Category: plural marriage

Unchaste

Latter-day Saints who go through temple rites covenant and promise before God, angels and witnesses to obey the law of chastity; which is that they will have no sexual intercourse except with their spouse to whom they are legally and lawfully married.

In Illinois during the entire 1840s it was illegal to be married to more than a single spouse. In the United States Territories it was likewise a crime to be married to more than one spouse. Because of open, unlawful cohabitation by members of the LDS church beginning in the early 1850s, Congress enacted harsher and harsher penalties to stop that unlawful conduct. Congress ultimately confiscated LDS church property to compel them to obey the law. Apparently the LDS church valued property more than their religion because they abandoned unlawful polygamous marriage as a tenet of their faith.

Continue reading “Unchaste”

More on Yesterday’s Post (§132)

It is apparent many people care more about the topic of plural marriage than do I. To stem the flood of emails I am now receiving, let me add these general points:

Context always matters. Who is addressed always controls the content of the message. If an answer is given to a question, then the question controls the Lord’s discussion.

The Book of Mormon sermon of Jacob (Jacob 2:23-33) was to a small branch of Israelites who had departed from Jerusalem. His audience was the common man, and his sermon addressed the morality and virtue expected by God for His people.

The discussion in §132:34-40 is framed by the question Joseph asked. Joseph’s question is restated by the Lord in verse 1. Joseph was perplexed about specific ancient personalities. These were Bible “heroes” or prophets. Bible history indicates they were chosen by God. These men were apparently involved with plural marriages (at least in Joseph’s understanding of the Bible at that time). Joseph wanted to know how the list of men were “justified” before God.

Unlike Jacob’s sermon, the answer to the question Joseph raised was not about morality. [But the Lord does address morality in the first 32 verses, where marriage is between “a man” and “a woman.”] Joseph’s question about  “justification” involved only a legal issue.

In the specific case of David and Solomon (which Jacob condemned in his sermon) the Lord does not describe their conduct as moral or virtuous. He explains how the ancient kings were “justified” in receiving “many wives and concubines” under the ancient system and therefore did not “sin.” Their marriages were political. They were legal. It was part of the ancient system of binding a kingdom to their king, settling disputes, acquiring fealty from influential families, and forming alliances between neighboring kingdoms. It was a political reality, and “justified” in the circumstances. Although not moral, the arrangements were not condemned as “sin” in the answer given to Joseph.

David and Solomon were not moral examples of how the common man should live their lives, organize their families, or establish their marriages. These kings fit the warning Samuel gave about the negatives associated with kingship. Political rule by a king always results in taxes, wars, conscription of young men to fight for the king, and servitude of young women to serve the king. God told Samuel a king would afflict Israel. Samuel repeated what the Lord foretold concerning the abuses kings inflict on their kingdoms  (1 Sam. 8:10-18). It was spot-on.

I have no interest in answering endless questions about this subject. I am working on other important things. The best way to proceed with questions is to study. Study, pray and reflect. Converse with the Lord. Questions should drive you to the Lord. He will answer. Sometimes you must do your homework to arrive at the answer, but He will guide you if you allow Him.

If you believe there is a contradiction, then focus on finding the answer. It is through contradictions that the hidden mysteries of God are found. There are times when the Lord WANTS a matter to appear as a contradiction and deliberately makes it appear that way. He does that to make us think, study, pray and grow. Or, in His language, to “ask, seek and knock.”

Section 132

Any complex subject involving Mormon history, doctrine or practice is always part of a larger picture. If that larger picture is not part of the analysis, things can be confusing. It is impossible to lay out everything in a single comment. Might I remind you that I never make any attempt to tell everything I think, believe or know in a single post or book.

The discussion about Section 132 has provoked additional questions. Those questions, if answered, will lead to still more questions. In response to the current round of questions I’ve received I would add:

1. It is the LDS Church and “fundamentalists” who claim Section 132 authorizes their past and present practices. Therefore, they must accept it as is, intact, and deal with the issues raised for their practice by the very revelation they claim justifies their behavior. They can’t really begin to question or limit the language. For both of these the “one man at a time” issue is fundamental because it identifies who they must follow. The questions I posed to the polygamists about who authorized their current practice (as the “one”) remains the right question for them to sort out.

2. The meaning of “one man at a time on the earth” was interpreted by Brigham Young (and all subsequent believers in Section 132) to mean only one man can authorize plural marriages. The language is in the transcript as a parenthetical inside verse 7. This raises the question of whether it was there in the first place, or if it was there but located somewhere else in the transcript originally and was moved there, or if it was not there at all in the original. Looking at the surviving document won’t help (see point 6, below).

3. There is an idea that the term “one man at a time on the earth” is part of the earliest gospel. It has nothing to do with plural wives. It has to do with the original Holy Order after the Order of the Son of God, which has a single individual in each generation in the family structure. But that has nothing to do with the way Section 132 is generally interpreted or understood. In practical terms, the way Section 132 uses “one man at a time on the earth” should be interpreted as a unique elevation of a single individual elected by God to become the Holy Spirit of Promise. In most generations, the office of the Holy Spirit of Promise belongs to and is filled by God. Understanding of this subject did not survive Joseph’s martyrdom. Explaining it would only invite the deceivers to step forward and claim they are such an officeholder and are entitled to respect (and probably money and more sex partners given what we’ve seen from the fundamentalists).

4. I do think there was a revelation concerning plural wives. I think Section 132 is an altered text and probably not what was given to Joseph.

5. The practice of adoption (or what was sometimes called “man-to-man sealing”) appears to have been a very late development and was not preserved in a way that we can understand what Joseph was doing. Before that very late development, the idea of eternal “sealing” seems to have been confined to marriages. When Joseph organized family relationships, it seems to have been entirely by intermarriages at first. This allowed a family to be sealed to Joseph Smith by his marrying the daughters, then sealing parents, etc. together as an extended family unit. The record of Joseph’s “proposals” for marriages to some church leader’s daughters (if the accounts are reliable) seem to have been worded by Joseph with this idea in mind.

