to the punch. It’s not accepted doctrine, whatever speculation may have been over the years.

  47. If Elder Mckonkie’s Mormon Doctrine is not accepted doctrine, then what is?

    People still tote that book (Mormon Doctrine) around in church and quote it- after 50 years, Elder McKonkie was married to Joseph Fielding Smith’s daughter Amelia (treated like his favorite son) and JFS was the biggest of the big-dog doctrinarians across most of the 20 century. We had a near dynasty succession of top prophetic leadership from the Prophet Joseph Smith, to Joseph F. Smith son of Hyrum Smith (since Emma Smith raised her sons in the RLDS branch), to his son Joseph Fielding Smith, to Bruce R. McKonkie- except he didn’t live long enough to sit in the middle chair. They taught with the same, if not more authority, than the Prophet Joseph Smith himself. It was widely known by those acquainted with them that these two theological giants loved to sit up late into the night discussing doctrine with each other. Their widely published and accepted teachings were hardly speculation. That is laughable.

    I disagree with them on this issue about God and the Virgin Mary copulating and many other points. (One of the early roots of my heresy). But our doctrine becomes jello if we can just quietly dismiss even strongly promoted doctrines by the top leaders. Standing for Something my a…. , ahem burro.

    If we can quietly forget doctrine taught by the greatest among us across 2 generations, then why not reject plural marriage all together? We have already retreated way back onto indefensible ground, Why not surrender this battle? End the confusion and the pain.

    Tell our cousins, the nut-grower FLDS that we were wrong, always were wrong on polygamy and they need to get over it. You do know, they successfully recruit from our zealous fringe and that needs to stop.

  48. Heather Arnita says:

    I really appreciate this book review. It gives voice to many of my concerns. It would be awesome if the brethren would read this. They need to hear more voices, especially female ones, about how polygamy affects them. I wonder if the brethren have gone to the Lord with concerns about polygamy already. How long were they praying about blacks and the priesthood? I do hope that this issue is important enough to them to cause them to seek answers. And if it isn’t I hope they will listen to enough people who do find this issue important.

  49. If Jesus was conceived through immaculate and magical processes, which I am totally fine with and hold out as entirely plausible, if not probable, doesn’t that mean the notions of sex, marriage, and procreation are very different in the highest spheres than what we can contemplate now? And if that is so, why would we think that some form of harem polygamy would be the norm in the next life? Why is God and Church Doctrine magical and magnanimous in one regard (immaculate conception) and banal and biased in another (sealings). Why apply two separate paradigms to similar conundrums? At least Big Bruce was consistent.

    Back to the OP, I again state that I think the gender inequality in multiple sealings needs to be rectified immediately. Women should be allowed to be sealed to more than one man while living and not just after death. There is no doctrinal reason to wait until after death to perform the multiple sealings. That does not address the real and justifiable heartache many women feel over the practice of and teachings about polygamy, but I believe it is a step in the right direction.

    Last, I think the idea that the church will abandon polygamy doctrines root and branch anytime soon is ludicrous. A vast majority of the leadership — men and women — in the church descends from polygamous lines. It is one thing to cease the practice and create some distance from it; it is quite another thing to repudiate and castigate it when the very practice is responsible for bringing you into existence to a lesser or greater degree.

  50. it's a series of tubes says:

    If Jesus was conceived through immaculate and magical processes, which I am totally fine with and hold out as entirely plausible, if not probable, doesn’t that mean the notions of sex, marriage, and procreation are very different in the highest spheres than what we can contemplate now?

    Even dumb old humans are currently capable of creating a pregnancy without the need for 2 people to copulate. What’s it been, something like 40 years or so?

  51. I think it’s odd to think you can’t repudiate polygamy because it brought you into existence. People are brought into existence in a lot of unfortunate ways. How many people are descended from people who were brought into existence because their mothers were raped? Probably more than were brought into existence because Mormons practiced polygamy, and yet no one ever says, “Well, rape can’t be entirely wrong because, after all, if it weren’t for one of my ancestors raping another one of my ancestors, I wouldn’t be here!” And I’m not comparing polygamy to rape. It’s just the whole idea that polygamy is in my genetic history, therefore I can’t repudiate it, is taking gratitude for one’s existence to a pretty extreme level. (How narcissistic is it to believe whatever brought you into existence, no matter how vile, must be right?) I suppose one can have some sort of personal affection for one’s polygamous ancestors and therefore not want to believe they were engaging in something that was generally harmful and destructive (even if it wasn’t necessarily so in particular cases), but I guess I’ve never had the spirit of Elijah, because that story just doesn’t resonate for me.

  52. I guess my wife and I are stupid. We don’t seem to have time to discuss or even think much about polygamy. I knew there was something missing from my life.

  53. Also, I just love how these discussions seem to almost entirely ignore 1) the fact the it’s the Lord’s church, not the brethren’s, and 2) there is a real possibility that the prophet(s) has(have) petitioned the Lord on this issue and the answer may be “not yet.” (Reference blacks and the priesthood and Pres. McKay).

  54. What I just love is that these discussions always have someone urging us to forget the fact that the 1978 revelation didn’t happen in a vacuum.

  55. Reread my comment with an eye to comprehending the content.

  56. But polygamy = rape is exactly what you are saying, Rebecca. And that is ok; it just seems very extreme to me. Tubes, exactly! Then why are we convinced that marital relationships and procreative processes, to the extent the latter exists in the next life, are static facsimiles of earthbound pairings/groupings?

  57. Mike: “If Elder Mckonkie’s Mormon Doctrine is not accepted doctrine, then what is?… Their widely published and accepted teachings were hardly speculation. That is laughable”

    You might want to stop laughing. Mormon Doctrine was a smashing failure. McConkie’s fellow brethren considered it “full of errors and misstatements” (they recommended 1,067 corrections to it). David O. McKay in 1960 did “not want him to publish another edition.” — but McConkie did anyway (I don’t know the full story on that.) All references to it have been taken out of church manuals, and it’s officially and forever out of print, to the great relief of many top leaders.

    No one can pinpoint what official mormon doctrine is anymore, largely thanks to the internet. To change a policy (women’s sealing practices) or even renouncing polygamy altogether, are well within precedent, imo (it would just rattle a lot of cages, and maybe spark more faith crises than are already happening.)

  58. Anonym: “David O. McKay in 1960 did “not want him to publish another edition.” — but McConkie did anyway (I don’t know the full story on that.)”

