Mormonism and Polygamy – A Call to Honesty

Origins of Polygamy

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t study.  I just didn’t study the things not published by the Church.  I listened to what was taught at General Conference every 6 months, participated in Sunday School lessons, and asked questions.  I studied the scriptures on my own more than most, I’m sure, and read books like My Heritage and Preach My Gospel so I could understand what it meant to be Mormon.  Polygamy became personal to me as I started to fall in love for the first time.  I was 18 and about to leave on my two-year mission.  I thought about my girlfriend, who I first started dating because I was jealous; she went on a date with someone else and I felt a heavy, stinging jealousy I couldn’t get rid of until I asked her out.  I knew Joseph Smith had a few wives and tried to imagine what it would have been like for Emma to share her husband and for Joseph to deal with God’s command to marry other women.  I stood up in front of the church on a regular basis and said I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and I listened to others say the same thing with conviction in their voices, some of them trembling as they tried to keep their emotions from overwhelming them.  I thought of Joseph as a bold, teachable boy used by God to bring truth back to the world.

Yet I never knew Joseph had over 33 wives, 11 of which were already married to other men when Joseph claimed them, and he hid his polygamy from Emma and the church as long as possible.  My personal reaction to Joseph’s polygamy was based on a carefully manicured history the Mormon church allowed me to see.  I knew little, it turned out, about the character of the man I claimed was a Prophet of God.  My decision to know the facts about Joseph was made for me by the church leaders I trusted, because you must feed a baby milk before they can handle meat.  My situation is not unique.

The question I ask is: Should the true account of Mormon history be left to thick, scholarly editions few read?

In this article I’ll discuss polygamy candidly – in a way no one did for the first 21 years of my life, and most importantly, the two years I dedicated to preach the church’s doctrine every day.  Though polygamy wasn’t a central issue in my doubts when I left the church five years ago, it illustrates a pattern the LDS church uses to disassociate itself with unpopular doctrines or history (click to read previous article).  I used three books for this information, No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie, In Sacred Loneliness by Todd Compton, and Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman, which provide good balance from a negative to a positive outlook on Mormon polygamy.  I use primarily the numbers given by Compton, because I appreciated the unapologetic and direct tone of his writing the most.

The Numbers

Joseph Smith had 33 well-documented wives.  The majority of these women were younger than him at the time of marriage.  Eleven of them were ages 14-20, nine were 21-30, eight were his same age group at 31-40, and five were older.  In total, 18 of the women were single at the time of marriage to Joseph, four were widows, 11 were already married and living with their husbands, and at least one woman was married immediately afterwards to cover up the polygamous union.  Joseph’s first polygamous marriage was to Fanny Alger (probably 14 years old, possibly as old as 16), which resulted in scandal and the excommunication of Oliver Cowdery when he “spread rumors” about Joseph committing adultery.  Historians speculate that this is the reason he chose polyandry (one woman having multiple husbands) in early polygamy: nine out of the first twelve marriages were polyandrous.  Polygamous marriages were not just spiritual – they were married for time as well as eternity – and there is no evidence to support the claim that Joseph didn’t have sex with his plural wives or that he didn’t consummate his marriage with even the two youngest girls, at 14, after the ceremony.  Todd Compton lists eight additional wives for which the evidence isn’t conclusive.  There were at least eight women married to Joseph after his death who weren’t married to him in his life (for eternity only, not for time).  At least five women declined Joseph’s proposal.

The Secrecy

Joseph hid his extra marriages from everyone possible, including Emma.  It is believed that polygamy was first revealed in 1831 while Joseph was re-translating the Old Testament.  It was possibly practiced by 1833, definitely by 1836, but the revelation wasn’t written down until 1843 upon urging from Hyrum Smith so he could try to convince Emma to finally accept the principle.  That revelation is recorded in D&C 132, which I’ve summarized here.  The church still denied, publicly, the practice of polygamy until an official decree in 1852, eight years after Joseph’s death.  Polygamy was very controlled; only the very central families were told about it, and even then it was only when Joseph was about to make a proposal.  Joseph believed the “keys” and authority to make these marriages rested with him alone, so non-sanctioned polygamous marriages were disciplined harshly, resulting in a confusing atmosphere for the church membership, but at least 29 other men entered Joseph-sanctioned polygamous marriages before his death.

“[Emma] probably knew of plural marriage but had no idea of the extent of her husband’s practice.  Aware of her opposition Joseph could not bring himself to explain what he was doing.  Caught between the plural marriage revelation and Emma’s opposition, he moved ahead surreptitiously, making the recovery of his domestic life almost impossible” (Bushman 493).  Though most of polygamy was done outside of Emma’s view, Joseph tried to convince Emma to obey God’s new command many times.  In 1843, Joseph finally convinced Emma to accept a few wives, but only on the condition that she was allowed to choose them.  She chose two sisters, Emily and Eliza Partridge, who were staying in their home as wards.  “The sisters were an awkward selection because Joseph had already married them two months earlier in March without Emma’s knowledge” (Bushman 494).  Emily Partridge wrote, “To save family trouble, Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed” (Brodie 339).

Joseph’s and other leader’s character are brought into question by their definitive public statements in opposition to polygamy. Towards the end of his life, Joseph stated publicly, “The Church had not received any license from him to commit adultery fornication or any such thing but to the contrary if any man Commit adultery He Could not receive the Celestial kingdom of God”(Bushman 526, capitalization and punctuation kept the same as initial document).  Bushman attempts to explain this contradiction, “The distinction between priesthood calls to take additional wives and unlicensed indulgence was clear to [Joseph] if not always to others.”  Joseph apparently preached against adultery and fornication in a way that didn’t apply to him since his marriages were ordained by god and through the priesthood.  Yet he failed to clarify that to the people he was speaking to, and since he also directly denied his own polygamy it seems Bushman is straining to interpret Smith’s actions in a positive light.  Joseph used the same tactic in response to Oliver Cowdery’s claims that Joseph had committed adultery by adamantly claiming he hadn’t, but failed to specify he had sex with another woman, it just wasn’t adultery because it was sanctioned by god.  Church leadership followed this same practice of denial.  In 1844, a notice appeared in an issue of Times and Seasons, “As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan.  This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity.”

It is unlikely we would have reliable knowledge about early polygamy if Brigham Young hadn’t gone on a campaign to prove Joseph was polygamist.  The Reorganized LDS church broke away after Joseph’s death and claimed Joseph didn’t have any real marriages to anyone but Emma, or if he was married to someone else it wasn’t a sexual relationship.  When the RLDS sent missionaries to Utah, Young asked all Joseph’s wives to sign an affidavit stating they were married to Joseph and whether their relationship was sexual.

The Doctrine Behind Polygamy

Early Mormonism presented a radically different version of Christianity.  Here you have prophets, apostles, priesthood, new scripture, and even temples, but you also have groundbreaking theological changes about heaven, human potential, and what god requires of us.  The church now leaves most of these things in the “deep doctrine” category, choosing to focus on more “central” and well-established doctrines.  But the modern church still holds on to the bare bones offspring of these more extreme beliefs, and they can still be found in Mormon scripture.

Joseph taught that heaven was not a paradise where everyone eternally worships God as equals; rather, there are “degrees of glory” attained based on faithfulness to God’s commandments.  In the highest of the three degrees of glory, the Celestial Kingdom, there are differences of glory as well; those who accept all God commands can attain the highest of the highest rewards, exaltation.  They are to become gods.

This was part of one of many innovations by Joseph that sought to understand heaven by looking at the natural world around him.  The order of heaven was replicated on earth.  Just as you and I have fathers and grandfathers, there is a family in heaven.  God was tested on an earth like this, attained his exaltation, and with his wives created earths and spirit children, you and I, to come and be tested like he was.  This idea is central to Joseph’s polygamist ideology.  Joseph believed that marriage, when sealed by God’s authority, was eternal; the family unit was to carry over into the afterlife wherein they would continue to grow and create, have children and an ever-increasing family (a “continuation of seeds forever and ever”).  More wives means more creation, more children, and therefore more glory as an exalted being.  Yet another radical innovation, and possibly the logic Joseph used to justify marriage with other men’s wives, was that all marriages not performed by priesthood authority were invalid – even while on earth.  Therefore God’s command for Joseph to marry someone’s wife trumped their previous, unauthorized, earthly marriage.  Compton explains,

“Whatever the uncertainties in documenting this aspect of Latter-day Saint practice, there is a clearly discernible outline of ideology in the historical record that explains the development and rationale for the practice of Smith’s polyandry.  “Gentile” (i.e., non-Mormon) marriages were “illegal,” of no eternal value or even earthly validity; marriages authorized by the Mormon priesthood and prophets took precedence.  Sometimes these sacred marriages were felt to fulfill pre-mortal linkings and so justified a sacred marriage superimposed over a secular one.  Mormonism’s intensely hierarchical nature allowed a man with the highest earthly authority – a Joseph Smith or Brigham Young – to request the wives of men holding lesser Mormon priesthood, or no priesthood.  The authority of the prophet would allow him to promise higher exaltation to those involved in the triangle, both the wife and her first husband.”

To look at polygamy in terms of sexuality alone misses the complexity of the doctrine and the relationships.  These marriages were for time and eternity and were meant to raise up a righteous generation (which means having sex and kids), but many of the relationships seem to be lacking romance, done only for highly religious reasons.  Joseph had many responsibilities and his marriages were secret; he had to be very careful, avoiding public attention as much as possible.  It is unlikely he had enough time to visit his wives often.  Perhaps Lucy Walker gives us one of the best looks into the religious reasoning in her account of Smith’s proposal.  She frankly rejected Smith’s proposal at 15- or 16-years-old.  “He fully Explained to me the principle of plural or celestial marriage.  Said this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family.  That it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house.  And form a chain that could never be broken, worlds without end.”  He approached her again the next spring, and she describes her feeling: “I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a liveing Sacrifice, perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds, this was too much , the thought was unbearable.”  She refused for the second time and told him to never speak to her again about the subject.  He promised her God would tell her it was right, and that night she had a manifestation.  “My room became filled with a heavenly influence.  To me it was in comparison like the brilliant sunshine bursting through the darkest cloud. . . . My Soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew.  Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being.”  Lucy later says, “It was not a love matter, but simply the giving up of myself as a sacrifice to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world” (Bushman 492).

Joseph believed god was commanding him to marry each woman and he didn’t have a choice.  Women and families accepted Joseph’s offer for marriage because they believed they were doing what god wanted and would receive greater rewards here and in heaven for their obedience; some were even guaranteed the salvation of their immediate family if they obeyed.  However, those who had been taught about this principle had a responsibility to follow it or they would be damned.  In D&C 132:4-6, “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”  Later, in verses 51-56, God speaks directly to Emma:  “If she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.”

The sacrifice women made to live this “celestial” marriage was incredibly large.  When Joseph was killed, his plural wives were married “for time” to Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball and a few other high church authorities to raise up seed unto Joseph.  Many of them received little support and were sent, repeatedly, to establish new settlements in the West.  They were strong and intelligent women.  Annie Clark Tanner, a daughter of a polygamous marriage and later a plural wife herself, describes her feelings on polygamy, “As a girl I had been proud that my father and mother had obeyed the highest principle in the Church … I was aware now that my mother’s early married life must have been humiliating and joyless on many occasions because of her position as a second wife” (xiii – Compton).