Marriage sealing would also allow a married couple to be sealed to Joseph by sealing the wife to Joseph, then the husband and wife together, and then sealing them all together as a single family unit. The idea this could be changed to a form of sealing by adoption of a man to another man as father/son seems to have been a very late development, poorly explained, and not preserved with an ordinance that survived Joseph’s death. This has left the topic to scholarly debate and speculation. Much of the confusion about what Joseph was doing in sealings of marriages, and confusion about “adoption” of men to men or what was called “man to man sealing” is because Joseph died before he clearly established the practice. It died with him. Perhaps that was in the wisdom of God to prevent abuse and pretensions by the people left behind in Nauvoo.

6. Since William Clayton wrote the original, and was still alive and close to Brigham Young when Section 132 was made public, it is possible the original was re-written by Clayton before its publication in 1852. The Joseph Smith Papers project may be of some help. But at this late date, given Charles Wandell’s diary, it is probably hopeless for us to untangle the questions from a search and examination of available records.

7. Until Passing the Heavenly Gift, everything I wrote was intended to leave the LDS Church claims unchallenged. I was an active member of the institution and felt inclined to sustain the organization’s claims. Everything in The Second Comforter, Nephi’s Isaiah, Eighteen Verses, Beloved Enos, Come, Let us Adore Him, Remembering the Covenant (5 Vols.), and Ten Parables was composed by me as a faithful and loyal Latter-day Saint. In Passing the Heavenly Gift, I asked questions and proposed another framework for the events of the restoration. In the book, the issues were explored as possibilities, missing or unmentioned historical evidence was set out, and the reader was left to choose for themselves what to conclude. After that book, I was excommunicated and no longer felt the need to defend or sustain the organization. The content of Essays: Three Degrees is compatible with traditional LDS beliefs, although the Brigham Young essay does not flatter President Young. It is not unfair to him, but would not please his fans. Now, however, what I write, say or teach is done without any need on my part to consider what, if any, effect it may have on the the church. The next book will address the foundational beginning of the restoration, its prophetic future, and what is still required.

The restoration is about to be completely compromised by the institutional LDS organization. If we do not establish another way to avoid the coming catastrophe, the restoration will utterly fail. The movement begun now will seem very prescient in a few years. In coming days many people will want a place to land as the LDS Church undergoes changes to retain their standing, favorable tax status, popularity and wealth. People need a place to fellowship where they can function and learn how to preserve the restoration in a place that will be a refuge for those fleeing an increasingly corrupt organization.

What has begun may seem small, unnecessary and even rebellious at present. It will not be long before it is viewed very differently.

Alterations and Emendations

To a crowd in Nauvoo two months before he died Joseph Smith declared:

“You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace.” (DHC 6:317.)

He was talking to believers. They assumed Joseph was like them. They projected onto him all their misapprehensions, desires, and ambitions as if they were his. But the crowd who was prideful, quarrelsome, arrogant, and foolish accepted among their ranks those who were engaged in adultery, conspiracies, financial speculation, and counterfeiting.

June 27th, two months after his public lament, Joseph was slain. His legacy was in the custody of the very group who did not know him. Those same people have now bequeathed to us their misapprehensions and errors. When we get to the anniversary of Joseph’s martyrdom we mourn the loss of a man who remains, for most, a misunderstood stranger on whom we project the errors of that same Nauvoo group.

The challenges with Joseph’s history began early. When John Whitmer, Church Historian and record keeper, left the faith in 1838 he took the history he had been keeping with him. That required a do-over.

But telling Joseph’s history was entrusted to others. The Publication Committee members believed they had the right to make clarifications and emendations, and proceeded to do so. Today we have a conventional account of plural marriage handed to us by the proud descendants of the Nauvoo crowd who never knew Joseph. When that view is challenged, their descendants rise up in their pride to challenge and condemn a truer view of the prophet who never did harm to any man since he was born into the world.

Following Joseph Smith’s death, there was an aggressive effort to change the records to support the new polygamous administration of Brigham Young. A recent author wrote:

“The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: ‘I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838.'” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)

I believe the unpublished text of Section 132 (the revelation on eternal marriage including plurality of wives) may have been one of the texts deliberately altered before its publication. Clearly, there were differences between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the subject of plural wives. Compare these two passages from the text published by Brigham Young in 1852:

First, the tight controls which must be in place before any authorized additional wife could be taken (in the second part of the revelation):

Verse 29: “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord…” [God directly commanded him.]

Verse 39: “David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife…” [A prophet specifically authorized the marriages.]

Now compare these limits with the any-thing-goes-if-you-can-talk-the-virgins-into-it language later in the same transcript:

Verses 61-62: “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give 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. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.”

The contrast between the strict limitations of verses 29 and 39, which seem to have been what was underway during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, with the much broader license of verses 61-62, which seem to be a description of what happened with Brigham Young’s practice, raises questions of alterations and emendations with the text. Brigham Young expanded the practice further (perhaps because of the short supply of additional virgins) to include widows, divorcees, and other men’s wives (if you held more keys than her current husband). The published revelation seems to have cross-purposes and cross-motivations.

We know how Brigham Young advocated and practiced taking additional wives. What we have about Joseph Smith is very limited, and there is little first-hand information tying him to something definite.

Contrast these verses:

Verse 7: “…(and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred)…”

Verse 39: “…by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power…”

The first publication of Section 132 had the parenthetical statement limiting it to “one on the earth at a time.” Nathan was younger than David, and likely would have been functioning as a prophet throughout David’s lifetime. If others gave David wives, in addition to Nathan, while Nathan was still living, then there was not “only one at a time.”