    I expect the “full story on that”, like many others, will remain elusive. You can read one version in “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” by Gregory A Prince and Wm Robert Wright. I understand their book to be based largely on the McKay papers kept by Clare Middlemiss; it is unclear to me to what, if any, extent those papers reflect her attitudes or perceptions more than President McKay’s. Prince and Wright provide a rather harsh evaluation of Elder McConkie’s assertion that President McKay had given permission for the second edition of “Mormon Doctrine.” But there is a story not told in the Prince and Wright book. It can be found in “The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son” by Joseph Fielding McConkie. There, if I recall correctly, it is asserted not only that President McKay gave permission, but that Apostle Spencer W. Kimball was assigned to help (or at least helped) Elder McConkie with the revision. The resulting second edition of “Mormon Doctrine” is reported by others to have changed very few of the more than a thousand errors “affecting most” of the first edition’s pages, that had been identified by Mark E. Petersen and Marion G. Romney on assignment by President McKay. Having found nothing in Ed Kimball’s books on his father about Apostle Kimball’s allegedly helping with that second edition of “Mormon Doctrine,” I asked Ed (one of my law professors and once a fellow ward member) if he knew or had heard anything about it. He had not. He did mention that it could have been a casual response from Elder Kimball to questions by McConkie on limited matters or could have been more than that. Ed told me there might be something in his father’s papers at the University of Utah about it. Ed was clearly not interested in searching. Neither am I. McConkie remains highly regarded and much loved by many members. On the other hand, he is significantly despised for his “pulpit style” and doctrinaire opinions (except his final address) and his dealings with respect to George Pace and Eugene England (and others) by many others. To me he remains an enigma. The “full story” remains and will likely remain unknown.

  59. Paul, that is not what I said, nor would it be okay if it were, because they are not the same thing, and therefore my saying it would be a lie. What I said is that people exist because women get pregnant, under a variety of circumstances, not all of which are ideal. Some women get pregnant as polygamous wives. Some women get pregnant as unwed teenagers. I reckon more people exist because someone in their family tree was an unwed teenage mother at some point than exist because of polygamy (or rape, for that matter). Can one be against unwed teenage motherhood without being against people who are the descendants of unwed teenage mothers? If your own mother was an unwed teenager when she gave birth to you, does that mean you have to think being an unwed teenage mother is awesome because after all, unwed teenage motherhood is directly responsible for your existence? I hope everyone can see the difference between using something as an example to demonstrate a principle and using something as a metaphor. (I was doing the former, not the latter.)

  60. Mike, I reread your comment, and I apologize if I read too much into it, but I’m a pretty verbose writer as it is, and if I have to stick disclaimers throughout my posts acknowledging and reminding my readers that I can’t read God’s mind, the posts would a) be entirely too long and b) very annoying to read. I often make the mistake of assuming people will infer that I know that I can’t read God’s mind. For the record, I cannot read God’s mind, but I don’t assume that means that I shouldn’t question the wisdom of these policies. Policies don’t change if people who are concerned about them don’t talk about them, if we all just accept that this must be the way things should be because if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be this way. I don’t actually know everything that led up to the 1978 revelation, but I do know that a lot of men never think about how church policies affect women–not because they’re thoughtless human beings but because they have a totally different experience. How will “the Brethren” get a revelation to fix a problem they literally never think about? That’s not how it worked for Joseph Smith.

  61. Mike says: “People still tote that book (Mormon Doctrine) around in church and quote it- after 50 years, Elder McKonkie was married to Joseph Fielding Smith’s daughter Amelia (treated like his favorite son) and JFS was the biggest of the big-dog doctrinarians across most of the 20 century. We had a near dynasty succession of top prophetic leadership from the Prophet Joseph Smith, to Joseph F. Smith son of Hyrum Smith (since Emma Smith raised her sons in the RLDS branch), to his son Joseph Fielding Smith, to Bruce R. McKonkie- except he didn’t live long enough to sit in the middle chair. They taught with the same, if not more authority, than the Prophet Joseph Smith himself. It was widely known by those acquainted with them that these two theological giants loved to sit up late into the night discussing doctrine with each other. Their widely published and accepted teachings were hardly speculation. That is laughable.”

    My version of the LDS Church is not a family dynasty. That’s Star Wars. There is no royal family here. Move on.

    As for staying up late reading stuff, that’s exactly what we do here on the Bloggernacle. So by your litmus test, it seems we are theological giants that should not be laughed at. Yet you did.

    I may live in a progressive state, not being in UT or ID, but no one carries around Mormon Doctrine in my ward. No one really thinks that face cards are evil. No one really thinks that juvinile delinquency is a sign of the times. We don’t rotate this book in our second hour or third hour lessons, or teach it in Seminary. The mere fact that no one asked him to write the book in the first place should be a good starting point for just how valuable it is. If you truly enjoy reading it, then great. But it certainly is not laughable that the rest of us do not.

    Just my experience.

  62. Mike says: “They taught with the same, if not more authority, than the Prophet Joseph Smith himself…. Their widely published and accepted teachings were hardly speculation.”

    Perhaps Mike meant they taught with rhetorical confidence in their own authority. I have not been able to imagine why wide publication and acceptance removes their opinions from the category of “speculation.” There is at least one reported occasion with respect to each of JFS II and BRM that shows each of them capable of humbly acknowledging that an error in matters they had taught with the same air of authority that they taught other things. Re JFS II see Eugene England’s report of his meeting with the apostle about the blacks and the pre-existence fence-sitting theory. Re BRM see his acknowledgment following the 1978 revelation that he had been wrong in teaching that the blacks would never have the priesthood in this life. Even if those were the only examples of such humble acknowledgment of error, they pretty much destroy any inference that their extraordinarily authoritarian style implies any revelatory authority behind whatever opinion or speculation they expressed in that style. Perhaps it is inferring real authority from a dogmatic style that is laughable.

  63. Thanks, Rebecca, for clarifying. My point, though, is a bit different. I believe the church would not have survived without the introduction, practice, and cessation of polygamy at the revealed times. So by existence, I not only mean physical existence through birth but more importantly the existence as a member/leader of the CJCLDS in the present day. Sitting on a rostrum, standing in front of a pulpit, sitting in pews as a Mormon in 2017 could not have happened without polygamy because almost all of the banner carriers and leaders came through — and still to this day descend from — polygamous lines. The statistics overwhelmingly back this up. I am sure you and I would agree to disagree on that point, but I wanted to clarify my position.

