Category: plural wives

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.”

Revising D&C Section 132

It is apparent to any reader that D&C §132 is internally inconsistent. Those inconsistencies suggest to me it is an altered document. If it has been altered and/or is not the original language, then there are two choices – throw the entire document out, or attempt to correct it.

There is already an effort underway to throw the document out, so I will leave that idea to others. I would like to make an attempt to correct it.

By way of background, sometime after Joseph dictated a revelation to William Clayton in July 1843, the transcript was lost, misplaced, hidden or destroyed. The version everyone is familiar with is in the handwriting of Joseph Kingsbury. It is Kingsbury’s (not Clayton’s) handwritten document which has been accepted as the official revelation.

The earliest descriptions of the original document do not match the Kingsbury text. I’ve studied the document and given prayerful consideration to it for years. Before proposing a revised version, consider a few of the irregularities in the published text.

Verse 7 has a parenthetical thought which limits sealing authority to one man at a time on the earth. Brigham Young made this claim for himself, and the insertion conveniently ratifies his claim to complete control. That claim by Young and his successors has produced a great deal of harm (for LDS believers and offshoots of LDS Mormonism). In contrast to the exclusive authority of a single man in verse 7, verse 39 refers to Nathan and “others of the prophets who had the keys of this power” who sealed many wives to David. Verse 39 allows more than “one man at a time” and contradicts Brigham Young (and his successors’) claims. By dropping the parenthetical from verse 7 it harmonizes verses 7 and 39. More than “one man at a time on the earth” is also inconsistent with the sealing power given to Hyrum Smith in a revelation (D&C 124:93). The insertion is obviously wrong.

Verse 19 is poorly punctuated and can be made more clear with revised punctuation.

The thought that begins in verse 40 is interrupted by 4 verses, then continues in verse 45. The content in-between (verses 41-44) appears to be an interlineation. The addition of those 4 verses seems unnecessary, and invites abusive intrusions by a man pretending to judge others.

Everything after the Lord confers the sealing power on Joseph Smith and forgives his sins appears to be either unnecessary, a contradiction, or was used to support Brigham Young’s campaign against the influence of Emma Smith and Joseph’s descendants. The “10 virgins” material (verses 61-63) are in particular a contradiction of the earlier limitations found in the earlier text.

The threats against women in verses 64 and 65 not only abrogates a wife’s agency, but introduces a strange contradiction. An “espoused virgin” has to give her consent for her man to take others (“and the first give her consent”–verse 61). But a wife “becomes a transgressor” if she doesn’t welcome her man’s additional women (verse 65). The practical effect is to let “virgins” make the decision regarding the additional women, but wives get condemned as transgressors, and once they transgress the man is “exempt from the law” (verse 65) requiring her consent.

Based on the earliest descriptions of the text, eliminating obvious parenthetical insertions, removing inconsistencies, treating marriage as the solemn covenant otherwise discussed in scripture, and respecting what I know about our Lord, I believe Section 132 would be more correct if it read as follows:

________________________________

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—

Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

 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.

 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (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), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.

 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?

 10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?

 11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?

 12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.

 13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.

 14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.

 15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.

 16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

 17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

 18 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.

 19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them: “Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection (and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection); and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.” Then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood. And if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity. And it shall be of full force when they are out of the world. And they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads. Which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

 20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

 21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.

 22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.

 23 But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.

 24 This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.

 25 Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law.

 26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.

 27 The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.

 28 I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was.

 29 Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.

 30 Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph—which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them.

 31 This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself.

 32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.

 33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham.

 34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.

 35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.

 36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.

 37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

 38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

 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; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.

 40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things. Ask what ye will, and it shall be given unto you according to my word.

 41 And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.

 42 If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery.

 43 And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.

 44 And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committedadultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many.

 45 For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.

 46 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven.

 47 And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God.

 48 And again, verily I say unto you, my servant Joseph, that whatsoever you give on earth, and to whomsoever you give any one on earth, by my word and according to my law, it shall be visited with blessings and not cursings, and with my power, saith the Lord, and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven.

 49 For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.

 50 Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.

 51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

 52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.

 53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

 54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But 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.

 55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.

 56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.

 57 And again, I say, let not my servant Joseph put his property out of his hands, lest an enemy come and destroy him; for Satan seeketh to destroy; for I am the Lord thy God, and he is my servant; and behold, and lo, I am with him, as I was with Abraham, thy father, even unto his exaltation and glory.

 58 Now, as touching the law of the priesthood, there are many things pertaining thereunto.

 59 Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him.

 60 Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God.

 61 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.

 62 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.

