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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.

“Schizophrenic?”

I was asked why there are sometimes “criticisms” of the church on my blog and in the books I have written.  Someone would like to know whether or not the views I advance weren’t “schizophrenic” by both criticizing and defending the church, and what my true belief about the church was.  I responded:
 
I have had many people with whom I have “ministered” as a Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Ward Mission Leader and High Councilor who have become disaffected with the church.  I’ve worked to help them come back.  What I write reflects this history with these struggling Latter-day Saints.  There are many people who have left the church (or have given up on the church) who have read what I write and come back to activity again.  
 
There are those who are in the process of realizing that the church has flaws who now want to quit.  There are people who have begun to encounter problems who just don’t know how to process them.  It doesn’t do any good if I pretend there aren’t problems.  Many of these saints have a crisis underway because they have been pretending, and now they find they cannot cope with the tension any longer.  
 
One of posts at the beginning of this blog describes what my attitude is. I recognize weaknesses, have no intention of avoiding them, and am not an apologist in the traditional sense.  But I believe in the church, accept its authority, and think its role is necessary and even critical to the work of the Lord.
 
Acknowledging the flaws is admitting the obvious.  But getting those who are discouraged, losing their faith, or have left the church to reconsider that decision is another thing.  They cannot be reached spiritually without some acknowledgment of the problems in the church.  They aren’t going to be deceived by offering a clever polemical argument. 
 
Once the varnish comes off the institution of the church, for many, faith dies. But that is not necessary.  Nor is it inevitable.  It is possible to see the frailties of men and still also see the hand of God.
 
I’ve had many conversations with what would be regarded as leading Mormon educators, writers, and authorities who have essentially lost their faith and continue to hold on to being a “Latter-day Saint” because of the culture or employment or family.  I’m trying to help them and any others in a similar spot.  I’m trying to say that the church may be flawed, but despite that, it is worthy, worthwhile, necessary and good.  I have had some success.  
 
I’ve had a number of men and women tell me that I’ve helped rescue them from their faithlessness.  What I have written has helped them balance their attitudes.  People who have had their names removed voluntarily, or who have been excommunicated, or who have drifted into inactivity have been persuaded by what I’ve written to see what they have lost by that disassociation from the Church.
 
It may be that someone who has “rose colored glasses” will find some of what I write difficult to take in, particularly if they haven’t encountered any particular criticism about the church before.  I regret when that happens.  However, all of us are going to need to confront the growing array of arguments against the church and its leadership as time goes on.  Some of the church’s most effective critics are former members.  Indeed, with the internet, the arguments against the church are multiplying, as are the number of critics. I try not to gloss over the flaws or ignore their existence or to pretend that there aren’t legitimate questions being asked about what has or is happening within the institution of the church. I’m saying that we can and should have faith anyway. The church matters and its mission has always been possible to accomplish.
 
I also want those who sense we’ve retreated from the original scope of doctrine and practice to realize the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains on the earth.  It is as accessible to anyone living today as it was while Joseph was here.  The failure of others does not impose any limitation upon the individual who sincerely seeks, asks and follows. We are not dependent upon others or even the institution itself to receive that fullness.  Although the ordinances offered by the church remain the foundation upon which the fullness must be built.

D&C 46: 13 – 14

I was asked whether D&C 46: 13-14 meant that only some could see the Lord while others would have to rely on their testimony.  I responded:
It could mean:
1.  Some (and only some) will know Him, and others will be able to believe on their words (but will not know Him).
or,

2.  Some, initially less than all, will know Him, and others will, initially, believe on their words.  But if the others who believe on their words follow the same path as those who know Him, they will also grow to know Him as well.

The correct choice between these two is described in Nephi’s account where he could not believe his father, Lehi.  Then he prayed and the Lord “visited” him by softening his heart so he could believe his father’s words.  Then he developed faith to receive stronger impressions, and acted consistent with them.  Then he was able to “hear” the Lord by continuing on that path.  Finally he had angels minister to him and prepare him to receive an audience with the Lord.  And, after remaining true and faithful to the path, he at last received an audience with the Lord.  
Nephi’s spiritual development is described in detail in the early chapters of The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil

D&C 93:1 says “every soul” not just a few.  Not just a select group.  But “every soul.”  I believe it means all.  Not just a few; while others are relegated to believing on their words.

D&C 46: 14 is talking about where people begin.  Not where they finish.

Presiding Patriarchs

I was asked the names of the various Presiding Patriarchs of the church.

 
First, Joseph Smith, Sr., the father of Joseph Smith.  Served from 1833 to 1840.
 
Second, Hyrum Smith, older brother of Joseph Smith.  Served from 1841 to 1844.
 
Third, William Smith, brother to Joseph Smith.  Served from May 1845 to October 1845.
 
There was an interval between 1845 and 1847 while the Church moved west when the office was not filled.  John Smith was called in 1847 and served until 1854.
 
Fifth, John Smith, who served from 1855 until 1911.
 
Sixth, Hyrum G. Smith, who served from 1912 until 1932.
 
Seventh, Joseph F. Smith II who served from 1942 to 1946.
 
Eighth, Eldred G. Smith who began in 1947 and still serves, although as emeritus since 1979.

President Monson

Why I admire President Monson.

Christ’s denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees included the caution that the outward observances of the law were less important than the “weighter matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”  (Matt. 23: 23.)
 
James, the brother of Jesus and Presiding Bishop of the New Testament Church, whom I regard as the unidentified “Teacher of Righteousness” taught that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  (James 1: 27.)
 
Thomas Monson’s lifelong ministry to the widows, elderly and fatherless is sincere, real and lasting.  One of the widows to whom he paid a visit a few short months ago was my wife’s grandmother, the great-grandmother to my children. At the time, she was confined to an assisted-living home.  Without any advance notice President Monson showed up on a stormy Sunday afternoon.  Due to the weather conditions, the care center had decided to cancel their Sacrament Meeting.  He came through the storm, put the meeting back into place, and conducted this Sabbath celebration for the confined, elderly widows and widowers.
 
He lives that “pure religion” which includes the “weighter matters” that, above all else, we ought not leave undone.
 
Virtues are worthy of recognition. I like to take a lead from the Egyptian judgment scale and to weigh a man’s heart against a feather to decide another man’s worthiness before God.  For with what judgment we judge we shall be judged.  (Matt. 7: 2.)

April 6

It is April 6th.  This is the day Latter-day Saints regard as the birth date of the Lord.  His coming into the world in the springtime symbolized the new hope found in Him.  Creation begins anew with the return of light, warming of the earth, flowering of trees and plant life.  Springtime is when the sheep, cattle and other animals bring their young into the world.  It is a time of hope in the cycles of nature.  His coming at this time confirms His role as the Bringer of Hope.

 
He came to redeem the world that all may be saved by Him.

David Christensen YouTube

My friend David Christensen has done yet another video on YouTube.  He asked that I put it up on the blog.  Below is a link to it.
This is how David works to present a message he believes in to the world.  His talent and passion for this is undeniable.

The time is indeed far spent.

Unique and individual experiences

Every life is a miracle.  Every lifetime unique. How amazing is life and the wondrous experiences we are privileged to receive while here. We cannot really see what is inside another person because their experiences have been unique to them and cannot be shared.
 
We should resolve all doubts about someone’s motivation or heart in favor of them.  It is always best to be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

My father would say: “I never spoke a word in anger that I didn’t later regret.”  He was a wise man.  I think that is good advice for all of us.