Another anecdote from history shows us how important it was for early Mormons to be sealed to powerful priesthood families.  Compton writes,

The importance of the size of one’s eternal family, and the necessity of building it up on this earth, is shown by the custom of adoption practiced in the late Nauvoo period by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders who would have grown men sealed to them as “sons.”  These “sons” even signed their names with their new “father’s” last name.  In the late Nauvoo period, Mormon leaders reportedly competed to add new members, “sons,” to their adoptive families (Compton, 11).

My Decision Made For Me

With this history in mind, the LDS approach to teaching their membership and outsiders about their past is troubling.  I’ll summarize the approach with one quote from the introduction of a recent church manual entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith:

This book deals with teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that have application to our day. For example, this book does not discuss such topics as the Prophet’s teachings regarding the law of consecration as applied to stewardship of property. The Lord withdrew this law from the Church because the Saints were not prepared to live it (see D&C 119, section heading). This book also does not discuss plural marriage. The doctrines and principles relating to plural marriage were revealed to Joseph Smith as early as 1831. The Prophet taught the doctrine of plural marriage, and a number of such marriages were performed during his lifetime. Over the next several decades, under the direction of the Church Presidents who succeeded Joseph Smith, a significant number of Church members entered into plural marriages. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto, which discontinued plural marriage in the Church (see Official Declaration 1). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices plural marriage.

That’s it.  I would have hoped a book meant to outline Joseph’s teachings would contain a meaningful explanation of his polygamy, but the conversation is stopped with this small paragraph in the introduction.

Aside from purposeful silence in Church publications, Mormons typically refer to Emma as “Joseph’s wife” in church, the specifics of polygamy are avoided, and missionaries and Church leaders give cursory answers that avoid connection with polygamy as much as possible.  It is a sad fact that many Mormons know little to nothing about their polygamist heritage.  They perpetuate half-truths, misdirection, and dishonesty handed down by previous generations.

Challenge

Polygamy wasn’t central in my leaving of the church, but the pattern of lying, avoiding, and covering unattractive doctrine and history was.  I heard the apostles speak and say things I knew were wrong but sounded good and bold.  Things I wanted to be true.  Things I had heard as a 14-year old in the Priesthood session of general conference.  Things I knew many others were accepting as true and factual.  I knew the Apostles weren’t ignorant and lost trust for the church authorities.  What I wanted in a church was honestbold truth.  I didn’t care if the truth was difficult, I only cared that it was right.  The leaders are accountable for this, but my next words go to everyone: By attempting to fit in with the rest of the world, soften your edges, and make your message more palatable, you have lost any claim you had of being the unique and restored church of God.  Rather than teaching the world you are being taught by it, changing to conform to it, and trying to please it with flowery and well-designed statements aimed at obscuring your connection with unpopular things like polygamy.  In this you appear as a business with a good PR department, not a divine source of untarnished truth.

Does the Mormon church believe in polygamy?  The church often confirms the truth of a difficult doctrine by saying, “Do you believe in the Book of Mormon?”  If the the Book of Mormon is true, they say, then Joseph must have been a prophet of God, and if he was a prophet then we know God taught through him.  The conclusion comes, “God has given you that answer that Joseph is a prophet, which means [tithing, temple work, fill in the blank] is also true, doesn’t it?  God asks that you have faith on the things you don’t understand, and he’ll confirm the truth of it to you in time.”

So I ask you, do you believe in polygamy?  Well . . . do you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?

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“Even sharing the truth can have the effect of lying when we tell only half-truths that do not give the full picture. We can also be guilty of bearing false witness and lying if we say nothing, particularly if we allow another to reach a wrong conclusion while we hold back information that would have led to a more accurate perception. In this case it is as though an actual lie were uttered.” – Robert J. Matthews

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Join the conversation – Read comments here

Read other great blogs about this subject:

Ask Mormon Girl – One quote from this: “Why should we not inform our own people about our own history?  When we don’t, we set up our people to feel betrayed and ashamed, and we give power to people who would like to embarrass us.  What we refuse to be ashamed of, others can never hold over us.”

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84 thoughts on “Mormonism and Polygamy – A Call to Honesty

  1. Pingback: Mormon PR: Redefining History at the Expense of Integrity « The Accidental Atheist

  2. Not exactly written from a neutral ground perspective, as perhaps was intended, but decently mild in attitude of negativity towards those who believe in spiritual things.

    I had been out on the mish for about 6 months when I stumbled across a book “Brigham Young and His Wives” in my Pekin Illinois apt that I read through. It had a… interesting… tone about it, that’s for sure. Definitely written by an advocate for the early prophets and the church, with a rather harsh view of those who failed to live it. I believe in that book Thomas B. Marsh was judged to be a son of perdition… admittingly the author was a bit of a zealot and much too harsh for one subscribing to the tenants of a Christ centered faith. Long story short, I pretty much knew most of this, but it was an interesting read.

    To answer your question (you asked, so I figured I’d answer) yes, I do believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and yes, I believe in Polygamy. That isn’t to say I understand it, but there are quite a few things I don’t understand. That isn’t to say I don’t understand only spiritual teachings. I don’t understand where the Book of Mormon came from without it coming from God. One thing you referenced in a different post was about Joseph Smith’s peep stone being hush hush. I actually think that’s a pretty amazing scenario. If Joseph wasn’t receiving the words of the BoM from God, and he really did translate with his face shoved into a ten gallon hat, where did he get the words from? As he didn’t have a Iphone lit up with text on it, he would be unable to read anything as no lite could penetrate the back of his head. So either he had memorized chapters at a time and regurgitated them one at a time, or he was making it up as he went. Making it up, memorizing it, or getting from God; pick anyone, because they are all pretty miraculous to me.

    It may seem like a quick fix to unanswered or “unexplainable” glitches in the faith, but I can’t see anyway around it. Either I can live with unanswered spiritual matters, or I can live with unanswered physical matters such as the origin of the Book of Mormon. I think in either case I have accept that I just don’t have all of the answers, and am left to speculate or wonder or assume in some cases. Don’t be so quick to judge the “crutches” some lean on in order to sustain their faith- even the unfaithful have crutches, no? That’s just humanity, we can’t have all the answers! 🙂

    • As an addendum, I do agree that too often things are a bit to “hush hush” in the church. I never felt that way personally, but perhaps that’s because of the rate nature of the sunday school teachers and seminary teachers I had? I remember Adam Coulter, my MTC companion, fighting with me, insisting Joseph never had multiple wives, only Brigham young. To him, it was a revolting and disgusting idea for Joseph to have actually engaged in it, even though he revealed it. I thought that was an interesting mindset, and although it as Coulter, I still think it’s a rather common mindset, which is unfortunate. We should know our history, in full color.

    • Thanks for the reply, Sleight. Any negativity towards religious people is unintended, though I do come from a non-religious mindset so I’m sure it comes out in my writing. Mostly I tried to summarize the three book’s perspectives as well as I could, driving towards the point that polygamy WAS important and shouldn’t be brushed away as if it was nothing.

      Your response to my question is perfect, and is the answer I would hope for. It is the people who say “No,” or “We have nothing to do with polygamy,” or “We haven’t practiced that in over a hundred years!” or give a misdirecting answer like, “Well, there were more women than men” that I feel need to change. Simply put, if you believe in Joseph Smith you should believe in polygamy. I don’t think you can have one without the other.

      So – I wasn’t really poking fun at the logic used with the “If JS is a prophet . . . “, necessarily, but pointing out the fact that it necessitates a more frank acceptance of polygamy as a true doctrine (or at least as something important to the church), if you believe in Joseph Smith. I’ll be honest and say I think it is bad logic we don’t apply in other areas of our lives – and is too often used to push serious and important concerns and doubts onto the shelf so they’re not dealt with. “Oh, well, I don’t know, but I know Joseph was a prophet so that’s all that matters.” Whether I was a believer or not I think each issue should be studied out.

      • I can agree, but I must admit I do like Nephi’s response to the angel when asked if he knew what the condescension of God was. I think it is okay to shelf uncertainties or lack of knowledge for a time. I think all questions deserve an answer, but not all questions need to be answered now, if that makes sense. Also, I think these principals apply to science just as much as they do spiritual matters (admittedly, to me, they are one and the same)

        • Ya I think we can agree there. I think it depends on how you respond to unknown things. There are (obviously) a lot of things I don’t know, and that’s inspiring to me. And there is a truth that the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know. I’m excited to learn more, and change my outlook based on the things I learned. I want to get rid of false assumptions just as much as I want to gain true ones.

          As long as this logic isn’t used to bolster things we have found contradictory evidence for, I think it’s fine.

    • Oh – and though YOU knew about these things, as you said, I want to ask you where you learned them from. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it wasn’t from the Church. If it was, your teachers were going out of the prescribed lessons – which is great – but also means most people aren’t hearing what you heard.

      I never learned about it from the church – though I did study things out on my own plenty and had, I think, a better understanding about it through my personal study than I would have by just going to seminary and sunday school. Still, I studied books published by the church, which skirted the issues carefully.

      • I don’t recall specifics. As I mentioned, I think sunday school teachers and seminary- I did have some great seminary teachers. Perhaps my parents deserve some credit here too, specifically my dad. My parents were divorced when I was 4, and they lived about 45 min apart, so I spent a lot of time in the car with my dad and we mostly discussed the church. But yeah- I can’t really answer your question with accuracy here, unfortunately.

    • Blake, I’m Jefferson’s Mom and (probably like you) was stunned when he returned from his mission and left the church. In reading what you wrote, it is exactly what I would’ve expected from him, or from his brother, 5 years ago. I also believed in polygamy all of my life in the church, and know that it is still a doctrine of the church, since men can be sealed to multiple wives in this life (as long as the previous one[s] have died), and women can be sealed to only one man, and since the portions of the D&C which refer to polygamy remain in print.

      Yet, to me, the point of this post was to demonstrate that the church is beyond hush-hush. Few members of the church who are under the age of 40 know the things Jefferson shared here, You and he are exceptions. There are people joining the church all around the world who will not know that polygamy is part of our history, and is DOCTRINE, until one day (perhaps years from now), they stumble upon it. In addition, while you and I know that polygamy remains a doctrine of the church, President Hinckley apparently did not when he answered a question Larry King posed on national television as follows:

      LARRY KING: You condemn it [polygamy].

      GORDON B. HINCKLEY: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law. [end quote]

      President Hinckley also stated the following, in an Australian interview in 1997. This may be familiar to you:

      DAVID RANSOM (interviewer): Sir, you’ve called your Church an anchor in an unstable world. How is it?

      PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY: Yes, sir. We are. We have fundamental, basic doctrines which have held fast through more than a 150 years of time. We don’t bend with every wind of doctrine that comes along. Our doctrine is stable, it’s secure. Programmes change, we make adaptation according to the circumstances. But the basic doctrine remains the same and that becomes a solid unshifting foundation to which people can cling in this world of instability and drifting values. [end quote]

      These two quotes remain shocking to me. I heard the president of the church “fudge” the truth, which is to say… lie. President Hinckley was, in my view, a nice man whose great talent in leading what is now a corporate church was that he was a great P.R. guy.

      As Jefferson said, “By attempting to fit in with the rest of the world, soften your edges, and make your message more palatable, you have lost any claim you had of being the unique and restored church of God.” I still have great pain over this, but though Jefferson has reached conclusions regarding his beliefs that are different from mine, I agree with everything he said in this essay. It is sad. It is heartbreaking. I remain bereft. But the church does not tell the truth, and I do not believe that God supports liars and deceivers.