    As for BRM and immaculate conception, I won’t go as far as Mike has gone. I think there are things to be wary of in Mormon Doctrine, and I haven’t read from it in over 25 years. I have been in a ward with other McConkies (BRM’s brother and his family). They are strong willed but faithful people. They know the scriptures very well. My point in bringing up the immaculate conception issue is that it strikes me as odd that the distance and mystery surrounding that much more profound and difficult event gets a high gloss while the proximity and earthiness of recent polygamy gets tarred and feathered. I realize time smooths everything, but the doctrines of Christ are not the doctrines of the political right or left, nor are they doctrines of smart men and women. We will all find out we have been wrong about some things when we go to the next realm. That includes BRM, me, and you. You think the prophets were wrong on polygamy. I think you are wrong. I suspect there is error enough to go around on this issue. I am just grateful we can look at it through historical lenses and not be faced with modern implementation (other than the multiple sealings component, which again I think needs to be equalized forthwith so that the same sealing rules apply to second marriages regardless of gender).

  64. Paul’s comment reminds me of other McConkies I have known as well as those I’ve known of. They vary in many ways, just like members of any other extended family. My favorite comment by a McConkie was “… Bruce was often wrong, but never in doubt.” Many other folks (including yours truly) are often wrong and often in doubt. In some cases this difference might be simply a matter of personal style.

  65. it's a series of tubes says:

    Sitting on a rostrum, standing in front of a pulpit, sitting in pews as a Mormon in 2017 could not have happened without polygamy because almost all of the banner carriers and leaders came through — and still to this day descend from — polygamous lines.

    Paul, why couldn’t the people in question have come from monogamous lines?
    (honest question posed by myself, who comes from polygamous lines on both sides)

  66. I’m old enough to have listened to BRM’s talks in person–his authoritarianism was more than just style. I heard him lambast George W. Pace at a BYU devotional for writing a book and teaching about establishing a personal relationship with Christ. From what I heard, there was no heads up given to professor Pace–he was totally blindsided. Very ironic when you consider what had happened to him after the 1st Edition of Mormon Doctrine — reminiscent of the parable of the unforgiving debtor. I think brother Joseph would not have put up with brother McKonkie’s tactic: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” I’ve since moved on and tried to have a more tolerant view of BRM.

  67. “…could not have happened without polygamy because almost all of the banner carriers and leaders came through — and still to this day descend from — polygamous lines.”

    Err… I thought we believed all of these people were chosen in the pre-existance, etc. Are you really trying to argue they would never have been born if polygamy hadn’t happened? That’s putting some pretty big limits on God and stomping into the dust the idea of callings happening in the pre-existance.

  68. I think the best way to move on and have a more tolerant view of BRM is to actually read some of his discourses, especially the ones he gave in BYU devotionals when he didn’t have the weight of general conference dragging him down. He was really quite funny and more self deprecating than his imagined bloggernacle persona would lead you to believe.

  69. Clark Goble says:

    “No one can pinpoint what official mormon doctrine is anymore, largely thanks to the internet. ”

    I think it largely because despite a lot of people’s opinions there’s far less in revelation than it appears at first glance. The move away from the more doctrinaire attitude roughly popular from the 50’s through 80’s was largely driven by Gordon R. Hinkley and a few others. The first big step for this was the publishing of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. While not widely read due to the cost it more or less undermined Mormon Doctrine.

    While I wouldn’t say Mormon Doctrine was a failure it certainly had a relatively short window of influence all things considered. 30 years seemed huge when I was young but now that I’m middle age it seems much briefer. I can’t recall the last time I heard it quoted at Church. Probably the early 90’s.

    Of course other things went against it. The rise of a science biased apologetic culminating in FARMS in the 90’s probably contributed as much. Many of the traditional ‘doctrinal views’ of the early to mid 20th century came under heavy scrutiny yet from a perceived faithful stance. Whatever one might think of the successes or failures of apologetics, it definitely didn’t give much weight to these doctrinal pronouncements ungrounded in clear revelation or science.

    By the time the internet really starts coming onto the scene in the late 90’s most of these changes had pretty well all radically changed the landscape. I’m really skeptical one can tie the fall of Mormon Doctrine‘s influence to the internet.

  70. Tubes, it’s not just the people. It is the structure, the speed, the commitment, the growth, and the social fabric that polygamy helped forge. Jacob 2:30 comes to mind as the appropriate underpinning authority. The Lord needed to raise up seed to Him in a relatively short period of time. I contend that without the practice, as difficult and unseemly as it may appear, the church would not have been able to fulfill its last-days mission. I contend the same for the discontinuance of the practice. All of it was calibrated to great and important effect. But I can’t prove to you that the church would not have made it out of the wilderness and into modernity and influence (at a breathtakingly accelerated pace, mind you) without polygamy (both the starting and stopping of it), just as you cannot prove to me that the church would be in the same place with only monogamous marital practices in its past. The statistics support my position, I would contend, but I am open to being wrong.

    ReTx, please reread what I wrote.

  71. KLC, re BRM’s BYU devotional speeches — yes his occasional humor and self-deprecation in some BYU speeches help in developing a more tolerant view. But the “bloggernacle persona” I have seen is certainly not “imagined”. You cannot, for example, have any accurate view from reading BRM’s [in]famous Seven Deadly Heresies speech delivered at BYU because he was required to change it (at least/especially as to evolution) for publication. I am old enough to have heard him in person a number of times. With that one it was quite clear that he was arrogating to himself the authority to define heresy and to accuse those Mormons (and general authorities) who accepted any version of evolutionary theory of being heretics. As I understand it President Kimball chose not to let that stand. There were similar issues of arrogance in his BYU speech castigating George Pace, though not by name. That BYU speech also contradicted “doctrinal” past statements of other general authorities. (Noting such arrogance is not a defense of Pace or his approach.) While some of BRM’s speeches at BYU can aid tolerance, reading them does not always reflect the speech he actually gave and there are other BRM speeches at BYU that will not aid tolerance but are entirely consistent with what I think you mean by his “bloggernacle persona.” As noted, to me he remains an enigma.

  72. KLC – I heard his discourses from my youth on, so for me it’s not an imagined bloggernacle persona. One talk I heard in person as a youth where he related a story of some time he spent with the scouts was very inspiring and memorable to this day. All the more disappointing to me later on to see his seeming intolerance of others who had made doctrinal errors just like he had. But I suppose it’s a life lesson at the same time.

  73. JR, if you are old enough to have heard him speak, as am I, then you have a leg up on the bloggernacleites much younger than us that just use BRM as shorthand for everything that is wrong with old style authoritarian sternness. But you fall into the same trap as they do. The man served for decades as a GA, spoke in dozens of general conferences and probably hundreds of other public occasions yet you only drag up the same old trinity that proves him to be terrible: Mormon Doctrine, Seven Deadly Heresies, and George Pace. I’m not saying he was perfect, I’m not saying he wasn’t authoritarian or wrong on many things, but he is much more nuanced as a leader and thinker than the hiss and byword he seems to have become among certain lds blog commenters. That is what I mean by bloggernacle persona.