Brigham Young fought Parley Pratt over who was able to authorize plural marriages.  The dispute began before Section 132 was published. When Brigham Young called for his election as “president” in December 1847, part of his reason for wanting the office was to make it clear that Parley Pratt did not have equal right to authorize plural marriages. He wanted sole control. He claimed that right as president, and verse 7’s parenthetical insertion justifies his claim to exclusivity. If it were not there, Brigham Young could not thwart other apostles’ claims to the right to seal marriages. Brigham Young elevated his rhetoric about unauthorized plural marriages  by asserting they were “adulterous” if HE alone did not authorize them. When Parley was murdered by Elenor McLean’s husband, Hector, in 1857 Brigham Young remarked the killing was justified because of Pratt’s adultery.

Section 132 is the only substantive evidence originating directly from Joseph Smith on the subject of plural wives. What if it does not actually contain an unaltered text? What if the best proof we have is compromised by LDS leaders between Joseph’s death in 1844 and publication eight years later?

The overwhelming body of now accepted proof about what Joseph did, said and thought about the practice is taken from information gathered, produced or composed after the public announcement in 1852, and much of it decades after that.

Almost everyone has their mind made up about this topic, so it is unlikely for any new opinions to be formed on this subject by the present generation. But I believe the LDS Church has done a poor job of protecting the name and reputation of Joseph Smith. Had the record not been flooded with post-1852 advocacy for Brigham Young’s practices, it is much more likely Mormons would share Emma Smith’s explanation of Joseph’s conduct than the one commonly accepted today.

Reclaiming Joseph’s name and reputation on this topic seems like an unlikely battle to win today. The Nauvoo descendants continue to impose on Joseph their inherited misapprehensions.

I mourn Joseph’s death today. But I mourn every day the sometimes grotesque caricature that the proud descendants of Nauvoo pretend is an authentic picture of a man they never knew.

New Talk on Plural Marriage

Today I gave a talk in my home to a small group on the subject of plural marriage, focusing on Joseph Smith alone. The talk was recorded digitally and is available as a downloadable MP3 on the “Papers and Lectures” tab on this site for anyone interested to hear.

Sorting Things Out, Part 5

The reason this whole topic of plural marriage has assumed cosmic meaning in the minds of our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters is because of Brigham Young’s advocacy of this while leading the church. Brigham Young is a pretty thin reed to lean upon when it comes to doctrine, and I mean any doctrine. His utility to the Lord did not include his ability to teach, but his ability to lead, colonize and organize. He was a genius in these areas. Doctrinally, however, he has proven to be problematic.

Inside the church, he has been referred to as a man whose statements were “made in the absence of revelation.” His position on priesthood ban for those of African blood has been denounced and abandoned. His teachings on plural marriage have been abandoned. His doctrine of Adam-God has been called a “false theory.” His doctrine of annihilation of the spirits of evil beings has been renounced. However, Fundamentalists do not respect the same tradition as those who are faithful LDS members. Therefore, for those who stake their salvation on his teachings, I want to use Brigham Young’s own words to help them see how thin a reed they lean on for establishing the central importance of plural marriage for exaltation.

Brigham Young’s ordination to the apostleship was “not complete” according to those who ordained him, “till God has laid His hands upon [him]. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in the latter days?” (DHC 2: 196.) Twenty-four years later he informed the saints this had not happened. He thought that perhaps “when [he] had lived to be as old as was Moses when the Lord appeared to him, that perhaps I then may hold communion with the Lord.” (JD 7: 243.) In 1863 he reaffirmed that no such visit had taken place, but he still hoped if he lived to be eighty it might. (JD 10: 23.) So, although he held the apostleship as an office in the church, his ordination to that office was conditioned on an event he explained had not been consummated by the Lord’s confirming ordination. How much confidence should that give you when considering his teachings?

He hesitated to call himself a “prophet, seer and revelator,” but allowed others to associate those titles with him: “[After putting the motion for himself to be sustained as ‘Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,’ the President remarked:] I will say that I never dictated the latter part of that sentence. I will make the remark, because those words in that connection always made feel as though I am called more than I am deserving of. I am Brigham Young, an Apostle of Joseph Smith, and also of Jesus Christ. If I have been profitable to these people, I am glad of it. The brethren call me so; and if it be so, I am glad.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1347.)

He explained he was not a visionary man: ” I am not going to interpret dreams; for I don’t profess to be such a Prophet as were Joseph Smith and Daniel; but I am a Yankee guesser[.]” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1306.) He considered himself “called of Joseph” and not of the Lord: “I do not want to skip Joseph, Peter, Jesus, Moses and go to my Father in Heaven. All I ask for is to be guided by the spirit of Joseph, then let others be governed by their head, or priesthood. Joseph enjoyed the priviliges which I never thought I had. Joseph was called of God. I was called of Joseph.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 2, p. 1108.) Is being “called of Joseph” a sufficient basis for you to trust the man with your eternal salvation?

Even when Joseph gave him the assignment to finish the Temple rites, he remained uncertain about how this would be accomplished. Ultimately, he concluded that whatever he did would be fixed by the resurrected Joseph Smith during the Millennium: “AfterJoseph comes to us in his resurrected body he will more fully instruct us concerning the Baptism for the dead and the sealing ordinances. He will say be baptized for this man and that man and that man be sealed to that man and such a man to such a man, and connect the Priesthood together. I tell you their [sic] will not be much of this done until Joseph comes. He is our spiritual Father. Our hearts are already turned to him and his to us. This [is] the order of the Holy Priesthood and we shall continue to administer in the ordinances of the kingdom of God here on Earth.” (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 2, p. 1034.) Temple rites would require Joseph, not President Young, to fix the seals.