  3. Ah yes, Cloward, this is indeed an issue and a problem. You know that story about my faith I was supposed to send you a couple weeks back? This was the heart of the issue in my experience. But Sleight responded too similarly to what I would write, so I’ll spare you my response.

    But yes, I believe in Joseph Smith and yes, I believe in polygamy.

    And nice quote from Robert Matthews. That’s my Uncle.

    • Hey, I’m still waiting on that story! My mom is the main one I’m waiting on for that story series, and I’m not sure when that will be ready, but whenever it is I’ll go with it.

      Um – your uncle gave a solid talk on honesty. I love that quote! That’s awesome.

  4. via Facebook: Powerful and thought provoking. To this day this is my #1 reason of doubt that I struggle with. His actions, polygamy in particular, completely undermine his supposed “best blood” persona that is preached from the pulpit. White washed history doesn’t benefit anyone and I really wish the church would start teaching the not so pretty truth. Thanks for writing this piece and taking the time to delicately study it out!

  5. Your posts have changed. Perhaps I misread, but earlier posts had a “lets understand eachother” feel to them, this felt flippant and underthought in comparison.

    That said, I appreciated the post. To echo the sentiment of an earlier comment, I do indeed believe in polygamy, and have been perturbed when members not educated on the subject shy away or dissociate themselves from it. But if I may, once again, make the suggestion that its a cultural question. My experience with the topic was not as you have discribed, I found open answers for my questions when I asked those who had knowledge of the subject. No, it wasn’t the central topic of a Sunday school lesson, or conference talk, I studied it on my own. Seemings as it doesnt currently apply to us, I don’t know why it would be a central topic though.
    But I see the point as well, if its a topic of interest to those dealing with testimony issues, they need a source for proper treatment of the subject. However, I don’t think you have provided that here, BUT I think you are plenty capable of writing in a way that builds knowledge and mutual understanding. On the same lines I dont think you have done your audience a favor by misrepresenting the attitudes of a good part of your readership. I’m a tad dissappointed, but still love your posts for some reason. I think you set out to do something others have failed to, but I think your purposes and attitudes may have changed. 🙂 I want the first author back, but thats just me! Thanks for your post, sorry if my reply isn’t the reaction you hoped for.

    • Smed – as always, I appreciate your thoughts here. This was the most difficult article I’ve written yet – not only because of the amount of research but because of how sensitive the subject is. I’ve rewritten this many times and I assure you I’ve put a lot of thought into it. The issue I’m trying to show here is an important one that troubles a LOT of people in and out of the church – that is, that the church is dishonest in telling their story. My “Call to Honesty,” as I have called it, is a call for the culture of Mormonism to change. In that way, I have anticipated claims of this being a cultural problem, I accept that to a degree, and would greatly appreciate a change of attitude – and a more frank acceptance of mormon history.

      So I’d be curious to know what you thought I said flippantly so I can look into it. I actually did quite a lot of reading, analyzing sources, and used pro-lds sources as often as possible to avoid controversy and maintain the focus on 2 things:

      1) Polygamy WAS important.
      2) The church’s attempt to downplay it is dishonest.

      I also tried out a different writing style – and attempted to limit my words as much as possible, so there is less of a memoire feel to this article – the beginning and end are personal but the rest is basically a report on what polygamy was like. I don’t think I misrepresented anything – but if you think I have I am open to correction.

    • a question: How does polygamy NOT apply to the current Mormon Church? Polygamy is as much a central doctrine of exaltation as it ever was, albeit now an afterlife central doctrine. Polygamous marriages are still performed and recorded in every temple on the face of the earth. How polygamy, past and present, could be relegated to a status of irrelevance is beyond me.

  6. Thank you, Jefferson, for an insightful piece on a fascinating segment of Mormon – and your family’s – history. I wish I had taken the time to gather some more information about your Great Great Great – great (?) Grandfather Thomas Cloward. I’ve been to the house in Payson – the one with the two front doors, one for each wife – and I’ve encountered members of “the other Cloward line” over the years. I just can’t remember much detailed talk at family gatherings beyond that.
    I was totally unaware of the “adoption” practice of grown men to other men; a part of the “grow your kingdom” paradigm. I find this fascinating.
    It would be interesting to know the numbers of folk who, upon learning the historically accurate details of Mormon history, have become disaffected or possibly “angry” members. Then it would be even more interesting to learn just how many of those TBM, now disaffected, Mormons would not have become such had they just been taught the truth from the beginning. I believe there’s a direct correlation between that moment of gagging at the pablum of whitewashed fluff almost universally fed to the membership, and that moment of digestion of the “meat” of Mormon history, to the huge numbers of people leaving the church.

  7. Jeff, I thought your essay to be well researched and well rounded. Thank you.

    Yes, I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and yes, I too believe in polygamy.

    Now, in response to some of your perspectives, some of the comments, and to release a portion of the admitted over-zealousness in me:

    No act is bad or good in itself–only that which brings one closer to or further from God. Murder, deceit, and yes, even intimacy with another man’s wife, can be good things just as philanthropy, churchgoing, and missionary work can be bad.

    C.S. Lewis said it well:

    “Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular [person] at a particular moment nearer to [God] or nearer to [the devil].” (Paved With Good Intentions, 63)

    Moroni said it even better:

    “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore, ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil.” (Moroni 7:16-17)

    So what does reading a fun sci-fi novel on a Friday night have to do with either of those alternatives? Good vs. bad is always found in the context. Is the reader engaging in a substitute for cocaine? Or is he ignoring his children to escape into a fake world?

    I claim, with any other faithful Mormon, that anything sanctioned by God is good. Joseph Smith did many things that were and many things that were not sanctioned by God, I’m sure, just as I’m sure the prophets do today.

    I also claim, with any other faithful Mormon, that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore the truth. It’s one of the few things I know as surely as that I exist, so that anything else I learn has to be either reconciled with it or placed on the “As Yet Unreconciled” shelf. This knowledge is like the ultimate trump card. Nothing will ever beat it. Convenient, right?

    • Well said, Buddy! Glad to see you get into the discussion! The only part I take exception with is in thinking that Joseph did “many things” not sanctioned by God. He struggled for a time in his youth, with light-mindedness and the immaturity of youth, and he fell under severe but brief condemnation in his ordeal with the 116 page manuscript which he gave to Martin Harris (D&C sec.3), but this man learned incredibly fast and was fearful of the least offense towards God. He should not be placed in the same category with succeeding prophets, as he is their head, and is a far cry above them in the nature he manifested. Those coming after him, who later occupy Joseph’s prophetic “seat” are condemned when they choose to rule against that which he established. For an example of this, see Matt:23:2. Read all of that chapter if you want to understand a spiritual replica of today’s scenario in the church.

    • Hey Buddy – thanks for giving us your perspective here. Philosophically – the view point that whatever god commands is good, and that some things are good in some circumstances and not good in another – that is the only way someone could make sense of the Bible. God commands people to “Not kill” and then a few pages later tells them to wipe out everyone in their promised land.

      To non-religious folk like me . . . that perspective is also intensely frightening. History books are filled with religious people doing terrible things they think are right. Every person, really, THINKS they’re doing right. The man who steals for his family justifies it in his mind, the man who beats his wife is punishing her for some wrong he thinks she did . . . she deserves it in his mind, and he’s teaching her a lesson so she’ll be a better person. Al-Qaeda, etc, etc. There is too much fanaticism in humanity to give moral relativity to religious people just because they claim “god told me to do it.” I need a better explanation.

      But – this post is not about the rightness or wrongness of polygamy – it is about the wrongness of hiding that history from your followers. THAT was the issue to me, not polygamy itself.

      • You’re welcome. The following applies to the Church’s P.R. practices or lying as well as murder or sci-fi novels:

        I believe good and bad exist independent of God. He wants to use his knowledge of the complete sphere of Truth to guide us in learning and growing. To us, with but splinter fragments of that sphere, it can seem like moral relativism in that God is commanding opposite things at different times, but in reality (i.e. according to all truth) what he promotes and commands is always according to what’s good and right. It’s like us telling our kids to be quiet at night, but to scream if they’re being kidnapped.

        I agree wholeheartedly that this philosophy is beyond scary. The name of God, this trump card I spoke of, could justify any atrocity in the world.
        For me, though, the potential pitfalls don’t invalidate the principles, but rather emphasize the importance of prophets, a single formal church, priesthood authority, and any other “blanket-boundary” that applies to the whole planet. These controls serve in part to curb humanity’s tendency toward religious fanaticism.

        So if the Church is deceptive, claiming its deception to be sanctioned by God is completely justified–and quite safely so, as long as God is at the head.

        • The scripture says, and gives as an important key of discernment, that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The Lord’s sameness, in all ages, is easily recognized once it is understood that he appoints a different covenant for each level of spiritual advancement through which his people are to be brought up. The lesser, beginner covenant at the Gentile level carries a lighter penalty for grievous sins such as adultery; while the later covenant designed for the temple held penalties that were more severe. This is an example of how God is the same but deals with people according to their level of spiritual capacity. It is by this principle that it can be understood that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament responding to different levels of covenant.

          Also, deception for the sake of preserving that which is sacred is always justified. But God is not automatically “at the head” of everything the church has officially done. Members have the right and responsibility to judge and discern church policies and doctrinal changes, weighing them against the “iron rod” which is the real standard to go by.

  8. Let me give a rather obvious, but somehow overlooked, answer to justify Joseph Smith’s secrecy in regard to polygamy. In a world where living polygamy could easily get you killed, you don’t live it openly. That’s the obvious reason, but there are other reasons that take a bit more mature reflection to comprehend. Plural marriage was never meant for men and women at every level of spiritual maturity, but for those on the highest levels. To proclaim it openly to a church specifically aimed at the Gentile level, which is the “milk” of the gospel, would destroy souls. Therefore it is, in fact, FALSE DOCTRINE at that level, much the same way that sex, itself, is not a doctrine appointed to be lived by ten year olds. Joseph had the ominous task of restoring ALL the different levels that existed in Israel anciently, and that are to exist again as the earth moves into her terrestrial phase of existence.

    Of course, if you don’t believe in God you aren’t going to believe in any kind of plan, any kind of order, or any kind of system by which men are brought up from one level of covenant to another. In such case, you make yourself a god in competition, now bent on selling your own gospel and seeking your own following. I consider it a physical impossibility for any man to pull himself up by his own bootstraps — i.e. give himself an eternal upbringing. It is something not seen in all of nature — for, in nature, “all things lower hath a need for that which is higher; and this is according to the pattern of all creation.”

    Joseph’s polyandry (marriage of a woman to two men) is also a fascinating insight into the higher realms, but would of course never be, and never was, promoted at the Gentile level of the temporal church. When seen through the eyes of pure principle outside the influence of knee-jerk jealousy, Joseph’s polyandry is reflective of an important part of a woman’s nature. In this system, she is able to rise up in the full capacity of her intelligence. No woman of greater intelligence is content to be under the rule of a man of lesser intelligence, even if he is among the best of men in his meekness and child-like goodness. The “husband”, we will find in eternity, is more exalted and instructive than the “wedded husband”. Wedded simply means GIVEN. Given by whom? Given by the husband, the head of the kingdom. It is amazing to me that Henry Jacobs participated in the sealing ordinance rendering his wife of several years to Joseph. Both he and his wife felt a loving bond to Joseph, and were adopted to him, and never turned against him despite the loneliness Henry later felt when he was required to cut ties with her and “find a woman to match his own kind.” A man has a hard time growing up, spiritually, when his wife is more like a mother figure.