  74. KLC, since you mean by BRM’s “bloggernacle persona” the view that he was not nuanced, but only a “hiss and byword” I don’t think we disagree. What I thought I was pointing out is that (1) his BYU speeches provide not only a basis for appreciating his humor and self-deprecation, but also form a basis for his sometimes extraordinarily arrogant authoritarianism, and (2) reading the published speeches is sometimes an inadequate basis for thinking that one knows what he said. You say “nuanced”; I, being somewhat more confused, say “enigma.” He gave ample reason for many to love and appreciate him and ample reason for others not to. I remain pleased not to be his “judge.”

  75. it's a series of tubes says:

    The statistics support my position, I would contend

    Paul, I think it entirely possible that your position is correct, but I’m not seeing the statistical support you mention. Simply because many/most important leaders came from polygamous families, polygamy was necessary to produce such leaders? Such a conclusion represents the most basic form of “begging the question”.

  76. The man served for decades as a GA, spoke in dozens of general conferences and probably hundreds of other public occasions yet you only drag up the same old trinity that proves him to be terrible: Mormon Doctrine, Seven Deadly Heresies, and George Pace.

    “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

  77. Is there a reference anywhere of which leaders descended from polygamous marriages?

  78. Also, is there any support in the Bible for the ancient kings and patriarchs being commanded by God to practice plural marriage?

  79. A post by a woman about a book by a woman about how women feel about a doctrine that particularly affected women has devolved into bickering between men about the status of a particular man among his fellow men. shocking.

  80. Touche Amanda. But actually I confess to being an equal-opportunity thread-jacker. In our defense, some of these comments are germane to the post and women’s comments to the post. And we may not be church leaders, but at least we are men addressing some of the issues with polygamy that affect women.

  81. After a mic drop like Amanda’s, it’s always gonna be a mistake to pick it up and say “in our defense…” Always. Just slow clap as you slink out the back door.

  82. I don’t have the link or reference handy, but I have seen the statistics before. Something like 85% of general leadership in the church over the life of the church have either practiced or descended from polygamy. I will look for the link. But, Tubes, I am not simply saying that “polygamy was necessary to produce such leaders.” I am saying that polygamy was necessary to create the social, familial, political, and religious conditions within the church to raise up, in a short period of time, a large number of progeny who were deeply committed to the church and its mission. Without such polygamy-produced progeny, which necessarily included the leadership, and the tightly knit culture the practice encouraged, I think the church would not have been able to grow and thrive as it has. Quite to the contrary, I think it would have been largely neutralized.

    Amanda, fair points. I will bow out. Polygamy is the hardest of topics.

  83. Rebecca I read the book and I think CLP makes some very valid points. I don’t see why the church shouldn’t start allowing women to have multiple sealings, and be released from them, as well as men, if it’s all going to be worked out in the hereafter. What I don’t know is whether she or any of us is qualified by experience to know what to expect about polygamous marriage in the eternities.

  84. not shocked, but perhaps too easily amused says:

    Amanda, Kristine: No defense necessary. No slinking necessary. Applause only for CLP and Rebecca J.

  85. Is it time for the cleanup phase of women’s comments yet?

    Whenever a comment has been made about current church membership having an affinity for polygamy based on their ancestry who practiced it, the image that comes to mind is the gravestone of my g-g-grandmother, forlornly by itself in a cemetery hundreds of miles from where my g-g-grandfather is buried with his favorite wife. I don’t presume to know what my ancestors thought privately about their practice, and I think it advisable that no one else should presume to know what the descendants of those polygamists think about the practice. And certainly not if it involves leaping to the conclusion that, as a group, all modern members agree that it was a benefit for their ancestors and look upon it favorably.

  86. This is a nice review, Rebecca. Thanks.

    Commenter Paul might be right that the weight of history makes it less likely that the Church will disavow polygamy doctrines. Maybe he’s even right that polygamy was essential to strengthening the Church in the nineteenth century. But whatever. Those arguments are a red herring. What matters is today, and tomorrow, and the Church as it will be for our children and grandchildren. In a living church with continuing revelation, we should not be beholden to now-abrogated practices of the nineteenth century.

    Pearson’s book is the kind of thing that helps us understand where we need revelation now. She shows us some of the hidden costs of our heritage. If revelation is good for anything, it must be good for steering the Church on a true path and helping its members find peace. I have never prayed about this issue before, but I will now. I will ask God to help me find ways to alleviate the pain and confusion that Pearson describes. I will ask God to guide the Church in this matter. Those are things all of us can do. Who will join me?

  87. Amanda for perma.

  88. RebeccaJ, nice review. I read this book over the holidays, and it has prompted me to do a lot of thinking about what I believe and why. You can’t read page after page of the “Other Voices” in that book, and not come to the conclusion that we either have gone way off the rails with polygamy, or that there’s a whole lot we still don’t know. Either way, the pain is real, not imagined, and not isolated to a few individuals. Given the state of President Monson’s health at this point, it is unlikely that we will see any movement on this issue during his lifetime.

  89. Re “what to do about it?” — I think the necessary bare minimum is to renounce/disavow (yes, apologize for once) every vestige of the “necessary” or “required” or “for exaltation” teaching and doctrine, including every part of the D&C that might be read that way. There’s just no way forward while maintaining any part of the “required” talk.
    As for a permissive view of polyandry (assuming fully consensual relations on all sides, which might be defining a null set), I think we could maintain it and survive (and there are limited arguments that would be a good thing) but I suspect that most would reject the permissive view as well.

  90. Also, excellent review. (Not an -ish review, but in my opinion the real thing, or at least the kind of review I look for and enjoy.)

  91. Joe Darger says:

    Polygamy doesn’t have a shelf life. It is an eternal principle which is why it is in the temple ceremony and the modern church’s inability to understand the doctrine is what has many of its members resist it. We all want to pick and choose the laws we will follow. If ones view of polygamy is only pernicious and there is no alternative view then perhaps a book like Voices In Harmony which contains many of stories from women fulfilled in polygamy or a sincere reading of other positive histories would help. The prophet is a man and as such may have had impure motives for polygamy but the same could be said for many of his teachings. I have often thought I understood a doctrine such as a Tithing only to discover when I fully took it on what it had to teach me. There is a desire to say it is an incident and not an essential. If you trivialize it as an incident there is nothing to be responsible for, and when it is an essential, much like tithing and other Church laws that the people who do not believe them will never understand, there’s much to be discovered in the practice of it

  92. Joe, get back to me when you’ve been told you may have to participate in a practice that goes against everything you believe about yourself as a person in God’s eyes and essentially puts you as secondary to others. Even possibly against your will (Law of Sarah). Until you’ve felt that pain, dissonance, and utter confusion, I don’t need you comparing something as huge as polygamy to tithing, or telling me to read positive polygamy stories to skew it in a way that it may become beautiful (it won’t). And I don’t need you telling me that I’ve got to put in the work to come to a place where I will accept it (I won’t). Maybe you could put in some work on the subject, the really difficult task of putting yourself in shoes you’ve never walked in. Empathy = good. Oversimplification = bad.