On matters affecting eternal salvation, I would not rely on a “Yankee guesser” who considered himself “called of Joseph” and not called of Christ, to give you what you need for salvation. As I have explained in Passing the Heavenly Gift and this blog, his insistence on plural marriage as a condition of being saved is not warranted by the language of Section 132.

Brigham Young explained how church leadership was not affected by who held office. His theory was that anyone could be elected, and as long as the followers prayed for them things would go perfectly: “Take any man in this kingdom, and if the people say that they will make him a President, or a Bishop, or elect him to fill any other office, and the faith of the people is concentrated to receive light through that officer or pipe laid by the power of the Priesthood from the throne of God, you might as well try to move the heavens as to receive anything wrong through that conductor. No matter whom you elect for an officer, if your faith is concentrated in him through whom to receive the things which he is appointed to administer in, light will come to you. Let a presiding officer or a Bishop turn away from righteousness, and the Lord Almighty would give him the lock-jaw, if he could not stop his mouth in any other way, or send a fit of numb palsy on him, so that he could not act, as sure as the people over whom he presided were right, that they might not be led astray.” (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1379, November 29, 1857; the talk can also found at JD Vol. 6 beginning on p. 93.) Of course, this theory did not work. As an example, Bishop Warren Snow was elected to be Bishop in Manti, but was involved in stealing tithing. Brigham Young sent traveling Bishop A. Milton Musser, then also Orson Hyde, to review records. They found between $5,000 and $8,000 of tithing missing, a substantial sum in those times.

Though he explained this theory, I do not think Brigham Young believed it at all. Had he believed it, he would not have challenged Sidney Rigdon’s claims to lead following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. If “any man in this kingdom” could lead, then why not Sidney? If “light will come to you” through any such man, then why not Sidney? The argument was between Sidney (who claimed revelation) and Brigham Young (who claimed to have “keys”). As a result, the debate required the church to choose between Sidney’s claims based on revelation and accept Brigham Young’s administrative “keys” as the source. Brigham Young’s leadership theory (that anyone could lead if prayed for by the membership) would have allowed the church to have both if Sidney were sustained. But Brigham Young’s insistence on having control in his quorum forced a vote by the Nauvoo Saints. The vote resulted in abandoning revelation in favor of administrative “keys” –a choice which has affected church history ever since.

This initial vote established power in the Twelve, but within three years Brigham Young found it cumbersome. He had trouble getting consensus, and John Taylor and Parley Pratt opposed him on many issues. On December 1849 he got another vote making him church president and allowing him to organize the First Presidency, an easier administrative group to control.

Once Hyrum and Joseph died, and Brigham Young succeeded in getting elected as church President, the church operated under his leadership for nearly three decades. President Taylor’s entire presidency was in exile, avoiding Federal prosecution. Wilford Woodruff compromised on the plural marriage teaching for statehood, and his presidency was thereafter affected by debate about the propriety of that decision and what it meant for the church.

It was not until the 1900’s that the church was not in the grip of a conflict brought about by Brigham Young’s presidency and teachings. By that time the mold had been set, and the form put into that mold had hardened. It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself “Fundamentalist” or mainstream, we are all caught inside the pattern established by the Yankee guesser and the immediate aftermath. Do you want to trust your eternal welfare to him? Do you trust that man so much that you will allow his pattern to control your belief in the restoration?

I think the church has reacted poorly to the dilemma created by this man’s teachings. They have denounced his major contributions, and have cast aside many other of his teachings and practices. Those who have remained devoted to these doctrines believe what they hold dear came from a reliable source. But remember, even he rejected the idea he was a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” because he was only an apostle of Joseph’s. The church was right to say recently that he spoke “in the absence of revelation” because that is what he did.

The mistake Fundamentalists have made is not in believing in the system, but in trusting a man. He is no more worthy of your confidence than Lorin C. Woolley. The revelation you trust is carefully composed, and defines “the eternal marriage covenant” as between one man and one wife. That is all you need for exaltation. Brigham Young’s excesses on this matter are no more trustworthy than the value of another Yankee guesser. He did what he understood. But his understanding is and was flawed. This is why the church has rejected his teachings on the core of his beliefs: plural marriage, Adam-God, priesthood ban, potential annihilation of damned souls, blood atonement, kingdom of God as earthly institution, etc. There are good reasons for the doctrinal disfavor between him and the same church he led for three decades. Turning to Lorin C. Woolley to preserve Brigham Young’s legacy is not improving your state. It is modeling a flawed model.

Despite this, to his credit, Brigham Young never invented visitations, claimed more for himself than that he was a “good hand to have around” and denied he was visited by the Lord. These statements reflect a great deal more credit on Brigham Young than the embellishments made by Brother Woolley reflect on him.

I do not fault Fundamentalists for these problems. They were created by the elected President successor to Joseph and Hyrum. He held the office, and he taught what he taught. But that does not make him right before God. Members of the LDS church should be the first to have charity for this circumstance. We should be willing to forgive this devotion to Brigham Young’s teachings because they originated with a man who was, after all, elected to lead the church for three decades. The church refused to abandon wives when it abandoned plural marriage, and Fundamentalists who would return should not be required to tear apart their families. They should reject the doctrine, and stop teaching it to their children. But the church is so very sensitive about this issue that we don’t share the same attitude.

I personally believe this problem is cured by ceasing the practice, but leaving existing families intact. I believe those who do this will be welcomed in Zion., but those who continue to advocate and insist this is fundamental to salvation itself, I don’t think will be welcomed. The conditions that are required to allow it are not met, and cannot be met by the Fundamentalists. They should recognize this and repent.