    I have no desire to “convert” anyone to the above principle, as I consider it to be false doctrine to those on our level; however, since it was brought up I thought I’d try and explain the principles behind it. If we can learn to look upward, and observe things pertaining to those levels above us, which do not pertain to our level, and can keep from being offended, then we are given much to ponder and ask God to give understanding. Joseph Smith can be trusted because of the nature he possessed, much of which is discerned by the writings he produced. A dark mind does not bring forth enlightened understanding. None of Joseph’s critics have ever produced equivlanet fruits in the way of higher knowledge and depth of understanding.

    Shawn Brodie, by the way, has her facts right most of the time — but in between the facts she must always assign the darkest and most carnal motives to Josephs heart. I guess that’s because those are the only motives she’s personally familiar with. I did enjoy Todd Compton’s book, “In Sacred Loneliness,” and note how it proves, both for the men who were constantly away from their homes doing the Lord’s errands, and for the women who were left at home, that loneliness is a state of mind, overcome by service, and that the closer one comes to an exalted state of heart, the less of an issue loneliness becomes in life’s daily sacrifices.

    • Chuck – I was looking forward to your response on this. Mainly, I’d like to point out, again, that I wasn’t commenting on the rightness or wrongness of polygamy – in this post at least – but just on the way it is taught to church members. Though you’re seen as extremist to main stream Mormons today I thought that was quite a hypocrisy given our shared heritage. I think it’s funny how Mormons react to polygamist groups in Utah – as if they’re a plague to be shunned.

      There are many problems with polygamy and I disagree that it is (or can be) a good thing with Joseph Smith or other high church leaders – but that conversation would take a long message to get my view across clearly. For now I’m focusing the conversation on honesty.

      One comment here – Joseph knew very clearly of the consequences of his polygamy, and that certainly was one of the motivations to keep it hidden. Unfortunately Joseph’s secrecy in his polygamy meant we have no PERSONAL record from his perspective on what it was like, why he did it, or what he felt about it. We have a few quotes where he explains to people he let in on the secret that they should keep it secret, for his life would be at risk otherwise.

      Joseph also distinguished his polygamy from other polygamists sects of his day – he thought it was different, and if he endorsed it he believed the un-ordained version of it would spread.

      However – when has the Lord been too weak to protect his prophet from harm? I seem to remember people from the Bible being baked in an oven and coming out alive . . . yada yada, you get the point.

      Joseph hiding it from his people and from the world is one thing . . . hiding it from Emma is another. In D&C 132 Joseph seems to establish a pattern for adding more wives – in verse 61, “if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, AND THE FIRST GIVETH HER CONSENT, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.”

      Joseph didn’t follow the revelation, it seems . . . he did NOT get Emma’s consent on all but 4 plural marriages (that I know of). She didn’t even know about them. I think that’s wrong.

      • The best men have always, within the bloodline of Israel, been commanded to take on as big a family as he feels he can carry. The best women are attracted to the best men, just as the best children, observing from the other side of the veil in this world, are attracted to the best mothers and seek, for their own advancement and development, to receive the best upbringing through the best parentage. In short, like is attracted to like, “intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence”, light to light, darkness to darkness, etc…

        To answer your question, in which you cite the scriptural imperative for the man to obtain the first wife’s “consent” before taking a second, the context of this mandate is that the first wife is not in rebellion against the principle of plural marriage in the first place. She is converted to that appointed order, and desires to be proven in it. In such case, the man would be terribly unwise to NOT make her a full partner in the decision making process for increasing his family. The second wife ought to be required to win the heart of the first, else her entrance would defeat the purpose of plural marriage as one partnership is destroyed for the sake of another. All things are to be done in wisdom, and in order, and in love.

        But in the context of a first wife who is adamantly in rebellion against the principle itself, being unable or unwilling to sacrifice her jealousy, and her husband is a righteous man who has labored in patience to bring her along, her continued rebellion disqualifies her from participating in the decision-making process. In such case, as was the case with Emma, God may command him anyway, as depicted in 132:65: “Therefore it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not the law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, shall give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word….”

        However, the Lord was patient with Emma: “But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, as he hath said; and I will bless him,and multiply him, and give him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children…” etc.. (132:55).

        Now, if Joseph was a carnal, selfish, sick man out to satisfy his lust, this, of course, would be a great evil. That wouldn’t say much for the intuitive nature of the highly intelligent, miracle working, deep thinkiing, history loving, literary genius-type women who married him, and who afterward never spake a word against him, and held him in fond memory and respect — but hey, I suppose if one desires to acccuse, a means can always be found. My own experience is, even today, some of the least intelligent women I’ve met are eternally wary, and intuituvely repulsed, against lustful, sick men.

        And again, a carnal, selfish, sick man isn’t likely to endanger his own life, constantly, by establishing the Abrahamic practice with its inherent increase of personal sacrifice required, when he could fulfill his lust so much more easily the way his mockers more generally preferred to do it — brief, without covenantal responsibilities, and all in sport.

        I would rather see a Joseph, and an Abraham, and a Moses, and an Amulek, and a Washington, and a Franklin, and a Jesus, entrusted with a hundred wives who respect them, due to thekingly, masculine, spiritually attractive nature they possess, than to see a single monogamous marriage continue where spiritual corruption has entered the relationship,with no repentance sough or desiredt, to be passed on through the generations.

        • As for God’s ability to protect Joseph against all enemies, he has done so. Joseph to this day remains unharmed. I know that seems like a lame and unproveable explanation; so I will prove it by showing the historical pattern and higher principle under which God is bound, by his own wisdom, to dispense his protection.

          The purpose of this world is to school the souls of men through the oposition that is allowed to exist, rendering unto man the power of choice for his own experience and growth. If God were to dispense all his power of protection in a visible, obvious way,all the time, the opposition would evaporate out of fear, and the power of choice would be demolished. Conversion to the right, under such iron-fisted control, would be impossible, and the improvement of man’s character, through his own, unforced decision and faith, would come to a complete halt.

          I realize the above seems really smart, but for us mormon kids raised in the philosophies of men mingled with scripture, this is just gradeschool stuff. Maybe someday the highest doctorate course offered in the most advanced University of Atheism will catch up to it, but for now you have to get it from us kids of greater inheritance.

          So, divine protection is rendered through invisible means, under covenant, imperceptible to human eyes, and lasts until a man’s mission is ended. This preserves the world we live in, in its appointment as the place of opposition for the schooling of souls.

          Wow! Aren’t you impressed?

          No?

          Why in the heck NOT??

          But the story doesn’t end there. Once in a while, a day of judgment is appointed to renew the planet and give all things a new start through the OPEN destruction, by visible power of God, of all that is corrupted. That is when an Enoch, or a Moses, the meekest and most exalted of spirits from God’s realm, are empowered to overwhelm the dominance of corrupt powers in a world of this order. Pretty amazing, the way the appointed Moses of each new age is able to speak to the elements of the earth, and the earth, being a living creature trained to recognize his voice, obeys. What a weapon!

          This kind of power is exhibited, among other reasons, to help educate young atheist boys who embrace the extremist idea that man is the dominating intelligence of the universe.

  9. Very good comment, Buddy. I knew about most of these things that you, Jefferson, call “hidden”. They did not bother me for two reasons: (1) I had been given an unalterable and eternal answer to my quest about the restored gospel and the purpose of life. (2) I totally understand my own teeny bit of comprehension of all truth.
    I once heard a friend say “God expects us to use our brains” as she was trying to explain her rejection of the church. I so agree…………….with one condition! He expects us to use His Spirit along WITH our brains! We are only human, and if we use only our brains, which are in such an infant state, then we are very, very much disqualified to state that one thing or another is bad or good. The combination of our brain with a sincere yearning for the Spirit, would bring us so much more accuracy in our decisions.

    I appreciated Blake’s comments, also.

    May I add my feelings that we should be very careful to condemn others based only on what we understand or even on the understanding of other humans who have written books and studied copiously. They, too, are disqualified to explain the whole meaning of what little part of the big picture of which they are aware.

    I would so love it if you could see fit to use your tremendous talents to build instead of seemingly being so intent on causing doubt for others about anything that has given anyone so much joy and peace. I would never judge your motives for certain, but it seems you are pretty much obsessed with this focus.

    I love you dearly!
    Gma

    • I suppose that’s good reasoning, Mom, as far as it goes. However, if you look at scriptural history you will realize that tearing down is an indispensible part of the building process. Error must almost always be expunged at the same time that truth is being established. That is actually the Lord’s way, and the pattern of his prophets in all former ages. The seeming “negativity” of it serves to divide the meek, who are not offended, from the weak who seek to avoid confrontation at all cost.

      That is why I am never offended at debate in places where debate belongs, and I do not see it as something to be avoided. It is a sad thing, to me, that the church has gained a reputation for being ignorant of its own history, and for being particularly shallow in its ability to defend the works of Joseph Smith.

      Faith is not just a feeling, it is the power to get knowledge. Nor is a testimony, under the scriptural definition, gained without a dedicated exercise of the intellect. A prophetic people ought to be able, in all circumstances, to show greater and more in-depth reasoning than uninspired critics (D&C 71:7-10). Such is the power of “persuasion” which is the only means acceptable to the Lord (D&C 121:41).

      Until we can explain a principle, or an issue, it isn’t yet ours; and as much as we may think we believe in it, our testimony in hard times will prove weak regarding that principle. God never ordained that a testimony of the truth should come just for the asking; but for the seeking. Not just for the hearing of it by ordained leadership, but for the dedicated study and pondering of the patterns manifested age to age, by an unchanging God.

    • Thanks for commenting Grandma, I know you don’t do it often 🙂

      As for the last part of your comment – you know of all the OTHER stuff I am doing to build. I unfortunately haven’t updated my philanthropist blog in a while, but I’m still avidly pursuing those things.

      Again – this article isn’t about proving polygamy is a terrible thing and Mormons are terrible for having a polygamist history. Because I know that would be a losing battle with many of my family I decided to avoid that part of the conversation (in this post at least) and focus on something I think could help everyone, whether they are a Stake President or a pre-missionary. That is, honesty. I hope you’ll understand that your generation received an even more open teaching of Mormon doctrine than mine did. In the ’70’s there was a “correlation” committee put together to decide what was important enough to keep in the manuals, talk about in church, etc. Things like polygamy and other unattractive doctrines were left out. That silence has done a disservice to church members and many who are falling away are doing so because they feel they’ve been lied to. They hear something about polygamy from an outside church, away from church, look into it, find out it was correct, and start to lose faith. That is something that people inside the church get to change if they want to stop some of the falling away – and that is what I’d like to see.

  10. Mom, I am certain Jefferson’s desire is not to tear down anyone or anything. It is a call to honesty. Members of the church made alot of noise about blacks not having the priesthood. It was called to the forefront, and the 15 fasted and prayed about it in 1978 for (according to LeGrande Richards) the second time in 9 years. I have heard it taught that God only reveals added things as the church, as a people, become able to bear those things. Members of the church are CLAMORING for access to the true history — BEGGING to be trusted — and the church, as a result, actually is becoming more forthright in response and trying to stem the tide of people leaving.

    Still, your thoughts brought up a question for me and I will address it to Jefferson. Why does a person who has not only left the church, but also does not believe in God, ask for honesty from an organization which is just one of thousands in the world that are also less than forthcoming? I know your heart to be in a good place, Jefferson. But this is not clear to me. Can you expound a bit?