 63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

 64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.

 65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

 66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.

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.

Role of Women, Conclusion

I’ve addressed the issue of “plural wives” elsewhere. I do not believe it is a requirement imposed on those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The greatest challenge is to produce a couple who, in the image of God, are one. If a couple manage to overcome the world and become so, they do not need additional women to join them to qualify for exaltation. And if a group insists upon complicating the process by the multiplicity of wives before they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the challenge to become one may never be overcome.

I have no doubts about the Lord’s kindness and compassion for all men and women. Therefore, I have no doubt about the circumstances of the single, or the forsaken woman who is faithful to the Gospel. There will be none who are abandoned by the Lord who are faithful to His teachings.

The role of woman is more glorious than I can explain in the present circumstances. To discuss all I know would be to violate the present order, which I will not do. But I have no hesitation to say that the “many great and important things” which are “yet to be revealed” (Articles of Faith, Article 9) will include a great deal more than presently understood about women. I do not know if that will need to wait until after the Lord’s second coming, or if it will be known to the church before then. What I do know, however, is that the full picture of woman’s past and future glory is presently withheld from man’s view in the wisdom of the Lord.

Temple rites are not complete. I’ve said that before on a number of occasions. When they are, the role of women will be greatly clarified. But it is not my calling or my right to get ahead of the Lord on such matters. What I can do, however, is to testify that among the things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” is included a sound understanding of the role of women. It is only withheld at present because of our wickedness. What we have is enough to test us, and we are being tested. Will we ever be enough to pass the test to warrant the Lord giving more?

When we have more before we are ready to receive it then it only condemns us. The Lord is merciful in witholding such things.

What I also know is that if He will reveal things to any man He will do so to all mankind. Therefore as I said at the beginning, these are legitimate and worthy questions. They deserve an answer. Ask the Lord and trust His answer.

No man has ever been elevated to a throne in eternity who was not placed upon it by his wife.

History, Lies, Good Faith and Myths

The topic of Mormonism’s past practice/teaching of taking plural wives puts you squarely in the middle of problems in church history. Deliberate deception and public statements which contradict private behavior is a fact of Mormon history. This fact complicates the difficulty of knowing what is true and right, false and wrong, and whether something is a bona fide required part of “real” Mormonism.

The authenticity of the revelation (Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants) is debated. This debate is possible because of these problems with Mormon history.

To understand Mormonism requires a level of tolerance for deceit which some modern Mormons refuse to acknowledge. It is a natural reaction to want to put men on a pedestal. We resist any notion that would reduce them to anything less than completely truthful, honest in their dealings, and trustworthy in every statement they made. Therefore, when you encounter deliberate dis-information campaigns designed to mislead others, it is natural to react with disbelief.

The truth matters more than our reaction to it. Whether we find it troubling or not, the truth is valuable enough to warrant study even if it causes discomfort. The practice of taking plural wives is one of those topics requiring discomfort to wade through it and reach a conclusion.

There are some major themes in the argument advanced by those who claim it is essential to salvation. These include the sometimes inconsistent  arguments that:

-It is required for exaltation.
-Those who live it are living a “higher law” and those who do not are living a lower law.
-Those living a “higher law” cannot submit to authority by those who live a lower law.
-President Taylor foresaw the discontinuance of the practice, and he gave “keys” to allow it to continue, outside the church.
-The Manifesto was merely a public relations document and did not reflect a serious abandonment of the practice.
-Plural marriages were performed by the church, including the president of the church after the 1890 Manifesto.
-The church’s final abandonment occurred because of the Smoot Senate Hearings, and the pressure brought through interrogating President Joseph F. Smith.
-The “second manifesto” written in 1904 was the real basis for discontinuing the practice.
-Apostles Cowley and Taylor were forced to resign because of the “second manifesto” and the church never sustained it as binding; therefore it is not binding.
-The “fundamentalists” were allowed to use church Temples, including the Salt Lake Temple, to conduct plural marriages through the administration of David O. McKay.
-Several unpublished revelations, including to John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, show the Lord’s insistence on continuing the practice.

Those who utterly reject the practice claim the sometimes inconsistent arguments that:

-Joseph Smith’s public declarations are more reliable than a secret revelation.
-Joseph Smith is not responsible for Section 132.
-Brigham Young fabricated the revelation, and pawned if off as an authentic revelation from Joseph Smith, but it was never made public in Joseph’s lifetime.
-The church’s declaration on marriage was sustained by the church membership and precludes multiple wives.
-The Book of Mormon condemns the practice.
-Taking multiple wives is an “abomination” which the Lord condemns.
-The First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 have “keys’ and they will never be lost.
-The affidavits from putative plural wives were given long after the fact, and in a time when the practice was being challenged by the RLDS movement.
-Emma Smith denies it was practiced.
-Joseph “repented” and changed his mind; claiming he had been deceived in practicing plural wives.
-There are no children proven to have been Joseph’s other than those born through Emma Smith.