  93. I’m still active, but if I become “less- of in-active” and someone asks me why, I will honestly say that it began with the church’s polygamy essays. To see my leaders, modern men, condone what went on in Joseph’s marriage and Nauvoo environs started me on the downhill. I still can’t believe it.

  94. As a divorced woman who spent the majority of her life attending singles wards, I can attest to the statement that polygamy still creates an enormous burden for the women of the church, and for men as well. Not for all, but for many. I have been a participant in many conversations where women talked about refusing to date or marry men who were sealed to a prior wife. They were adament about not being stuck in a polygamous relationship for eternity. And having seen friends who could not get a sealing cancellation because the priesthood leadership was stuck in a we know what is best for you mindset, they were unwilling to trust the assurances of these men that all would be well in eternity. I have watched women who married divorced men denigrate their husband’s ex-wives, trying to argue that they, and the husband, would have these children as their sealed children in eternity. The ex-wife’s rights as a mother be damned!
    I have heard men, twice divorced, brag about how they will still have each of their wives for eternity, because the sealing ordinances had not been cancelled. Despite the fact these women had made it clear they wanted nothing to do with these men. I have heard women tell their children that there is no more eternal family because their father was sealed to a new wife, and they were not going to be part of a polygamous union, no matter what the father and his new wife taught the children. Devastating for children who grew up singing “Families Can Be Together Forever.” I have seen a new young couple struggle and finally cut off from all contact the family of the husband’s first wife and grandparent’s of his child, because the young second wife realized she had been sold a romantisized version of eternal polygamy and she could not actually live and build a marriage in that fairy tale.
    I simply think our culture is disfunctional when it comes to marriage and family relationships. I believe we use and twist for our own purposes the doctrines. And I believe a large part of the problem traces back to polygamy and its secrecy and deceit and the endless justifications we have constructed to excuse behavior I believe should not be justified. I also believe polygamy denies the fundamental needs people have, to be the one and only in the heart of the person they are married to. Many ugly words and behaviors are practiced in an attempt to meet this need while supposedly conforming to church doctrine.
    The thing I have never understood about polygamy in the 19th century is what happened to all the men? I understood that Utah had more men than women on its censuses. Did they have a large number of gay men? Were the number of shy bachelor types high? Were there a large number of men who were frightened of assuming the responsibilities of marriage? Did a number of men get divorced by their wives? What do we really know about what happened?

  95. Inferiority Complex says:

    I know I’m a little late to this post, but I’d still like to weigh in and see responses.

    I think the core purpose of the book and this post is to express the deep pain that many Mormon women feel about being objectified. I feel it often. We talk about how porn is bad (and it is) because it objectifies daughters of God. But then we’re taught that we must be modest and cover up our shoulders, lest we give away the goods too early before a man has “received” us. And then I hear about how marriage ceremony works (I am not endowed, so it is all by hearsay.)

    I thought the point of self-respect and a proud conglomeration of LDS women was about NOT being objectified. But if polygamy is real, then isn’t a logical conclusion–and a reasonable emotional response–to then think and feel like I am an object? I have a name and a personality and talents and interests and thoughts. I am not an object. And yet I fear that the day I get married will be the day when I sign on to be one out of many wives.

    I am not married. Honestly, the thought of sharing my husband bothers me less than being an object. I do not mean to belittle women who do feel that way–but it’s not something I worry about. What I do worry about is the eternal implication that I am an object.

    And with all of the arguments about how relationships and procreation will be different in the next life, so there will be no need for sex–I thought that our bodies were fashioned after our Heavenly Parents’ bodies. I thought that the Family: Proclamation to the World stated that those who break the law of chastity will never have the option to procreate again (meaning be in another sexual relationship.)

    I find it sad that the 1978 announcement could be made to no longer belittle and objectify an entire group of people, but that women still face this problem today. Will holding onto my humanity and my insistence that I am a person, not an object, cost me an eternal companion and an opportunity to receive the highest degree of glory in the next life?

  96. Where in the world do you get that one who breaks the law of chastity can never procreate again?

  97. I was relieved to read CLP’s book. After reading the new polygamy essays on I’ve been in a funk. The essays justify Joseph lying to Emma, justify Joseph marrying a 14 year old, and admitted that, yes, Joseph’s marriages were sexual. The essays also point out that LESS children are actually born into polygamous families.

    The essays say that no one was Forced into a polygamous relationship, if a woman wasn’t happy, then divorce was readily available. Isn’t that a form of coercion? You marry and start a family and then your husband, without your knowledge or consent starts bringing home younger “wives” and you have no recourse. You accept it or get one of those readily-available divorces. (Oh yeah, there’s also this made up law called “the law of Sarah” that gives men permission to marry without his wife’s consent ) Needless to say, the divorce tally was high.

    Joseph Smith regularly made public announcements that polygamy was not taught or practiced by the Mormons, as he was collecting wives. Joseph took his first plural wife, Fanny Alger, in 1835. She was a helper to Emma. Fanny lived in their house and he married her right under Emma’s nose and was having sex with her in he and Emma’s home!

    Polygamy was NEVER legal in the United States OR Mexico. There were legal penalties and fines if you were caught. Joseph could not have had a legal plural wife because polygamy was against the law. Joseph Smith was breaking the law every time he “married” another woman. And him marrying his friend’s wives….we are going to justify that behavior? Really?)

    Joseph claimed an angel with a flaming sword commanded him to practice polygamy. So he wasn’t allowed his agency? He was forced by God to practice polygamy? Wasn’t that Satan’s plan and wasn’t that plan rejected? What about Emma’s agency? I just read a talk by President Utchdorf. He says that God will never use force or use coercion to accomplish his purposes. God will never trample on anyone’s agency. Never. Not even Joseph Smith’s.