    I’ll also add that, to me, Chuck’s belief that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the modern church is apostate, makes far more sense to me than that a positive spiritual experience gained when first exposed to the church, guarantees its sameness even 20 years later. All human beings have their agency. All human beings can fall and fail… even, per Joseph Smith, a prophet (see, for example, TPJS p. 237).

    Thanks to everyone for your comments.

  11. This is a MAJOR issue for the church. The covering up and hiding of church history in the age of google is impossible. Nobody is being fooled anymore, and the rapid loss of membership in the church is proof of that.

    I’ve often thought to myself how different my life would be if family members, teachers and leaders were capable of having open discussions about the church’s history. I may have remained an active member, though I would hope my journey would still eventually lead me to where I am. I recall one Elder’s Quorum lesson in Kaysville in which a man I admired stopped the teacher and corrected him on a bit of history, honestly and openly stating that the priesthood had been granted to select women in the early church. It was my first Sunday as an Elder, and I watched as the entire quorum laughed at and vigorously denied everything the man was saying.

    Years later I found out he was right.

    Those Elders acted in accordance to statements made by church leadership. The same applies to polygamy. Comments like Gordon Hinckley’s regarding polygamy stick in a members mind and guide their decisions in reacting to stories about the topic, whatever it might be.

    “No we don’t believe in polygamy. It’s not doctrinal.”

    I see many of you responding to this blog, claiming you believe in polygamy. What did you believe when your prophet told the world that polygamy is not practiced, and is not doctrinal? Were you so confident then?

    So few of you have responded to what Jeff actually wrote about. Read his entry again, and his multiple comments begging you to remember. Though the idea of polygamy disgusts me and is in opposition to everything I ever felt about a loving, all-knowing god, we’re not discussing whether it’s right or wrong. We’re not even discussing the legitimacy of the church’s message. Focus! We’re talking about the fact that your leaders, the same men I grew up loving and admiring, are either incredibly ignorant with regards to the church’s history….or they’ve chosen to lie about it. Their actions are leading the church into further obscurity, pushing their honest, devoted followers away at a rate they’re just now acknowledging.

    I’ll be very transparent here, I want the church to fail. I want all religions to be left in the dust as more and more people realize good decisions and good morals are not divine, they’re innate. That’s a gradual process though, and a comfortable one for everyone involved, unlike the realization that you’ve been lied to, either by god’s men or god himself. Such a realization is painful, catastrophic, even life forfeiting for some. My loved ones don’t need to go through it that way.

    • I stick by my previous comments, as they were very relevant to the issue of Jeff’s essay. Will you tell your kids about Santa Claus? Deception is ok in certain contexts. It’s not up to you or me or anyone but God to decide when it’s ok for God to withhold some truth, or when it’s ok for God to allow inspired men and women to lead the masses to believe something that’s not true.

      Surely there have been untruths told over the pulpit . . . I sincerely doubt any of them were with the intent of the speaker to deceive (which is why I have a hard time saying “lie”). Generally speaking, when one is looking for lies, they’re very easy to find. Given the general fogginess introduced by verbal language, few statements are incapable of being interpreted as something untrue. I’m not saying there haven’t been lies–just that there haven’t been nearly as many as the critic would like to think.

      And to reiterate a previously touched subject, as many seem to think that Gordon B’s statement applies to every moment of time and space: When the white man shines, I “believe” in crossing the street. When the orange hand shines, I don’t “believe” in crossing the street. I would dare call it doctrine at each of those times.

      None of this is inconsistent with 2 Nephi 26:23, “. . . the Lord God worketh not in darkness.” He’s just doing the best he can to get us home. It’s incredibly presumptuous of anyone to try and tell him how he might have been doing it better, even when it comes to something like Church leaders “lying.”

      • Buddy at the very moment Hinckley said that polygamy isn’t practiced and isn’t doctrinal a temple ceremony may have been sealing a man eternally to another wife. So he was either ignorant of the truth about the church he led, or he lied.

        Either way, he was less a representative of the church than I was as a young boy.

      • I agree with Buddy’s general argument and would like to add more in order to clarify the point. .

        Secrecy and deception are tools that are used both for good and for evil. Used for good, they protect the innocent. If the government, for instance, passed a law to confiscate your guns, your duty would be to protect against the fulfillment of that objective in order to preserve a sacred right. You wouldn’t want to divulge to them any information to assist them in their desire, and if you must lie to them, and deceive them, it is for the purpose of UPHOLDING that which is true and sacred.

        Secrecy is a common, everyday practice by all. Why do we assign a password to get into our computer? To establish personal privacy and to keep curious teens from accessing bad things on the internet.

        With these examples in mind (and I could mention a ton of additional ones) we see that it is not secrecy, nor deception, that is evil, but wrongful usage of the same.

        Parents understand the importance of withholding sensitive knowledge from souls unprepared to receive it. That understanding is all it takes to comprehend the secretive acts of Joseph Smith, who withheld higher knowledge from the unprepared while establishing the way, or means, by which the unprepared could rise from that level and be advanced to the higher levels of covenant, where such “secrets” were to be revealed.

        The official sin of the church today is not that they hold secrets, as all churches do, nor is it that they appoint limitations as to how much of Joseph’s history is to be shared openly to its membership — for in all such things they must give due regard to the spiritual capacity of the general membership to whom they minister. Rather, the official sin of the church is that they CLOSED DOWN, degree by degree, the higher stations altogether, retaining only a skeletal remnant in doctrine while removing every higher practice, or sacrifice, designed by the Lord to establish his exalted nature into their hearts.

        This is a repeat of the sin of the Pharisees, who likewise were heirs of the prophetic office. (Did not Jesus acknowledgee that they “…sit in Moses’ seat”? – Matt. 23:2). While retaining all the basic moral teaching pertinent to the entrance level, they had long abandoned the secretive, higher-level advancements to which worthy individuals were to be secretly called up. Thus, Jesus accused them: “…for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt. 23:13).

        The secrecy of the Pharisees was not to protect that which is sacred, but to connive, control, and manipulate all things with the sole agenda of preserving their own elitist dominance over the people. A system that closes the doors of advancement is a system of unrighteous dominion, as opposed to the Lord’s system wherein the entire purpose of heirarchal authority is to keep the way open for all men and women, on an individual basis, each according to their faith and works, to rise through every level, and be added upon, until they are empowered in righteousness and made co-heirs to the “THRONE” of Christ (Rev.3:21). That word signifies the power to rule. God seeks to bring all souls up to his level. Isn’t that what a true father does?

        Joseph Smith had secrets and guarded them carefully — but at the same time he was ever busy in the quest to prepare his people to receive the same, keeping nothing to himself but calling up those whom he deemed prepared, and dispensing his secrets to as many as he could.

        Now the world has gained access to the secret records, and in the darkness of their own motives they accuse Joseph for not acting in accordance with their own low level of existence. Instead of being awed by the man’s unparallelled spiritual fruits and the kingly nature of his heart, they are disgusted that he would withhold anything at all from the plain view of their own benighted world.

        Such accusers are simply jealous. After tearing down Joseph Smith, what would an atheist replace him with? SELF??

        • There is no need for a replacement from an atheistic perspective. If Joseph Smith’s message is proven false, so is the church’s. Game over, victory for humanism.
          But nobody here is attempting to argue for or against Joseph Smith. What he did doesn’t sit well with me, but I would have defended him and his actions (possibly to my dying breath) had I been allowed to defend ALL of his actions, and not only those the church deemed acceptable public knowledge. Unfortunately, their god seems to be bound to mans dishonest and deceiving games, and plays right along with the best of them. To me, there was always a reason the word “deceiver” followed satan’s name only: any divine, all knowing god would surely be capable of working things out without such a title. I have to disagree, deceit is never okay.

          • Very incomplete and unsatisfactory answer, Nathan, since you chose to ignore the examples Buddy and I raised. We gave reasonable examples where deception is absolutely necessary in order to protect the innocent. You ignored them and offered an opposing opinion without offering any other possible solution. When you ignore evidence, and still offer an opinion, you are doing exactly the same thing you accuse the church of doing.

            Where evidence is acknowledged and willingly faced up to, a difference in opinion is more respected for others’ to consider. Where it is totally ignored, a difference in opinion seems like nothing more than childish argumentation.

      • I see what you’re saying, and that’s a great point. However, I’m sure Hinckley knew what the interviewer was referring to (polygamy practiced on earth), and what 99% of people think of when they hear the word.

        And do you truly believe deception is NEVER ok?

        • I don’t think it’s harmless. Ever. And I think there’s always a better way.

          A belief in Santa Claus isn’t necessary to have fun each year and teach children how to be selfless and charitable (nobody really uses it for the latter reasons anyway). A good parent will teach those lessons year round.

          Making up a cute, half-truth story for where babies come from is NOT healthy. Parents who wait to talk to their children openly about sex are letting strangers teach their children. Multiple studies show that over 40% of teenagers will have some sort of sexual encounter (no, not kissing) before their parents even discuss sex with them. In lower income areas 25% of children will have sex before reaching their teens.
          We grew up in a church that believes a child can honestly “choose” to dedicate his/her life to religion at the age of 8, yet most parents wouldn’t DREAM of talking openly with their child about sex until they’re well into their teens. I was a damn good kid, but my hormones started kickin’ by the time I was baptized, and I knew everything about how sex works by the age of 10. I’ll take my chances talking openly and frankly with my kids when they’re curious, and they’ll know they can come to me with ANY question they have. Try it any other way and you’re inviting your kids to ask someone else.

          Attempting to protect a child from the internet is counterproductive as well. They are going to see naked people. A lesson in anatomy sounds much better to me if I’m teaching it, rather than a magazine in the woods (that was my lesson) or a website. The harder a parent tries to shelter their children, the better their children become at lying.

          There are some examples for you. Just as Jeff noted, this all applies to the church as well. Deception and secrecy have no place in an organization that claims to be led by god. And that’s why so many are losing trust for the leadership…and finding other teachers.

          • So, would you take a child by the hand, and walk him through the pornography sites explaining the anatomy and the sex — since the child is going to “see naked people” anyway?

          • Of course not! Since when was pornography the only way to learn about the human body? Oh, I remember, since parents stopped talking to their kids about the birds and the bees.
            Going to leave it at that though so we can get back on topic.

  12. I am active LDS, I do believe Joseph was a prophet, and I’m not so sure that I believe in polygamy…at least, I’m not sure that I believe that polygamy is necessary to salvation and attaining the celestial kingdom. In section 132, sure, plurality is mentioned, but eternal marriage (not necessarily plural) is what is necessary to attain c. kingdom. Throughout the scriptures, polygamy is the exception, not the rule. How many times does god have his prophets condemn those who have more than one wife and concubines? This is all over the Book of Mormon.
    It seems like God has his people use this only when he needs more people. Abraham and Joseph (assuming that the prophet was obeying commandments and not just confused and misunderstanding what he was doing) are the exceptions, and both were practicing plural marriage when the numbers of the believers were rather scarce.
    Pres Hinckley–in that interview–wasn’t off his rocker at all, nor was he lying. I agree with him. And I don’t believe that I’m going to have to share my spouse throughout the eternities–but I guess we’ll see when we get there!

  13. To be honest, Buddy, I didn’t anticipate someone willingly saying the Church is deceptive and that it is OK. Deception, in my mind, has always been a negative thing. As Nate pointed out, Satan is supposed to be “the deceiver,” not God. That’s the way I grew up. I don’t think many members of the church would agree with or like you admitting the church or God is deceptive at times. The secretiveness of the LDS church, and the deception it practices, is the reason many other churches call it a “cult.” (That word has a slew of negative connotations, but really just means “hidden.”)