This is not exhaustive of the positions, but a reasonable starting point. All of the foregoing arguments have some historical basis to support them. People who make these and other arguments are not ignoring history. They are choosing sources; sometimes between what a single source said in one place and in another.

It is not possible to accept what everyone said in every instance and come out with a single version of the events. Hence the problem of history, lies, good faith and myths which cloud this topic.

I’m going to try this week to explain why the practice is, in my view, not a necessary (or advisable) part of Mormonism. Those who care intensely about this topic can find material to both support and oppose the explanation I give.

Section 132

I have written that it is my view that Section 132 is not a single revelation, but as many as five.  I was asked about how I divide Section 132.  Before I respond a few words of explanation:
First, the version we have was written in 1843 at the request of Hyrum.  He (Hyrum) intended to take it to Emma and persuade her it was from God.  Hyrum knew this revelation had been a continuing source of friction between Joseph and Emma and he offered to try and get Emma to accept its truthfulness.  So Joseph agreed to dictate it.  The scribe was summoned, and Hyrum asked if he should retrieve the Urum and Thummim.  Joseph responded that he could recite it from memory, and then dictated it as it now appears in Section 132.

There were two copies made.  The one Hyrum took to Emma was burned by Emma.  The second came west and was ultimately made public in the 1850’s and added to the scriptures.

The dating of the revelation is uncertain, but the headnote to Section 132 notes that “the principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.”  (Section 132, headnote.)  Given the uncertainty of dating, the typical approach by scholars has been to date it from when the first practice began.  I think that is wrong.  I would date it from the time Joseph translated Jacob, Chapter 2, in 1829.  Joseph prayed during the translation of the Book of Mormon to receive the visitation of John the Baptist and the ordinance of baptism.  I see no reason why the translation of Jacob ‘s comments on plural wives would not have provoked a similar inquiry and revelation.

We know the information was suppressed from at least 1831 to 1843.  What we do not have is an earlier version from which to reconstruct the entire process; we only have the finished product in 1843.  With that, I think the revelation divides into sections as follows:

First, the original revelation begins in the first verse and continues until verse 40.  This is concerned with one subject and provides the doctrinal and historical basis for the practice of plural wives.  However, the subject changes in verse 41 and comes in response to another inquiry regarding the subject of adultery.
The answer to the question on adultery is a separate revelation beginning in response to Joseph’s inquiry in verse 41 and continuing through verse 50.  That revelation confirms upon Joseph the sealing authority by the voice of God (a separate issue altogether) and pronounces Joseph’s calling and election sure.  This is the voice of the Lord to Joseph confirming his exaltation and it is unlikely to have happened at the same time as the original revelation in 1829 or 1831.  [It is important that this conferral of authority to seal, and his calling and election are contemporaneous events.  This is not well understood by the church today, but nevertheless true.]
Verses 51 through 56 are a revelation to Emma which appears to be separate as well.  It makes no sense to have this revelation given to instruct, warn and counsel Emma until after she learns of the first revelation and has reacted to it.  Once that has happened, a separate revelation to her about her reaction makes sense.
Because of Emma’s refusal after her warning, the final section from verses 61 through the end is a new explanation of the law.  It talks about how to proceed in light of her (or any woman’s) rejection of the principle.
These are four of the potential five sections which appear to me.  It is possible that verses 64-66 are also separate from verses 61-63, which would then make five total revelations which are grouped into this single section of the D&C.
Now, what is important about this revelation being in separate parts (to me at least) is that first, the subject was not fully understood by Joseph when first received.  He encountered practical and doctrinal questions even after the first revelation came on the subject.  That is commonly experienced by all who receive revelation from God.  Additionally, it is important that the sealing authority was given to Joseph by the word of the Lord, in revelation to him, apart from the events in the Kirtland Temple.  This is consistent with how that authority came to Helaman in chapter 10 of Helaman, as well.  The voice of the Lord speaking about exaltation and conferring authority at the same moment is the Lord’s way of doing things.  It was no different for Joseph.
Now, least anyone be confused or begin asking questions about plural wives, I do not believe in the practice.  It was discontinued and we do not practice it.  I have addressed the polygamists’ claims to the right to continue the practice in Beloved Enos and my position is as I stated there.