Tattoos and Plural Wives

If we convert someone who has a tattoo we do not refuse to baptize them. If a person born in the church leaves and returns again covered with tattoos, we don’t refuse them fellowship. Nor do we expect anyone to undergo the painful process of having them burned away using a laser.

When the church finally abandoned the practice of taking plural wives, one of the concessions the church wanted the government to make was to allow all existing plural marriages to become legal. No new ones could be contracted, but the existing ones needed to be tolerated under the law.

Heber J. Grant was the last church president with plural wives. He was church president until his death in May 1945. The church was led by a polygamist well into World War II.

Even though we abandoned the practice publicly in 1890 and privately in 1904, we were led by polygamists at the head until respectively, 55 and 41 years later.

The argument used to persuade the government was that it was absolutely cruel to deprive children born into these plural wife families of both parents. Breaking up families was unkind, unnecessary and would cause more harm than good.

Today there are many people who are in plural marriages who ought to be the target of efforts to reconvert them to the Gospel. We stay away from them because they have relationships we condemn. They are, in a sense, tattooed and we are unwilling to accept them back unless they will undergo the painful ordeal of disengaging from their unapproved relationship. We ask more of them than we were willing to allow the government to ask of us when we abandoned the practice.

If a polygamist family is willing to return, we should welcome them. We should allow them full fellowship, and admit them back to practice faith with us. They should know we condemn the practice and we will preach against it. We will encourage and teach their children to discontinue the practice, but we should accept them back into fellowship.

With Warren Jeffs’ latest decree limiting all fathering of children to his fifteen chosen inner circle, I suspect there will be a great number willing to abandon his leadership and who would reconsider fellowship with the church. The conditions we have set for reentry are so cruel, so damaging to these families, that we are essentially saying they can never return.

I would like to see polygamy ended. I would like to see those who practice it reconverted. I do not think we can reasonably expect to break apart their families. We should not break up families as a condition of return.

I’ve written about Section 132 in my last book. This week I’m going to return to that topic and spend a few days discussing plural marriage. I hope it will be a friendly invitation to those who practice it to reconsider whether they can get closer to God by returning to faith among the Latter-day Saints. I, for one, would be willing to fellowship with them. Though I condemn the practice and believe it should never have continued, I am not unrealistic about any existing obligations.

D & C 132, conclusion

Section 132, concluded:
 
Which brings us to the question of why Section 132 would be given in the first place.  I don’t think it is enough to say “Joseph asked the question” as the full reason for it being revealed.  Joseph could have received the revelation without the requirement to live it.  We could have an understanding that this was a correct principle, but that we had no obligation to comply with it (just as we do now).  However, we were at one time given it and, commanded to live it.  So the questions is “why?”   Here’s my take:
 
We are witnessing the end of the times of the Gentiles.  There is a worldwide collapse of the Gentile populations.  (Gentiles being the white, European populations.)  Although we have scattered Israelite blood in us, the LDS Church was founded by those who are “identified with the Gentiles” (D&C 109: 60). But their (our) time has run its course.
 
The God of this land (North America) is Jesus Christ.  When people reject Him, they lose their claim on the land and are swept away.  (See 2 Ne. 1: 7-10.)
 
We have now, by the popular vote of the Gentiles who possess this land, chosen a leader who proclaimed on April 6th, 2009 (the Lord’s birth date) that “we are no longer a Christian nation.
 
Birth rates among Gentiles have collapsed.  The European social democracies require a large working class to support the retiring older class.  The older retiring class did not have a birth rate that would supply the needed taxpayers, and therefore they are importing a younger working class throughout Europe.  The younger working class is drawn from third-world people who have much higher birth rates.  Those people are primarily Muslim.  As a result there are many European nations whose demographic picture leads to the inevitable change from Gentile/Christian nations to Muslim nations within the next twenty to fifty years.  The Danish peoples will be among the first.  France has a majority of their school-age children now who are Muslim.  All of them are threatened by a religion that rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Redeemer of mankind.  They are, in a word, anti-Christ.
 
In the US the birth rate is is only a replacement rate.  But social programs require growth.  That population growth is the only way to amortize the governmental spending.  Increased government spending requires in turn a surge in population to support by taxation the necessary payments.  This is being accomplished by the deliberate failure to police the immigration of foreign populations.  It is a fiscal plan, not a demographic, social, religious or political plan.  The government will not be able to pay for itself if large working-class people aren’t found and brought into the US.  Fortunately, most of those who are coming to the US are already Christian, and only a small fraction are Muslim.  However, the Gentiles who are identified with the white population are declining, and being displaced by those who are identified with Book of Mormon remnant populations (although perhaps not THE remnant destined to build Zion–that’s a whole different subject).
 
The church’s birth rate has also declined rapidly.  At present it is only a small fraction above the larger US rate.  There result is the same loss of Gentile momentum in the building of the church.  The Gentile population of the church is collapsing just as it is throughout the world.
 
What the revelation in Section 132 offered to the Gentiles was an opportunity, while the Gentile’s day was still in full bloom, to create a much larger population from which to build Zion.  I’ve seen some estimates that, had we lived the principle of plural wives from when it was restored until today the resulting population of Latter-day Saints would have been in excess of 150 million.  The Latter-day Saint population would essentially have political control of the United States.  That didn’t happen, and now the time of the Gentiles has passed.  We can’t make up for lost time now.  Nor are we exhibiting any desire to do so, as our declining birthrates demonstrate.  Indeed, large families have vanished as a subject for General Conference.  The Brethren seem to have forgotten the message once preached to “not artificially limit the size of your families.”  That message was spoken in General Conference as recently as President Kimball’s time.  Their examples are also important and telling.  (Taking only the most recently called of the Twelve:  Elder Bednar has three children, President Uchtdorf two.  President Eyring has six.  Elder Anderson has four, Elder Christopherson has five children.  Now we don’t always know the reasons why people have the number or children they do, so I do not read too much into this.  However, there was a time when the reason all did not have six or more children would get attention, and an explanation would be offered.  Now we don’t even notice and it is simply not an issue.  We presume that larger families are optional and completely unrelated to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)
 
Well, as with all things in the Gospel, we are handed opportunities.  What we do with them is up to us.  However, these opportunities are gifts from the Lord.  We are now a tiny fragment of what we might have been at this point in history.  We are vulnerable as a people in a way that we could have avoided with living the principles in Section 132.  The results are going to play out in conformity with the rather pessimistic view of the Gentile’s failed stewardship foretold by Nephi, Mormon, Moroni and modern revelation.
 