    Reading LDS.ORG that day felt like falling off a cliff. It is all so contrary to what we as a church teach. The rationalization and justifications are astounding. I can’t believe that the first presidency approved these essays! It left me with a feeling of “oh if you are a man and you are a church leader, then you can lie, break laws and commit adultery.”

    CLP actually made me like Joseph Smith again.

  98. SOME of Joseph’s marriage involved sexual relations, but as it stands there is only evidence concerning about 3 of them (3 who testified in a deposition regarding this issue). Ceci’s statement “Joseph’s marriages were sexual” implies they all were. There is no evidence to support that. On the contrary, the fact that there have been no proven descendants of Joseph Smith through anybody other than Emma goes against any claim that he was having sex with all of his wives.

  99. Mike:
    Then why practice polygamy if the purpose wasn’t to have children? What is the doctrinal basis for polygamy?
    Whether or not children have been proven to be born of plural wives, at least one, Sylvia Sessions, told her daughter, Josephine, that she WAS the daughter of Joseph Smith. Whether or not she actually is the biological daughter is beside the point. Sylvia Sessions must have had sexual relations with Joseph to believe that she bore his child.

    You should read the testimonies from the Temple Lot case. Women testified under oath that their relationship with Joseph was sexual. Also read Todd Compton’s book, In Sacred Loneliness”, there’s many women who wrote in journals about their relationship with Joseph. (It’s a reference used on LDS.ORG for the essays. It’s not an anti-Mormon book.)

    Maybe they weren’t all sexual relationships but some were. Even if you wanna go with three of those marriages were sexual….ok, so does that make it right? Having sex with other people outside the bounds of legal marriage? Joseph did not legally marry anyone but Emma. He wasn’t having sex with wives because they weren’t wives.

    Read the polygamy essays on LDS.ORG. They don’t deny that Joseph had sexual relationships with SOME of the women. But why only have sex with some of them? Where is the line drawn with which women you will have sex with and which ones you won’t? The ugly ones don’t get sex but the cute “wives” do? That’s even more problematic in my mind.

  100. The problem with judging Joseph Smith and (you name whatever issue) is that we have a tendency to make many assumptions. I won’t deny you the angst you feel that Joseph had sex with any of his other wives. But anything beyond that is speculation: how many, why, etc. Do people have sex for reasons other than children? I believe Pres. Kimball acknowledged that such is appropriate. While Joseph Smith was not “legally” married to other women, if I give him the benefit of the doubt that God commanded him to marry others, then having sex with them is a matter between him and God, not him and the law.

    We won’t have answers to all of our questions about polygamy, in my opinion, until the next life.
    For me, I’m not willing to throw away what is true for what is perplexing. But that’s a personal thing.

  101. I never said I was throwing anything away. What gave you that idea? I have questions. I believe that discussion is good. questions are good. If we are building our own testimonies then we should ask questions. I have questions about things that contradict gospel principles that I’ve always been taught And in turn taught to my own children. . Like honesty, fidelity, treating your spouse with respect and kindness, honoring marriage covenants, honoring and obeying the law of the land. The lying thing really gets me. There’s a reason that Thou shalt not lie is one of the 10 commandments. Lying ruins trust. Lying ruins relationships. All relationships not just marriage relationships. When trust is broken, relationships are ruined. I have a hard time believing that God told these men to deceive their spouses. It’s not consistent with who God is. If God is perfect then he doesn’t command people to sin. This image of a God that uses deceit to bring about his purposes gives me a terrible feeling. If I can’t trust in a loving, fair, just Amd truthful God then what is the purpose of religion? Faith in God should make us better. It should inspire is to treat our loved ones better, to be better. Polygamy did not make Joseph a better man, a better husband or a better father. By your fruits he shall know them….what are the fruits of polygamy? Deceit, mistrust, divorce (so many divorces) fathers that don’t have time to be with their families because they are spread so thin, poverty (other than Brigham Young, most men did not have the resources to support that many women and children) stress….. is there something positive or good that polygamy brought to Mormonism? I can’t see it.

    Why can’t we ask questions about this stuff in church? The secrecy then and the secrecy now bothers me. The gospel should be be a light unto the world….not a secret hidden in a book in the church archives. Things are kept secret for a reason. I think it’s time for transparency and truth.

  102. Ceci, your concerns are all legitimate. I have a sense that your exposure to all of this is new. If you don’t give up, in time I think you will see there are a number of assumptions you are making that may or may not be true. I will just say don’t give up. While not all of your questions will be answered in this lifetime, some of the issues will take on a new light when you stop making assumptions.

  103. Mike, which things are assumptions? I read this on LDS.ORG. I’m not as bothered by the behavior of Joseph as I am the rationalizations of that behavior. Basic principles such as honesty shouldn’t be negotiable. We either have agency or we don’t.
    Would you excuse this behavior out of anyone else? Because he’s a prophet you assume that it’s ok. I believe we are alike unto God and prophets and apostles are bound by the same commandments that we are.
    The idea of a group of men in power getting to do as they please, regardless of who gets hurt rubs me the wrong way right now.

  104. For one thing, you made the statement about God commanding men to deceive their wives. That’s an assumption. If one accepts that God commanded certain people to enter into polygamy, it does not necessarily follow that he commanded those people to deceive others about it. God often provides direction and allows mortals to figure out how to enact that direction. Moroni mistakenly blamed Pahoran for a corrupt government when God told him to clean it up. God didn’t tell him Pahoran was guilty–Moroni just assumed that.

    We don’t know very much about how polygamy came about, but we are told that God told Joseph Smith to do it. It is certainly possible that God didn’t tell Joseph how to deal with Emma or anybody else; he let him work that out. And in the working out of it, Joseph and others may have made mistakes.

    Of course, if you’re one who believes Joseph Smith just flat out lied about polygamy then there’s nothing really to discuss.

  105. So to obey a commandment it’s ok to break a commandment? We are commanded to attend the temple so is it ok to play fast and loose with the truth to get that recommend to obey the commandment to attend the temple?
    God commanded polygamy knowing that Joseph would have to break the law to practice it? Polygamy was never legal in the Untied States or in Mexico so all Men and women who practiced polygamy were breaking the law. So why even bother with the article of faith that declares that we believe in honoring and obeying the law?

    What is your definition of a lie? The attempt to deceive someone..? (You may disagree with that definition) Joseph on more than one occasion declared in public that Mormons did not teach or practice polygamy. So how is that NOT a lie? John Taylor went to France and signed a paper that declared that Mormons did not teach or practice polygamy. Wilford Woodruff testified in front of a US senator that Mormons would no longer teach, practice or affiliate with polygamy. Yet he did not stop the practice of polygamy. He permitted polygamy to continue even though he took an oath that he would do the opposite. How is that not a lie?