    A few points in response:

    1). I think you’re giving the LDS church a concession you wouldn’t give yourself. Do you personally lie to cover things you don’t think people are spiritually ready for? If someone asked you about polygamy would you say, “Nah, that’s not doctrine, we haven’t done that forever!” and paint the picture that it isn’t important to your church at all? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. Can I believe what you say? If I ask you a question about your faith, can I believe YOU? Or do I have to wonder if you think I’m a spiritual child and are lying to me. I hope I can trust you. Will you lie to your son when he asks you about polygamy, or godhood, or blacks and the priesthood, or the Egyptian scrolls, or how the Book of Mormon was translated, etc, just to protect him or because you don’t think he’s ready? The philosophy you laid out in your comments is just an excuse used by religious authorities so they don’t have to talk about unpopular things – please don’t be the same as them.

    2). The LDS church displays a SHAME for their heritage and their doctrine in the way they present it. They “throw people under the bus” who think the things Joseph thought back then as if they’re crazy. All religious people do it, don’t get me wrong. Read the Bible. If ANYONE did the things the prophets did back then they’d be tossed in jail (trying to sacrifice your son, for example). If they preach as bluntly they’re seen as fundamentalist hacks off their rocker. Look at fundamentalist Mormons, for example – the things they say are the things early church members would have said in Joseph’s time . . . yet the church shuns them like the plague. It is a hypocritical stance because their religious texts shames them if put in modern times. Don’t get me wrong – people SHOULD be tossed in jail if they’re trying to sacrifice people, and fundamentalists ARE off their rocker – but at least they really believe what they say they believe.

    3). Secrecy is gone – the internet has seen to that. The church has the choice of either teaching their own membership the correct history or dealing with fallout when people find the history on their own and lose trust as a result.

    4). Secrecy and deception are different (similar, but overt deception is worse) – it is THE most annoying thing to me when someone intentionally misrepresents their belief just so they can avoid being pinned down to a view the rest of the world doesn’t like. In recent years the church has become like Jello – impossible to nail down on a specific issue.

    5). Obviously it’s OK to withhold information from children that they’re not ready to hear. I’m glad my mom didn’t tell me about sex the first time I asked where babies come from . . . I didn’t need to understand all the biology I understand now. When it comes to being “spiritually immature” and withholding information from someone because YOU don’t think they’re ready, or the church doesn’t, or maybe god doesn’t . . . it is a disgusting excuse for deception, in my mind. There are a few things that make it different. First of all – who decides if I am ready? You do. With children we can see they aren’t ready because of their size, their age, etc. How can you tell I’m not ready to hear something? It is subjective and based on your preconceived notions about me.

    • I agree with you, Jefferson, and I also wonder if we’re seeing things in very black and white terms. IF a church was led by God, and IF we are being trained to be like him — and it’s a very long process with many steps to enlightenment — then I could accept that certain truths would be withheld until a person is ready, EXACTLY as we do with our children, until they are ready. It seems that knowing when a person is “ready” would require another human being to receive revelation, and in my experience in the church such revelation is beyond rare and is based on the spiritual advancement of the LEADER, not the person being judged. Human bias is more likely to reign.

      Buddy, you ask a good question about Santa Claus. There are lots of people who have decided NOT to allow their children to believe that Santa is real, for the reason that it creates a tiny crack in the child’s trust for their parents… with no discernible purpose other than “fun.” I’m not sure where I come down on this, but trust you can see the point. (And not every child would feel even a bit betrayed by the fun. But some will. And it’s hard to know who’s who.)

      I sat in a Primary sharing time one day last year and observed as my dear friend gave a lesson to the children regarding Joseph Smith and the First Vision. (Well, the third version of the First Vision, to be precise.) I heard her innocently repeat what SHE had been taught all her life and, when her words were combined with the pictures she held up, there were at least 8 half-truths or untruths presented to the children. The kids don’t care whether Joseph Smith translated from the plates, or whether he had his head in a hat. These deceits are system-wide, built into the fabric of the church’s story. It is wrong.

      Of course, maybe the church knows that if the hat-story is honestly told, people will start to wonder… “What was the purpose of the plates, again?”

      Here is my sadness. When Mom and Dad joined the church, I was 6 years old and believed everything I was told. I measured myself by my success in “doing” and being everything I was taught I should be. It seemed like a losing proposition, but I kept on working and praying and hoping, and getting up everytime I fell down to do the same again. I felt grateful to have a measuring tool — the gospel as presented by the church — so that I could know the direction in which to travel. When I began to see that I had been lied to, even about stupid things like plates vs. seerstone-in-a-hat, and that kind of information just kept coming and coming, I felt so intensely betrayed — 50 years of belief in truth claims that were half-truths to begin with. There are no words to describe how it felt, and feels, to have been so deceived by the very organization which I trusted to guide me.

      This is what the church is facing today, and not only because of the internet. For me, it was first because I read the Journal of Discourses (no longer printed by Deseret Book), the Discourses of Brigham Young (no longer referred to in any church manual), the History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by his Mother (unedited version, first available 10 years or so ago), Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts… On and on and on. The information is available even if a person has no computer..

      • I believe in the goodness of the members of the church, and especially in the motives of its lay leaders, whom I have often observed to love and serve with their whole hearts and much of their time… to strive with everything they have to be Christlike in their work with the members.

        It is for this reason as well as those we’ve been discussing, that my heart was (and is) broken in the discovery of all these deceits which, to me, make the LDS Church different from others ONLY because of its foundational claims… which are deceits to begin with. As Jefferson said… I wouldn’t make excuses for that kind of behavior from myself, and I cannot do the mental gymnaastics necessary to excuse it in prophets or apostles who claim to be led by God himself.

      • Thank you, mom, for focusing this conversation on the personal impact of deception. Some people categorize me and others who have left as an antagonistic to the church and write off our statements because they think we’re just being argumentative. We argue and we argue and we argue. That’s ok – but I hope people will remember that I wasn’t always opposed to the Church. I loved it. I loved teaching about it. It held claim to some of the most personal feelings I had. I did not want to lose trust in the church authorities. I believed they were led by God and felt a strength in that. Finding out that I was being lied to was extremely difficult. I hope people who read all these comments will remember that the effect of this deception is LARGE and it is painful. We can try to justify the Church’s actions as much as we’d like – but the result of deception is still that honest, sincere followers are turning away every day with the feeling that they’ve been duped. And they feel that way because they WERE duped in a thousand ways – on many things that weren’t even IMPORTANT (as you’ve pointed out here) and on some things that are very important. Thanks again – Love you 🙂

      • p.s. – Britney and I talk about Santa Claus all the time . . . because I’d rather not trick our kids into it . . . but it could do kids good to learn how to doubt what other people tell you . . . lol, I’m on the fence, but leaning towards “no.” Fables, fiction, and fun stuff like that are obviously great – and I spent a lot of my childhood in dream worlds – but I’m not comfortable using a whole holiday for 8 years (or whenever they learn it isn’t true) convincing my kid that a fat guy is breaking into our house each year because they were “good.” I can find more interesting worlds to help my kids imagine 😛

    • You’re right, most Church members wouldn’t be ok with me conceding the it to be decpetive, or God for that matter, though there are a great many examples of sanctioned deception in the scriptures. I don’t quite understand, but my guess would be that “blanket” commandments and standards are what’s best for a large population, each in his/her individual quest for salvation. And so that’s what God gives us–99% of the time.

      1) No, I wouldn’t. Unless the Spirit specifically prompted me otherwise. It seems to me there’s a huge difference, in that my audience isn’t the entire world. HUGE difference. God has a task billions of times more complicated and delicate than mine in raising a few children.

      2) For me, this is a simple matter of following the current prophet and trusting that God knows best.

      3 & 4) Agreed.

      5) Imagine trying to answer the question, “Who decides if I’m ready?” for seven billion people at the same time! You can’t do that subjectively at any time. It makes sense to me that sometimes decisions that affect the world, or that millions or billions will eventually hear about, are made to accommodate the least prepared.

    • Every man is responsible to be discerning of another’s “spriitual maturity” to whom he wishes to divulge spiritual things. When sacred things are given to the wrong people, they are abused and the cause of truth is weakened.

      Can we err in our disdernment of another? Yes, but it is a basic human responsibility to do it anyway, and learn by experience. Honest mistakes are not sin. Avoiding responsibility is.

      When we grow “disgusted” over someone’s misjudgment of us, we manifest a desire for control where it does not belong. It’s none of my business what someone thinks of me. My business is to do the right thing to the best of my ability and be content with every man’s perception of me.

  14. I don’t understand why anyone would be offended, for at learning that Joseph Smith translated the plates by more than one method as he advanced in skill. Three specific methods are mentioned, all three of which he used. Or, is it you’re offended because you only learned about one of the methods, from the church?

    I guess I never expected the church to tell me every detail of every story, and saw nothing strange or deceitful about my having to learn a lot of things through my own studies. The victim mindset inspires suspicion over trivialities, and sees contradictions where none exist.

    The different versions of the First Vision, also, are easily explained. It’s a stretch to assume deception merely for the absense of detail in one, and its inclusion in another. Everybody does this, not to deceive, but to emphasize the purpose of the telling — which purpose is geared to the need, or request, of the moment. If the message of the vision — that all churches are wrong — was the focus and purpose of the telling, then there would be no need to mention every detail about who all were in attendance. “I saw the Lord, and he told me such and such…” is all that is necessary.

    On the other hand, if the brand new, against-all-tradition, shocking revelation, describing the Father and the Son as separate Beings, is part of the object of the telling, then that detail would of course be included.

    Question: When telling the same story to two different people, regarding something that happeneed to you, particularly if its a sacred experience, do you always feel the need to provide every possible detail? — or do you tailor the details to meet the immediate purpose of the telling?

    • The Book of Mormon was given in such a way, purposely, that it could not be believed on a foundation of scientific proof in the way it came about. It had to be believed by one’s attraction to its content. In other words, for spiritual reasons and not carnal.

      The Book of Mormon is proof of the Book of Mormon, spiritually. Like every other philosophy.

    • “I don’t understand why anyone would be offended . . . ” You could have stopped your comment there. It is clear you have no intention to “understand” anything that isn’t your own point of view. Your worldview doesn’t allow you to step into someone’s shoes because of your need to constantly fight for what you think is right. I wonder when you’ll realize that the block between you and other family members has nothing to do with their wickedness and everything to do with your inability understand other people.

    • Seems like the details have been tailored just so that the maximum amount of people will stay in the church or join the church.

      If something like that had happened to me and I was going to base my entire life and church teachings off of that experience you better believe every detail would be written down, told, and spread around to as many people as would listen to it. But he didn’t do that. He denied polygamy being an active practice from the public as well as hid it from his WIFE for a VERY long time. That’s a lot of tailoring if you ask me…

      • You’ve got the history wrong, in one essential. Joseph did not keep polygamy from Emma at first — only after it became obvious that she would have none of it. Then he concluded to live the “law of Abraham” as he was commanded, without making her aware. It was a tough thing for her to accept, and she never did in her lifetime.

        It was a tough thing for Joseph to obey, as well, because of the opposition he knew it would raise against him.