There’s always a back up plan.  That plan will rely upon a “remnant” to take things over and return to what was once offered to the Gentiles.  And to the extent that a few Gentiles will follow the covenant, they are invited along and included as covenant people.  But by and large they will be left behind.
 
Now Section 132 was an opportunity, not a burden.  We never got enthusiastically behind the opportunity and the earlier posts explain why.  I think the reasons for the failure are perfectly understandable.  I think it was reasonable.  But it is a fact that we failed with the opportunity.  Worldwide we have a little less than 4 million active Latter-day Saints and an estimated total population of approximately 14 million.  Those results are not what might have been.  The Gentile Saints are vulnerable in a way they would have avoided had they taken the opportunity and done more with it.
 
But of course, that is true in a much larger sense, as well.  The promise of an “innumerable posterity” presumes that the one receiving the promise realizes that it is a great blessing, and not a curse or burden.
 
OK, those are my thoughts.  It’s taken a bit to lay out.  And I probably should add that there are those who would disagree with much of what I have said.  However, I’ve given enough thought and study to the matter to have reached these conclusions, and I offer them to you for whatever you want to make of them.

D & C 132, part 5

Section 132, continued.

Words have unique meanings when used in scripture.  The Lord has given us great insight into word usages in D&C Section 19: 4-12.  He uses words as proper nouns which then change meanings.

Part of the question raised concerns the word “destroy” as used in Section 132.  I have described the meaning of destroy or destruction in footnote 225 on page 161 of Nephi’s Isaiah.  It does not mean annihilate.  It means to divest of government or control.  In the context of Section 132 to be “destroyed” does not mean to be killed, or obliterated, but rather it means to lose your order, your government or covenant.  The form of government that will endure into eternity is the family.  Without a family connection, you remain separate and single, without exaltation.  Therefore to be “destroyed” is to be severed from the family unit, or marriage relationship which the section of the D&C is establishing.

It is also necessary to understand that the role of the woman in the establishment of an eternal family unit is critical. It is central. Some of what is involved in understanding the relationship between the man/woman and covenant making is just not appropriate to be set out in public. Therefore I won’t do it. To the extent it is appropriate, I have given a basis for someone who wants to understand in several things I have written.  The closing chapters on sealing authority/power in Beloved Enos is part of what should be understood.  The tenth parable in Ten Parables is also critical to understanding what and why an eternal relationship would be preserved.  The chapter on Sacred Ordinances in Come, Let Us Adore Him gives some further information.  I’d commend you to that information.
I also found this in Hugh Nibley’s latest book, which helps with understanding, also.  Particularly in light of the information contained in the tenth parable referred to above:
“Sarah, like Isis, is the ageless mother and perennial bride; with the birth of Isaac she becomes young again–‘Is any thing too hard for the Lord?’ (Gen. 18: 14).  The woman who stands behind Osiris on the throne is Isis, sustaining him in his office with uplifted hand; it is Isis, ‘fused’ with Hathor as the ‘king-maker,’ as Jan Assmann puts it.” One Eternal Round – The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, p. 156.
“Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord,” wrote Paul.  (1 Cor. 11: 11.)  You cannot have an eternal marriage without both.  In the relationship, the woman’s role in creating a king is central, for it is the woman who will establish him on his throne.  In turn, it is the man who will then establish her on her throne.  Her act precedes his, and his act confirms and blesses the new government or family unit as his first act as king.  For king without consort is doomed to end. Together they are infinite, because in them the seed continues. They may still be mortal as the events take place, but because they continue and produce seed, they are as infinite as the gods.
The role or importance of the woman in the eternal family unit is not diminished in any respect by the confusion and sorting out being done in the later verses of Section 132. The information there is attempting to restore order to the chaos that had developed through the half-hearted attempts to comply with the new order without actually engaging in a fully public, acknowledged marital relationship involving a man and multiple wives.
As to the reference to serial marriage of “virgins” in the later verses, this was a return to the original intent.  When you marry a virgin, you are getting someone who does not already have a spouse.  Using innovations, like sealing a second “wife” to a man when she was already married to another, was never the intent.  These verses about marrying virgins returns to the foundation of a first marriage for the woman.  She was to be involved with a direct, actual marriage, not to be in some half-hearted compromise relationship where the relationship was not truly and fully a marriage for her.  She was to acquire a husband and mate.  She would have all the rights and the husband would owe all the obligations, as if he were married to her alone.  She was “his” and therefore he was obligated to her for support, maintenance and duties as a husband.  There could be no sharing.  There could be no half-way measures.  This was to be his wife in very deed.
Now I’ve taken perhaps too long to answer the question, and it may in turn raise other questions, but I’ve tried to bring some clarity to this rather confused and messy circumstance.  It was the confusion of the early practice that brought about the need for multiple updates and clarifications which all got amalgamated into the single Section 132.  Part of the revelation comes from the attempts to work around the earliest portions of the revelation, received between 1829 and 1831.  The clarifications don’t make as much sense when separated from the conduct that resulted in the clarifications.
There is a reason we don’t have much from the church about this section.  Right now the whole thing has become an embarrassment.  We (the LDS Church) have become the chief antagonists of the polygamists in the west.  We want to clearly draw a line between “us” and “them.”  The church learned its lesson by hard experience.  Now the lesson learned is going to be constantly reapplied to show all the world that we have abandoned the practice.  We do that by constantly denouncing the polygamists.  As part of that campaign we can’t really go back and give Section 132 a wholesome treatment.  That would seem to contradict what we now preach and practice.  Such are the results of history.