    There is a vast difference between having an disagreement/fight/altercation/unjust accusations with someone and deceiving your spouse for an extended period of time. God also commanded us to love our spouse and cleave unto them. So Joseph was given two conflicting commandments from God. Joseph was commanded to be honest. Joseph was commanded to,practice polygamy which would require him to disregard the commandment of honesty. So once again, God gave conflicting commandments. Why do you not hold the commandment of honesty or marriage fidelity in high regard? Those were commandments given from God. Why does polygamy trump all other commandments?

  106. Life is difficult and can test our faith. I hope one day you find satisfactory answers.

  107. thanks for the discussion anyway. Life and doctrine are indeed difficult. And having questions as a Mormon brings about “shunning” by other members. I appreciate your insight and testimony. I used to feel exactly the same way. I wish I could go back in time and just not know this stuff. But ignorance isn’t satisfying either. Best to you!

  108. One thing that has been tremendously helpful to me as I’ve discovered new information is to learn that there are very intelligent, learned people who’ve discovered the same things and have not elected to abandon the church/gospel. It doesn’t compel me to take the same path, but lets me know that I can address difficult issues and still choose to stay. Some people feel they have no choice but to leave. We always have a choice.

  109. Ceci – I have had many of the same questions and concerns as you. It has been a really long path for me to come to a place of peace. And I finally did it by letting go of the church or Joseph Smith or any of the other leaders (past or present) as being Gods themselves. They are just people who sometimes did brilliant things, sometimes screwed up royally. I loathe polygamy, but even in that I can see that Joseph likely at times had good intentions. He may not *always* have had good intentions (the Fanny Algers fiasco for example), but sometimes he did (marrying older women so that they could gain access to the Celestial Kingdom, marrying Eliza R. Snow, a probable rape victim as a possible way to protect her).

    I have a real problem with church manuals and the way the church Disney-fies our history. But knowing that is what happens, it is then my job to do the hard work of coming to a better understanding of history, how we modern human’s interpret history, human nature and God’s nature. 1 Cor 13 (the entire chapter, not just the first few versus) really helped me with this.

    So do know there are lots of others out there just like you. Most of us struggle with the church. Some of us stay. A good lot of us leave. For some of us (like me), the struggle itself becomes a way to connect to God and I’ve ended up with a certain amount of gratitude for it. (For full disclosure it took me over 10 years to get there though…)

  110. Mike, appreciate your thoughts. One big question I have is Why did Joseph Smith restore principles from Abrahams time? We are the church of Christ and we supposedly follow the teachings of Christ but everyone justifies by polygamy by saying it’s an ancient principle. So? Christ came BECAUSE the church was corrupted. We claim to follow the teachings of Christ but Christ NEVER taught polygamy. We have no evidence that he was a polygamist. Joseph was supposed to restore Christ’s church not Abraham’s. Every mention of plural marriage from Christ is NO! So how did this claim come to be that the Joseph was restoring Christ’s principles therefore he instituted polygamy. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    Also I do not live in the West. My son was the only Mormon in his middle school. He told them he was a Mormon so the teacher asked him to do research on Joseph Smith. In a presentation in front of the class Joseph was called an adulterous and many other things. I was furious and my son was upset. This was before I read the essays and subsequent books. I had NO idea that Joseph married all those women and that he was breaking the law. I almost went to the school and complained about their lack of tolerance. I am so glad I didn’t! Those kinds of instances that fuel the belief that Mormons are a cult. We don’t know our own history. Non Mormons know more about our history than we do. If I lived in Utah I would have communal understanding but I do not live there. Every day I have to set an example of what a Mormon is but I’m not even sure what we believe anymore.

  111. Just because we don’t have any teachings about polygamy from Jesus during his mortal lifetime doesn’t mean he didn’t teach it. It just means we don’t currently have it.

    But we actually do have it as God commanded Joseph Smith to live this law, so yes, we do have his teachings on polygamy in our day.

  112. As for all of you getting up in arms about not knowing Joseph Smith had multiple wives, why is that? I’ve known it all my life and it was one of the major reasons Emma didn’t go with the Saints westward. To claim that the Church has avoided this issue or ignored it simply is incorrect. Granted, I don’t live in Utah, but we Nevadan’s have been up on this subject since there was a Nevada.

    Now for those who have a “shaken” testimony over this issue, or any issue, please remember the times you felt the peace of the Holy Ghost and confirmation of the truth of the Book of Mormon and that Joseph Smith was (is) a prophet. Don’t deny that. Don’t trash that. Don’t pull up the sapling tree by the roots and toss it all away. Keep watering it and nourishing it and feeding it and let it grow into the Tree of Testimony that all are promised who follow the plan.

    We are living in the last days when although there will be some apostasy, the church as a whole will not falter. Don’t lose your membership over something, anything, that you feel doesn’t fit your ideals in our hyper-conscious world. Stay strong. Hold to the rod and continue on the path.

    I have read my Book of Mormon every day for over 30 years and I know this is the work of God and that it is true. I am not will to throw out my future blessings or break my covenants just because of something that may seem strange to us in our day. In the near future we will know everything in total detail and those who gave up and lost their blessings will weep and wail and gnash their teeth at the realization of what they have done.

    Stay true to what the Spirit has revealed to you.

  113. Kellywsmith.
    Joseph practicing polygamy is not in any church manuals It’s not. I’ve taught primary and young women’s for YEARS. never have I seen a reference to Joseph practicing polygamy. Maybe because I’ve been in primary or YW I haven’t been to adult SS but the children and youth are not taught about Joseph’s polygamy. Brigham Young, yes. Joseph Smith No. Find it in a church manual. For those of not from the West or from polygamous backgrounds, polygamy rarely cane up as a topic of conversation. And yes it is a shock to discover Joseph married a 14 year old, married 40 women, 10+ that were already married to living men, lied to Emma about marrying other women, lied to the church membership about practicing polygamy, lied to non-members about practicing polygamy, actively broke The laws of the Inited Starss…..yes it was shocking. No one said anything about the BOM. Church history is disturbing. Joseph made many prophecies that never came true so YES I question his prophecy about polygamy. Christ never taught it and we are the Church of Christ not the Church of Joseph Smith. Christ was perfect. Joseph was not. If someone has an issue with someone who was not completely honest, why would that be surprising? Prophets may be good and inspired men but they can and do make mistakes. I choose to follow Christ. I choose to honor Joseph Smith with the knowledge that he got it wrong sometimes but when he’s in line with Christ’s teachings then great!! I worship Jesus Christ not Joseph Smith.