        But the economy of heaven must take care of the needs of all, leaving none out, exept through personal unworthiness. A purely monogamist system always victimizes some women, those who are left out, even in a highly moral society. But a system that includes both monogamy and polygamy, allowing both options, victimizes no one in and of itself. Of course, every good and wholesome principle becomes a curse to those who abuse it. Criminality can certainly rise up among polygamists — as well as monogamists. In neither case is the system itself to be blamed, but the individual committing the crime.

  15. Let’s review this blog for just a second. Tell me if I’m getting it wrong.

    The church is deceptive because:

    1. It has three different versions of the same story, one version carrying more details than another.

    2. In its official teachings, and meetings, it presents an incomplete version of its own history for public consumption, while its scholars publish hundreds and thousands of books carrying more detail, for members who are willing to study beyond what is taught openly and officially.

    3. On occasion, it misrepresents its history altogether, in order to manage its image and make itself a more palatable religion before the world.

    Atheists are NOT deceptive because:

    1. They accept homosexuality as a part of nature, and therefore not a corruption.

    2. But polygamy, between male and females, is wrong.

    3. They see it as unwise to withhold pornography from children, but to honestly share it with them since they’ll see naked people anyway.

    Maybe I’ll become an atheist. It just seems so much more honest.

    • Chuck – I love you, but you are ALL OVER THE PLACE. Settle it down and try to focus on the conversation we’re trying to have. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t responded to many of your comments . . . I CAN’T respond because you write way too much and go off on a hundred tangents.

      And trust me – you couldn’t handle being an atheist. There is far too much freedom for you to be happy.

      • All over the place? I have gone exactly where you have led me. All that I have said is in response to your words. Not one word otherwise.

        Can you find a single instance in which that is not the case?

        And, if that is so, why take offense? I have stayed on the track you set, the whole time, never once leaving it.

    • Again, children will come across pornography, whether we protect them from it or not. Teaching them about the human body before that will help minimize the shock, and even excitement, when they do. I happen to have a human anatomy textbook I saved for that exact purpose. Do you wish to insult your nephews again, or can we have an adult conversation?

      • You did say, and I quote: “Attempting to protect a child from the internet is counterproductive as well.”

        I’m glad you corrected yourself, so as not to be misunderstood. Looks like it was just a bad choice of words.

  16. In point #1 of his most recent response, above, my brother Chuck — with whom I’ve had some of the best religious conversations of my life — refers to something I said earlier: that the church has several different versions of the First Vision. First, Chuck, I apologize if I seemed to be saying that this is part of the “church’s” deceit. Any deceit in this area belongs to Joseph Smith, himself. And I know you love him. So I’m going to put a question to you:

    What does it look like to gradually reveal “more detail?”

    The FIRST version of the First Vision.tells of a single personage appearing to Joseph: “the Lord.” The SECOND speaks of two personages, one of whom testifies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    This is not “more detail.” These are DIFFERENT details, with great significance. In my daily interactions, I do not trust people whose stories “grow” in this way. I will always ask myself, “What’s in it for the story TELLER, to change the details like this?”

    The THIRD version of the First Vision speaks of two personages, one of whom turns to the other and says, “This is my beloved Son. Hear him.”

    The difference between the second and third versions (on this single point) could be merely about Joseph’s sharing more of the details in the latter.

    In Version 1, Joseph Smith was a simple farm boy who worried about his sins and prayed to know that he was forgiven and acceptable to God. “The Lord” answered him in the affirmative.

    By Version 3, Joseph Smith prayed to ask which church he should join. God the Father introduced the Son, and the Son told him to join none of them. This is no longer a personal message. This is a message of judgment, and a message applicable to other people as well.

    It was not until much later that the part of the story was added, wherein Joseph was told that “the truth” would be “made known unto him.” It is only then that the First Vision presents a message of promise, and … of a calling to come.

    I have TRIED with all my heart to find a way to explain these differences without using the word “deceit” or, at the very least, “braggadocio”. I have not succeeded.

    ***

    I love your planned approach, Nathan, to how you will teach your children about the human body. What you will share with them cannot be called pornography or exploitation in any way, and yet it will immunize your children against the secrecy and perceived shame that can hook people into pornography.

    • I showed the context, which I guess is hard to see. Context makes all the difference in understanding an event, but it isnt always easy to describe on paper — or even computer screen.

      No, RJ, the idea that one version mentions only “the Lord” does not preclude the presence of two beings. There is one particular context in which it would be only wise, of Joseph, NOT to report the full version. That context is if he is telling the story to someone who is strongly attached, emotionally, to the “one God, and only one God” tradition of the day. Joseph was wise enough to realize that the giving of a portion does not preclude that there is more to the story. I think his intent, in the first version, was just to reassure his inquisitor that yes, he had made contact with heaven, and that this contact was preconditioned upon his desire to receive a forgiveness of sins. Further details would likely have proved shocking to the individual being adddresed, and thereby killed the man’s desire for the next step in his quest to find and attach himself to the kingdom of God on earth.

      It is a simple case of not casting pearls before swine. You don’t reveal a mystery first thing, right off the batt, to an investigator; but you bring him up in a wise and gradual way so as to keep him moving upwards. The doctrine of God consisting of more than one personage was indeed, at that time, shocking. It threatened the fabric of a strongly held, many centuries old tradition of the people.

      I remember reading in church history where Joseph alluded to this principle. Young Lorenzo Snow, a sober and devoted boy of sixteen, became excited when it was revealed to him, by the Spirit, that we are the spirit offspring of God in a very literal sense, which meant, to Lorenzo’s great joy, that we also have a MOTHER in heaven! He shared his new knowledge with Joseph, and Joseph was highly pleased that he would be open to receive such an insight despite the strong tradition against it at the time. He instructed Lorenzo: “Do not teach it to the people, but hold it in your heart until the Lord sees fit to reveal it to the church.” It was Joseph’s job, as the head, to discern the church and prepare her for that knowledge. I think it’s interesting, while I’m on the subject, that Lorenzo had every opportunity to “suspect” that Joseph was just trying to steal the credit for his new discovery — but, being among the meek of the earth he was not willing to make such an assumption and saw the wisdom of all things being done in order and according to wisdom.

      Virtually everything Joseph did, when one is willing to assign some ill motive, can be attributed to his greed, or lust, or self-interest. But the meek are not willing to assign motives; instead they set out to prove them by observing the overall nature and sacrifice that was manifested by the man. Risking his life at every turn, and frequently going without the normal comforts of life because of his testimony, is something that the meek are not willing to overlook — nor the unmatched intelligence and eternal justice of the Plan he described. Your suspicion of the man is unfounded.

      Nor were the meek willing to overlook such events as transpired occasionally, wherein the powers of heaven were manifested in an obvious way among the faithful — for instance, the translucent faces of himself and Sidney Rigdon, right in front of the membership during meeting, while they received, word for word, the vision on the three degrees of glory, section 76. All I have to do is to READ that vision to recognize that it far surpasses the capacity of the carnal man to create — especially on the spot, in the moment, and in the presence of witnesses who recorded the event.

      You have lost sight of the general picture and allowed misunderstood trivialities to cast an artificial shadow over it. And if I understand the psychology of it all, which I think I do, this approach is founded in your heart’s jealousy, which you have not yet chosen to sacrifice — which causes you to feel repulsed towards the idea of plural marriage — both levels, including the polyandry. You have yet to recognize the true nature of these things, or to see how they answer so brilliantly, and perfectly, to the eternal needs of a sanctified soul, male and female.

      Do you think I didn’t initially struggle with all the same trivialities? I did. And, I might add, I came upon these things long before you did, or anyone else in the family. NOT letting go of the unmatched abundance of Joseph’s spiritual fruits (found in the scriptures he recorded and the teachings he spake), I put these strange little things on the shelf — never leaving them there for long, but taking them down to peruse some more, seeking to comprehend before allowing myself to condemn them. I came to full understanding, because I desired it. I learned — surprise, surprise! — that God actually thought on a higher level, understood principles I didn’t, and was all along aware of every element of CONTEXT to which I had been blinded by the popular traditions of the carnal man.

      If you had done the same — (for your intelligence to do so was always adequate for the task) — then you would not have come to the gradual point in which you now find yourself, ftellowshipping with great adoration and love the darkened testator of the homosexual cause, while excommunicating the enlightened Testator of the fullness of the gospel in all its levels.

    • Behold, saith the great Chuck, he that weareth shoes hath already advanceed beyond moccasins, and hath no need to go backwards.

      • Therefore let her that steppeth in everyone’s moccasins give heed to him that weareth shoes and goeth not backwards.

        • Behold, saith the great Britney, he that wears the same shoes will never be able to understand his fellow man and will therefore be unable to pass judgement. She that steppeth in many types of foot adornment (moccasins and shoes alike) will have wisdom, compassion, and the ability to decipher which ones are worth wearing and which ones are fancy and expensive, yet false and deceiving in their quality.

          • I do understand that the purpose of that saying (about walking in another’s moccasins) is to point out the importance of compassion. I doubt that anyone ever had more compassion for the homosexual than I do, where repentance is being sought. In such a case I express my compassion privately, to that individual, in conducive circumstances.

            Where there is rebellion, which is an attempt to re-define corruption and make it appear acceptable, compassion does not belong. In such case its open expression, in the least, helps promote the corruption rather than hinder it.

            If compassion means — “I will walk with you in your rebellion, so that I may understand your grief” — then its turned to flattery which is the great moral destructor of nations. Never seek to uphold a man in his corruption. Only seek to uphold him in his efforts to change away from it.

            Evil presents itself at first in the guise of kindness, compassion, and love. It appeals to the emotions of the people. Its detection is only possible when men refuse to allow their emotions to override the common sense rationale of a healthy mind.

            The role of the masculine, with its power of intellect, is to help keep in balance the feminine, with its power to nurture. When men become too much like their female counterparts, then the whole of society tips to a purely nurturing posture, until every saint and devil is “accepted for who they are” instead of for their adherence to the principles of truth and righteousness. Standards subside, and love takes on an artificial light because it is no longer based in principle; and the entire culture becomes one of pretense and self-gratification.

    • Verily, thus saith the Nosreffej – he who never takes off his shoes will never feel the sand between his toes. Plus, he’ll smell bad and will probably get some super funky foot fungus. Verily.

  17. I’m pretty sure this basically boils down to each individual, so take a moment to reflect on yourself as you read this – think about your relationships you have. Are you 100% transparent with even ONE of them? If so, which one is it? A spouse? Girlfriend/Boyfriend? One or both of your parents? Cousin? Friend? I’m talking 100% transparency, where not only CAN you tell them anything and everything, but you DO tell them everything about you, and about how you feel towards them.

    Chances are that you can’t truthfully answer “yes” to that question. Does that make you a bad person? That you would with-hold such trivial information from one of your relationships, in an effort to create harmony and ultimately more joy surrounding that relationship? I submit that it doesn’t – but this is dependent upon the importance/significance of that which you’ve chosen to withhold.

    Think about that same relationship now, and ask yourself “What is the overall health of this relationship? Am I finding joy, happiness and love there? Or is there a lot of hurt, betrayal and pain there? Maybe a combination of the two? If so, which side weighs in heavier?”

    If the outcome you come to happens to be that there’s more pain and suffering than there is joy and love – figure out if there’s anything you can do to be more open and honest with them. If there’s not, then it may be time to let the relationship end, and pursue another that WILL bring you happiness! Maybe, in time, that relationship will heal itself. But do yourself a favor and move on, leave the pain and suffering behind, and find your happiness.