D & C 132, part 4

More on Section 132:

This brings us to some details that need to be understood.  The clarifications in verses 41-44 were a result of the “mechanics” of how the practice was implemented.  The various efforts to “fulfill the law” while still keeping up Elizabethan appearances included performing a “sealing” for time and eternity to one man, while the woman was married for time to another man.  This relieved the eternal husband/companion of any duty to have conjugal relations with, or provide financial support for the woman while here. It allowed her to live a “normal” married life with her husband, while still committed eternally to another.  A sort of nod in the direction of the plural wife revelation, without any real commitment to actually practice it here.  There were other forms of compromise attempted, as well.

The defining of what was and what was not “adultery” was necessary in light of the troubles on the ground, so to speak.  Confusion began to multiply as these compromise efforts were attempted by people who really didn’t want to get this thing going in the way David and Solomon had done. 
Also, verse 51 grew out of a specific incident in which Joseph and Emma were arguing.  She protested his secret addition of more wives (beyond those she had approved) and was complaining to him about it.  In response to the arguments, Joseph offered to have her marry William Marks (the Nauvoo Stake President) as well.  This is what is referred to by the oblique reference: “that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her.”  This, again, was an event in the 1843 time frame. It could not possibly have been part of what was happening in either 1829 or 1831 when the first part of the revelation was received. Showing once again this was an amalgamation of several revelations, and not a single transcript.
Not everyone in Nauvoo knew what was going on.  Nor was everyone who practiced this principle discrete enough to escape notice. Enter John C. Bennett, who had abandoned his wife and children and come to Nauvoo pretending to be something more than he was.  He got added to the First Presidency and elected mayor of Nauvoo.  He learned of the commandment, and then began to let his libido go in Nauvoo.  He produced a system of seducing other men’s wives under the practice of “spiritual wifery” which he would later blame upon Joseph Smith.  Indeed, John Bennett’s account of Joseph’s exploits seem more autobiographical of Mr. Bennett, with Joseph given credit for Bennett’s wrongdoings.
As I said before, this was not a culture into which this commandment fit neatly.  It was awkward.  They just didn’t know how to do it, nor what would work or not work.  Even so basic a matter as the definition of “adultery” became hard to sort out.  The half-way measures Joseph tried to implement in order to avoid the outright practice were not working. They were producing such confusion that these verses were needed to sort the mess out.
Trying the souls of those who were involved, indeed!  Proving whether you have faith to sacrifice everything for God, indeed!  This was terrible, difficult stuff.  Not the license for a libido that critics were trying and still try to make it seem.  Even Bushman has mentioned how few offspring Joseph Smith produced as a result of the plural wife system.  It seems that the only offspring Joseph ever fathered were through Emma.  (Of course we have the tale of Eliza Snow’s miscarriage, but that child did not live.  So far as has been documented, all Joseph’s living descendants came through Emma, despite DNA testing of other living descendants from putative children.)

Look, we should have compassion and empathy for these people.  They didn’t want it any more than a normal, mature and moral person living today would want this.  They were draftees, not volunteers.  It was quite hard for them and even harder on them.

Anyway, I still am not to the answer to the question, just laying the groundwork to understand the answer first.  I’ll write some more on this as I have time.

D & C 132, part 3

Further on Section 132:
 
Joseph taught that we can’t expect to achieve the same glory as the ancients if we do not make a similar sacrifice as they did.  It’s all in Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith.  I’ve quoted that stuff in several books and won’t repeat it here.  If you don’t have a copy you should get one.  And read it.
 
Anyway, it is quite important to note the necessity of sacrifice to produce the kind of faith which saves.  Joseph’s explanation required us to sacrifice all things to be able to lay hold on saving faith.  Without the knowledge that we would give up everything, even our own lives if necessary, we cannot receive eternal life.  We have to trade this life for the next.  No trade, no exaltation.
 
So when a man or woman reaches the point where she/he can be tested, the Lord will supply a test to them to prove (to themselves) that they will sacrifice all things.  [The Lord already knows, but we don’t.  And it is OUR faith which is required to be tested.]
 
For most women, they make this kind of sacrifice when they marry.  They literally “give up their lives” and become a wife.  Even to the point  they surrender their prior name and become known by a new name and begin a new life.  The sacrifice for them is completed in childbirth, where they risk their life and then shed their blood to bring a new person into the world.  For women, therefore, this estate provides a ready-made opportunity for the development of this faith.  For men that is much different.  That is why we produce so few men worthy of preservation into the next life in an exalted state.
 
Joseph Smith succeeded in receiving his calling and election.  His promise of eternal life appears within Section 132.  That is no accident.  If the revelation is a series of communications, beginning in either 1829 or 1831, and continue through nearly the time of the recording in 1843, all of which are on the same subject, then they are all interrelated.
 
Joseph’s sealing authority is confirmed in verse 46 and his calling and election is confirmed in verse 49.  This would have been after Joseph had received the beginning of Section 132 and had actually begun to live it.  Meaning that Joseph was doing what he was commanded to do, and that in so doing he was sacrificing everything.  Even his own life was being sacrificed.  He was developing the faith necessary to know he would surrender everything to God by this principle.  Later, when he would go to Carthage and die, it was not as difficult for him to do because he had earlier lived a principle which proved to him that he would obey God at all costs.  Death under such circumstances was not a test, merely a confirmation of what Joseph already knew.
 