  114. “As for all of you getting up in arms about not knowing Joseph Smith had multiple wives, why is that? I’ve known it all my life…”

    Attacking or blaming someone for not having the same experience as you is a really bad idea. Until recently none of the Sunday school manuals taught polygamy. For someone reliant on those and General Conference for their church history, all this other stuff is deeply shocking.

    That it isn’t shocking for you is wonderful for you. But please don’t put down (or testify of how great your experience has been or tell someone their ‘ideals’ are off because they are ‘hyper-conscious’) without even trying to understand that other person’s situation. You probably don’t mean your testimony as a hurtful attack, but that’s how it can come off. tCan you see that?

  115. kellywsmith: “To claim that the Church has avoided this issue or ignored it simply is incorrect.”

    With all due respect, that is not a true statement. Proof (I sincerely mean ‘proof’) of the Church covering up its own history and lying – teaching falsehoods – especially about polygamy, is mounting.

    I feel for Ceci. I feel *like Ceci. I’m dismayed to find that church leaders lied. I spent so many years defending them, I feel like such a dupe. It’s painful – the most painful thing I’ve yet encountered in life – to face the fact that the church I trusted implicitly isn’t honest with me.

    Really, do some research. Ask any GA in the know (Marlin Jensen, current historian Elder Snow, Richard Bushman, not a GA but a historian) – I don’t know that any of them could answer with a straight face that the church didn’t hide its history from its own members.

    It’s a crushing realization.

  116. OK, lets suppose for a moment that you are 100% correct and that they have lied about it, swept it under the rug, ignored it, etc. and now its all out in the open. What are you going to do about it? Are you willing to throw away the promised blessings and covenants you have made? Are you going to spend your days teaching against the church, become one of Satan’s minions and seek its destruction and try to sway as many as possible to leave it or not join it? What are you going to do about it?

    And if its all 100% true and you decided to go that route, where are you going to go? Who has the truth now and the authority and the promised blessings? Should we all join the Methodists? Baptists? Buddhists? Who?

    In 1838 the Church went through the darkest days of apostasy with the Kirtland Banking Society and many left the church. We have an issue here that is causing some to question things. Where are those descendants of the apostates of that day? What kind of reward did they obtain? What will happen to those who have decided its too much and have left over this issue?

    Personally, I think that we should hold on to what we know and wait for the time when EVERYTHING will be revealed in infinite detail and we will all have an “AHA” moment, and most likely be a lot less critical of Joseph Smith. In fact, I am positive we will have far greater respect and even reverence for what he did under the circumstances. And to those who hold on there will be great rewards for remaining faithful.

  117. kellywsmith,
    Trivializing another’s concerns is a form of gaslighting, which the church seems to be doing a pretty good job of lately. Changing the subject and refusing to address concerns…also gaslighting. Bravo, kellywsmith.

  118. kellywsmith,

    And your last comment just ticked the box for Bully Technique #3 – “You can’t leave. Where else will you go? No one else will ever love you.” And the minion of Satan quip was a nice touch too. Wow. Just wow.

  119. Kelly –

    Why do people need to ‘go’ anywhere? What is wrong with following where God leads through an individuals own personal revelation?

  120. Ceci, I think I’ve stated this before, but your concerns are legitimate. I don’t endorse the way that kellywsmith has addressed these issues, but it is true that they are easier to deal with if one has a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. However, I also recognize that for people who get “blindsided” by information it can really be tough. I was exposed to some information as a teenager and I remember thinking that I didn’t really want to discuss Joseph Smith in church.

    In the last 15-20 years I’ve been exposed to A LOT of information on the internet and have been fortunate to have absorbed it without rejecting the church or the gospel. But I’m not sure how I would advise someone else on how to navigate these waters.

    I will repeat that you please not give up, and recognize that, while some of your questions have reasonable answers that will come, it may take much time, etc., before all answers come.

    I’ve read so much information that I would have a hard time pinpointing references for specific questions. I think that is one of the keys, at least for me, was to not just rely on a few sources for information. I stated previously that I’m grateful I’ve discovered that there are intellectual people who’ve been exposed to and explored all of the same issues and chosen to continue to stay and believe and practice. To me that means I have a choice: I do not have to leave. I do not have to reject what I feel to be true merely because I don’t have other answers. What I won’t do is advise you to leave it all alone and just believe. But continue to believe while you search.

  121. Why does everyone fall back on the excuse, “we just don’t know if that was taught” but I’m sure it must be true….when there is so much that we DO know. We have so many teachings to study, and yet, people want to put their trust in a principle or idea that there is very little information about. What about Christ’s teaching of, “as I have loved you, love one another”. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I try to live that principle. My spirit calls me to repentance when I don’t do that. When I hear about polygamy, and that
    Joseph not only lied to his wife but lied to church members and law enforcement, my heart and brain recoil. There is NO way that it is a teaching of Christ. When I read of how Joseph met secretly with unmarried women (some engaged to other men) and he convinces them that if they become a plural wife to him their entire families will receive salvation by becoming part of his family. Once again, my heart and brain recoil in disbelief. That is not the behavior of a follower of Christ. Christ didn’t teach it. If it was as important as honesty and loving others then he would have taught it. Christ cared how we treated others. I have a hard time thinking that Christ would approve of how Joseph treated his wife and his concubines. (They can’t be wives because it wasn’t legal. No one had the authority to marry those women to Joseph Smith)

    I have never been a fence sitter. I have times where I’ve had two callings. I’ve had many many missionaries and investigators and new converts in my home. At times on a weekly basis—every single week. I’ve studied those manuals and they do not mention Joseph practicing polygamy….not one time. If it’s such an important principle that we will overlook the dishonesty that it brought and the law breaking that it brought —-then WHY don’t we teach it to new converts? People should know. You can all say, “but we don’t practice it now so we don’t teach it, it’s just not important” BUT then if anyone says they don’t believe that it should have been practiced then everyone starts bearing their testimony of polygamy. So if we have little knowledge of it, And we don’t practice it, then how can you KNOW it’s a Godly principle?? What about honesty? What about eternal marriage? What about honoring and obeying the laws of the land? You practice those things, and yet, put the principle of polygamy, a principle that you have never lived, above those principles.

  122. Another broken heart says:

    Ceci, Thank you for so beautifully and honestly expressing what I too feel. Polygamy has erroded my faith in the LDS church. So many questions. And the answer to wait and everything will work out is not sufficient.

  123. (I don’t know how else to ask….)

    There was a 12 or 13-part series here about Section 132. I’ve searched the site with my limited skills and can’t find it. Would someone please link to it? Thanks.

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