    This applies to all aspects of life. As far as I’m concerned, happiness is the ultimate goal in life. Not just a goal at the end of the tunnel – but throughout ones entire life – do what brings happiness not only to you, but to those around you. It’s become blatantly obvious that the LDS church has brought much pain and feelings of betrayal to some of our family members! They’ve also openly shared with us that it’s been the source of much happiness as well. Quite simply, they’ve determined that the pain and sorrow has outweighed the happiness, and it was time to move onto other things.

    I know many of my loved ones that find much happiness in the LDS faith, and that brings joy to MY heart, for them! I also know many people who are living amazing lives full of joy and happiness that are OUTSIDE the LDS faith, all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum, holding no belief in a deity at all.

    Each person will do what they can to share with those that they love, that which brings them happiness. It may work for others as well, it may not. The fact that they’re sharing those things (when you truly know that person and look at their actions with love) are only attempting to further your reach towards happiness yourself, and eliminate some of the things that have caused THEM grief, and may be causing you grief as well.

    Take joy in your loved ones happiness, despite the avenues they are using to get there.

    • That’s a good way to say it. This is why it’s so important, and rather obvious, to acknowledge the concept that different people are on different levels of understanding and spiritual development, and therefore capacity. Different levels of capacity require different levels of requirement — or, in gospel terms, covenant. “Unto whom much is given, much is required — and he who turns against the greater light receiveth the greater condemnation.” Critics of Joseph view him as “self righteous” for establishing (actually, restoring) a series of covenants, one surpassing another, in the required sacifice, as a soul beomes more and more sanctified. The church today, or those who idolize the church and therefore do very little seeking of their own, are not even aware of that unique aspect of Joseph’s work.

      Can you imagine a woman moving beyond and above her natural jealousies OUTSIDE the higher law of plural marriage? It just doesn’t happen. According to section 132 it is an appointed sacrifice to be offered at a certain level in one’s eternal development. It doesn’t mean the previous level, that of monogamy, is any less important. Both are upward steps. But when the kingdom of God is establisbhed (which Brigham explained never was just the church), according to the plan put forth by Joseph, the higher levels will minister to the lower, and the lower levels will be able to look upward, recognizing that there are higher privileges and sacrifices not yet pertaining to themselves, and not be offended.

      Who is not offended at that? The meek. All the rest indulge in petty jealousy, not wanting to put up with the idea that ANYONE should be given ANYTHING that they themselves are not given.

      Very good comment, Colt. Gracias por participar.

  18. I would just like to bring into perspective the numbers we’re talking about here.
    A church that is supposed to be the “restoration of all things,” is “led by god directly,” and has a mission to convert everyone in the world…..

    – Has an active membership of less than 4 million, or around .2% of the worlds population
    – Is losing more membership than it’s gaining
    – Uses deceit the way god intended it to be used, hiding information from those who aren’t prepared (yet are prepared to dedicate themselves wholly to the church through baptism), and sometimes making statements that many of their followers know are bold face lies.

    Why are we arguing that they aren’t in need of reform again? A tiny religion, that fudges its own membership numbers to look better than it is, and that’s losing members left and right…uses deceit. Not the best gameplan god. Not the best gameplan.

  19. Wow this is exhausting! Does anyone else get exhausted with all this debate?? 🙂 Well I am no scholar, nor am I necessarily a great writer, and definitely lack in my ability to portray my feelings…so what I write one may pick apart and find flaws, and then I will want to defend myself because “That’s not exactly what I meant!!” etc, etc. (How does that relate to this whole ordeal? Communication is imperfect) But I speak with the chance of such a thing happening, only wishing to declare my thoughts and feelings. (Mainly because when I finally got to the end of these comments, a question [above] stated “what do you think?”!!

    Jefferson, this is mainly unrelated but I think it’s funny. To claim you are “non-religious” and then write/think/debate/question/etc all religious things is funny to me, and I think you’re a silly billy. 🙂

    Honestly is important. I’d even say it’s the value I value most in other people/myself. I like to be upfront and bold and just say things how it is. But sometimes I lie, then feel guilty. Whoops. So, again, my imperfect answer to this is…if someone’s FIRST question to me upon discovering that I am a Mormon is “OH, aren’t Mormons polygamists?!?????” (insert shock and horror here) Am I going to just answer “Yes.”? No, I’m not.
    For the same reasons that if upon introducing myself I also acknowledged a great seemingly-horrible-misunderstood flaw, like “Hi I’m Ali and yes, I spank my kids and occasionally smack them hard on their mouths for back talking.” I mean what would someone think of me? Yes, that is a part of me, but do I necessarily want to give them that for their 1st judgement of me? No, I wouldn’t, even if that was the truth.
    So, while I’m not saying that I agree this topic of polygamy is not discussed in Sunday School or Relief Society, etc, and shouldn’t be, I do not think the generalized statement of the Church is “hiding” and “covering up” the fact that it happened, that each person needs to figure that out individually, and that men can be sealed to more than one wife at the same time is accurate. Is it talked about a lot and open for sunday school discussions? NO. Is it acknowledged as a part of the Church, I would say YES. And while you may use the quote mentioned by GB Hinkley, I would state my belief that a prophet of God is not perfect, nor is he God. Like I feel, words to not convey perfectly our desires/thoughts (But I think Buddy said it better than I can, as above). Maybe on national television he was a little nervous, peeps. But I don’t know, we’d have to ask him about that. Since we can’t, it’d be speculation, but I can understand the concern for the seeming contradiction that my autie Jo spoke of. But this is what I think (continued.):
    I believe that this topic is one that all need to seek to understand/find their peace with. Not unlike this post of long looonnggg very long comments; discussions and opinions can go on forever. So, speaking from experience, families should take this into their home. I grew up, learned, built my knowledge, built a feeling of truth of what I was taught, didn’t understand some things, definitely didn’t understand polygamy. Then I asked questions. I asked my Dad. I studied scripture. I read some books. And then YEARS it took, but I came to my peace of understanding. And I will teach my children how I learned that peace, hoping that they too will seek for that peace in their personal relationship with God.

    There is my imperfect and very long answer! MAN you got me all sweating over here!!
    BYE!!

    • Ali, you are the sweetest. You possess a skill we could all benefit from emulating: the ability to speak from your heart without being offensive in the least. But do not fear the lengthiness of commentariation here. 😉 For some of us, this discussion is very beneficial in working things through.

      Because of this hyar discussion, I have come to feel (with regard to polygamy) that Joseph Smith may have actually been stuck between a rock (what he perceived as a commandment to initiate polygamy) and a hard place (the increased danger of dying for his obedience — which some histories say is exactly what DID get him to Carthage, and then killed).

      But as far as the church today goes… It is totally unfair that a Maori in New Zealand can take the discussions, be baptized, and then years later, gete into conflict with a friend who “claims” that he could not have held the priesthood 35 years ago… only to find out that his friend’s claim is true. It’s unfair that people believe President Hinckley’s words about polygamy not being doctrinal, and years later stumble upon the fact that it is doctrinal, so that they must DEAL with it after committing their time, money, etc. to the church.

      Many of us who have contributed to this blog post are simply calling for honesty, and really, TRUST for the intelligence and goodness of the LDS people, who deserve to know the true history of the church to which they commit their lives so that they can make a decision based on reality and not myth.

      I sure love you.

  20. Pingback: The Sounding Board: Mormonism & Polygamy – a Call to Honesty « The Accidental Atheist

  21. Hey Cloward, I know this thread has been dead for a while, but I kept thinking I should comment … so here it is. I am glad I decided to click over and read this article and I’m grateful you wrote it. I was able to investigate and come to peace with my own beliefs concerning polygamy as a result of your writing and I’m thankful for that.

    I liked what was said about some of the less discussed doctrines not even being “that important” and how a ward may lose members simply for want of transparency on those doctrines rather than the doctrines themselves. I don’t think I can add to what has been said by others, but I wanted to share something that helped me navigate this topic (specifically, the LDS Church’s treatment of polygamy publicly) that may be able to help others.

    There is another doctrine practiced in the Church’s early history which doesn’t get much attention in the church and it is also one which was problematic and unsuccessful for the Church. My own upbringing in the Church may be very different from others, but I feel like the law of consecration got just about as much attention as polygamy did in Sunday school discussions. It was another law that is still important to the Church, but which isn’t actively practiced. A fair treatment of polygamy in church classes may not be the norm (and I do think it should be), but I don’t think your Call to Honesty relates to individual ward leaders or each member individually but rather to official Church action.

    This may not be a perfect comparison, but one reason for some of the vehemence in this discussion may be due to the assumption of lechery that seems to hang like a cloud around any discussion of polygamy. Even if it is deceitful to avoid broadcasting the practice of polygamy in early Church history, the seeming carnal motives behind the deceit are what I think really get to people. That same social taboo doesn’t seem as severe when it comes to believing in the communist economic structure behind the law of consecration. Otherwise you might get the same sense of embarrassment and avoidance that you point to here when talking hearing that “Mormons used to be communists.”

    For that reason, think it is hard to separate a discussion about honesty from whether the practice of polygamy is amoral in this context. I was personally able to reconcile both questions by researching the following article:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_polygamy

    I realize that FAIR and other apologist sites can be divisive for some, but I really tried to give an open mind to both your article and theirs. On this subject at least, I felt more swayed by FAIR’s arguments as well as my own impressions and feelings as I read each, but I don’t always like the forcefulness of the language used by these sites. That being said, I think we can all recognize that similarly forceful language is used by some in criticism of the Church. Again, thanks for writing this article and getting me to get off my lazy butt and think for a while. Hope you enjoy and sorry I wrote for so long about a blog entry that is months old.

    • Jake, I responded to you [in my head] about 5 times, but I just realized this weekend that I never actually typed out my response . . . :/

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to leave your comment and let me know what your reaction was. Above all, thanks for the honesty – it’s laced throughout your comment above, and it’s refreshing. I have no problem with someone being in the Church (or any other organization) if they allow themselves to be informed – it’s usually a good conversation when both sides are honest with themselves and the person they’re talking to.

      That’s why I don’t like some so-called “anti” sites and videos that don’t show any weakness in their positions . . . it doesn’t allow for a good and honest conversation. That’s also why I don’t like FAIR . . . it has been my experience that FAIR relies too much on shaky premises for their conclusions. Honestly, once I find one wrong argument from someone, one false statistic, one out-of-context scripture, I have a hard time trusting anything else they say. While I was Mormon I subscribed to FAIR towards the end, almost as a last ditch effort to find clarity. What I found disappointed me as much as that little black book one of my companions had that supposedly debunked every “anti” claim authoritatively. When people speak with too much confidence about something that is complex, or take leaps of logic in an effort to prove something they want to be true, they lose credibility. Others have felt the same way, and many IN the church say that apologetics have damaged many more testimonies than it has helped. That was my experience with them, even while Mormon, but I’ll be honest that I haven’t read anything they’ve put out for a while.

      I think you’re right about the Law of Consecration thing. I imagine that was probably a bigger deal during the cold war than now, when people hated commies more, but I don’t have any history on that, just guessing. Polygamy holds every appeal to a listener or reader – intrigue, secrecy, scandal, lechery, lust, whatever – even if Joseph Smith was perfect and pure (which no one claims he was) the subject of polygamy would still capture the imaginations of everyone.

      Anyway, thanks again for reading and telling me what you thought. I’ve put this blog on hold for awhile, have you seen the other? It’s about philanthropy. Check it out! 🙂 TWPhilanthropist.com

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