Plural marriage was so difficult for Joseph that it was THE means by which he advanced in faith to the point he knew he would surrender all things to God.  It was the key to his exaltation.  Not because plural wives are needed, but because of the difficult sacrifice this practice imposed upon him.
 
Now if that were true for Joseph, then we should not think the practice of plural marriage, with all its difficulty and sacrifice, something desirable to undertake. Nor should we be fooled into thinking that Joseph wanted or welcomed it. The revelation belies this notion.
 
Therefore I take it as a given that plural marriage was introduced as a test.  Not as a reward or as a holiday for Joseph Smith and his close associates.  It was a difficult, trying ordeal. 
 
Now there’s more to be said, so I’ll add another post at some point on this as well.

D & C 132, part 2

There was a question about Section 132 received after this post.  The previous post on D&C 132 did not address the underlying subject of the section.  I only discussed the text divisions and timing of the document’s creation.  The question I received asks about the substance of the revelation, and in particular, the status of women in plural marriage. 

 
I have a few observations which color my views of this subject.  This will take a few posts, but below is my first set of observations:
 
When plural marriage was first introduced publicly in the 1850s, the brethren were rather candid about the history of monogamy.  They explained that the societal and governmental institution of monogamy was intended to exploit women.  By depriving women of husbands, it resulted in an excess number of women who could be prostituted.  Men could then have one wife, for whom they bore the burden of support and shared parenting responsibilities, while other women could be used without any burden of support or shared parenting duties.  The brethren also explained that one of the reasons Rome was originally opposed to Christianity was because it was a cult that threatened to spread the practice of plural marriage throughout the Empire.  Their comments are in the Journal of Discourses and you can read these explanations there if you are interested.
 
So as the practice of plural marriage was introduced publicly, it was accompanied by an attack on monogamy; claiming that women were exploited and disadvantaged by the practice of monogamy.  This inverts the argument against plural marriage.  The claims against it were based in large measure upon the notion that it exploited women and made them subservient.  So the argument turns on its ear the “exploits women” card.
 
When introduced, the practice of plural marriage ran counter to nearly two thousand years of cultural practice.  It was decidedly counter to the Elizabethan mores of the age.  It was shocking to the Latter-day Saints who learned of the practice.  Not only was it foreign in concept, but the Saints had absolutely no basis for implementing it successfully.  They had no history, no example, no trial-and-error wisdom.  There were no previous examples that they could select behaviors from that would help solve obvious issues arising from the practice.  So they began the whole trial-and-error sorting out.  
 
Unfortunately. the practice was introduced in 1853 (publicly) and died in 1890 (publicly).  It began secretly in 1831 and died secretly in 1904.  Whether you take the public bracket of time or the secret bracket, that isn’t enough time for the process to have resulted in handed-down wisdom gained by living that kind of lifestyle.
 
Those who are outside the Latter-day Saint community (fundamentalists, etc.), and have continued to practice of plural marriage do not really provide a basis for inter-generational wisdom.  They live a “bunker-like mentality” – always under siege and never allowed the social and cultural opportunity to practice this form of marriage freely and openly.  The results of these efforts are tainted by the hostility, rejection and prosecution by the population at large towards those who try to live this kind of marital relationship.
 
How the view of women changes under this practice is something that we are not in a position to evaluate accurately. We have a cultural bias, an historic bias and religious bias that colors our view. We do not have a reasonable framework from which to make a neutral evaluation of the subject.  The only contemporary societies that have plural marriage in any significant numbers are so socially ill, so backward and violent that a liberal, democratic and open society cannot take any wisdom from them to judge this matter. We are left to look backward into biblical times for clues about the practice.  Unfortunately, even there we do not get much guidance or many examples of happy outcomes.  Hagar, a princess from Egypt, was at odds with Sarah and ultimately so incompatible that one had to leave.  Jacob’s wives were competitive and jealous. The account we have seems to make Jacob responsible for exploiting these ill-feelings.  David’s relationships were unsteady.  Solomon was ultimately led into idolatry by his foreign, political marriages.  The biblical record does not seem to give any hope of a happy outcome (or at least not much hope).  So when trying to evaluate it, there is little happy news or basis for celebrating it as a triumph of matrimony.
 
Then there is the underlying exploitation of young women. These women are married and pregnant so early in life that they are essentially obligated to remain in the marriage.  I think that is a reflection of the unhappiness that is anticipated by such unions.  The younger bride syndrome seems to be a tacit admission that unless you put the women into this kind of difficult bind (choosing between their children or fleeing), then women won’t remain in the marriage.  This is an interesting admission seen in both the Muslim communities and in the Fundamentalist communities. It betrays a similar state of unease about women’s desire to remain in such relationships.
 
All in all the practice does not seem to offer (in this life) much advantage to either husband or wife.  Nor does it seem to produce happiness here.  You can read the book In Sacred Loneliness as an account of our own history with the difficulties of the practice.
 
Now that doesn’t address the “doctrinal” question asked.  I’ll post again on that issue.  However, when you consider the revelation, this is the first point that should be on the table. It is a terrible sacrifice. No society appears to have had much success in implementing it. The “practical” verses the “ideal” is something that tells us important information.
 
Humanity has not been able to create a widespread social experiment using this form of marriage, notwithstanding its basis in doctrine. At least not one that has been well documented, with wisdom to guide the way. There are of course societies where the economic order consists of a widespread slave class supporting a socially dominant, wealthy class.  In these societies, escape from hunger and enslavement requires a plural marriage arrangement.  In these circumstances, plural marriage is greeted as a form of liberation.  I do not consider those worthy examples.  We don’t want or expect to build Zion on the backs of a slave class.